Kids Corner (1000 Books): Emergent Reading

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When I decided, in December, to read 1000 books with my son before he started kindergarten, I thought it was going to be difficult. I thought we’d have to force ourselves to read. I thought 1000 picture books was a lot.

To my surprise, it’s going very fast. We both love this project. My son actively seeks out picture books that he wants to read. And then, I love being the Mommy for this project. When we began, he was a picture book listener. Now, he sits down and reads books to himself all the time. It’s delightful to watch, and I can see him learning at little bit every day.

As I’ve said before, I know my focus of Rebecca Reads has always been on what I’m reading. Since I would like to keep a record of what both of us are reading, I’m going to keep writing about our reading together. I understand if you aren’t as interested in this. I’ll try to keep it to only a few children’s books posts a month so I won’t unduly burden you with them.

My Son’s Favorites (“Reading” Himself)

The most exciting thing I’ve seen is my son “reading” to himself. Because I’ve been making an effort to check out books just for him, he has joined me in doing so. He knows the drawer in the family room where the library books are kept and he sits and reads them by himself in the midst of his playing. (After a week or two, I move the old library books upstairs for bedtime reading.)

One new favorite book is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. I saw it on a list for “learning the ABCs” and so I sought it out. I mentioned before as a book that I’m not crazy about, and I’m still not. The alphabet letters climb up the coconut tree, the tree is weighed down and they fall, and the letters get up and go home. Lois Ehlert’s art is plain and boxy, albeit colorful. I’m not crazy about the story or the art, so how did it get on the list of favorites now? My toddler loves to read the story. He recognizes the letters (thanks to Leap Frog videos and toys that he loves) and so reading this story is something he can “read” himself. When the letters fall, he likes to “kiss them better” and he loves the sound of the made up words “Chicka Chicka Boom BOOM!” This is a colorful book he loves to read by himself even when  I can’t. (I got him “reading” the entire thing on video. It’s adorable.)

I’d seen the “scanimation” books by Rufus Butler Seder before, and I figured they were a fad. I did not have any interest in reading one, but my son saw one on the board book shelf at the library and insisted we check it out. Waddle! shows a number of animals in a “scanimation” illustration (which is similar to a hologram as you turn the page). Each page asks if you can do what the animal can do. Can you waddle like a penguin? Can you scamper like a bear? My son learned to hop like a frog and slither like a snake thanks to this book. We had lots of fun moving around the room and laughing as we did so. And the last page is great because it’s an alligator that’s going to get you. This is a fun, creative book that gets kids moving. He reads it to himself, acting like his favorite animals, be it a snake or an elephant. Even without the book, my son occasionally comes up as an alligator and “gets” me. (I will note that in order to get kids moving, though, you have to be willing to move yourself! This is not a sit still bedtime book.)

The next “read it to himself” book is one I never thought I’d recommend: Thomas’ Wonderful Word Book. Yes, I’m recommending a Thomas and Friends book. This one is different, though. There is no annoying story line, but instead there are pages and pages of train illustrations. Most are a two-page spread of a train station or the beach or a playground or a picnic ground with a train in the background. On the two side columns, there is a list of things to “find” in the picture. My son loves finding Goldbug in Richard Scary’s Cars and Trucks And Things That Go. That’s another favorite book that he enjoys “reading” by himself. But Thomas’ Wonderful Word Book is far better for an emergent reader because the items (an apple, a bird, a blue backpack) are much larger. He says the words as he finds them, and I promise it’s true: my two-and-a-half-year-old spent an hour “reading” this book by himself the other night as I got dinner ready and waited for my husband to get home. The one I read (and maybe all versions of it?) is a British book, so some words are the British variety (such as “bin” instead of “garbage can” and “petrol station” instead of “gas station”) and it may be hard to find in the USA.  Nevertheless, if your home is a Thomas home and you, like me, hate the Thomas books, this one is different and it’s something I enthusiastically recommend!

What picture books have surprised you? What books does/did your toddler read by himself/herself?

Wordless Books

Although my toddler cannot, of course, yet read words on the page, he does also enjoy reading some wordless books.  The “Carl” books by Alexandra Day are some such books. A commenter mentioned that these books are favorites in their house, so we found even more of them in few more in the past few weeks.  We’ve read four so far: Good Dog, Carl; Carl’s Afternoon at the Park; Carl’s Christmas; and Carl Goes Shopping. My favorite is, as is often the case, the original book: Good Dog, Carl. In this book, Carl is left as babysitter to a young child and he and the baby have lots of fun: jumping on the bed, swimming in the fish tank, raiding the fridge for food, taking a bath. Carl is a very dutiful babysitter, and despite my husband’s dislike (he claims it’s “neglect” on the part of the mother), this is fantastical look at a toddler’s dreams of playing with her dog without her mother around. My son liked to tell me what they were doing on each page. I think his favorite is Carl Goes Shopping, which has lots of recognizable things in a department store. I really like the realistic illustrations, especially of the dog.

My son also loves School Bus by Donald Crews. His love for school buses is probably in part due to the fact that there is a bus yard on the road on our way to the library: he knows that when we say “library” he’ll be seeing bright yellow school buses on our way! This book does have some words, but my son doesn’t need them. He loves to follow the school bus to the bus stop, to school, and back home again. He particularly likes it when the bus stops at the stop light and has to wait for it become a “go light.” Crews’ illustrations are geometric and therefore rather simple, and although there is more happening on each page than in Crew’s book Freight Train, this is still a simple, nearly wordless picture book that any school bus loving toddlers would enjoy.

The next nearly wordless book we enjoyed was a random find in the nonfiction section, and not one likely to appear on “best of” lists, but we both enjoyed it. City Signs by Zoran Milich captures the everyday signs we’re likely to see in a city, from sales shop signs to traffic signs. My son had fun recognizing familiar sights and signs and I enjoyed the photography. It reminds me that for a toddler, the ordinary things we see are photographable and therefore memorable.

There are some other nearly wordless books we loved, but I’m going to save them for a “favorite author” post.

What nearly wordless or wordless books could you recommend to a toddler? I have in the past enjoyed David Wiesner but those are a bit too “advanced” for a toddler, I think.

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Reviewed on April 28, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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