When We Were Very Young
by A. A. Milne, first published 1924
“A bear, however hard he tries, Grows tubby without exercise…”
At first glance, one might think that this, the very first children’s book by A. A. Milne, would be more appropriate for much younger children. However, one of the criteria for great literature for kids is the use of language. What is so striking about this collection of poems, and also the next, Now We Are Six, is that Milne plays with language in a way that lets us see and hear the magnificence of it.
As I read any children’s book, I am always thinking of the struggling readers. What better way to teach them how to hear the sounds of the letters than to play with rhyme. This is where Milne is a master. Look at these rhymes: Palace and Alice; Said and Bread; Quickly and Tickly; White and Tight, and so on. It’s hard to teach children to read when all the spelling seems so arbitrary, but reading Milne’s rhymes at least makes it fun.
Then there’s the imagination. Some of the poems don’t even seem to make sense, but they are filled with the rhythm and magic of language so that actually, it doesn’t really matter. They can mean anything the young reader wants them to.
I recommend this book as a read-aloud, as well as a great tool for teaching reading to any child up to age 8. It will make their heart delight!
Below is a link for the individual book, but there is also a set that contains this children’s book along with Now We Are Six in the edition called The World of Christopher Robin. If you are getting both books anyway, this might be the better choice.