Introducing Chapter Books: The Twins Series

by Lisa Ripperton
January 17, 2019

This on-going series – Introducing Chapter Books – is intended to highlight books that are ideal for families who are just beginning to read chapter books aloud with their children. In our experience we have found that children are typically ready to undertake the challenge of listening to stories without illustrations on each page around age five, and all of the books mentioned in this series have been selected with this age and purpose in mind. A later series will discuss books to use when your child is transitioning to reading chapter books independently.  

Broadening your child’s horizons

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.

Fostering empathy and strengthening the imagination

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.

Which book should you read first?

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.

Are there other books in the series?

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.

What ages are the Twins books best for?

The Dutch Twins, The Eskimo Twinsand 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.

Eagerness for more

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!

Purchase Books at Amazon

The Eskimo Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Dutch Twins
 by Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Japanese Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins

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​Get access to the ebook editions of The Eskimo Twins, The Dutch Twins, and The Japanese Twins by purchasing the Yesterday's Classics Ebook Treasury, Volume 1

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Raising Your Children in a Read-Aloud Community

by Rebecca Ripperton

​January 14, 2019

​To instill in your child both a love and lifelong habit of reading, you will likely find it helpful to enlist the support of your community. One way to do this is by asking other adults to read to your children outside of the home, as well.

Children look both to their own parents and to other trusted adults to determine their norms, so when you read aloud as a family and this practice is reinforced in other settings, books are firmly established as being an integral part of the fabric of our lives and relationships. Reading aloud with other people in the community can also help children recognize that it is much more than just an activity parents do to help them fall asleep at night. Likewise, reading is not necessarily a solitary activity that removes us from others. Reading – particularly reading aloud – should ultimately bring people together, forming the basis for shared experience, as well as shared conversation and thought.

So, whom should you ask to read to your children?

If your children’s grandparents are active in their lives, you can begin by asking them to read aloud to your children before bed or for a quieter afternoon activity. In our experience, reading aloud with grandparents can create wonderful memories for all parties involved. When we were growing up, my older brother and I absolutely loved going over to our grandmother’s house, which was 5 miles away, and spending time with her. She read to us at every visit and we still cherish the books we read with her, as well as the memories we have of reading them together. (A list of our all-time favorites from her house is at the bottom of this post!)

If your child’s grandparents don’t have children’s books in their house already, consider giving them some to keep for when your children visit. Let them know that reading aloud to your children is important to you and why. You could even ask them what some of their favorite books were when they were growing up and then use a resource like AbeBooks to find copies. If you have purchased one of our ​ebook treasuries, you may share it with one set of grandparents at no extra charge. Contact us here for more information.

​Next, whenever you hire babysitters, be proactive about setting books out for them to read to your children before bed, and let them know that this is an important routine in your family. If your babysitters are young enough to still live with their parents or are now in possession of their childhood books, you could even ask them to bring one or two of their favorite books from when they were your child’s age to read aloud before bed. (We bet they’ll actually be thrilled to do this.)

​You can ask older children to read to their younger siblings, as well as enlist the help of aunts, uncles, the parents of your children’s friends during sleepovers, etc. – really, anyone who is an influential figure in your child’s life or who regularly spends time with them, is fair game. We’ve also found that most schools, churches, and synagogues offer numerous read-aloud opportunities for children.

What other resources are out there, and what if you have older children?

Most public libraries host regular read-aloud events for children of all ages. You can check out your local library’s website to find out what they offer, and if you don’t like what you see, contact their children’s desk to suggest better titles or to get more involved. 

​Lastly, if your children are older, two great resources to investigate are universities and local bookstores. Both often hold readings that are open to the public and that can serve as an introduction to new titles, authors, and even genres. Sometimes coffee shops will also host poetry nights (which still count as read-alouds in our book), and many theatres will periodically hold “stage readings,” where you can watch and listen to a troupe of actors read a play aloud, with no or minimal costumes and movement.

​Share your experience

​Please let us know in a comment below what strategies have worked for your family and what suggestions you have for other parents who are hoping to raise their child in a read-aloud community!

When we were growing up, our Greek grandmother – Giagia – kept a shelf of books just to read to her grandchildren. She didn’t have many books, but the books she had were outstanding and ones that we loved wholeheartedly. Some of our all-time favorites were Corgiville Fair – which I’m fairly certain we asked our grandmother to read to us every time we came over – and Jennie’s Hat. We also read the Dr. Dolittle and several L. Frank Baum books with her, and as we grew older, she would periodically order new titles from the Dover Children’s Thrift Classics, like The Boy Who Drew Cats for us to read together. (My brother and I found secret delight in the fact that her corgi, Bandit, was fond of gnawing the Dover books when no one was looking so their bindings often looked rather the worse for wear.) In all, reading aloud with our grandmother was a wonderful experience and gave us memories we both treasure to this day.

Our Favorite Read-Aloud Books

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