- Great writing. Pooh may be a Bear of Very Little Brain, but these stories are not simplistic. Take for example the chapter which opens with Pooh counting his honey pots. Pooh is interrupted, and the story diverges into other adventures, but close to the end Pooh suddenly, and with almost no explanation, decides that he has sixteen honey pots. Many stories (including nearly every adaptation or addtion to the Winnie-the-Pooh series by other authors) feel the need to remind children of previous details or explain a plot point so that the child doesn't miss the subtle meaning. A.A. Milne takes it for granted that his readers will remember what happened at the beginning of the chapter and appreciate the subtle joke later on. I also love the way certain words are capitalized for emphasis - not something that is always apparent when read out loud, but interesting for the reader.
- The book isn't written just with children in mind. For me this is the thing that distinguishes great children's literature. Great books offer something to every reader, no matter how old he or she is. Winnie-the-Pooh is full of subtle jokes and references to things young children would not understand. This is the third or fourth time I have read or heard this book, and I still notice things I haven't before. Similarly my eight year-old, who thought she was too old for Pooh, is enjoying the book because she gets a lot more of the jokes than she did the last time we read it.
- Easy to read. I enjoy reading aloud, and hearing stories read aloud. But some stories are more suited to be read to oneself than to read aloud. It has to do with the way the sentences are formed and the cadence of the story. We read a book a few years ago which was intended to be read aloud. But the structure of the sentences was odd; often an adjective or preposition was not where I expected it to be. Grammatically there was nothing wrong with the sentences, but they weren't written they way we generally speak. Because of this, my reading came out rather stilted. By contrast even when Pooh mispronounces a word, the structure of the sentences makes them easy to read out loud.
- The Characters. We all enjoy books with an interesting plot, or a plot-twist that we didn't see coming, but I think, ultimately, it is the characters that make a story great. I love the variety of personalities in Pooh, and they way they are displayed in the story. Pooh is a Bear of Very Little Brain, and he is quite Humble about it, but at the same time, we are not constantly bombarded with this information and, without at all meaning to, Pooh can occasionally be Quite Clever. The small details of the characters keep them from becoming flat or uninteresting.
- In all, I think there is a great richness about the book that makes it perfect for reading out loud. And Winnie-the-Pooh is not the only great book for reading aloud. We have found and enjoyed many others. Some of our favorites include: The Chronicles of Naria by CS Lewis, The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham, and Twenty and Ten by Claire Hutchet Bishop.
Reading aloud has been a rich part of our family life. If you have never read aloud with your family - or gave it up when your kids outgrew picture books, I encourage you to pick up one of these books and give it a try!
- And please, if you have any favorite read-alouds, let us know!