What determines if a child will enjoy reading? Is it exposure to books, genetics, an early attachment to LeVar Burton?
I don't know what it is, but it seems that Richard and I have created a reader. Vivian loves books. Most of the time, she would rather read her books than play with her toys.
One day a week or two ago, Richard went to pick Vivian up from daycare, and when he walked into the playroom, he didn't see her. The rest of the kids were playing with toys, but Vivian was no where to be seen. Until he turned around, and looked in the ground-level book cubbies. Vivian had crawled in, and with her back to the class, had settled down to read a book. When Richard looked at the teacher with a slightly puzzled look on his face, she laughed and said, "Oh Vivian does that all the time!"
Every morning, she brings us a book that we read at least three times before we leave for daycare. In the evening, she bounces back and forth between us, bringing us books, and then crawling in our laps to be read to (absolutely my favorite thing she does -- it just melts my heart). In the average day, we probably read 7-8 books, and each one is read at least 2-3 times.
We did start reading to Vivian early, beginning before she could sit up, when all she wanted to do was eat the books instead of read them. And I think it's important for her to learn by example, by seeing us read our own books for pleasure. Much of the reading I've done in the last year has been done while breastfeeding.
But when she started to show a real interest in books, I was sort of at a loss to find appropriate books for her. Not that there is a shortage of children's books out there, but I wanted to find books that were stimulating and engaging that Viv would love and that I wouldn't hate by the time they were read for the 47th time. Many of the fantastic books I remembered from childhood ("Where the Wild Things Are," Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," "George & Martha," among others) were a bit too long and too involved to hold Vivian's attention. Once we already had the Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle board books, I wasn't sure where to look for other book ideas.
And then I found an awesome guide to books for Vivian's age group, "Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos." I picked it up on a whim at the LA Public Library store 50% off sale. For any parents out there, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. There are lists of recommended books (from actual kids of varying ages). There are also lists for kids with different interests and temperments (i.e., for the child that loves animals, cars, etc.) Here's a blurb from the book that describes what's inside:
Research shows that the number of different words a baby hears each day is the single most important predictor of later intelligence, school success and social competence. But what exactly should you read when?
- What do you buy after you've bought Goodnight Moon?
- Why should you read to a baby who can't even sit?
- How are you going to read to a baby who just found his feet--and won't stop trying them out?
- How often should you read to your baby to make sure she's ready for preschool?
Through this book, we've discovered Vivian's new favorite author/illustrator, Helen Oxenbury (how weird is it that I can say that a 13-month-old has a favorite author, and not choke on my own pretension?). We started with "Clap Hands," a simple, 8-page board book that has warm and colorful illustrations of roly-poly babies. She became obsessed. No other books existed for her. Guessing that that was a good sign, we added* "Tickle, Tickle," "All Fall Down," and "Say Goodnight." She loves them all, and often pulls them out of her bookshelf and plops down to "read" all by herself.
Vivian is just now starting to make the transition to longer books, but I think these Oxenbury books will be with us for a long time. A new book that we've added to rotation is "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" While Vivian may not understand the concept of dinsosaurs yet, she does love the beautiful drawings and lyrical rhythmic text. And I just discovered that it's part of a whole "How Do Dinosaurs..." series. We may have found the additions to Vivian's library.
So, do you have recommendations for children's books? Either ones your kids/nieces/nephews/grandkids love or ones you remember from your childhood?
*In this tight economy, I'm really trying to reduce our trips to the bookstore while still making books avilable. While I do hope to instill a healthy love of the public library once she's a bit older, it's not very practical at this stage. Vivian loves the repetition of familiar books, so having to return the books after a couple of weeks wouldn't be too popular. So instead, I'm using my credits on Paperback Swap (having unloaded several books I didn't need) to pick up these children's books. Free books! (or mostly free, I have to pay for postage for the books I send to others, but it's still a great deal)