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On Canons for Kindergarteners

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Did you see Michael Petrilli's blog post on Flypaper, over at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's website today? He and some friends created a list that he calls "The Kindergarten Canon." As he writes, "A canon, after all, isn't simply a critic's selection of the greatest books ever written; they also have to be books that everyone reads." He continues: "You may or may not think Moby Dick was the premier work of American fiction, but you still had to read it because you couldn't be considered culturally literate without it. Likewise with, say, Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

While I have to confess to having missed out on Moby Dick, I have read, watched, and listened to countless versions of Goldilocks.

I think the creation of the list is an interesting concept. I agree with many of the books he lists, and for nostalgic reasons I'm particularly happy to see a few Little Golden Books make an appearance, as well as books by Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman. Go, Dog. Go! was one of my favorite books as a child, and I listened to a surprisingly fluent rendition of Are You My Mother? just last night, compliments of my 1st grader. However, there were a number of books on the list that I hadn't heard of before.

Some that I wish had been on the list include The Bears' Vacation, an early book in the Berenstain Bears series, the original Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Birthday Monsters! a lyrical book by Sandra Boynton. Each of these is more pop culture than cultured, for sure, but memorable books that have impacted a generation none-the-less.

How about you? In this season of in-school book fairs and (hopefully) parents eager to purchase books for your classroom, what would you like to add to your kindergarten collection? Do you tend towards highbrow (Madeline, with its gorgeous Ludwig Bemelmans illustrations of late-1930s Paris) or popular (the beloved Clifford series) books? Why do you think some books work so well with kindergarteners, while others fail?


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