Flat Stanley

I am a proud mama. My daughter has recently graduated to chapter books. With more words than pictures. And more complex story lines. And real chapters! I have to say, this is an exciting milestone in my life, although it’s probably about par-for-the-course in hers.

Like many of you, I am sure, my childhood was dominated by books. My parents used to yell at me to put away my book at the dinner table. I made my way, surely and methodically, through the children’s room at our local library. I looked forward to my airplane rides to Thailand, so I could read for 24 hours straight and no one would tell me to stop.

I’ve always wondered, will my children fall in love with words in quite the same way? Will their imaginations take them to lands no airplane can reach? When they pain of real life becomes too much, will they escape into stories and forget their problems, for just a little while?

I hope so.

A brand-new world is opening up for them, and I get to go along for the ride. Our first foray into chapter books is FLAT STANLEY, by Jeff Brown, which is the story of a boy who is flattened to half an inch thick when an enormous bulletin board falls on him. I’ve learned so much by reading this book out loud.

I’ve learned about world-building. At half an inch thick, Stanley can do loads of cool things other ordinary boys and girls can’t. He can slide underneath doors. He can be lowered into a sidewalk grate to retrieve dropped jewelry. He can even be placed into an envelope and be mailed to distant places, in order to avoid the cost of a plane ticket.

I’ve learned the importance of chapter hooks. Since these books are meant to be read out loud by parents a couple chapters at a time, the story must be interesting enough to hold the child’s attention from day-to-day. (Although not so interesting it has the child refusing bedtime and begging for more!)

I’ve learned that the joy is in the details. One evening, it was late, and I was skipping over a few words to hurry along the story (which I was re-reading for the second time). After Stanley slid into the envelope, I read, there was still room for an egg-salad sandwich and some milk. No, Mommy, my daughter corrected me. It’s a toothbrush container full of milk. Excuse me, I apologized, smiling. My dear daughter had just shown me first-hand that it’s the details that make a story come alive!

I expect I’ll learn many more lessons as I guide my children through the exciting world of chapter books. And I couldn’t be more excited.

What about you? Were you a bookworm as a child? What do you remember most about your favorite childhood books? What have you learned from re-experiencing the wonder of reading?

21 thoughts on “Flat Stanley

  1. Good morning, P.H.
    I don’t remember being a bookworm as a kid but when I did read, it was stuff like Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. That’s why I’m so glad I get to experience the full gamut of children’s books with my son. He’s almost eleven now and we are reading the Hunger Games series. We’re on the third book and it’s very cool to see how every night when I find just the right place to stop, he’s begging me to keep going. I’ve definitely learned about where to place scene breaks in my own writing, something I’d never have expected to get out of bedtime stories with my baby.

    1. Wow, Carlene, you and your son read some pretty scary stuff. I totally remember that Stephen King story (and I didn’t even read it; got tricked into watching the movie at a slumber party). Gave me nightmares for weeks. And isn’t it so cool to experience stories with our babies? Although, I’ve got to say, either your little boy is very advanced for his age, or 11-year-olds are reading scarier stuff than I expected.
      Thanks for stopping by! And have a great day!

  2. I was a huge bookworm as a child – and as an adult. The books that always jump to mind when I think about my early reading are actually from age 9-12ish. That would be The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins, which was then followed with Sweet Valley High when I was a bit older. Oh man – good stuff. I totally want to go hunt those books up right now!

    1. We totally read the same stuff!! How funny. No wonder we make such good APs. I’ve got all of my Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins boxed up in storage. I can dig them up for you, if you want!

  3. I was a huge reader as a kid. HUGE. I assumed (we all know how that works) that when my oldest daughter started reading it would be a snap, she would love it and she would be a huge reader, too. Well, it didn’t go quite as planned. Learning to read was a real challenge for her and she hated it. Reading was the worst thing ever to her. It took a few years and some real dedication on her part, but she finally made that reading connection. Now that it has clicked for her, I’m having to frisk her before bed so she’s not taking her latest book down with her to read by flashlight until the wee hours. Sometimes, I see the strange square shape under her nightgown and let it pass. How could I not?

    1. Ha ha, Avery, I TOTALLY did that — snuck a flashlight into my bed so I could read into the wee hours. And you are right. If I ever catch my children doing that, I will have to let it pass. How can I not, when it creates such amazing childhood memories? I’m feeling so nostalgic just typing this!
      I’m so glad that your daughter made the reading connection, but I am totally preparing myself in case my children don’t turn out to be big readers — because that’s okay, too.

  4. I was the biggest book nerd. In kindergarten every kid had a sentence strip on the wall with their name on it. Everyone receieved a star sticker for each book they read. My stars went off the strip and halfway around the room! I am still a voracious reader to this day and LOVE that my kids are old enough to read books we can all enjoy- Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippi Longstocking.. PH- Try Franny K. Stein with your daughter. We LOVE her.

    1. Ooohhh… Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is still around? I loved her when I was a kid! Ha ha, your sentence strip reminds me of when I was in second grade. Our local Pizza Hut had a Book- it contest, where if a kid read five books in a semester, he/she would get a personal pan pizza. So we had to keep track of our books that semester, and instead of five books, I read… 216. Thanks for the Franny K. Stein suggestion. We will definitely check her out!

  5. I love this post! I was also a complete needy bookworm just like my big sister. My favorite books growing up were Sweet Valley Twins, Babysitters ckub, Mrs Piggle Wiggle and Harlequin Romances (from way too young of an age haha). It’s so exciting that your daughter is becoming a great reader herself!

    1. You forgot about the Animorphs! I loved that series! (even though I was 20 when I read them.)

  6. I love Flat Stanley. The sequels are fun too, I brought one back from the UK for my mom before the rise of internet book ordering made it all so easy.
    And I love Mrs. Piggle Wiggle too, I’ve gifted a few friends’ kids those so they can pass that on.

    1. Hi RandomRanter, We have the first four Flat Stanleys (got them in a boxed set) and are having a great time making our way through them. I’m really going to have to get my hands on the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggles. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. My mom always had to beg me to “put the book down.” I brought it to the table during mealtimes. I tried my best to read in the car, but motion sickness put an end to that. 🙂 But, I also remember the flashlight in the bed and pulling books out like I was doing something very naughty. LOL.
    As a mom, it gives me a thrill to have to go make my kids turn off their lights because it’s “too late” for reading. My son actually fell out of bed because he was so into reading the 6th Harry Potter. We thought he needed stitches. LOL.
    Reading is such a wonderful bond. Two of my daughters (ages 11 and 10) have finished The Hunger Games. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve discussed it. My husband read them all, too. There’s such an interesting bond through reading. If I say something and then say, “Real or not real?” everyone understands that it comes from Mockingjay. 🙂 We are gearing up for the movie to come out in March and are having a huge Hunger Games party. My rule is: Invite everyone you want, but they have to have read the book. 🙂 In our house, we don’t watch the movies until we’ve read the books. My son (8) is starting Hunger Games now…. Yay!
    Reading is definitely a bond that we share with our children. I remember my grandmother telling me when I was very little, “Once you learn to read, you’ll never be lonely again.” I couldn’t wait to read. To open up new worlds. To visit places that others have either visited or wished with every fiber of their being that they had. At that young age, I was DETERMINED to be a reader and experience exactly what Grandma said I would. I used those exact words with my own kids and any other kids that I can grab a hold of. LOL.
    Thanks for a great post! And Happy Reading!

  8. Kim, what a lovely family you have! I am so thrilled for you! I can’t wait for my children to get old enough for me to share books with them. (I mean, really share, not just enjoy reading their books out loud.) The Hunger Games party is such a great idea! I hope you have fun!!

  9. I didn’t read that much until I was 12, and then I read everything fiction, romance, science fiction, epic, gothic, you name it. However, under 12 and raised on a farm I read only two things – Highlights magazine and Bible stories.

    I read the usual children’s books with my son, but he didn’t get into books until he was a teenager and then he was reading literature and writing poetry (He was writer/editor for his college’s black poetry magazine). It’s funny with kids how they can grow up with so many of their parents’ characteristics, values, mannerisms, etc., but also surprise us by being so uniquely themselves. Kids are cool:).

    1. Denny, How cool to go from not being into books to writing poetry! I can sense the pride you have for your son, and it’s lovely to see. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

  10. Three of my aunts were school teachers and always pushing new books on me so I became a book nerd at an early age. Now I have one daughter who reads as voraciously as I do and another who says she’ll stare the book down until it tells her everything she wants to know. *sigh* I love reading with my kids or now that they are a little older reading the same book and then discussing it. It’s almost like having our own little club.

    1. Dana, Thanks for stopping by! Isn’t it fun how our children can be so different from one another? I’m looking forward to forming my own “reading club” with my kids. Have a great day!

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