To celebrate Children’s Book Week, the oldest literacy initiative in the country, we asked Cooney Center staff members to reflect on their favorite children’s books: the books whose spines we wore out, even if we knew the words by heart; the books that sparked hours of laughter and debate with our parents and friends and the books that helped us to become life-long readers. Did your favorites make the cut?
Executive Director Michael Levine’s childhood favorites were Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Goodnight Moon. “Both captured my imagination and engaged my fears and dreams from end to end, they are beautifully and evocatively illustrated, and encouraged rich verbal interactions with my own parents, and then later with my three kids.”
Michelle Miller, Director of Partnerships and Strategy, loves The Giving Tree and Harold and the Purple Crayon. “Both are so perfect in their simplicity. I interpret The Giving Tree differently every time I read it, but it’s always bittersweet. Harold is a classic because it is the personification of play. And it features a pie-eating porcupine.”
Research Assistant Briana Pressey’s favorite book was The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings from the Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstain,” This book helped to teach me at a very early age the importance of being thankful for everything that you have, not comparing yourself to others, and finding joy in the little things in life.”
Christa Avampato, Sponsorship and Events Manager of the National STEM Video Game Challenge, remembers reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over and over again. “I still have a copy on my bookshelf all these years later. Those characters taught me to believe in what seemed impossible. Alice’s insatiable curiosity showed me that determination and perseverance can help us to overcome any and every obstacle.”
“The Little Prince has so many messages hidden throughout the book,” says Anna Ly, Cooney Center Fellow. “It is definitely a book that can redefine how you look at life. I also love the Madeline series. I love the artwork and the rhythmic writing. I had the whole series as a child and read them frequently.”
Meanwhile, Cooney Center Fellow Christina Hinton, loves books that can translate adult themes to younger audience. She has fond memories of Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book. “It satirizes the absurdity of many conflicts over cultural differences in a way that even very young children can understand.”
Lili Toutounas, Administrative Manager, loved Goodnight Moon and the Babar books. “In Goodnight Moon, the pictures, receptiveness, and the rhyming scheme are all soothing before bed and Babar hooked me with its intricate story lines and the aspect of mystery in some of them. Plus, I love elephants!”
Senior Project Manager Sadaf Sajwani recalls fond memories of The Fudge Series (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Fudge, Double Fudge). “They are so incredibly funny, especially when your teacher reads it to you with all her energy and passion. I looked forward to the afternoon reading break everyday!! I also loved The Secret Garden. Can’t remember why exactly, I just did. Again, it must have been the effect of my teacher reading it out loud… The idea of just disappearing into another world in the middle if the day, just like Mary would disappear into her secret garden.”
Education Fellow Jessica Millstone’s favorite book growing up was Eloise. “It made me want to live in New York City! Unfortunately the part about living in the Plaza Hotel didn’t quite pan out, but as it turns out even Eloise has moved to Brooklyn. I also have first editions of Eloise in Paris and Eloise in Moscow. As you can see, I’m a big fan. I’d like to share my sister’s favorite book too because I had to read it to her everyday for about 5 years when we were kids. I still have it memorized! It’s called Henrietta The Wild Woman of Borneo, and it’s currently out of print but really great if you can find a copy. “
For Associate Web Producer Allison Mishkin, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot left more than an impression on her as she was growing up. “Meg beautifully and honestly captured the anxieties we all felt while navigating through our teenage years, although I’m still waiting for my parents to tell me I’m a princess. Princess Mia’s humorously optimistic take on growing up royal gave me the courage to get out of bed each day and later the courage to work with the author to start an online book club for all teenage girls. It was thrilling to use the web to augment rather than distract from the reading experience. Looking a bit younger, I always turned to Sharon Creech to help manage the Absolutely Normal Chaos of my own life.”
And Catherine Jhee, Director of Web & Strategic Communications spent so much time reading that she found it nearly impossible to choose even just a few favorites. “But I loved spunky heroines like Madeline and Eloise, and then eventually Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series. I was really drawn to the idea that it was possible to travel through time and space to make the world a better, safer place.”
We’ve focused on the classics from our own childhoods today, but we would love to hear about your favorite books for kids old and new. Please share them in the comments below!