Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Best Books for Babies 9-12 Months Old

I have noticed that whenever I write these lists, I feel very nostalgic for B's younger days (though he is still just so little)!  Many 9-12 month old babies are mobile, be it through crawling, scooting, or walking.  B army crawled from 8-12.5 months!  As he was on the move more, he became a little pickier about books.  He also was increasingly able to tell us if he did not want to read a vehemently slamming it shut.

Favorite books during the time had bright, graphic illustrations, repetitive language, and rhymes.  B continued to love flap books as well as books that were interactive in other fashion (such as having peep holes or touch and feel).  His favorites (and ours!) from this time period include:

1. Red Truck, by Kersten Hamilton   This is a fun read that toddlers and preschool aged children love as well.  Babies enjoy the graphic illustrations, the onomatopoeia, and the rhyming text.  I was so excited to find the board book for B!

2. Who's In the Farmyard?  by Phyllis Gershator.  This colorful board book with its large size, peep holes, predictable text, rhymes, and animal sounds is a full package for older infants!

3.  Clare Beaton's Nursery Rhymes.  This is a great age to introduce nursery rhymes, but it's important to try to find a board book if your baby is as rough with books as mine was!  This sweet little collection has charming pictures made out of antique fabrics that are bright and vivid enough to interest babies.  B liked reading a new rhyme on each page.  This one is still a favorite at 15 months!

4.  Biscuit, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli  I was not prepared to like Biscuit books, as I viewed them as an "I Can Read" series low on content.  But we randomly took home a board book version of the original, Biscuit, and all three of quickly became big fans -- B most of all!  Simple, repetitive language make this a great story for bedtime or anytime.

5. In My Meadow, by Sara Gillingham & Lorena Siminovich.  This sweet finger puppet book (and others in its series) always make B smile!  With simple language and a lovely little story, this book can keep an active baby engaged in reading.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Babybug Magazine

Does your child get any magazines?  B has been getting Babybug Magazine since he was 4 or 5 months old.  I had used it in my work as an early childhood teacher for years and I was so excited to get it at home for my own little one.
 Now our whole family loves it!  It is such a sweet little magazine.  It comes 9 times per year, and is about the size of a board book on thick, heavy pages.  It is so perfect for little hands -- even the rounded corners protect the youngest readers.  Each issue contains a serial fiction article about a little toddler (Kim) and her stuffed bunny (Carrots).  There is also always a short non-fiction article with photographs.  This section is B's favorite lately!  His February 2014 issue has an article about bears that he wants to read again and again.  The magazine also contains various Mother Goose rhymes, songs, and action rhymes with lovely illustrations.  Subscribers can access the website to play some of the songs from each issue.

Besides being a lot of fun, the magazine can be a great resource for parents and teachers.  Parents will enjoy some of the "tips" at the end of the magazine that suggest activities that correspond to the theme of each issue.  Teachers will find this to be a great way to learn new poems to share with their class at Circle Time!

What magazines does your child read?  We are curious about the National Geographic magazine for little kids, since B seems to like the non-fiction articles in his Babybug so much.

Friday, February 21, 2014

How do you store and display books at your house?

This photo (courtesy of BAF Photography) showcases one of our favorite parts of B's nursery -- his bookshelf.  We kind of fell into this bookshelf by accident.  It's the kind of shelf you might find in a preschool classroom, and yes, it was in my classroom a few years ago!  But it just didn't fit the space.  And so, with the very generous permission of my boss, it made its way to our home.

I have to confess that I never loved this bookshelf in my classroom.  I found that the kids were constantly knocking books down and I was constantly putting them away.  But a nursery with one little baby is much different than a room full of rambunctious four year old children!

I really feel that having books this front and center in B's room has encouraged his interest in reading.  He can easily take books out on his own, and he is even beginning to put them away now.  He is able to see them all and to choose what he wants to read (independently or with a parent).  I like the bookshelf much better now!  I will say that we are (obviously) big book collectors, and we can't keep all of B's books on this shelf.  So it is lucky that we have some overflow storage areas.

How about you?  Where do you keep books in your home?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Best Books for Babies 6-9 Months Old

Babies between the ages of six and ninth months can be so much fun (and so much work)!  Many are sitting and moving around.  It was so much fun to finally watch B sit up on his own and turn the pages of a book.  It is really amazing how quickly he learned to do this!  It was during this time that he had his first favorite book, Eric Carle's Have You Seen My Cat?  I remember one night when I was alone with him in the late afternoon and he was fussy.  We were reading this book, and every time I got to the last page, he cried until I started the book again!  My husband and I knew the book by heart and were once able to soothe him when he was fussing in the car by reciting the book to him.

We were never completely sure what little B saw in Have You Seen My Cat? (and we will both confess that it is not our favorite Eric Carle book), but I imagined it had something to do with how repetitive the book is! Other favorite books during this time were interactive touch-and-feel books.  B also began to take an interest in flap books (and I took a related interest in scotch tape). Babies at this age are working towards object permanence, or understanding that objects out of sight still exist (and there is a similar peak in separation anxiety as babies understand that parents exist when out of sight).  Flap book are a great way to work on object permanence as babies find the hidden pictures again and again.  They are also great for working on that pincer grasp!

Here are some of our favorites for the 6 to 9 month period, of course starting with B's favorite:
1. Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle.  The board book is a perfect size for little hands.  Babies love Eric Carle's vivid, colorful pictures with distinctive lines.  The repetitive language and theme of looking for a missing pet is perfect for the infant set.

   2.  Touch and Feel Farm, by DK Publishing.  This simple touch and feel book is great fun for babies building their finger dexterity and interest in textures!  Since it is light on content, you can use it as a visual for singing "Old MacDonald's Farm."

3. Where's Spot? by Eric Hill.  This is a classic flap book, and infants and toddlers love finding Spot!  

4. Baby Shaker Teether Animals by Roger Priddy.  It's a book!  It's a toy!  It's a teether!  This was always in my diaper bag around this time and often in the car seat with B.  He loved looking at the photographs of animals, shaking it, and, of course, gnawing on it
5. Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz.  Karen Katz is the author of many flap books that baby's love, and this is one of our favorites.  The flaps are fun when babies are younger, and the text is great for teaching an older infant/young toddler to point to parts of their own body.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Inspiring Reading and Play

We added Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's We're Going on a Bear Hunt to our son's library a little early (at around 13 months), but I am glad that we did because it has been one of B's most-requested books ever since!  This book is a fun way to share the classic chant, "We're Going on a Beat Hunt."  I remember doing that chant back in nursery school (and I have done it with my own classes), but my husband had not heard of it before!  Have you?  The repetitive chant, rich with onomatopoeia, follows a family on a journey to find a bear.  (My husband thinks the parents in this book must be the worst parents in the world...they take their baby through a river and a snow storm and more to find a bear!)  Again and again, they chant, "we're not scared."  But wait until you see what happens when they finally find the bear!  Helen Oxenbury's illustrations are as warm and cozy as always and remove any edge of scariness in this book.

We have the gift set shown above, which would be a sweet gift for a toddler or younger preschool aged child.  I like to hide the bear and then pull it out once we get to the page with the bear!  This is a great book to share with children of multiple ages, and both the small board book edition and the larger hardcover have their merits.

Who Loves It:
Children ages 1 to 5 and their caregivers will enjoy sharing this together.

Why We Love It:

  • Repetitive chant invites young children to chime in
  • Onomatopoeia encourages children to build phonemic awareness
  • Strong rhythm makes it a fun read for all ages
  • Strong use of positional vocabulary (over, under, through, up, down) helps to teach important early math concepts
Suggested Activities:
  • Younger toddlers will enjoy finding their own eyes, ears, and nose once the bear is found
  • Hide a teddy bear while you are reading, and take it out when the bear is found in the cave.  Chase around your little one and tickle!
  • Invite older toddlers and preschool aged children to chime in as you read.
  • Preschool aged children might enjoy acting this one out.  Try adding "bear hunt" props, such as a backpack, binoculars, or a safari hat.  Create a cave with blankets and furniture.
  • Create sensory bins that represent the various parts of the family's journey: water for the river, cotton balls for snow, Easter grass for the long, swishy grass.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Best Books for Babies 3-6 Months

My husband has a special nostalgia for reading to our son during this 3-6 month time period.  Little B was increasingly awake and alert, but not yet mobile.  This meant that my husband could read him very, very long books with little complaint from the baby.  It was a sweet way for B and his dad to connect, as his dad enjoyed sharing some of his childhood favorites, such as Robert McClosky's Make Way For Ducklings.

When we wanted B to engage a little more with books, though, we often chose ones with photographs of baby's faces.  Little babies love looking at faces, particularly baby faces!  We also read often during tummy time, and it was a great way to extend tummy time just a few minutes.  Books that we could sing along with were always fun for this purpose.  I would prop B up on the Boppy and get down in front of him with a few Raffi sing-along board books.  We also introduced cloth books around this time.  B was starting to be able to use his hands, and he loved to explore textures.  I always had a cloth book in my diaper bag from 3-12 months, since they functioned both as a tactile toy and an interactive book when we needed a little entertainment on the go.

Here are our favorites for the wee little 3-6 month set:

1.  Moo, Baa, La La La, by Sandra Boynton.  This is a short, silly read that is enjoyable for grown-ups and babies!  Animal sounds are great for babies to hear as they experiment with vocalization.  By 6 months, your baby may be able to produce the /M/ and /B/ sound, so it is great for them to hear you saying "Moo" and "Baa" along with the text!

2. Counting Kisses, by Karen Katz.  This is a particularly sweet book to share at bedtime.  Babies love the faces in Karen Katz's illustrations.

3. Wheels on the Bus (Raffi Songs to Read), by Raffi and Sylvie Wickstrom.  Your little one will love hearing you sing as you turn the pages.  Check out all the details of life in a French village in the illustrations.  This one is great for tummy time.

4. Baby Faces Peekaboo!  by DK Publishing.  We have a few books in this series and they have long been favorites.  Your baby will love seeing the photos of other babies and marvel as you open the flaps.  The mirror at the end is great fun!

5. Jellycat Farm Tails Book.  The content here is very simple, but babies love the repetitive language.  It is a great cloth book, with texture galore.  Put it in your diaper bag and read on the go!

Playtime Rhymes for Little People: So Beloved, We Had to Buy Two

An alternate subtitle for this post might have been, "My toddler loved it to death."  Little B got this book as a gift from my mom at 6 months, and at 14 months, we are already on our second copy thanks to the heavy wear and tear it received after many joyful readings.

While this hardcover collection of songs, nursery rhymes, lap bounces, and finger plays is not terribly sturdy, it is a delightful collection that caregivers and infants and toddlers will enjoy again and again.  Clare Beaton's illustrations are painstakingly created with antique fabrics and exude charm and nostalgia.  The book arrives with a CD of the poems and rhymes.  The CD is a great bonus to the book and an additional way for your child to enjoy it, but not my favorite of B's music options.  Small notes on each page teach parents the movements to each rhyme.  This book would make a great baby gift!

Who Loves It:
Infants and toddlers and those who care for them -- this is a great book for songs to sing while bouncing a smiley baby on your lap.  This is also a great resource for early childhood teachers.

Why We Love It:

  • Gorgeous illustrations
  • Nursery rhymes support phonemic awareness
  • Parents and caregivers can use this book to learn songs and lap bounces that children will enjoy again and again, long after the book is put away
  • Suggested movements for each rhyme will help engage active children in reading
Activity Suggestions:
  • Let an older toddler or preschool age look at the book while listening to the CD
  • Learn a couple of the lap bounces or finger plays well, and enjoy them while you are stuck trying to entertain a wiggly toddler in line at the grocery store, at the doctor's office, etc.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Best Books for 0-3 Months

Yes, you read that right!  We're about to talk about reading to newborns.  Crazy, right?  When are you supposed to read in between all the feeding, the diapers, more feeding, and more diapers?  And of course, parents are generally completely exhausted throughout this time.

Somehow though, in our house, we managed to read to B beginning the weekend we brought him home from the hospital.  It was a great way to bond, especially for my husband.  I nursed and thus took care of much of the feeding, which left my husband delegated to diapers (NOT FUN) and reading (FUN).  Reading to our newborn provided him with visual stimulation and lots of language.  Once we all got settled into a bit of a routine (around 6 weeks or so), reading was a great "play" activity for our increasingly wakeful infant.  Most of all, reading with a newborn got us all started into the good habit of reading often.

I remember that one of the early challenges of reading was positioning, since B could not hold his head up yet.  We often read to him while he sat in his bouncy chair.  We worried a little less about the format of books, since B was not yet touching books or turning pages -- paperbacks and hardcovers worked out just as well as board books.  I learned that when you are recently post-partum, it is best to avoid overly emotional books (such as Robert Munsch's Love You Forever).  We had some major waterworks one night!

Black and white books are great for this age, as young infants can see black, white, and red best!  It is not worth it to buy too many of these though, as this phase passes quickly and you'll prefer in the long run to own books with richer content.  Wordless books with very simple pictures are also favorites, as you can simply label the pictures with your baby.  Without further adieu, here are our top books for newborns:

1. Mommies and Their Babies, by Guido Van Genetchen.  A sweet black and white book with slightly more content than some of the other ones out there...a lovely read for new moms!

2.  Daddies and Their Babies, by Guido Van Genetchen  Similar to the above, but dads get a turn in this one!

3. Freight Train, by Donald Crews  Simple text and bright pictures with plenty of contrast make this book appealing to newborns, but unlike other books intended for the youngest readers, you will still be reading this one throughout the toddler years.

4. Kid O Forest Friends Wooden Book  With simple pictures, this wordless book was the first book my husband read to B.  It was an early favorite, as they enjoyed looking at each animal together.

5. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown  It is never too early to get started with this classic!

Ask Mr. Bear: Timeless Story, Vintage Pictures

Ask Mr. Bear was originally published by Marjorie Flack in the early 1930's, but has not lost its charm with young children (or those who read to them).  Young Danny is preparing for his mother's birthday.  He asks many farm animal friends for suggestions, but still cannot find the perfect gift.  Finally, Mrs. Cow suggests
that Danny ask Mr. Bear.  Danny ventures through the woods alone (and with a hint of trepidation), but thanks to Mr. Bear's suggestion, is able to find just the perfect gift for his mother.

This is a sweet story to read around the time of a birthday or a visit to a farm.  It is not overly moralistic, but a great way for children to be reminded that the best gifts are not always material items.  The pictures are charming but definitely vintage.  Older preschool aged children might not be easily won over by them but adult readers will enjoy reminiscing about their own childhood picture books.

Who Loves It:
This book is perfect for ages 1-4, and accessible on various levels.  My 14 month old is already enamored with it and has asked for it again and again.

Why We Love It:

  • Repetitive language
  • Predictable text
  • Older toddlers will be able to chime in as you read a build literacy skills
  • Simple "home-adventure-home" story arc.  The book begins with Danny at home, follows him on his adventure, and returns home with him when he gives his gift to his mother.
  • Charming, vintage pictures
Activity Suggestions...
  • Younger toddlers can build language by practicing animal sounds as each animal is introduced and  labeling each animal
  • Older preschool aged children (in a small group) can take on the roles of Danny and the various animals and act the story out as you read
  • Children of all ages might enjoy a visit to a farm and talking about the different necessities we gain from animals
  • Use a felt set, stuffed animals, or puppets to retell the story.