6 books for children recommended by ”Reading Together Romania”  

02 octomber 2019

 

Having read so many wonderful books together with Romanian children over the past 6 years, how to choose 6 favorites?”, says Brandi Bates, founder of  “Citim Împreună Romania”| ”Reading Together Romania”, created in order to educate and inspire Romanian children and those who care for them with the beauty and benefits of Reading Together.

Here are my 6 tried-and-truest “books that love children” when read aloud. If you want to help Romanian children fall in love with books, in my opinion, these are some of your best chances”, says Brandi Bates, the one who brings #NewHorizons in Romania with the project ”Reading Together Romania”.

 

Notes:

Word counts are given for the original text, with the Romanian translation being comparable.  When reading to groups of children, many of them not accustomed to being read aloud to, it is imperative to start with illustrated books with short texts (under 1000 words, starting and finishing in less than 20 minutes).

About age-appropriateness. In age suggestions, I only give a beginning age, and not an ending age. The best picture books are ageless.  They have truths that can reach the youngest and the oldest among us…if read/interpreted and explored well by the reader-in-charge.  It’s the discussion questions after that are more subject to age-appropriateness.

1.We are in a book!/Suntem într-o carte!

  • Word count: 256
  • Original language:  English
  • Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems
  • Translator: Florentina Hojbotă
  • Publisher: Arthur
  • Year published:  2010 (EN) and 2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age:  0+

Ideal reader:  2, one for Gerald and one for Piggy/Porchiță.  (Of course the back-and-forth banter could be accomplished by one person, but 2 distinct voices elevate this read aloud from 5 to 7 stars.)

Reading tips: 

  • If reading with 2 readers, go ahead and get positioned, back to back, just like Piggy and Gerald do on page 2. And feel free to move your body around, as the characters you are reading do.
  • You really do need to read all those “!!!!!”s, “…”s, “Hee! Hee! Hee!”s (“Hi!Hi!Hi!”s), “Ha! Ha! Ha!”s and ALL CAPITALS.  Even the “!” on page 3 needs to be “read”.  Find your own way to read these elements (you don’t need to stress your voice), but you cannot pass them over.  They are important parts of the story.
  • Read the climax sentence really slowly and leave a pause for it to sink in (see below). Read the last 3 word bubbles, pages 56 & 57, painfully slowly.  (Tip 4, General Read-Aloud Tips)

Discussion Ideas: In this joyful ode to reading aloud/cu voce tare, I especially love We are in a book!/Suntem într-o carte! for…

  1. its uniquely creative lens. The reader and the book characters are together, somehow, looking at and inside the book that they are actually already inside…how did Willems do that?!  This book would be fun to talk about in relation to Rudine Sims Bishop’s idea that books can be “Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors” for children;
  2. how easily it lends itself to talking about the parts and components of story: beginning/middle/end, characters and voice, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution;
  3. and for its profound climax sentence. The “loudest” line is the quietest… the smallest font delivered in an oversized word-bubble, with just a quiet “.”:  “I just want to be read. /Tot ce vreau e să fiu citit.”   Don’t we all, Gerald.  Don’t we all. 

 

2.Shh! We have a plan/ Șșș! Avem un plan

  • Word Count: 102
  • Original language: English
  • Author/Illustrator: Chris Haughton
  • Translator: Florin Bican
  • Publisher: Cartea Copiilor
  • Year published: 2014 (EN) and 2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age: 0+

Ideal reader: Someone not afraid to whisper or shout or use their facial and finger muscles.

Reading tip:  Develop your vocal sequences –  “șșș…ȘȘȘ!…avem un plan” and „unu…doi…trei…ȘI!” and then keep it consistent for the first ½ of the book.  This helps the listeners predict and also develop the sense that “we’ve been here before.”  And then when you change it in the last sequences, they are cued that something different is about to happen…the plot is about to turn.

Discussion ideas:   

1) We have at least 2 different kinds of people in this story.  What kinds of people are they? 

2)  When the little one offers the birdy a piece of bread, what is his motive?  Can one offer bread to an animal with other motives? 

3) The author prefaces the book with a quote by Albert Einstein:  “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding./Pacea nu poate fi păstrată cu forța.  Poate fi menținută numai prin bună înțelegere.”  What does this quote have to say about this book or what does this book have to say about this quote?

4) The art and colors in this book are uniquely sensational.  (That blue!) Recreating the 4 characters in the book, and the birds, makes for many craft ideas. 

  • Going deeper: Haughton’s book is said to be a tribute to Tomi Ungerer’s The Three Robbers/ Cei Trei Tâlhari (1962, published by Editura Arthur in 2019).  Compare and contrast the two books.

 

3.Fortunately/Din Fericire

  • Word Count: 149
  • Original language: English
  • Author/Illustrator:  Remy Charlip
  • Translator: Veronica Niculescu
  • Publisher: Frontiera
  • Year published: 1964 (EN) and  2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age: 2+

Ideal reader: Someone with a lot of color in their voice, and not bored with the din fericire-din nefericire repetition.  And the last page needs a lot of interpretive attention and to be slowed way down.

Discussion ideas:

 1) This one makes children laugh out loud, and is full of surprises and disappointments, ups and downs.  (Is life like that?)  The story begs to be continued.  Very spontaneously a reader can ask children to keep Ned’s story going – “fericire”… “din fericire”.  Or to share a “fericire/din fericire” that happened to them that day. 

2) Does every “fericire” have a “din fericire”?  (How would you describe a person who thinks like this?) Does every “din fericire” have a “fericire”?   (How would you describe a person who thinks like this?)

  • Going deeper: Assign a “fericire/din fericire” writing assignment.

 

4.C’est Moi Le Plus Fort/Sunt Cel Mai Puternic

  • Word Count: 428
  • Original language: French
  • Author/Illustrator:  Mario Ramos
  • Translator: Alexandru Gurău
  • Publisher: Frontiera
  • Year published: 2001 (FR) and  2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age: 2+

Ideal reader:  A deep-voiced man who is not afraid to do Little Red Riding Hood’s voice.

Reading Tip: The funniest read-aloud I know.  Pause till laughter dies down.  (It is a shame to keep reading when no one can hear because they are laughing.)  This book has wonderful, naughty humiliations.  The reader needs to savor them along with the children.  Slow way down on last page with time to take in critical image, emphasize and pause on word “dragon”, with a slow, stuttering finish. 

Discussion ideas:

1) What would be this book’s definition of “to bully” or “bullying”? 

2) Is this wolf the strongest?  How does he get everyone to say he is?  On what is his strength based? 

3) Who/what puts the wolf in his place?  Who/what can put a real-life bully in his/her place? 

  • Going deeper: Read the sequel, Eu sun cel mai frumos.

 

5. Iarna

  • Word count: 286
  • Original language: Romanian
  • Author: Grigore Vieru
  • Illustrator: Veronica Neacșu
  • Publisher: Cartier
  • Year published: 2016 (EN) and 2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age: 2+

Ideal reader: Any caring teacher, librarian, parent. 

Reading tips:  Read the text without the illustrations, and then read it again while showing the illustrations.  What do Veronica Neacșu’s illustrations do for Grigore Vieru’s short story? And enjoy the language!  I’m in love with the word „harbuz”!

Discussion ideas:

  1.  What does it mean to “long” for something?  Is “longing” a good or useful feeling, even one to be fostered or preserved?  Or is “longing” something to be satisfied and therefore done away with?
  2.  What does it feel like to want something that badly?  Something you cannot have?  (Nuța smells, hears and sees watermelon everywhere.)
  3.  Have you ever wanted a watermelon in winter?
  4.  Today, you can buy a watermelon in winter.  Is this a good thing?  Is this a bad thing?  Just because you can buy a watermelon in winter, should you?  What are the hidden costs of a watermelon in winter?  
  5. As Nuțu confuses summer fruit for winter smells and sounds, there is confusion too between our seasons today.  This book could be a good segway for talking about global warming/climate change.  Could it be that our out-of-season longings (i.e. watermelon in winter) has contributed to creating an environment where things are more and more frequently happening outside of their season?
  6.  What do you most love about winter?  And what do you most miss? 

 

6. Nadia, the girl who could not sit still/ Nadia– Fata care nu putea sta locului nicio clipă

  • Word count: 962
  • Original language: English
  • Author: Karlin Gray
  • Illustrtor: Christine Davenier
  • Translator: ?
  • Publisher: DPH
  • Year published: 2016 (EN) and 2017 (RO)
  • Suggested age: 5+

 

Ideal reader:  Someone who was alive when Nadia made gymnastics history at the 1976 Olympic Games, and is willing to talk about their memories.

Reading tip: This book is close to 1,000 words which is almost too long.  If you start to lose your listeners, draw them back in by asking them a question about the illustrations, etc.  And try to read the climactic moment as if you are really there, and Nadia has just received her first history-breaking 10, but it looks like a 1.  What a sports moment! 

Discussion questions:

1) How does this story make you feel?  About your country? About your history, your people? 

2) What can we/you learn for today from Nadia’s story?

3) How did Nadia’s story turn out?  Did she continue to be brave and break the rules? 

4) How would this story be told differently or look differently if Romanians had written or illustrated it?  In other words, is this story as truth-telling as it could be?

  • Going deeper: Watch the Nadia’s 1976 Olympic Games video  

General Read-Aloud Tips:

  1. Hold the book outward. Illustrations and text are inseparable in a picture book.  The picture book must be turned outward so that the listeners are simultaneously receiving ½ of the story with their ears, and the other ½ with their eyes.
  2. Read these stories aloud at least once beforehand.  Being prepared will dramatically improve your reading of them. 
  3. Reading slowly is always important in a read aloud, but even more so when you only have 102 words to read.  (You can read it in a minute or in 6 minutes. )  In short picture books, the illustrations tell ½ the story.  Let your listener’s eyes linger on illustrations a bit, while also keeping the story slowly moving.  In short picture books, every word counts twice, every illustration is part of the story, and the pauses, silences/spaces, and page-turns help tell the story.  Draw the experience out.  Savor it slowly for greater impact with your listeners.
  4. Don’t be afraid of silence. Silent pauses can play the role of building suspense, emotion, and humor, and in creating memory and connectedness from the experience.
  • When reading something humorous, be sure to pause till the laughter dies down. I have witnessed many adults continue reading while there is laughter.  By the time the laughter quiets, the listeners have missed 2-3 sentences, which is a considerable portion of a story that only has 256 words.
  • Leave an uncomfortable silence – not too long, but longer than you want to – for an emotional sentence or the climax sentence to sink in. It may feel uncomfortable to you, but it does two things:  1) it respects those deeper listeners who on their own recognize the sentence for its depth and complexity and would like to chew on it a little, and 2) it gives a silent cue, or invitation, to the others to listen more closely…there might be something more in this sentence than the other sentences.   (This “uncomfortable pause” after an important line, is much more effective than the reader stopping the story to say, “Now listen to this.”) 

Read the last line of the story painfully slowly. This gives a goose-bumpy end to most stories and signals to the group that this is the end, without the reader having to throw in an awkward, “The End!”  

Sediul Central Lupeni

Bv. Păcii, bl. 5, ap. 9 | și în Cluj-Napoca

comunicare@noi-orizonturi.ro

0254 564 471