It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed what my son (age 21 months) is reading, so I thought I’d jump in and mention some highlights. It’s so much fun to see my son loving reading. He’s also definitely developing preferences and favorite things in his life, so now his reading is becoming focused on what he wants to read!
Our reading has become an all-day affair. When he wakes up in the morning and/or when he eats his breakfast, I often read to him a few pages (literally) from a full-length book. If he’s not eating, he plays on the floor of his room as I read. Right now I’m reading him Winnie-the-Pooh, and he loves it! If I stop reading, he looks up at me and begs “more?!” (which is one of his favorite words).
Throughout the day, then, he occasionally finds his picture books, which are all through the house, and then sits down and turns the pages. He often goes back to the same books these days. At bedtime, we read at least three books. Sometimes he sits still while I read a book to him or we “discuss” the pictures in it; other times he sits apart from me and “reads” it to himself, talking and turning the pages. This is so delightful to watch. I’m so excited that he’s figured it out!
My son has developed a serious obsession with dogs, despite the fact that I strongly dislike being anywhere near furry animals. So he has fun with Doggies by Sandra Boynton: we count to ten with the help of ten different dogs and ten different barks, plus a meowing cat. Another Boynton classic, full of furry animals I actually like!
I also picked up some nonfiction books about dogs. Because most picture books don’t have full-page illustrations or pictures, I wanted to get him something full of pictures just of dogs. Dogs by Gail Gibbons fills that need, with a picture of at least one different dog on each page. This one has too many words for my son to be interested in reading with me, but he certainly loves to turn the page, saying “Dog!” about fifty times through the course of the book.
My son’s obsession with dogs is now overshadowed only by his love of all trains. This originates, I think, from the train table in the children’s department at our local library. Whenever we visit (which you may imagine is quite frequently), he loves to play with the trains. Now, all his toys become trains in his imaginative play: “Choo choo!”
The first train book is one we own, a Thomas the Tank Engine Golden Book story called The Big Big Bridge. I seriously can’t stand to read it. The story is ridiculous to me, and the pictures are essentially the same throughout it; each page shows the same trains with the same expression on their “faces.” This means I can’t describe the pictures or ask my son what he sees in the pictures. Never mind, he loves to listen to the story, which astounds me because it is so stupid. Maybe it’s just the turning the pages and looking at the trains that is so fascinating. I intend to “misplace” it one of these days. (Is that mean?)
Because I got tired of reading that same story at least three times every single night (literally), I went to the library on a search for new books about trains. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk, has become another of my son’s favorite books. The illustrations are busy and bright as it illustrates a little boy’s toy train running around his bedroom; the little boy pretends it is a real train. I still don’t like reading this one aloud: every page has the phrase “Chugga Chugga Choo Choo! … Whooooooo Whooooooo!” I’m sorry to say that this becomes very annoying to read when we’re reading it about three times in a row. I’m just not a sound effect girl, and that sound effect is integral to the book’s cheesy rhymes. Nevertheless, my son loves it. It’s a very fun read for him! I still think it’s better than Thomas because we can also talk about the pictures on the second and third read each night.
We’ve also turned to a few nonfiction books. These describe how trains work and what various trains are. He actually lets me read the words to some of these, and he likes to point to all the different trains. One favorite is I Drive a Freight Train by Sarah Bridges. This has cartoony illustrations of a conductor and engineer explaining the parts of the train. It has a “story” explaining the train, and then little factoids in boxes in the corner. For some reason, my son lets me read this to him most nights, without becoming bored. I don’t mind it because I do find it interesting to learn how trains work! My son likes to wave “Hi” to the people on every page.
Freight Train by Donald Crews is my favorite train book. Crews illustrates a freight train of many different colors. When the train moves, the colors blur. It’s quite cleverly done, and the simple and brightly colored cars are nicely balanced with lots of white space. Crews’ illustrations won the Caldecott Honor, and I love knowing that simplicity won out this time around. My train-loving son loves it, and I don’t mind reading the one-to-two word pages either.
Another brightly colored Caldecott Honor book that my son loves is Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert. The geometric animals are created by die cuts in brightly colored pages; thus, while each page has just one or two colors, a few pages together create a multi-colored lion, or an ox, or a deer. My son likes the die cuts, but he also loves the bright colors. Each page has one word on it, be it the name of the shape (“heart” or “square”) or an animal (“snake” or “lion”). It’s incredibly clever, and while I don’t read it aloud to my son, he loves flipping through it by himself. I think it is a great book for children his age, given the bright colors. It’s also nice to have a break from trains.
On the completely opposite end of the spectrum (literally), is an infant board book: Black & White by Tana Hoban. I wouldn’t have noticed this book at all had not my son found it on a low shelf and brought it to me. I would have assumed that this wordless book, with black pictures on a white background and white pictures on a black background, would be utterly below his interest level, since he’s now 21 months old. To my surprise, he still loved to flip through it and say (or try to say, as the case may be) the shapes he recognized: chair, bird, bottle, banana. Just as the bright colors in Color Zoo appealed to him, I assume the stark, simple black and white pictures also appeal to him.
I suppose that’s a lesson to me that we are never too old for simplicity.
What are your children reading?
What books about dogs and trains have you and your children enjoyed?
What simple illustrations in picture books do you remember?