One cool thing about raising a growing reader is that we're now hitting material that: a) I remember loving as a young girl; and b) still captivates after all these years. Before the holidays, Laurel decided that she wanted to read Little House On The Prairie (a hand me down from her cousin) together, and she loved the characters and story so much that she asked for more Little House books for Christmas (there are nine books in the series). We're currently reading On the Banks of Plum Creek and spent -- I kid you not -- almost two hours cuddled up reading yesterday (and Laurel spent much of dinner filling Jon in about Nellie Oleson).
What I find so wonderful about these books is their translation of simpler times, where homes were built from scratch, water was fetched, food was caught or grown, salt and butter represented luxuries, and pleasures were -- in fact -- simple. I could also see Laurel's wheels turning in both books we've read so far when it came to the chapters around Christmas, where a few pieces of candy and a penny represented wonderful, unexpected treats, or where wishing for a gift for the family (e.g., horses for farming over candy for the self) was rewarding, or where so much joy was found in stringing together a button necklace for a sibling.
Jon and I periodically talk about how the amount of excess in modern living is completely unsustainable. And while I do cherish amenities such as running water, electricity, and being able to get groceries where and when I need them, it also feels critically important to introduce Laurel to the concept that these things haven't always been here, and that if we were pressed to live in simpler times, we could do so. And still be really, really happy.
The Little House books are helping me illustrate those concepts to Laurel; I highly recommend you read these books with your kids.