Have to Admit I Started to Think I’d Made a Terrible Mistake When Jack the Dog Disappeared in the Creek

By Megan

A good friend of mine, Alice, recently mentioned that she’s reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series to her four-year-old son. She’d told him about the book and sat down to read to him, allowing him to continue playing with some toys as she did so. She said he played for just a few seconds as she started to read and then quickly appeared at her side, riveted by the story unfolding as his mother read.

Now I am an old-fashioned mother, for the most part, so the Alice’s smart idea of reading these favorite old classics to my own four-year-old had me chomping at the bit to get to the library and check out our first installment. I let Bean pick out some picture/story books while we were there, and I tucked MY selection into her library bag after we’d checked them all out. Once at home, as is her custom, Bean took her bag into the family room, pulled out her haul and began to quietly peruse and page through each and every book. I tended to a few things as she looked, and then joined her on the floor among the stacks and picked up the Wilder book (which she’d stuck way over in a corner, away from HER books) and suggested I read her a few pages.


(It actually does have a few pictures, but neither of us were aware of that at the time.)

“I’m going to teach you how to make pictures in your mind. You listen to the story and imagine what I’m describing as I read, okay? If you need help understanding what you hear, just ask me. Give it a chance. I think you’re going to love it.”

She was skeptical, but she sat silently and paged through her own books as I began to read the first chapter in a quiet, calm voice. Sure enough, I hadn’t even turned the first page before she’d set aside the picture books and was standing behind me, craning her neck to look over my shoulder, her face already registering curiousity and suspense. I smiled to myself and sent my friend Alice a little mental thank you.

We’ve read one or two chapters of the book every day now for about 4 days. Every once in awhile we run across one of Garth Williams’s beautiful little pencil sketches and we stop our reading to scrutinize it. The illustrations show plenty of detail to inspire conversation but are still simple enough to leave some things to Bean’s imagination.

Thursday we enjoyed Laura’s description of a simple meal of corncakes, salt pork and coffee Ma prepared one evening under the prairie stars. Friday we read a chapter describing how Pa Ingalls (with help from Mr. Edwards) built the family’s first small house with logs he’d cut himself. Friday afternoon, Bean and I baked corn cakes and tried our hands at shaking up some homemade butter from cream. (It was delicious!)  As we sat enjoying corn cakes and molasses (just like Laura had on her corncakes) and fresh butter later that night with Daddy, Bean demonstrated and explained to him how Pa (“He’s their Daddy, Daddy!”) stacked the logs to make the walls of Mary and Laura’s home (I see some Lincoln Logs in our future!). She also shared that Mary and Laura drank water from a shared tin cup as Ma and Pa drank their coffee.

Each day, Bean takes her own little favorite nugget of information away from the chapters we read, and each day she becomes more and more curious and anxious to continue to the story. I’m enjoying the time we’re spending together at this and absolutely adore the conversations it inspires between us. These books are obviously too old for a four-year-old (at least MY four year old) to read on her own, but it’s such a happy surprise (it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is) that she can comprehend and really enjoy it with me even still. I’m a huge proponent of reading to children and do it every day, but I don’t know why I’d never thought of the idea of reading something a little more advanced with her, actually, and I’m really grateful to Alice for mentioning it and bringing such joy to my little family!

Here’s a fairly comprehensive list I found of other children’s classics to enjoy with kids. I bet you’ll see one of your favorites here and maybe you’ll want to share it with your little ones if you haven’t already. As you read, look for simple ideas of fun projects you can use to reinforce and expand the learnings you find on the pages of the book.

I think for me this experience has meant a departure from reading just the picture books that Bean loves, chance to return to my own blissfully imaginative childhood, as well as the perfect combination of bonding time and early education for my sweetest girl and me.

A few of the other books on my list to read with Bean in the near future:

  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Peter Pan by James M. Barrie
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Check out an interview with Miss Bean in my first official VLOG, at FriedOkra.

18 Responses to Have to Admit I Started to Think I’d Made a Terrible Mistake When Jack the Dog Disappeared in the Creek
  1. Melissa
    March 16, 2009 | 2:51 am

    I love this idea! And am sad, at the same time, that my mother decided to sell my set of LHotP books at a garage sale a few years ago. Neither one of us really knew it was something I’d want again.

  2. feefifoto
    March 16, 2009 | 9:47 am

    Good for you and your daughter. While the Little House books do tend to run on and on after a while, they are such a great way to enjoy some intimate time with your kids, and an excellent way to help kids understand how different things were 150 years ago when Laura lived.

  3. Courtney
    March 16, 2009 | 10:54 am

    I have been pondering for a while now when it was the right time to start reading chapter books to my boys. Phabian just turned 4 and MJ is about to turn 3. I just had no idea if at this age it would be appropriate. Thank you for sharing your story and ideas. Now i know i can go ahead and start and build a great bond with my boys through some books that i love!

  4. Chelsea
    March 16, 2009 | 12:52 pm

    Great idea! I am thinking maybe The Swiss Family Robinson..

  5. Jenny-Jenny
    March 16, 2009 | 1:26 pm

    There is nothing I love more than reading aloud to my kids. They are mostly teenagers now and our book choices have changed but they still ask me to read to them.

    We read and loved most of the ones on your list. Here are some others that we loved when they were tiny and beyond:
    ~Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne …it’s funnest to start with no. 1, the adventure continues!
    ~The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
    ~Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
    ~Anything written by Andrew Clements…start with Frindle
    ~Anything written by Jerry Spinelli…Kids might need to be school age to really enjoy and understand.
    ~Horrible Harry Books by Suzi Kline
    ~Any of the Fudge books by Judy Blume (Fudge is very appropriate for little kids…not one of her ‘coming of age’ ones.
    ~The Boxcar Children by Gertude Chandler Warner …this book is the reason I read to my kids. I can still see my mom sitting on my bed reading this one to me.

    You just can’t measure the joy that comes from reading aloud to your kids.

  6. Tracie
    March 16, 2009 | 3:38 pm

    I was a school librarian who introduced chapter books to second-graders. We read Stuart Little, and although I know some of them were lost in their own second-grade brains, many were enrapt in the story we were creating in our minds. I wondered if it was too hard for second-graders, but it made your list, so I must have been somewhat on track. We also then watched the movie and discussed the differences and which we liked better. Many preferred the book and the pictures they saw in their imaginations. Great job Megan!

  7. Alison
    March 16, 2009 | 4:27 pm

    I love reading to Miss Pink (and Mr. Blue, although at barely 3, he doesn’t sit still long enough for chapter books.) Thanks for the suggestions. She has told me she doesn’t want to read the Little House books (I thought, “Are you really MY child?”) but I have faith that eventually she will. Right now we are stuck on a series of fairy books, but after that…maybe Peter Pan!

  8. Laura V.
    March 16, 2009 | 4:53 pm

    I am about to begin formally homeschooling my oldest (he’s 5) and one of the first things we are starting is a curriculum called Prairie Primer. It uses the Little House collection to teach young children about history and life in those times. I’m sure he will enjoy me reading the books to him and eventually being able to read them himself (he’s learning to read). All of my friends who have read the Little House series to their children have loved it and how their children responded, so I’m eager to begin, as well!!

  9. Carrie of Ceaseless Praises
    March 16, 2009 | 7:27 pm

    What a WONDERFUL idea!!! I can’t wait till my little guy (15 mos) is old enough to read all those kinds of books to! 🙂

  10. Cynthia
    March 16, 2009 | 9:40 pm

    It’s great that you all are reading those together and doing things to go along with the stories. Sounds like fun! You have a good list there. You may also have seen the Children’s Illustrated Classics, which are a simplified version of some more difficult books. My son really liked the Wind in the Willows.

  11. Veronica
    March 16, 2009 | 9:43 pm

    Excellent list. My oldest two are 5 and 3, and they have also enjoyed John Peterson’s The Littles and E. Nesbit’s Book of Dragons.

  12. Kelly
    March 16, 2009 | 10:59 pm

    I’ve wanted to do this for a few years now; it’s such a great idea. But I struggle to find time to read to my five- and seven-year-old when the baby isn’t completely distracting us.

    Maybe I should start waking them up at 3:00 AM to read a little Narnia? That’s the series I’m itching to start, although “Little House” is a close second.

  13. Jemma
    March 17, 2009 | 4:04 am

    I’ve been persisting with reading aloud to my two for some time now. To begin with they wander in and out, but my daughter (4) really pays attention now and my son (3) is starting to. I’ve read all sorts but the most interesting to them so far seems to be the Borrowers series.

    For anyone in the UK, there is a digital radio station called “Fun Kids” that has part of a classic children’s story read out every day. I think it’s great for kids to have a chance to create images in their heads.

  14. Beck
    March 17, 2009 | 7:56 am

    My husband read the following novels to our children when they were even smaller than they are now:
    The whole Ramona Quimby series. Every single one.
    And the Henry Huggins books!
    The Railway Children
    The entire Pippi Longstockings series
    The Wind in The Willows
    … and more.
    I’m not a fan of the Little House books, though.

  15. Brenda
    March 17, 2009 | 8:43 am

    Wait’ll you start reading the Narnia chronicles by C.S. Lewis! Talk about HARD TO PUT DOWN!!!

    Boxcar Childern and the Ramona Quimby/Henry Huggins books were fun with my kids. Once they could read on their own, they devoured series and novels! You’re on the right track to teaching Bean to love reading, that’s for sure! My kids now buy thick novel series and pass them on to each other, borrow, let me borrow.
    Some day you might want to try the hilarious “Series of Unfortunate Events”!

  16. All Rileyed Up
    March 17, 2009 | 3:23 pm

    Sounds like a great way to read a book with your child. I like your upcoming list as well. Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are among my favorites, as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  17. Lauren
    March 18, 2009 | 12:46 pm

    The Judy Blume books are our favorite! I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to our older two when the baby was still a … well, baby… , but even she will still repeat lines from the book from time to time. That has to be my favorite part of reading as a family, the little “inside jokes” that you gather along the way.

  18. Alane
    March 19, 2009 | 3:31 am

    What a fabulous idea, for mom as well as the kids! I read with my kids every day & I cannot tell you how bored I can get with reading the same simple stories over & over. Even my faves can give me a serious case of the yawns after I’ve read it ‘one more time’ X 837! But a good chapter book? Oh baby that changes everything! I’d read many of the books on this list just for myself & I can’t wait to share the magic of them with my kids.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://parenting.5minutesformom.com/324/324/trackback/