In August I took a sailing cruise on a refurbished fishing schooner in Maine. Hannah, one of the crew members and a fellow aspiring author, took the time to ask me who my favorite authors and books are. We traded names of books for awhile, getting excited when we hit on one we both liked. I told her I needed to make a list. Here it is, September, and I’m just getting to it. Actually, my timing is perfect.
September is literacy month. Here are some quick facts about literacy before we get to the list (source: Reading is Fundamental, www.rif.org)
Thirty-three percent of 4th grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” level on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests.
Fifty-three percent of 4th graders report that they read for fun on their own “Almost Every Day.” Among 8th graders, only 20 percent report reading for fun on their own “Almost Every Day” (NCES, 2009).
Fourth graders who reported having 25 books or more at home had higher scores on reading tests than children who reported they didn’t have that many books.
Forty-three percent of adults read at or below the “Basic” level. This accounts for roughly 93 million individuals.
In Northwest Arkansas, where I live, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 13% of the adult population of Washington County was lacking in basic prose literacy skills. They found 12% of the population similarly affected in Benton County, 14% in Sebastian County and 15% in Madison County (2003) .
I started reading in pre-school after memorizing the words to my favorite picture book. My parents read to me and my sisters nearly every night for years. I also grew up on Reading Rainbow and looked forward to seeing what LeVar Burton would recommend next.
It’s hard to imagine something I take for granted and that brings me so much joy is a struggle for many. The ability to read matters, and so does encouraging others to pursue reading, no matter what age or reading level.
So here’s my book list. These are the books I’ve read over and over, that I’ve loved since childhood or discovered as an adult. Many are children’s books. There’s a reason I write for kids. I’ve found many through the recommendations of others. This is by no means a complete list.
Picture Books and Read Alouds
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Owl Moon – Jane Yolen
The Berenstain Bears – Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses – Paul Goble
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale – Mo Willems
Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein
Middle Grade and Young Adult
Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
The Giver – Lois Lowry
The Bronze Bow – Elizabeth George Speare
Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – Barbara Robinson
The Dark is Rising Series – Susan Cooper
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Habibi – Naomi Shihab Nye
The Golden Compass – Phillip Pullman
Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 – Christopher Paul Curtis
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
Kira Kira – Cynthia Kadohata
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
In the Time of the Butterflies – Julia Alvarez
Baby of the Family- Tina McElroy Ansa
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – Omar Khayyam
A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle
Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Letham
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Authors I love
Elizabeth George Speare
That’s my list. As a personal challenge this year, I’m trying to read more diverse authors. What’s on your list?
If you’re in Northwest Arkansas and you want more information on helping others learn to read, check out these great organizations.
If you’re outside the area, look for a literacy council in your town. You can also contact your local library and ask about ways to volunteer.
Also, check out ReadingRainbow.com to see how Levar Burton is helping a new generation of kids learn to love reading.
For more posts on literacy in Northwest Arkansas, follow #NWarkCares on social media.