Friday, December 3, 2010

A Book Lover's Tragedy

I wrote the other day about how my daughter seems to prefer being read to in English. Part of it is of course that she understands English best. Part of it is probably that she prefers ME to read to her and I usually (but not always) read to her in English. But there's another aspect that I suspect may play a role, and it annoys me:

I think half the problem with preferring English books is that the English books are more INTERESTING! I have the hardest time finding CZ/SK children's books that are worthwhile. You can have a big children's section in the bookstore but it is made up of:

1) dictionaries (usually board books like "My First 100 Words", often "My First 100 English Words")

2) nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Usually the same ones in different combinations.

3) some Czech originals for much older children - pages full of words and few pictures. I'll read these to K when she's older, because there are some nice ones, but they're too complicated for any 3 year old.

4) translations. Often from English, such as Winnie the Pooh, Disney Princesses, Cars, etc. Not often ones I'm that keen on even in the original.

We have a small collection of CZ/SK books that we're hoping to build further now that we're back in the country, but it is composed of 1-2 dictionaries, 5-6 books of nursery rhymes, 2-3 books of fairy tales, and 1-2 Czech originals for older children (Ferda Mravenec and maybe one other). It's looking like I'm going to have to lift my 'no translations' rule.

There is also a big jump between board books for the under-2 crowd and chapter books for competent readers: nothing really between those two extremes.

What I do NOT see in bookstores is exactly the kind of books we have so many of in English. Storybooks, lots of pictures with a few sentences per page (not one word, not whole page of text), original characters and plots that you can read to a non-reader and a beginning reader can read alone. It's a huge gap in the literature in my opinion.

Some of our favorites from UK are The Night Pirates, Knight Time, Usborne Illustrated Fairy Tales, and recently (birthday present) You Can't Eat a Princess.

We have tons of fun books like this in English and just can't find Czech or Slovak equivalents. So when I compare our book collection in the different languages, it does occur to me that I can hardly blame K for wanting to read about ALIENS AND PRINCESSES (seriously, how awesome of a book premise is that?) rather than going through My First 100 Words again.

Anybody familiar with CZ/SK children's literature is VERY MUCH INVITED! to offer me some recommendations for books to engage a preschooler. Anybody?


  1. That sucks! Our collection of kid's books is 80% English. I agree that there are soo many better kids books in English. Germany has an ok selection, but nothing like what I find at a Chapters or Indigo back home.
    Do you have a library that you can go to in your town? Sometimes the librarians can give a good recommendation. Plus, you can take a peek through the books and find out what K likes instead of buying a whole pile.

  2. Oh gosh, I can relate to this frustration. The only way I can get great children's books in Italian seems to be to order directly from Italy (so expensive, though!). The really great bilingual books I've seen *locally* are all in Spanish, and those are quite plentiful... which doesn't help me much at all! :(

    Good luck!

  3. Egads, that sounds dreadful. Maybe a librarian or preschool teacher or library website can offer lists of recommended books for kids K's age, like the Czech equivalent of Caldecott awards? Otherwise, you'll just have to write your own children's picture books (in your copious spare time)! Good luck.



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