By Karen Hopp, Director of Communications & Development
I always knew Diane’s Books to be a special place and that Greenwich is lucky to have a shop dedicated to nurturing a love of reading – and the imagination and magic that comes with it. (In November, the store will celebrate its 27th anniversary.) But I had not personally met the treasure that is Diane Garrett until recently when we got together to discuss her favorite topic – reading to young children.
I met with Diane to get her summer reading advice and recommendations for her favorite read-aloud early-childhood books to share with the PIFS Family. I intended to do a very straight-forward Q&A and not take up too much of her time. I was surprised to find I could barely keep up with Diane and it was all I could do to simply track her around the shop and jot notes as quickly as possible. I left with anecdotes and lessons to hold onto…
“Reading is caught and not taught.”
Diane doesn’t want parents of young children to get so hung up on reading to teach. It is her experience that we should simply read without agenda as much as possible. That’s not to say she isn’t for discipline in the practice – she encourages reading to be habit, just like brushing our teeth.
Diane’s pet peeve with parents today is that they come in to the shop and ask their accompanying children if they like particular books – literally asking a child to judge a book by its cover. “The pleasing issue is big,” she said. A parent will come in and tell Diane what types of books the child likes. “I’d rather give some recommendations and have you go home and read them to your child… Snuggle up in bed and read a new book without any requests.” This is, in her opinion, how you get children to try and learn new things without reservations or caveats. “It’s magical,” said Diane.
“The question I don’t get but I want?” asked Diane. “Give me a new read-aloud!”
“A book can be too old for a reader, but never too young.”
Many of us are reading to our children in different age groups and it was reassuring to know that even reading an age-appropriate book for my 4-year-old is worthwhile for my 7-year-old. “You don’t have to outgrow picture books,” said Diane. The discussion, engagement and creativity that comes from talking about picture books is immensely valuable for any age, in Diane’s opinion. “Be sure to ask questions while you read. And rhyming books – regardless of age, gender or areas of interest – are among children’s favorites to be read and to read themselves.”
Put down the tablet
“There’s nothing like holding a book,” said Diane. “The eye contact and engagement you get when reading a book to a child is so important.”
Diane’s response when asked about advice for parents over the summer? “Let your children see you reading actual books. It’s like anything else – it’s all about patterning. If they see you being kind, they will model you and also be kind. If they see you reading, they will read.”
“The imagination, wonder and curiosity… they won’t come without reading.”
Diane’s Favorite Children’s Books
(at least some of them)
An avid, devoted reader, of course Diane has an endless list of favorite children’s books. As I followed her around, she tossed out one after another (a few of which will be in our school lobby for families to see).
Written in 1942, The Poky Little Puppy still tops Diane’s list. I hadn’t read it since childhood so I took it home that night and curled up with Liam and Bridgette to get the peanut gallery’s take. There’s nothing flashy about it in the least but my children were mesmerized and completely enthralled.
Read To Your Bunny by Rosemary Wells
“Don’t Just Read. SING! Singing along to books is magical,” Diane said, and one of her favorites for this is Tom Paxton’s Going to the Zoo. I was even treated to a Diane solo.
Little Beaver and the Echo – “Such a treasure.”
Everything by Bill Peet is a favorite.
Never Take a Shark to the Dentist by Judi Barrett
Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
My First Busy Book by Eric Carle
“Tactile books are so important for your youngest readers.”
(Diane is such a fan of this book, she insisted that PIFS have a copy as a gift.)
Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty
“There’s never been a book like it… I need a boy complement for this,” Diane said.
(When leaving later in the evening, she was adamant that I buy it for my daughter.)
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Listen Buddy by Helen Lester
“All of Helen Lester’s books are great fun to read out loud.”
Read Me a Story, Stella by Marie-Louise Gay
“Everything by Marie-Louise Gay is magical.”
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Is There Really a Human Race? and This is Me by Jamie Lee Curtis
Elsa Kleven books
“Anything by Elsa Kleven. She has magical illustrations.”
Diane describes many books, authors and illustrations as magical; I think it’s Diane who has magic of her own. Stop in to Diane’s Books and you’ll see what I mean.
Lucky us, Diane has graciously offered to visit PIFS next fall to read to our students and speak with our parents.
Happy Summer! Happy Reading!