This post is the second in a series of posts on Transitioning to Chapter Books as a listener. Another series of posts on Transitioning to Chapter Books as a reader will be coming later.
Children of all ages typically delight in hearing stories that involve other children with whom they can identify. Imagine how captivated your five-year-old will be by the Dutch twins, the Eskimo twins, and the Japanese twins who are all exactly their same age, and have one interesting adventure after another. At the same time that children listen spellbound to the story, they can't help but wonder that the ordinary experiences of every day life for the twins are so different from their own. When hearing about the Eskimo twins, for example, we discover in the course of the narrative that Menie and Minnie are clothed in animals skins from head to toe, munch on hunks of meat for breakfast and consider fish eyes a delicacy; they even live in an igloo and sleep, wrapped up in furs, on a bench!
Even though their customs may differ, the children who listen to these stories are, in many ways, just like the twins: their experience of the world is centered around their family life, and they likely feel many of the same desires, emotions, and conflicts that the twins do. Perceptive children will quickly begin to note the similarities, as well as the differences, between their own lives and those of the twins.
Parents may also observe that as young as the twins are, each is as empowered as someone of that age could be. They are expected to help with tasks around the home, which they do cheerfully; they play and work alone, and, in the case of the Eskimo twins, even catch fish and spear seals to help feed their family. The twins also eagerly anticipate growing into their adult roles, following the example set for them by their parents.
Lucy Fitch Perkins, author of the Twins series, believed that a lifelong interest and feeling for people around the globe might be developed from hearing their stories at an early age. Her determination to write such stories was sparked by her visit to a school where children of 27 different nationalities were learning side-by-side. By writing the Twins books that hold children’s interest and engage their sympathies, she did much to build mutual respect and understanding between people of different nationalities.
The twins’ adventures are related in simple language but told so vividly that children can easily imagine the scenes in their mind's eye. And, at the end of each exciting chapter, children will be eager to hear what happens next, which is just what you want when first reading chapter books to your kindergartner.
If you’re ready to get started, but don’t know which to choose: you might consider beginning with the one that most closely matches the season you are in. The curtain rises on The Eskimo Twins in the middle of their long winter, and the story follows them through spring ice break up and their long summer day, closing just as the sun dips below the horizon to start their next long winter night. The Japanese Twins focuses on springtime with the arrival of a new baby brother and the festive celebrations of dolls on Girls’ Day and kites on Boys’ Day. Lastly, The Dutch Twins opens with a summer fishing trip, continues through the harvest season, and closes with the arrival of St. Nicholas on December 6th.
Yes! Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote 24 books in all in the Twins series, with the first published in 1911 and the last in 1938. You can view the complete list at the Lucy Fitch Perkins page at Gateway to the Classics.
The Dutch Twins, The Eskimo Twins, and The Japanese Twins are all suitable for reading aloud to children as young as five and appropriate for independent reading as soon as your child reaches a second or third grade reading level. Unlike the Burgess Bedtime Story-Book series, which are all written at the same level, as the Twins series progresses, the reading level advances along with the age of the twins depicted. While these first three titles focus on events in family life, many of the later titles deal with issues arising from external events affecting the family, or wartime conditions affecting whole communities. Because of the increase in reading level, as well as subject matter, the later titles are best read when your child is a few years older. More about these titles in an upcoming post.
After we first read The Dutch Twins together as a family, we were all so eager for more Twins books that my children urged me to scour bookstore shelves for additional titles. Having enjoyed it so much myself, I was happy to oblige!
This post is the first in a series of posts on Transitioning to Chapter Books as a listener. Another series of posts on Transitioning to Chapter Books as a reader will be coming later.
After enjoying picture books for several years, children are typically ready to undertake the challenge of listening to stories without needing to see pictures on every page by the time they are five. In our experience, this age marks an ideal time to introduce books with fewer illustrations and more text, if you haven't done so before.
The key to success is to choose books that capture your children's interest and attention. We've found over the years that most children love the Burgess Bedtime Story-Book series – spirited stories about the animals who make their home in the Green Meadow – and we recommend that you try a title from that series first. (You can start with any one of the 20 titles, but children may prefer to read them in order once they discover that the last paragraph of each book reveals the name of the next one in the series.)
In the first book of the series, young Reddy Fox is sent to Granny Fox "to learn the things that every fox should know." He also encounters Johnny Chuck, Peter Cottontail, Unc' Billy Possum, and others, all of whom will be memorably featured in later books of the series. Granny Fox has all sorts of clever ways of teaching Reddy, and the other animals in the Green Meadow help out in his training too, alternately playing tricks on, and looking out for, one another.
Everything is done with such a spirit of fun and good humor that most children find these tales to be absolutely delightful. The listener also can't help but absorb information about how the different animals act, how they gain sustenance, where they live, what dangers they face, and how they avoid them.
Although the titles in the Bedtime Story-Book series are excellent ones to read aloud to begin strengthening your children's listening skills, they may not appeal to everyone. The children who love them really love them, but the ones that don't, well, don't. If your child falls in the latter category, don’t worry – there are plenty of other books to read aloud to this age group, and we’ll be posting more on this topic soon! (Please also email us here if you have questions about specific titles. We love helping people find the perfect books to read with their children!)
And, even if your child loves the Bedtime Story-Books, we suggest that you don't read more than a half dozen or so aloud to them. This way, in a year or two when your child is ready to begin reading independently, they can return to this series with gusto, and reading will be all the easier for them because of their familiarity with the vocabulary and way sentences are structured, as well as with the characters and setting,
We hope your children will join the generations of children who have enjoyed the books in Thornton W. Burgess's Bedtime Story-Book series since they were first written over a century ago – give them a try and be sure to leave a comment below to let us know how it goes!