My daddy used to call me Monkey Britches when I was a little girl, because I was such a tomboy-always climbing trees, exploring, and having grand adventures. To my delight, I discovered a kindred spirit upon my first introduction to Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey. Of course, Monkey Britches and Curious George became fast friends.
Though no one calls me Monkey Britches today, the love of reading I developed as a child still remains. The Duggar family really places a high value on reading, as it opens our eyes to people and places beyond our everyday experiences. Reading inspires us through the lives of others, invites us to epic journeys, and instills in us values and character, all while teaching the art of being still-which is not always easy, especially for the younger boys!
When Jim Bob was a boy, one of his favorite characters was Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Not long ago we found several sets of Clifford pj's at a discount price, and we bought every set they had. As the children get big enough to fit into the pj's, they treasure wearing them, often getting down on all fours, barking just like Clifford. I don't know how many times we've sewn the tails back on those pj bottoms!
My husband Jim Bob and I are intentional about encouraging our children to discover the joy of reading. Our family has set reading times Monday through Friday. The younger ones read thirty minutes a day, the middle-agers read forty-five minutes, and the oldest, an hour. Sometimes, the children will get so engrossed in their reading that they'll accidentally go over their assigned time.
The little ones love books with bright and colorful artwork and clever rhymes. Some of their favorites include a fun series called Sommer-Time Stories by Carl Sommer (Miserable Millie, The Ugly Caterpillar, etc.) and the Building Christian Character Series by Michael Waite (Buzzle Billy, Boggin Blizzy, and Sleeter the Cheater). If I want to get my hands on one of these books, I can almost always find one next to someone's bed!
I encourage our children to read books about great Christians, past and present, whom they can emulate. One such series that our older girls enjoy are the books by Tracy M. Leininger, particularly the ones about Pocahontas and Dolley Madison (The Land Beyond the Setting Sun and Unfading Beauty). They also often read books by Sarah Maxwell. The boys, on the other hand, love The Sugar Creek Gang Series by Paul Hutchens, Tiger Tom and Other Stories for Boys by J. White, The Creation Adventure Series by Paul Thompsen, and, of course, Boys of Grit Who Became Men of Honor by Archer Wallace.
Even with all our scheduled reading times, the kids still love to be read to. Whenever I sit down to nurse a baby, I pick up a book to read aloud. I've purposely learned to read excitedly and with expression, so in minutes, I'll have drawn a crowd around the rocking chair. In the evenings before Bible Time with Daddy approaches, I get on the intercom to announce which story or book I will be reading. The kids will hurry to brush their teeth and get ready for bed and will often assure me that "We're ready!" Some nights the kids act out the stories I read to them; at other times they'll pretend to be a certain character and have the other children guess who they are.
For our family, reading together and talking about reading is one of the fun ways we spend time getting to know each other. This is our hearts' desire for others as well-we love encouraging other families to get to know each other. Making reading a priority can be a great way to do that.
Other books the Duggars recommend: Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell, Read with Dick and Jane by William S. Gray, Triangle Press's Children's Heritage Series (Patty's Curiosity and Little Medicine Carrier), How Did You Do It, Truett? by S. Truett Cathy, True Stories of Great Americans for Young Americans by Elbridge Streeter Books and Thomas Sheppard Meek, The Life of George Washington in One-Syllable Words by Josephine Pollard, A Summer with the Moodys by Sarah Maxwell, A Child's History of Our Naval Heroes by Josephine Pollard, 10 P's in a Pod: A Million-Mile Journal of the Arnold Pent Family by Arnold Pent III.
Editor's Note: Michelle and Jim Bob are the parents of 18 children and the authors of The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How They Do It.