The power of anticipation is a super-power that every parent has.
You got it.
But you need to use one of the strongest weapons in your arsenal.
Admittedly, it is true that the main focus of our "job" as read-aloud parents is mostly being at the right place in the right time with the right book.
Being at the bedside or dinner table tonight ready with a book.
Reading aloud is mostly about today, about "this moment".
But the spice that makes reading aloud a truly great dish is preparation.
Anticipation is the mother of all success.
But I am not talking about preparation for tomorrow.
No, no... we are talking years here.
Or why not prepare for a decade ahead?
Hey, why would any one want do that, you ask?
The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.
This story starts more than a year ago, when I was thinking about my own reading habits as a kid.
What really dogged me was why I persistently refused to read many of the children's classics that we had at home.
Heidi graced the shelves of our home library. I did touch the book, but never opened it.
Black Beauty stood in another bookcase, untouched.
Sometimes, I wanted to read it, but I just couldn't begin myself to begin.
Peter Pan sat unloved and abandoned.
These were the unabridged (full) versions of the books, with many words and unappealing covers.
It wasn't just me, it was the same story with my brother.
He didn't want anything to do with them either.
Yet, I knew they were good books.
But these books committed the ultimate sin.
They simply looked boring to us.
At least those editions that we had at home were not child-friendly.
But this is a surmountable problem.
What I understand now is that a book must at least look somewhat appealing if a child is to be intrigued enough to read it.
Put two copies of Black Beauty in the same library. One with a smashing cover, another with a boring one.
Guess what will happen.
But its not just kids, we are also guilty of "buying into" well designed products.
It is human nature.
Admittedly, there are kids who fall out of this rule and will read good books regardless of what they look like. But, why take chance with your kids?
Also, I knew that books stood a much better chance to be read if they were part of a uniform series that I already liked.
Kids love books that have a similar font, size, feel, after they get used to one ... they go through them all.
They don't need to be the from the same author, necessarily. But a familiar format helps.
So, my task was clear.
There are too many children's books to find lavishly illustrated copies of each one, but a well-designed series of non-illustrated children's classics?
Surely I could find one?
What is the object of our search, you ask?
We need to find a series of children's classics that is:
1. Attractively designed for kids (but without illustrations inside)
2. All of a similar format
4. Unabridged (original text)
5. Small enough to be held by smaller hands
6. Not expensive
7. Good for reading aloud and good for independent reading
8. Still in publication and with new books coming out
I thought that I would have to choose among many candidates.
But no, it was a difficult task that I set.
I could not find what I was looking for!
Looking For Perfection
The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.
Oxford, a town in South East England, was initially known as "Oxenaforda", meaning Ford of the Oxen.
A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading.
What a perfect metaphor for a bridge between today and tomorrow.
A bridge between tomorrow and yesterday, even better.
After looking at many collections of children's classics for our home library, I set my sights on The Oxford Children's Classics collection.
You could hear volumes about these books from me, but first let me give you the slogan of this collection.
The publisher - Oxford University Press - describes perfectly what the books represent:
"Unforgettable stories to treasure and return to again and again."
Indeed, when I found the Oxford Children's Classics, I knew that my hunt was over.
The range of titles was immense. The quality fabulous.
But does the Oxford Children's Collection fit the bill?
1. Attractively designed for kids? CHECK!
2. All books in a similar format? CHECK!
3. Hardcover CHECK!
4. Unabridged CHECK!
5. Small enough to be held by smaller hands comfortably CHECK!
6. Not expensive, so that a large enough collection can be assembled at home CHECK!
7. Good for reading aloud and good for independent reading by kids CHECK!
8. still in publication and preferably with new books coming out CHECK!
Oxford Children's Classics keeps coming out with four new titles every year, two in spring and two in the fall.
So the collection of available titles grows every year with exciting new choices for both boys and girls.
The classics include traditional choices such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Hucklebery Finn by Mark Twain.
The list also features Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens), Treasure Island and Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson) and even Mary Shelley's Frankenstein!
Other exciting titles include: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum) and both of Lewis Carroll's Alice books.
Mystery and adventure lovers will love the inclusion of A Study in Scarlet & Other Sherlock Holmes Adventures (Arthur Conan Doyle) and The Hound of the Baskervilles by the same author, as well as Jules Vernes' Around the World in Eighty Days.
Other perennial favorites include The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame), The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling), Jack Holborn (Leon Garfield) and The Call of the Wild (Jack London).
I know what you are curious about, too. Are L. M. Montgomery's books also in the collection? Yes, for now, the collection features Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, but you also have The Railway Children (E. Nesbit), Pollyanna (Eleanor Porter) and Black Beauty (Anna Sewell).
Is that all? Well, no! My fateful Heidi (Johanna Spyri) is also in the collection, as well as Noel Streatfeild's Party Shoes and K.M. Peyton's Flambards.
This collection was the answer to my prayers.
Now, my kids will have a collection of the best in children's literature available at home - and in an attractive package.
I know that classics can readily be found at a library.
But I also know that by putting this attractive collection straight into our home library, I am increasing the chances that they will be read with love.
With lavishly illustrated covers and a tactile small hardback format, these children's classics also are the perfect gift.
There is nothing nicer than helping kids to start their own gorgeous library with treasures like these.
Reading boils down to love of books. So why not help this love take a deep root?
Beautiful books can help our kids to take notice of these classical works.
Beauty awakens the soul to act.
Oxford Children's Classics books are available from bookstores in the US:
and other countries: