Thursday, June 26, 2008

What If My Kindergartener Has Already Heard All Of The Year 0 Books?

When we came across Ambleside Online, my oldest daughter was five and in kindergarten. Looking through the booklist for Year 0, though, I realized that we had already read the vast majority of those books. In fact, I had already read most of those books many times over to my then four-year-old daughter as well. In effect, we had repeated the Year 0 list (with a few exceptions) in the years before age five. There were plenty of good picture book selections from the "Advisory Favorites", but I wanted to use our kindergarten year to begin to move away from lots of illustrations and toward more literary text, as Miss Mason advises. More picture books didn't seem like the answer for us.

Since I've been online, I've heard from several other mothers that have come across the same problem. It's the year before school really begins, the children aren't technically "doing school", but the Ambleside Year 0 booklist has been read, and read, and read again. They need something more for their kindergarten reading. (I should stop a moment and say that A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter truly can never be worn out, and I continued to read them regularly, and the children have heard them from toddlerhood. I will very likely be continually reading either a Pooh or Potter book aloud more than fifteen years running by the time my youngest outgrows them, lol).

If it seems like this need for more Year 0 books might describe your family situation, too, I'd like to firstly encourage you to go back to the AO Year 0 list and really give it a very, very close read. I admit, whenever I got to the part about "a good collection including classic stories and folk tales including...", I sort of skimmed it and thought,"Yeah, yeah, we have plenty of classic little folk stories". But, within the last two years, I have come to realize the significance of the ebook links that accompany that line! The Joseph Jacobs stories are truly excellent versions! If you have "done Year 0", but you haven't read any of the Joseph Jacobs selections yet, please add those to your kindergarten list! :) Even if the stories are repeats, Jacobs undoubtedly will be more challenging and better written than those you have already read (unless they're by Amy Steedman or Andrew Lang). It is not at all a stretch to say that Jacob's folk tales plus a handful of other quality books are enough to make a strong Year 0 on their own. Also, nursery rhymes can be very lame in some versions. Editors have reworded them and sanitized them and modernized them, in short - butchered them - until they are often nothing like the classic versions. If you are unsure, I highly recommend taking the Advisory's recommendations for nursery rhyme books very seriously.

So, to make a long post short, lol, here is what we have done for Year 0 :)

Having not read truly well-written folk tales in preschool (many are intense and my preschoolers can't handle them), we chose to use Joseph Jacobs and Amy Steedman's fairy tales. Now, this part I hate to tell you, but I already owned an out of print collection that had lots of stories from both of these authors. Yeah, that helps a ton, doesn't it? ;) But, there are links on the Year 0 page for both authors! And there are still publications available for purchase!

My first choice for Jacobs is here. Personally, I would stay clear of the Everyman's Library books - the covers wear very poorly. The gold paint rubs off very easily and, after a short time, you can't read the title of the book on the spine.

As for Amy Steedman's Nursery Tales Told to the Children, you may try a used book search like or even Ebay. As I type this post, there is a hardcover of the Steedman book available at Alibris for $15 (shipped from the UK).

We also used For The Children's Hour, another book recommended toward the bottom of the AO Year 0 list that I had glanced over time and time again. I finally paid attention to it, ordered it, and loved it :) The stories are very short and perfect for a little read before rest/nap time. They are not as challenging or literary as the folk tales mentioned above, I'd say, but they are certainly more so than most modern children's books.

Yesterday's Classics sells a lovely collection of children's poems in three books. If you have already read the other AO recommendations for poetry and are looking for something new or, possibly, something an early reader can read independently, these books are good choices. They are entitled, A Child's Own Book of Verse, and there are three separate books. Here's a link to Book One :)

In addition to the poetry, folk tales, and For the Children's Hour, we always had a read aloud chapter book going. There are so many wonderful choices, but some of my favorites for kindergarten are...

Justin Morgan Had A Horse - Henry
The Story of Doctor Doolittle - Lofting
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis
The Magician's Nephew - Lewis
The Trumpet of the Swan - White
Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (some talk of massacre)
The Long Winter - Wilder
and Hitty: Her First Hundred Years - I forget the author!
Oh, and all of the D'Aulaire books are wonderful, too, if your child has an interest in history! But you may want to wait and save the ones used in Year One until then.

I've got to run to the grocery store now, but I hope this has helped a little bit. There really isn't a great deal of reading necessary at this age, it just needs to be challenging and full of high-minded ideas :) A half hour of a great book is worth hours of reading so-so ones!

May you have a wonderful kindergarten year :)


I want to mention, too, that we did not include the B'rer Rabbit stories in our reading. I read the book and considered it from several different points of view, but, ultimately, decided that it tended to glorify deception, mischief, and mean-spiritedness. In my little ole opinion, most five-year-old children lack the discernment to handle Briar Rabbit and his antics in a morally sound way without lots of guidance. I don't mind giving guidance, but we decided the book was unnecessary.


Update: A few weeks after I posted this, an "unofficial" AO Year 0.5 Booklist was uploaded to the files section of the AO/HEO Booklists Yahoo Group. This list was compiled by moms on the AOYear0 Yahoo Group, not by the AO Advisory. It's a helpful list, though :) Click HERE for a link to the group! Enjoy!