Over the past 10 years, my wife and I have come to know a wide array of children's books we probably wouldn't have encountered had we not been raising two kids, now ages 10 and 7.
Exposure to these books started early in the lives of our children when we began reading nightly bedtime stories to send Katie and Johnny off to Dreamland.
These include many familiar storybooks geared for the preschool crowd, such as "Goodnight Moon," "Baby Bear Goes to the Zoo," assorted Mother Goose stories, "Come Along Daisy!" and my personal favorite -- Mem Fox's "Time for Bed."
As the kids grew older, their preferences for certain books gradually changed. This coincided with the continuous arrival of new, different books on new, different subjects. Some of the kids' favorites began to focus on popular TV and cartoon characters, such as Elmo, Arthur, Dora, Curious George, the Berenstain Bears, Spongebob and Little Critters.
As more books accumulated or came home from the library, the subject areas started branching out even farther, with humor always a big attraction for the kids.
That's when our eyes were opened to Sandra Boynton's lovable animal characters in "Snuggle Puppy," "Pajama Time" and "Barnyard Dance." Later we also got to know "The Rhyming Dust Bunnies," "Go Dog Go," "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," "Good Night Pillow Fight" and other catchy titles such as "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."
When Katie was 4, one of her favorite books quickly became "When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoirs of Her Youth," which made us realize Jamie Lee Curtis not only was a decent actress but also a pretty good writer of children's books.
As time marched on, the collection of books piling up in the house grew exponentially higher.
Today, the selection includes a host of diary-themed books, notably the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Dear Dumb Diary" and the "Dork Diaries" collections.
Katie's reading interests now run the gamut from the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to the horror stories of R.L. Stine to the crazy but brilliant poems and drawings of Shel Silverstein. She's also drawn to the various misadventures of Junie B. Jones, Amelia Bedelia, Ramona, Miss Nelson, Flat Stanley, Charlotte and that mischievous imp David, who always seems to get into trouble.
Johnny, too, has an ever-growing list of favorites. His current book of choice is the zany "Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy," which he picked out himself at a recent Family Read Night at his school.
Agreed, some of these books and the stories within might raise an eyebrow among those who wonder what could possibly be gained by a child reading "The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies" or an account of "The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets" involving Captain Underpants.
The answer is simple: All these assorted writings have helped get our kids hooked on reading, which we hope will develop into a lifelong passion for them.
It also prolongs the joy of our nightly reading sessions -- a happy family tradition with no end in sight.