If you have to ask, I can't tell you. Louis Armstrong said it about jazz, but the same reaction comes to mind at the thought of Lamme & Company's resolute audience, determined to instill in their children a love of literature. These authors, representing the Committee on Literature in the Elementary Language Arts of the National Council of Teachers of English, would apparently have parents begin this important task upon recovery from childbirth. The authors include lists of books they deem appropriate for infants up to six months and then another list for infants six months to a year; and they boast that no other parents' guide starts so early. Nancy Larrick, you'll remember, notes sensibly that infants respond to oral songs and rhymes and conversations, and a one-year-old ""may look at pictures while nursery rhymes are read or sung""; and she trusts parents to take it from there. Larrick also laces her book with sensible advice, whereas this committee tends to mix ponderous banality (""It is important to identify many different types of books that your child can read""), diligent pedagogy (their interest is not really literature, despite their indiscriminate use of the term, but something they call metalinguistic awareness), and a superfluity of structure. (Readers are advised to schedule family read-ins, read-aloud sessions, team reading, and ""round"" reading; to tape stories; act them out with puppets; and write words for wordless books.) The committee's early lists, like many others, emphasize pointing out objects and animals and learning that printed words make sense. Soon other outcomes creep in (after ""sharing"" the Jeffers/Frost Stopping by Woods. . . , ""Your child may want to make angels in the snow or feed wildlife""); and by the time susceptible families get their children to the independent reading stage, they'll have turned their homes into Learning Centers and taken to ""stretching literature"" with dozens of non-literary activities--from planting seeds to making a poster of bicycle safety rules. The extensive book lists which fill most of these pages might be welcome to well-meaning parents who have to ask--but they are so extensive and so lacking in taste or viewpoint that browsing through the public library's picture-book shelves would do as well.