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them slip away.” Okay, I thought. Just as Mrs.

Piggle-Wiggle had her magical cures for never-want-to-go-to-bedders, surely I could find a cure for my reading ennui. In fact, taking a page from the Little Tailor’s playbook, I found seven. First, I sometimes invited a “guest”

reader. A Grover hand puppet and a gravelly voice kept me alert, delighted the kids and gave those stories a fresh new lease. The second remedy was to turn off

the TV, ignore the phone and read by a lone lamplight that ringed me and my audience in a cozy glow. Third, for variety, we’d sometimes read in a “secret” place. Goldilocks acquires a new dimension when read under the kitchen table. My fourth remedy was to introduce dinner readings. “For the first course,” I’d say, “a heaping helping of Hansel and Gretel.” Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches lend themselves nicely to

Eyes sparking, minds

receptive, the children’s slight bodies vibrate like

tuning forks of language, wonder and virtue when we read together.

this departure from standard fare. Fifth, I’d occasionally take a break by

playing a talking book episode. It made old standbys like Tom Sawyer fresh again. As a sixth solution, when I as- signed the kids parts in a story the plot took on a dimension that would often make us giggle. Even very young children that haven’t learned to read are able to memorize well-loved passages and recite lines verbatim. The seventh remedy was to spin

original tales. When I was a boy, my mother created an entire forest world populated by clever animals: Fox,

Dads Booked as Heroes by Jeremy Adam Smith F

athers show up comparatively rarely in children’s books. Accord- ing to a review of 200 children’s

books by David Anderson, Ph.D., and Mykol Hamilton, Ph.D., fathers ap- peared about half as often as mothers. Mothers were 10 times more likely to be depicted taking care of babies than fathers and twice as likely to be seen nurturing older children.

Of course, moms are still most likely to be taking care of kids. But how does that help nontraditional families and other parents embrace broader caring role models? They can choose from this list of books that depict dads as co-parents and primary caregivers.

n Mama’s Home!, by Paul Vos Ben- kowski, illustrated by Jennifer Herbert (Chronicle Books, ages 1-3)

n Kisses for Daddy, by Frances Watts and David Legge (Little Hare Books, ages 1-5)

n The Bunny Book (also published as When Bunny Grows Up), by Patricia M. and Richard Scarry (Golden Books, ages 1-5)

n The Complete Adventures of Curi- ous George, by Margret and H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin, ages 1-5)

n Daddy’s Lullaby, by Tony Bradman, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft (Margaret K. McElderry Books, ages 2-5)

n My Dad, by Anthony Browne (Mac- millan, ages 2-5)

n Daddy’s Home!, by Rosanne D. Parry, illustrated by David Leonard (Candy Cane Press, ages 2-5)

n My Daddy and I, by P.K. Hallinan, author and illustrator (Candy Cane Press, ages 2-5)

n Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (sequel is Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity), by Mo Willems (Hyperion, ages 2-6)

the sly one; Owl, the fusty Winston Churchill; and Beetle Boy, the action hero. I took what she began and cre- ated Further Adventures from the Deep, Dark Wood.

While I didn’t feel every inch the polished spinner of tales early on, neither did I abdicate the richly fulfilling role of chief reader for our little tribe. The more interest I showed their beloved classics, the closer they snuggled. Remedies in hand, my attitude improved. I relaxed and be- came less attached to my “other” read- ing material. At story time, I soaked up the hugs, the laughter and the love. Truth be told, I came to like having the most luxurious—and requested— lap around.

Clint Kelly, a communications specialist for Seattle Pacific University, in Wash- ington, authors tales for children and adults on topics ranging from dinosaurs to child rearing. Connect at ClintKelly

n Mama’s Coming Home, by Kate Banks, pictures by Tomek Bogacki (Farrar Straus Giroux, ages 3-6)

n Daddy Calls Me Man, by Angela Johnson, paintings by Rhonda Mitchell (Orchard Books, ages 3-6)

n Papa, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Laval- lee (Chronicle Books, ages 3-6)

n Tell Me One Thing, Dad, by Tom Pow, illustrated by Ian Andrew (Candle- wick Press, ages 3-7)

n Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss (Random House, ages 3-7)

n And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Par- nell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster, ages 3-7)

n A Father Like That, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (HarperCollins, ages 3-7)

n Danny, Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Knopf, ages 8-12)

Jeremy Adam Smith is the author of The Daddy Shift and co-editor of Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood. Connect at

natural awakenings June 2012 27

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