As most of you know, I’m currently in student in library school, balancing baby and student life for about 7 months of the year. During my winter semester, one of my courses focused on library services to youth and children. Much of what I learned in that class felt so applicable to my life at home with Isabel. I learned how important it is to read to children, even babies. I learned how formative story time can be. I learned about books, and language.
At home, though, I was learning something else entirely.
Research is pretty clear that reading to babies, even wee wee little babies, lays the foundation for early literacy skills. I knew this. I knew this even before I took the class. In theory, I really wanted to read to Isabel. All the time. Every day.
In practice? I suck at it.
Lately, though, I’ve been getting better at it, and I’ve been reflecting a bit about my class, and about what maybe I did wrong all those months I spent feeling guilty about not reading to Isabel. I felt like bed time was the only time for book reading, when in reality, there are other times that may work much better for some babies to settle in with a book. I felt like we had to get through every book we picked up in chronological order. These days, I’m much more content to read a page or two from one book, a page or two from another, settle on one page for a while, then get distracted by a stuffed catepillar. Reading with Isabel is much more fun when my expectations for what it should look like are more realistic for a one year old.
I’m trying not to forget all the things I did right too. I went through her little library and pulled out a few different types of books that we use, that have worked for us. We have a variety of books in her library, and some just work better with her than others.
I picked up that abridged copy of Are You My Mother a few months ago. And, I have a whole whack of Robert Munsch in our collection. These are the kind of books that have been around a long time, that I remember from my childhood. In many cases, there’s a really good reason they’ve stuck around so long. They’re good stories, they’re well written, there’s classic artwork that goes along with them. One of the reasons I’m not very good at reading to Isabel is because – I’ll be honest – books for babies can be really really boring. Classics though, especially classics from my own childhood? I can live with them.
Puppy. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, and it isn’t much to look at on the inside, really either. But it’s got all these patches for babies to touch. Fur, wicker basket, bumpy ball. It takes some encouraging, but once she figures it out, Isabel loves to pet this book.
Simple board books
We read board books more than anything else in this house. From the moment she first started to become interested in books, Isabel has wanted to touch, grab, turn pages, rip, or try to. These stand up to the abuse more than any others. These days, she’s also able to ‘read’ books on her own, turning the pages of a board book one after another, all on her own and she loves to do it. Tubby is a fun one with high contrast, colourful images.
The Jillian Jiggs series fits into the Classics category for me too since I grew up sewing my own pigs. I didn’t realize how masterful Phoebe Gilman was with rhyming for children until Jillian Jiggs and the Great Big Snow made its way into Isabel’s library. I’ve got the first few pages of this one memorized because it slips off the tongue so beautifully. A good rhyming book is fun to read to babies.
We have a few books with flaps, or spinning parts, but Busy Town is our favourite. There are just a few simple sentences that make up the whole book, but we spend a decent amount of time on each page, letting Isabel examine each scene and showing her over and over how the moving part works.
Books have become an important part of Isabel’s play over the past number of months, whether it’s her and I cuddling up on the couch with a little stack of stories, or a quiet moment spent on her own surrounded by open pages. I love watching her grow into a reader.