The Classic Approach: Time-true favorite books of children vary by generation

2013-02-11T00:00:00Z 2013-02-11T10:29:03Z The Classic Approach: Time-true favorite books of children vary by generationBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

While sorting and reviewing the existing book collection, Kristal Rada, head of Youth Services Department at Portage Library, decided it was time for some early spring cleaning.

"We keep a close watch on what books and materials are most in demand," said Rada, of Hobart, who has been in her position for nearly two years.

"We have more than 34,000 materials in our collection for the Youth Services Department."

So when she began reviewing how much traffic the books in the once-very popular "Babysitter's Club" generated in recent years, she discovered the "Babysitter's Club," which launched in 1986 and ceased publication in 2000, wasn't getting the business they once did.

"I noticed the hairstyles of the characters on the book covers, and then start reading and find out the stories are mentioning typewriters and include expressions such as 'it's so rad,' and that's when I realized it was time to change them out for something newer."

Rada is also responsible for the library's popular storytime selections, which includes three windows for groups to gather by age group, divided by babies to 2 1/2-years-old and then ages 2 to 3-years-old and also a 4 to 5-years-old age group.

She says defining "What's a children's classic book?" takes consideration, including an emphasis on the generation bestowing that title, as well as often an endearing connection to youthful memories of the past.

"I think it's safe to say that Dr. Seuss titles, 'Charlotte's Web,' "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and the 'Little House on the Prairie,' along with many others titles, ranks as books always on most lists," Rada said.

"With other selections, it's open to interpretation and far more subjective."

While the series of "Encyclopedia Brown" books by Donald J. Sobol, began in 1963, can still be found, at later popular "mystery-theme" series called "Choose Your Own Adventure" has now faded from memory.

Bantam Books created the series, which were geared to ages 10 to 14 and debuted in the late 1970s. During the 1980s and 1990s, Bantam reported selling more than 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998, before the publishing house was purchased by Random House and the publishing rights for the books lapsed.

"If I could still get the 'Chosose Your Own Adventure' books, I'd love to have them again," Rada said.

It's the same story for the once popular "Goosebumps" books by R.L. Stine, that were "must-have" reads from 1990 to 1997. That is, until J.K. Rowling released her first Harry Potter book in June 1997.

When selecting just the perfect pick of books to showcase for Kohl's Department Stores popular Kohl's Cares for Kids reading series, nostalgic children's stories always rank at the top.

"Curious George," "Clifford, the Big Red Dog" and Dr. Seuss are always big demands when offered.

Marketed as "delightful and affordable books with themed plush toys" all sold for $5, the assembled group used for the holiday 2012 option were exclusive hardcover editions of classic stories illustrated by Charles Santore, including "The Wizard of Oz," "The Night Before Christmas," "The Velveteen Rabbit," "Aesop's Fables" and "William the Curious" along with coordinating plush toys.

And currently, it's "The Cat in the Hat" and "Horton Hears a Who" from the imagination of Dr. Seuss offering for the spring.

The Kohl's Cares philanthropic program has raised more than $208 million for children's health and education programs in local communities across the country. Kohl's donates 100 percent of the net profit to children's health and education initiatives nationwide.

Patti Baker, youth section associate from Lansing Public Library, encourages parents to create a mix of both fiction and non-fiction stories when deciding what makes a "classic children's book list."

"We have some wonderful highlights for Black History Month," said Baker, who has worked at the library for nine years.

"And sometimes, keeping a retro title available keeps it popular with mainstream. Nancy Drew and her mysteries, for example, are still always a big hit with young readers once they discover her."

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