In Case There's a Fox is a picture book appropriate for reading to very small children, even when they are not yet literate.
If you do not want to read it to your child, it is even available in an audio format. Of course, just because it is nice for children does not mean that an adult might not enjoy it, too.
When Sword Met Bow is another of my children's stories. It is based on my real experiences of adopting a baby chimpanzee, and it is a good book to give to a toddler when a new baby is expected in the family.
My third children's book is Ping & the Snirkelly People. It is a chapter book about a little girl from China who learns English by total immersion in a first grade classroom in the United States.
Now some reviewers of Ping & the Snirkelly People have expressed the opinion that though the language in the book might be right for an early chapter book, the ideas are too sophisticated and might be disturbing. Mind you, there is nothing sexual in the book, though the word infidelity does get parsed. The disturbing element is the clash between cultures and a protagonist, who though a child , is not religious.
The question of whether a book is right for children is rather involved, and I have written about it before here:
In discussions about what books are appropriate for children, three issues dominate:
1) Reading Fluency
2) Reading Comprehension
3) Taboo Subject Matter
Ping & the Snirkelly People is a book that shows how reading fluency can sometimes predate reading comprehension. If Ping had been forced to show good comprehension right at the start of the year, she would not have ended in a high reading group, despite her fluency, which was better than that of most native speakers.
Hyperlexic children are often better at fluency than comprehension. Dyslexics have far better comprehension than fluency. Sometimes an older illiterate who is trying to learn how to read is embarrassed by the childish subject matter he is expected to master. This is touched on briefly in Theodosia and the Pirates.
Today I came across a shocking blog post about what passes for third grade reading in Tennessee schools under the AR reading program:
What I find most shocking is not the subject matter but the crudeness and vulgarity of excerpts such as these:
The Accelerated Reader is a computer program put out by Renaissance Learning. Along with an assessment testing system called STAR Reading Assessment, this private company has cornered the market in defining the reading levels, books that students can read for school credit and testing for assessment of reading achievement. Since they are the ones who write the tests that determine how a student is doing, they know exactly how to prepare a student for the eventual testing. The daily tests that students are given as AR tests involve the same sort of process that students will undergo once a year to determine their level of achievement. Their assessed reading level then determines which books they are allowed to read.
According to the MommaBears blog, Renaissance Learning has four registered lobbyists in the state of Tennessee alone. They have received a forty million dollar investment from Google. Under mandatory public education and crony capitalism, they have a virtual monopoly on setting both the reading and math curricula in public schools throughout the country.
Because teachers have nothing to do with selecting the reading material or testing the children on what they have read, it is possible for third grade children to be educated in the finer points of sexual slang and crudities without anyone being any the wiser, except for the ever-watchful computers at Renaissance Learning who keep a cloud-based database on each child.
When someone did notice and complain, Renaissance Learning replied that there was a technical difference between "reading level" and "interest level", implying that this comic book was intended for socially or sexually advanced children with a below-grade reading level rather than for the average child reading at grade level. To forestall any further complaints, they had now set the "interest level" to sixth grade, rather than third grade. But it was still a third grade reader, because of the lack of grammatical complexity in the sentences.
Here is where it might help us to refer to the old McGuffey Readers to see how low we have sunk.
A sample page from the third grade reader reveals a rather challenging level of grammatical complexity and diction.
Both the level of interest and the reading level appear to be much higher than in the Accelerated Reader.
What is an appropriate book for a third grader? Ultimately, it depends on the individual third grader and the parents of the child. That's why the government and the corporations that lobby it should have no say in the matter.
Is Theodosia and the Pirates a book for children? No, it is not. But I cannot help but think that it is far less vulgar than what is passing for children's books in the public school system these days.