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Parenting: Our favorite children's books include feminist tale by famous Charleston writer

Summertime, and the trivia is easy ... or so the contestants make it seem (copy) (copy)

A photograph of George (left) and Ira (right) Gershwin and Dubose Heyward in the South Carolina Historical Society collection. Heyward wrote "Porgy and Bess" with the Gershwins and also authored a children's book called "The County Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes." Provided

We all know that learning to read is an early indicator of a child's academic success.

Reading to them is equally important. Studies have shown that when children hear a story, their brains are stimulated in ways that strengthen imagery, sight and comprehension.

It makes sense. I can't think of anything better for my mental health than snuggling up with a good book at the end of a long day. 

I came across a group on Facebook a while back called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. Their mission is self-explanatory: They believe newborns, infants and toddlers should be exposed to 1,000 books before they start school.

Here's my question: What if my child wants to read the same book 1,000 times?

I'm exaggerating — a little. My 4-year-old has a handful of books that she prefers to keep on regular rotation.

But the same ones, night after night, sure get old fast. I know I've read "Goodnight Moon" at least 75 times. Same goes for "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" I can recite all of them by heart (and so can my daughter).

Here are a few others we’ve read many, many times before bed. Maybe they’re new to you. I’ve included Amazon links and prices for convenience. By all means, buy them at a local book shop.

I’d love some of your suggestions. Email me at

And good luck getting to 1,000.

BEFORE YOU. By Rebecca Doughty. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Published in 2016. $11.06

"I was a flower with no pot. I was a polka with no dot. I was a tail without a way. Just a bean without a bag."

This one makes me teary every time. It makes the best gift for new parents. 

THE GIANT JAM SANDWICH. By John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Published in 1972. $6.44

"One hot summer in Itching Down, four million wasps flew into town."

This is a quick, fun story about villagers who bake a giant loaf of bread, then spread it with jam and butter to trap the wasps. The verses are lovely and lilting. 

PRINCESSES WEAR PANTS. By Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppeheim. Abrams Books. Published in 2017. $10.99

"Princess Penelope Pineapple was her name, with brown eyes, pink cheeks, and pigtails of fame."

It became abundantly clear that we have a princess problem at home when my husband told our daughter one morning to pick out some clothes for the playground. "Princesses don't go to playgrounds," she replied. "They go to balls."

This story lives up to its title. Princesses do indeed wear pants, sometimes even in our house. 

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THE JOLLY POSTMAN AND OTHER PEOPLE’S LETTERS. By Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Published in 1986. $14.66

"Once upon a bicycle, so they say, a jolly postman came one day, from over the hills and far away, with a letter ... for the three bears."

The postman visits many familiar faces in this fairy tale spin-off. And my daughter loves pulling out actual mail tucked inside the book's envelopes. 

THE DAY IT RAINED HEARTS. By Felicia Bond. HarperCollins. Published in 1983. $6.99

"One day it started raining hearts, and Cornelia Augusta caught one." 

You know what I love about this book? The child entertains herself for hours with paint, paper and glue. And then she mails valentines to her friends with no help from adults. That's called initiative. 

BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL. By Robert McCloskey. Viking Books for Young Readers. Published in 1948. $14.39

"One day, Little Sal went with her mother to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries."

You might be familiar with this Caldecott Honor classic. If not, I'll just say it's a sweet book about storing up food for the long New England winter, and a few blueberries to snack on besides.  

THE SNOWY DAY. By Ezra Jack Keats. Puffin Books. Published in 1962. $6.79

"One morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see."

Children growing up in sunny Charleston must think Peter's fun-filled snowy day seems as much a fairy tale as Disney's "Frozen." This classic won the Caldecott Medal more than 50 years ago. 

THE COUNTRY BUNNY AND THE LITTLE GOLD SHOES. By DuBose Heyward. Published in 1939. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $9.89

"We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one. But this is not so." 

If you know anything about Charleston history, you've heard of native son DuBose Heyward. He's probably most famous for writing "Porgy and Bess" with George and Ira Gershwin. But in our house, he's the author of the pink bunny book, a tale about a little country rabbit who is picked for a coveted job by the "old, wise and kind" Grandfather Bunny. 

Here's what I like about it. It's pretty long. It requires some concentration. But there are lots of colorful pictures, and if we're ever going graduate from board books to "Harry Potter," we need to work on our daughter's attention span. 

Even better, this is a story about feminism. Here's a little bunny with 21 babies, no husband to speak of, who figures out a way to run her household, discipline and educate her children, and break the glass ceiling. 

It may have been published 80 years ago. But I can't think of a better bedtime story to read to our modern girl. 

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.

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