Who else reads with your children? I’ve been thinking about how my husband and I are not the only one to share this experience with our children – their grandparents, babysitters, aunts, uncles, and even older cousins also have the pleasure. As soon as Eliza began understanding the key players in her life, she delighted in coming across these labels in stories. Recently, my mom gave her a book called Grandma Calls Me Gigglepie. It is so adorable, and she mostly prefers for her two grandmas to read to her. Everything has its place for us right now:) This got me thinking about another book I received at my baby shower called The Little Big Book for Moms. You may have heard of this one; it is part of a series (there is also The Little Big Book for Grandmothers, Dads, etc). I highly recommend this one. It’s over 300 pages, which may seem daunting, but full of nursery rhymes, songs, finger games, beautiful illustrations and even recipes and activities. What’s best about it, though, is how it caters to so many different ages. You can start on day one with your newborn baby, singing “Hush Little Baby”, and still be reading a fairy tale to that same child when they’re a preschooler. This is definitely a great shower, new baby, or first birthday gift!
      Other grandma books Eliza loves to read with her grandmas: The Napping House and Guess How Much I Love You . However, the books she enjoys reading with her grandparents do not have to be grandparent-specific. She has come to associate certain books with whomever gives them to her. So, Gallop! is called “The BaBa book” since my dad gave it to her. This is a great book, by the way, for babies or toddlers learning how to turn the pages…the animals “move” like they would in a flip book just by the turning the page. Other books, she associates with certain places. I’m sure you’ve experienced this one “no, that one belongs downstairs,” or “I want to read the book from Grandpa’s house.” A toddler’s sense of order continues amuses me.

Coming up in LA LA LA- land:
Stay tuned to my next posting for a new La La La look (care of my sister, the set designer/photographer) and a new series of guest bloggers. I’ve had so many conversations will people since starting this blog and everyone has lots to share, so let’s use this venue to hear more voices.

What we’re reading today: The Loud Book

Why: I think she’s tired of being told to be “quiet” around her sleeping baby brother. This book allows for the alternative.

What I’m looking for: books that will encourage its young readers to move

THREE Hungry Bears

     Last night I was talking with some friends about the ABCs and 123s…no, seriously, we were talking about doing so with our two and three-year-olds and it got me thinking about how much I love the counting books – especially on nights when you’re exhausted and really don’t feel like reading the long stories. The counting books are soporific for parent and child, aren’t they? Tonight we read Goodnight Moon 1 2 3, a nice alternative to the original with the same eerie pictures. Eliza also loves Do Princesses Count?, a somewhat random book that my dad found for her at an independent bookstore in Utah (the princess wears hiking boots), but my personal favorite is 1-2-3: A Child’s First Counting Book by Alison Jay. It has a similar premise to Each Peach Pear Plum by interweaving a lot of fairy tales. These are tales most toddlers aren’t yet familiar with (and really shouldn’t be for a while, I’m told), but it’s a nice simple way to slowly introduce them to a little girl who sleeps on five mattresses (“how does she get up there?”) and another little boy and girl who find a house made of candy. When Eliza was just about one until about two-years old, she loved Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz. There is the counting element, but more important, there is the tickling. So, not the best bedtime or nap time story (might get them too riled up) but it’s fun to read together while identifying different body parts with tickles! Again, I appreciate these books for their brevity, but I also think kids can get a lot out of them at different ages.
What we’re reading now: Where The Wild Things Are – (otherwise known as “The Max Book”) Yes, again. See below for why:)
Why: What a difference a few days make! Earlier in the week, I posted that she was afraid of this book, and now she requests it every night. She’s not scared of the monsters anymore, and loves the dinner waiting on the table at the end.

What I’m looking for: More counting books! Most of the ones I mentioned above are all board books. Does anyone know of any catered to an older toddler/preschooler?

“Genius is the recovery of childhood.” –Charles Baudelaire

      With a little extra time over this holiday weekend, I decided to look back over my old Teaching of Reading textbooks and notes. I haven’t revisited these texts since having kids, but was delighted to see that I had highlighted many passages associated with storybook reading and its influence on literacy. It seems like common sense that a child who grows up in a language-rich environment stands a better chance at being a successful reader than one who is deprived of stories. Yet as we know, there is no guarantee that grade-school or even middle school child will love to read and write despite your best efforts. Nevertheless, I thought I’d pass along some research-backed tips for at least increasing the odds that your child will have an easier time learning to eventually read and write (separate learning disabilities notwithstanding).
  • Have paper, pencils, crayons, chalk, and paints for drawing accessible to your toddlers and preschoolers
  • Books should be accessible (at eye-level, easy for them to safely pull out on their own) in numerous rooms throughout the house
  • Use books-on-tape at home or on long car rides
  • Have magnetic letters on the refrigerator or some other surface (also plastic placemats with letters…)
  • Play games using animals and the first letters of their names
(these tips from Reading Lessons: The Debate Over Literacy by Gerald Coles)
Though you may be tired of certain nursery rhymes, they are extremely valuable to your child’s eventual literacy. “Storybook reading also fosters greater attention to written language itself, thereby promoting phonological awareness.” The rhyming words and phrases in classic nursery rhymes increase their sound-symbol knowledge. This may all sound too technical, and it’s not necessary for you as a parent to even understand why it’s important – just keep reading, and be happy when they ask for the same books over and over again.

       I also want to point out that the educational influence of storybooks do not end when your child seemingly outgrows them. Even when I taught middle school English, I used picture books in my lesson plans. There is much to be gleaned from the simple format and layout of plot. So don’t get rid of your favorite books – you may return to them some day. For my creative writing students, I often used Chris Van Allsburg’s beautifully illustrated book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (this lesson plan is thanks to one of my first mentor teachers, Gail Karpf). The book is filled with fourteen drawings, each with and a title and short caption. You can spend hours making up stories about these provocative images – from about three-years of age and up. even when reading storybooks with longer narratives, don’t be afraid to be a little creative on your own – you may paraphrase and expand as the story allows – that is until your child begins to decode the language for him or herself – then, of course you’ll have to be true to the text, or allow your budding reader to read to you!
What we’re reading now: Where the Wild Things Are
Why: Well, we tried this one for the first time last night, after she turned three bathroom towels into monsters (naming them Tiger, Too Too, and another Tiger), but I don’t think she’s ready. My husband put her down, and reported back that she was scared of the monsters in the book and asked him to put it away. We’ll revisit again in a few months…
What I’m looking for: historical storybooks