Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Story Time

I think that our 22-month old toddlers love of books is pretty awesome ... to the point that I'm willing to share my *secret* with the world for getting our babies hooked on books. Or, I'll at least share my *secret* with everyone who visits Shannon for all of the great advice that is dished out each and every Wednesday.

If you want the condensed version of this post: Read to your child every day, make it a habit. Surround yourself with books. Every night, put your child to bed with a book that they can flip through as they go to sleep. Rotate those books frequently. But most importantly ... read to your child every day. (Did I say that already?)

If you want the unabridged version of this post: Read on. My recommendations for 'must-have' children's books are summarized with hyperlinks to for your expedited shopping convenience. It works for me!!


There is no doubt that our children's favorite toy is a book. Rivaled only by our cutlery set. And our computer. And our telephone. Any type of fragile glassware. Any kind of electronics. Any kind of power tools. Any type of trash can - the dirtier, the better.

Let me rephrase that.

There is no doubt that my favorite toy for our children, is a book. Although it really helps that they enjoy books, too. This makes sense, considering my favorite toy as a child ... was a book. Growing up - I was surrounded by books and was blessed with a mother who always read to me. In sixth grade, even though I was a grade level behind in mathematics ... I was six grade levels ahead in reading.

Before we even had children - we had books for children. Some of these books are remnants from when I was a kid. Some, I've picked up along the way. I pride myself on an almost complete collection of Dr. Seuss. I also have a fine assortment of hard back books that I will indulge our children with as they grow older.

Including but not limited to our collection are the children classics: Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, You're All My Favorites (this is a must have book for any one with triplets), and the mandatory tear-jerker Love You Forever. I doubt I will ever be capable of reading Love You Forever, without sobbing uncontrollably. No matter how many times I read this book - it always has the exact same effect and I am 1/2 a Kleenex box down.

As our kids grow older, they will have the complete collection of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary at their fingertips. They will also have the entire collection of Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Anna Quindlen, Tom Clancy, J.K Rowling, and Lance Armstrong. Not to mention a whole lotta books by Nicholas Sparks, Mark Twain, Anita Diamant, William Shakespeare, Simon Singh, James Redfield, John Horner and Rick Warren.

Suspense. Sports. Physics. Religion. Romance. Fiction. Economics. Paleontology. Politics. We're ecclectic that way.

The point is, our house is FILLED to the brink with books and every kind imaginable. Every single room in our home has a bookshelf - and most of those bookshelves are spilling their guts. But does that stop me from going on Amazon and buying more, more and yet more ... HECK NO!

I think it's safe to say that one of our goals as parents is to not only raise the most tolerant, responsible, compassionate human beings we are capable of ... but to also teach them a love of reading. A love of literature. A love of books.

I love books, especially good ones. My sincerest apologies to Morris, Abbott and Haderlie, but I just couldn't get past the first chapter of "Intertidal Invertebrates of California." Although, I will admit - the pictures were nice. That's why I always try to include photographs with my blog postings. Even though people in cyberspace may think my writing stinks ... at least they'll have pictures of adorable children to see.

I began reading to our babies within days of their birth. For the six weeks that they spent in the Neonative Intensive Care Unit, during each of my visits, I would bring along a book that I would read to them. Sometimes, I'd just read aloud the insert that came with my pain relief prescription. But I was always reading. Or snoring. Sometimes both - simultaneously.

Once the babies came home from the hospital, I'd line them up in front of me in their bouncy chairs and I'd spend hours minutes, every day, reading to them. Even though our children were in the "larval" stage and did little more than poop and sleep, story time was as much a part of our daily ritual - as eating.

It still is.

Usually our choice of books are brightly colored and vibrant stories that contain animals. To accompany my reading, I have a menagerie of stuffed creatures that make noises when squeezed. If the story contains a duck - I have a duck that goes "quack!" If the story contains a frog, lion, cow, tiger, dog, bear, pig, leopard, cat or panther ... I have stuffed animals that will "ribbit, ROAR!, moo, ROAR!, woof, ROAR!, oink, ROAR!, meow and ROAR!"

I never realized how many animals roared until I wrote that sentence.

By about three months of age, the babies eyes would fixate on me whenever I would read to them. It got to the point that all I'd have to say is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear ... what do you see?" and I'd have their rapt attention. They knew what I was saying and I quickly recognized that my babies were brilliant. For those who have inquired how I get all three of our children to look at the camera when their picture is being taken ... that's my secret. I just recite a passage from a book that they enjoy.

There is one particular book that is like crack cocaine for our kids. From what I know, crack cocaine is one of the most grossly intoxicating and addictive drugs known to man. Similarly, this one particular book is both intoxicating and addictive - which is why I only bring it out when my world is collapsing around me. (Probably a bad metaphor - but bear with me...)

I first started reading What A Wonderful World when the babies were 8-months old. This book is illustrated to the classic song (made famous by Louis Armstrong) and rather than read to them, I would sing to them. It is because of my children's overwhelming excitement each time I break in to song, that I am seriously contemplating auditioning for the next American Idol. Really.

Whenever our children see this book - they go absolutely crazy. They laugh, they scream, they clap their hands, they run around the room, they (try) jumping up and down. When I read sing it to them, they gaze off in to space and go limp.

Unfortunately for them, this book is comprised of paper pages and I realized that leaving it in their possession for any length of time means that pages will be ripped, torn out and instantly digested. When I put this book back after story time, I have witnessed temper tantrums and tears like I've never (ever) seen before. The only thing that comes close to the desperation displayed by my children ... are the poor souls who are going through drug intervention and withdrawl week on the Discovery Channel.

Which is WHY I draw the analogy between this simple book and crack cocaine. There is no better weapon I have in this house to mellow out over-stimulated, exhausted toddlers ... than this book.

Everyday, I make it a point to read to our children. With time, I have surrendered to the fact that our their books are going to be ripped to shreds. The pages of what I once thought to be indestructible board books disintegrate before my eyes like cardboard soaked in water. Because, these books are made of cardboard ... and they are soaked in saliva. Every day.

It doesn't matter. Books are replaceable and the fact that our babies literally devour them - brings more joy to me than I could ever possibly express. They have full access to all baby books, with the exception of What A Wonderful World. I'd be replacing that book weekly - if not daily - if I let my little junkies get a hold of it.

One of the BEST shower gifts I received when pregnant, was a box full of "must-have" books for babies. Some of the books that were included in that gift box are our favorite books, today. Paper page books aside, this is a partial rundown of our favorite board books (from birth to 22-months old):

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Goodnight Gorilla

Dear Zoo

Any of the Bright Baby books

Where's Spot?


Any of the Roger Priddy and Priddy and Bicknell books

Pat The Bunny

Where's Baby's Belly Button?

Baby Signs (First Signs, Mealtime and Bathtime)

Baby ABC (sung to the alphabet theme song)

Any of the Touch & Feel books

Peekaboo Kisses

Additionally, my talented sister-in-law Kathy, who created Bath Aprons for us ... also made books for each of the kids.

She printed out pictures on 8.5 x 11 paper, added captions like "This is my sister / brother", "This is my Mommy", "This is my Daddy"... had the pages laminated - folded them in half and then sewed the crease with heavy duty string (dental floss?).

Our kids positively love flipping through these homemade books and looking at photos of people within their life.

What I positively love is that these books are extremely durable and show no sign of wear.

Every night when we tuck our kids in to bed, we leave with them a few books for their perusing leisure. I think this ritual of bedtime reading is in large part why our kids enjoy going to bed at night. They know that they'll have in their possession - coveted books that they would never have the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy ... uninterrupted ... during the day. Similarly, each night when Charlie and I retire to bed ... we bring along whatever book we happen to be reading.

Regardless of the age, there is something so gratifying about dozing off to sleep - with a good book in hand.


  1. Love your books! My kids love those too. And the pictures are priceless. :) Have you read the book "You Are My I Love You"? That's my daugther's favorite right now.

  2. I so agree with you- instilling a love of books is essential! So many of the books you named we already have. Bailey's favorites now are THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR and HOORAY FOR FISH. I especially liked the picture of Hubs asleep with his book!!

  3. Jenn-
    As usual, I check out your blog everyday. And as usual, you don't disappoint.
    Love the entry, and finishing with the picture of Charlie and his book made me LOL. As usual.
    Linda (Chicago)

  4. THIS IS SOOOO TRUE. I think my kids first toys were book (the little plastic ones they could suck on =)) Anyways, we are a reading family!! Now we have one child that struggles with reading, but he still likes it. It is just more difficult for him right now, but I know it will come around.

    Great tips and ideas.

  5. My husband and I are both in publishing and my mom works in a bookstore, so needless to say we are quite a book family too! I just put What a Wonderful World on my Amazon wish list - that was our first dance at our wedding so clearly we MUST have that book! Those Bright Baby books are wonderful - our girls just love those. Thanks for the great tips.


  6. Great post! I didn't read the entire unabridged version, but the cocaine book cracked me up. (Look, ma! A pun!)

    For each child, I chose a year when their birthday invitations included, "My favorite toy is a book." Receiving all those books from their friends reinforced the value of reading. (I stole this idea from a friend of mine, so no credit to me.)

    Read on!

  7. I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!
    and the pictures are wonderful!
    My sonis 6 months and I have been reading to him since day 1 and now he LOVES to study and check out new books, bright pages and anything that has eyes (heehee kids amaze me!) I think you are correct letting your child experience books is very important!!!
    GREAT POST!!!!

  8. That's so great! We love books at our house too. I always request them for b-days and Christmas from relatives for my 3 boys.

  9. Great sentiment here. My 2 yo boy and almost 8 yo girl love books, too. I agree that reading to them is the key. My little guy also sleeps with books. I didn't start quite as early as you did, but by 6 or 8 months, I tried to read daily, and now it's the only way he will sit still and be quiet. I gotta indulge him as often as he wants, but regrettably I often shoo him away. . . .

  10. What a great idea. Lil' Duck LOVES to read! Have a great Wednesday - our WFMW tip is up as well!

  11. I second that. Reading is so important. I've been reading to all of my kids since the beginning. And all of them enjoy it. We get up on the couch together and read every evening.

  12. I am so happy that you continue reading to the trips. I am amazed at how early people write on your blog. These readers are up all night me things. Loved all the pics.

  13. Fantastic post, Jen! We've done the same things that you have to instill a passion for reading in our son (he just turned 20 months yesterday).

    To see some pictures of Snuggle Bug enjoying his books, check out these posts, up peaz and recent pictures of Snuggle Bug.

    Thanks for your comment on my WFMW (alternate use for a pot rack) post.

    I think this is my first time on your blog, so I appreciate your comment which lead me here. :) Hope to see you visiting my blog again in the future, as I will be for yours. :)

  14. Books are great! And so important for kids learning!

  15. I couldn't agree more, and I love the sleeping with books photos!

  16. hehehe, you asked me if I put my shoes back into the boxes (all I have to say is you must think like me).... When it is clean it does look nice, but the pile that I showed in the first picture is my "everyday shoes" that I did not clean for the picture (so both pictures repesent me currently). You got me =)

  17. Amen and amen. Excellent post! Thanks.

  18. I so agree!!! I started buying children's books years before we had kids. My husband is not much of a book lover, so I encourage him to read to the kids every night. It has worked well, all the kids love books and sleep with them as well!
    I first discovered "Love you forever" at an end of year preschool concert. The teacher read it out and there was not a dry eye in the room.
    I have got our local bookstore ordering in the Red tent and Kite runner. I have just about finished "The time travellers wife"
    (I have 1 chapter to go and don't want it to be over)and I can highly recommend it.

  19. I LOVE Love You Forever! That one and Guess How Much I Love You? and Oh, The Places You'll Go! always make me weep!

  20. my sister and i don't like santa! LOL

    that photo was tooooooo funny.

    p.s. i will have to make a note of those book titles.