The Sword and Laser discussion

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message 1: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments Yesterday I became an uncle so I'm wondering; when a person is old enough to read S&L books? is it when one learns to read or it's acceptable to start at an earlier stage of growth?

message 2: by Gordon (new)

Gordon McLeod (mcleodg) | 347 comments If the mom-to-be will let you read books to her stomach, I don't see any problem with using that as the starting age.

message 3: by Seawood (new)

Seawood I read Sherlock Holmes to my 5-day old daughter. It was the only way to keep sane in NICU.

I'm not really sure exactly what you're asking, though. Reading *anything* to small babies is pretty much great because it's more about the sound of your voice; but as they move into understanding more words it's good to read something they can share the focus of with you and build their own understanding. Hence picture books. My favourite S&L picture books would be Aliens Love Underpants and Zog - both my girls have adored them. :D

message 4: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (FoxhoundTCF) | 37 comments First of all congrats on becoming an uncle, and of course congrats to your sibling

As to your question, I guess any age is a good age as it can help both parent and child bond (if the parent reads to the child) and improve the childs imagination. The younger the better maybe

message 5: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments My daughter came into kindergarten knowing how to read because not only did I sit down and read to her, but I read WITH her. Meaning, I would pause at certain simple repetitiious words and have her read it. We would do a reading back and forth of a story, so that she also becomes active in the reading. The words become increasingly complex as she learn more. Children love to participate in things. Active learning is the best way.

message 6: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments Neil Gaiman has some lovely children's books.

message 7: by Madison E. (new)

Madison E. (madiemartin) | 40 comments Roald Dahl as well.

message 8: by Molly (last edited Jun 09, 2012 09:56PM) (new)

Molly (mollyrichmer) | 129 comments I keep a mental list of the cool books I want to read with my future children. A lot of them would fall under an S&L label. For example, T.H. White's The Once and Future King and Tolkein's The Hobbit. What better way to instill a love of literature in your little one than by reading with them? Plus, it's great for spending quality time together. I can still remember how happy it made me to sit on my grandmother's lap and read stories with her. :)

message 9: by Andrew (last edited Jun 10, 2012 01:20AM) (new)

Andrew (truckinggeek) | 25 comments One thing I always loved as a child was that books didn't have any ratings system. I was never allowed into the cinema to watch an X rated movie but I could get the book of the film from the local library and read that. In later years, when I was finally able to get in to watch the x rated films I realised that my childhood imagination was way more vivid than the actual films!!
So, to answer the op's question, you are never too young, or old, for any s&l book. Read to the baby, read along with the toddler and let their imagination grow.

message 10: by Kamil (last edited Jun 10, 2012 03:59AM) (new)

Kamil | 372 comments thanks for the opinion; so... till the day she'll be able to play the magic deck i prepared for her i shall bring her into the world of S&L

message 11: by aldenoneil (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments I can't wait for my daughters to be old enough for me to foist The Hobbit on them.

I've come to realize that most children's literature (I'm talking picture books) is terrible. We've signed up for a program that sends us free books, but for the most part free is too high a price.

message 12: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 40 comments My mom read Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury alongside Dr. Seuss. I don't remember a time where she wasn't reading sci/fi to me and my siblings.

Of course, we all grew up rather strange, so...take it as you will

message 13: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 372 comments the kido will be a nerd anyways, her dad used to build his own pc back in 1996. her mom teaches science, and I (the uncle) am here....

message 14: by Sherry (new)

Sherry da Silva (smdasilva) | 15 comments I remember a long car trip when I was about 9 or 10 and my brother and I took turns reading out loud a book of Stephen King short stories while my mom drove. That was probably one of my first intros to the genre. I second Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman.
I would also reccomend James Lu Dunbar. He has some great picture books about the Big Bang and the start of life on Earth (see

message 15: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments My children loved having the Narnia series read to them when they were younger.

message 16: by Jodie (new)

Jodie Wells-Slowgrove aldenoneil wrote: I've come to realize that most children's literature (I'm talking picture books) is terrible. We've signed up fo..."

This is my first time posting here but I just had to make some sort of defense against the comment above. I can only conclude that the writer has not read many picture books. As a teacher-librarian and children's writer (my first series has just been picked up by Penguin books) I have had the great pleasure to be exposed to a great many quality picture books.

Some of them move me to tears every time I read them to a class (Old Pig by Margaret Wild), others leave me feeling humbled by the way they illustrate a kind of the beauty, kindness and tolerance that we rarely see in the real world (Any of the books by Bob Graham).

They can open a window into a troubled soul (Woolves in the sittee) or reveal the triumph of the human spirit over extreme evil (the true concentration camp story, Let the Celebrations Begin).

Picture books allow the young to imagine and play and act out their words (Where the Wild Things Are, Wombat Stew, The Gruffalo).

A true picture book is a cohesion of words and pictures where each tells its own story that complements and enhances the other.

And they do all these things with only 32 pages and usually less than 500 words.

If you haven't read any picture books like these I urge you to get out of the free club you are in, go to your local library and look some of the ones I've mentioned up. I can particularly recommend two wonderful Australian authors, Bob Graham and Margaret Wild both of whom have layers of meaning beneath deceptively simple stories.

Oh, and for a burst of pure fun, look up Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay.

Standing down from soapbox now, hoping that I've convinced at least some of you to have a closer look at picture books.

After all, if Neil Gaiman can write one...

message 17: by aldenoneil (last edited Jun 15, 2012 03:22PM) (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments Jodie wrote: "This is my first time posting here but I just had to make som..."

Thank you for the recommendations.

message 18: by Jodie (new)

Jodie Wells-Slowgrove aldenoneil wrote: "Jodie wrote: "This is my first time posting here but I just had to make som..."

Thank you for the recommendations."

No worries! Sorry if I was a bit overzealous : )

message 19: by Rob (new)

Rob Osterman (robosterman) Since you mentioned playing magic with her, let me hold up the "Super Hero Squad Online Collectable Card Game" as a perfect fix between "easy enough for a preschooler to play" and "collectable enough to keep a Magic fan obbsessed with the perfect deck".

My 4 year old can't read the abilities on the cards (so I have to coach him a little) but he can handle the number comparisons (the power is 3 so I can play any card with a 3 or less on it) and the counting (aw I take 4 damage! 1, 2, 3, 4)

message 20: by Lonnie (new)

Lonnie Smith (readwithmybrain) | 47 comments I read The Hobbit when I was 7, and LOTR when I was 9, it really depends on the kid. Don't be scared to encourage it early, but don't push it!

message 21: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K I agree that it depends on the kid. I remember being quite little and my dad reading me Edgar Allen Poe stories....I loved it, but it did probably have its effect on me!

message 22: by Daniel (last edited Jun 18, 2012 08:08AM) (new)

Daniel | 32 comments All sword and laser books, in a way, have their roots in children's fantasy books. Be it obvious, like The Magicians ties to Narnia, the use of magic or simply a fantasy world- even in space. I have yet to read a children's book that does not take you away to a world outside the norm, allowing the reader, be they young or old, that sense of escapism common to all Sword and Laser books.

It is my (untested) theory that a child with a passion for reading and easy access to books will naturally become Sword and Laser readers. Just encourage them with trips to the library, and read with them, not just to them.

Ps sorry for the earlier "books" typo. Though it was funny :)

message 23: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Space Child's Mother Goose - highly recommended!

message 24: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments aldenoneil wrote: "I can't wait for my daughters to be old enough for me to foist The Hobbit on them.

I've come to realize that most children's literature (I'm talking picture books) is terrible. We've signed up fo..."

A lot of deliniations in children's literature are modern creations, especially the young adult category. And when you draw those lines, writers and publishers make books that fit more within them. So you get more "adult" mature books and more "childish" kids books. In that way, I agree with you because some of those classic books were written less to a specific group; but there are also definite merits to knowing the developmental level of your audience. Its just knowing what's out there, either way.
As a teacher, my general rule is that my students are generally able to understand more than I give them credit for, and its better to challenge them than to talk down and let them get bored and uninterested. Provided the content is something you would want her exposed to, start reading to her now! How many of us read fantasy and sci-fi right from the start, and we turned out ok, right? Right?

message 25: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 319 comments @Jodie, thank you for that wonderful post - I'll agree that there is a lot of dreck out there in the world of children's picture books (LOOKING AT YOU, TRUCKTOWN), but I can't imagine depriving myself of the pleasure of reading Mo Willems, Maurice Sendak, Robert McCloskey, Neil Gaiman (The Wolves in the Walls), and the list goes on and on. And most children's books include fantastical elements that would put them under the S&L banner.

Hell, Harold's Trip to the Sky even has spaceships!

In my experience, most kids are ready for short chapter books by the time they are 4 or 5. Before that, it's hard for them to keep the story in their head from one day to the next, so reading a book in parts can be confusing.

message 26: by Phil (new)

Phil (phil_rozelle_oz) | 34 comments I think this is a great thread and had to put in my two cents ($Australian).

I don't think it particularly matters early on - so long as you keep reading to the young ones. Picture books are good early on, because they help make the connection between words on the page and the story, but the story and how you read it do count more.

As they get older, I like to encourage mutual reading, where you take turns reading to each other. Unfortunately I've also found that this exposes cases where kids haven't really learned to read when they should have. A boon really because you then have a chance to remediate.

To answer the original question, it's never too early for S&L. There are wonderful books for every age; from the earliest comprehension to the most sophisticated. What matters IMHO is to expose kids to the widest variety possible and recognise what excites and motivates them, so that you can pick that up and encourage it.

And never stop! Keep reading to them and encouraging them to read.

message 27: by Javier (last edited Jun 22, 2012 07:57AM) (new)

Javier Quintana (javier_quintana) | 43 comments Obviously not all S&L books are appropriate/understandable/interesting/enjoyable for the young ones. For example I would not read this month's book, Tigana, to a child. Not because of the violent scenes, but because of the subjects the book is about: I don't think a book about memories would be interesting enough for someone so young that he has no long term memory. Politics and nationalisms are probably not his cup of tea yet, too.

As for recommendations, I probably would not be the person I am today if I had not read The Neverending Story when I was young. I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad thing, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

edit: Oh, and don't force anything. If the child doesn't like to hear stories, read books or doesn't like some genres, don't force it, he will probably hate it. It will probably happen naturally by imitation if he sees adults doing it around him. The worst thing is parents who don't read, but force their children to do it.

message 28: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass... first time through I didn't get most of the math, topology, etc but then I heard them read by a theoretical physicist to children and it was as if there had been entirely different books between the same covers. A matter of intonation really. Which was really a great lesson that there is more than one way to read a book.

Did anyone else read the Tom Swifties? I grew up wanting my own private lab equipment, etc. I'm not the only one. This summmer I stayed with a friend who has a luxury apartment near Cambridge along the Charles River. The land along the Charles River was reclaimed in the last decade so has jogging paths, miles of rosebushes, park amenities, and so on. But there was a building that looked industrial but had no signage, So being curious, one day I walked over and disovered that the building was full of office/lab space that one could rent from the same company that rents the apartments in the area. What a great idea to live and work within easy jogging distance - better than creating innovation in a garage. The Tufts U. boat house is nearby so on the weekend the cafe is lively - good music. The restaurant in the office/lab building seems very nice too during the week. A building for childcare is also nearby. Tom S would like it.

message 29: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) I would say that there are some specific good YA books from the past that are good to read when they are young, many mentioned above but I would add A Wrinkle in Time or The Phantom Tollbooth. The big thing is that if you start them early and do it often pretty soon you wont have to worry what to read but worry about how much to spend because they will become voracious readers!

message 30: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) Anne wrote: "Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass... first time through I didn't get most of the math, topology, etc but then I heard them read by a theoretical physicist to children and it was as ..."

Loved the Tom Swift books!

message 31: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli | 352 comments I'm sure I had something to say about how children should be exposed to quality literature early and encouraged to read and develop their imaginations...

But instead, Jodie derailed the entire conversation for me with 2 words...

Wombat stew, wombat stew,
Gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy,
Wombat stew...

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