Get your kids hooked on classic books this summer

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ClassicReadsWBy Kristy MacKaben

Named after writers Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, it's no wonder Jane and Emily Godfrey, 11-year-old twins from Sudlersville, are avid readers.

While the allure of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson is irresistible, the homeschooled sisters say they also enjoy the classics.

 "Usually I read the Harry Potter kind of books ... but the classics, if I find a good one, I like it a lot better," Jane says.

Emily loves classics because they have great stories with interesting characters. "Little Women" (the abridged version) is a favorite because she relates strongly to the main character, Jo, she says.

Classics are those books that reach across generations and stand the test of time, says Brian Oberle, area librarian for North County Area Library in Glen Burnie. They are books like "Black Beauty" or "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" where the plot, themes and characters appeal to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Parents should introduce kids to classics because they are great stories, says Natalie Lane, children and youth services librarian for the Kent County Library System. They bring forth thought-provoking ideas and are written in a way that makes them timeless, she says.

"Once you get used to reading the easy stuff, it's harder to read the classics because the plots are often more complex or the writing is more advanced," says Lisa Godfrey, mom to Jane and Emily. "I tried to explain to them the rewards are a little better when you read a classic. They'll remember it more and get more out of it."

Travis and Jaydin Garnett of Pasadena are also enthralled by the classics. When he was 4 years old, Travis, now 11, listened to his grandmother read aloud "Treasure Island." When he was able to read, his mother, Kim, bought illustrated versions of the classics.

Travis enjoyed the adventure stories, such as "Robin Hood" and "Peter Pan." His 8-year-old sister, Jaydin, enjoys fantasy tales like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Mary Poppins."

The Godfrey and Garnett children's attitude toward reading is ideal, Lane says. It's how librarians hope all kids feel about great books.

"Classics have been helping and inspiring generations of kids and teens to talk about and work through some really tough questions," Lane says. "They cover themes like loyalty, friendship and being true to who you are, to believing in something, being compassionate and standing up for someone else."

Because classics may be a little difficult for young readers to understand, parents should consider reading aloud to their children — regardless of their age, says Shelley Davenport, programming and outreach coordinator for Anne Arundel County Public Library.

"It is important to remember that reading aloud should not end once children learn to read," Davenport says. "It is a wonderful way to engage with your children and also allows your child to read books that he or she may not have been able to understand without guidance."

Wondering which classics to choose to engage your kids? Here are some suggestions from local librarians.

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