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I love to wander around bookstores. I love the library too, but bookstores reflect the times, with all their superfluous goodies. Lately, I've seen some interesting developments in the children's section of my local haunt.
For those who have never thought about it, books themselves are quite collectible. Especially series books. A wonderful series came out several years ago called American Girls. These books are aimed at the middle school age girls, with all of their stories of the pioneer days. Combined with valuable lessons regarding friendship, manners, and the like, the books have spawned off calendars, diaries, and even complete instructions for slumber parties. There are porcelain dolls, doll's clothing and packaged sets of books. The entire enterprise would make a wonderful collection for any lucky girl - and, shhhhh, foster reading skills!
Not as market infiltrated are series books for boys. The Hardy Boys can still be found in hardback, as well as, paperback. However, both boy and girls love to be frightened by the ghostly stories found in the highly engaging Goosebumps series. Now, THAT series is heavily marketed to the extent that the fast food restaurants have premiums in their kids meals. There is a successful television show, and videos can be purchased. The author, R.L. Stine, succeeds in scaring just enough of the pants off of the kids to leave them with not to forgettable moral values. Hey, anything that can reinforce positive morality is OK by me.
All of the old classics can be found in our modern bookstores, but I'd rather find them second- hand, and the older the better. I love the look, smell, and feel of yellowed pages and worn bindings. I think it adds authenticity for the child, sort of like watching a black and white movie.
Now, for the superfluous stuff! While wondering around I found three new children's product lines. First, I found books and soft dolls, ( if that's what you'd call them) of the Teletubbies. This is a marketing line built on a children's British television program now being shown in the United States. From what I understand, these outer-space looking creatures are targeted to fill in the educational needs of infants and toddlers. Each character is named and has distinct personality traits. Dipsy is bright green and likes Reggae, Laa-Laa is yellow and she loves her ball, Tinky-Winky is purple and he carries his bag around with him, and Po is red and zips around on her scooter. I have to tell you, I've tried watching this show and it doesn't thrill me, but hey I'm a grown-up, what do I know anyway!
Just an aisle over were the Blue's Clues shelves. Now, that is one cute show! This show consists of one repeated show per week. "Huh?" you say. That's right, and my three year old loves it. Blue is Steve's dog and together they take children on clue gathering adventures that add up to an answer to Blue's question for the day. Having the same show repeated each day gives my daughter the opportunity to learn problem solving and her ABC"s at the same time. There are coloring books, activities books, and story books. And the most adorable little Blue! I think 30 yrs. from now this wee generation will appreciate that they hung onto their Blue.
Lastly, a terrific, new, spiritually based, series called Veggie Tales is gaining rapid attention. This idea sprang up from two guys who wanted to see children have fun learning about God and couldn't find anything like it around. Sitting in their basement they tried to figure out how to make their computer animation program work with their made up characters arms and legs. It just wouldn't come our believable, so, having no money and no financial backing they were forced to be creative. "Now", they thought "what has no arms an legs?" Their obvious conclusion? Vegetables! I have to tell you, I bought a Veggie Tales video called, Are You My Neighbor? for the kids and fell in love with Larry the cucumber and Bob the tomato, the leading characters. It was lucky for us, that my children were hooked, line and sinker, too. Since the first one was so cute I bought another, and to pleasant surprise, it was just a wonderful. We know have a small library of Veggie Tales video tapes and my kids are constantly singing the songs from them. Songs like, "God Is Bigger Than The Boogie Man", and "Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?". In addition to the videos, there are nick-nacks and doo-dads typical of all the other fads. From baseball hats to bean bag Bobs' and Larrys' the assortment keeps growing. Get on board the Veggie Tales wagon, you're in for a terrific ride.
Should you find yourself with a little time on your hands in the near future, and decide to begin your holiday shopping, check out your local book store to begin a reading and viewing collection that will not only provide entertainment for your children, but will educate them as well.