It’s been a long time since I’ve written about my son’s books. Since I’m reading longer novels myself this month, I’ll use this opportunity to jump in and say something about what we’ve been reading together.
I’ve been skimming over The ABCs of Literacy (reviewed here; that book inspired my 1000 Books Project) for ideas on helping use books as a tool in my sons’ stage of life and learning, and some of Ms. Dollins’ ideas have been very successful for us. I am not using books as a “preschool” curriculum or anything of the sort: I’ve just been trying to think out of the box and applying the books to my sons’ needs more than I had in the past. And we’ve both, I believe been enjoying that approach.
Imitate the Book (and the Book Imitates Life)
One of Ms. Dollins’ suggestions was to try to imitate the (good) things that characters do in books.
After reading Siesta by Ginger Guy (An ALA Notable Book), I decided to try this. In the book, two kids and their teddy bear, gather together a few things, such as a yellow book and a blue backpack and then a brightly multi-colored blanket and then go outside for their “siesta.” My son no longer naps, yet we enjoyed the activity of gathering some favorite things and a blanket and making our own tent outside on a bright spring afternoon. He even pretended to sleep for a few moments. The book is in both Spanish and English and I think my son appreciated hearing a different language: something I really should do more often, since I personally think Spanish is a beautiful language (for more so than English!).
On the other hand, sometimes I think the book we just checked out really does a good job illustrating life. In the middle of a warmer spell, it suddenly got cold and snowed, leaving Daddy stranded in New York City. In The Snow Day by Komako Sakai, which I had checked out that week despite a warmer spell, a little bunny and his mommy are stranded at home and daddy’s airplane can’t come home because of snow. The bunny watches it snow, he plays in the snow, and finally Daddy’s plane comes home. How perfect is that parallel? The beautiful illustrations and well-spaced text perfectly captured the feeling of isolation that I get from a big snow: quiet and reflective and yet so beautiful and overwhelming. I wish I could show you one particular painting: the entire apartment complex and trees surrounding it is overwhelmed with the falling snow and the little bunny standing on the corner of his tiny little deck in the midst of it all. It is beautiful!
I should also add that my son and I have been walking to a nearby bridge and playing “Poohsticks” on sunny afternoons. He likes it very much, and it’s making me really want to reread him the Winnie-the-Pooh books this summer.
What picture books have you “made real” for your kids? Which ones were just perfectly pertinent to your child’s life?
We also have sought out pertinent nonfiction. None of these have been spectacularly written or amazingly engaging, but my son still related to each book and requested it more than once. After a dental visit, for example, we read Brushing My Teeth by Elizabeth Vogel. Now he must stop and smile at his teeth in the mirror after brushing, just as the girl did in the book. When he got his haircut, it was Getting a Haircut by Melinda Radabaugh, and after the mail carrier personally showed him the back of the mail truck (he loves the mail truck), we read A Day with a Mail Carrier by Jan Kottke.
My favorite nonfiction books to read are the ones that I see help him to understand himself. Hands Can by Cheryl Hudson is full of pictures of real children, and it illustrates some of things he can do. Sometimes when he does something with his hands, like clapping or carrying or climbing, he notices it: “Look Mommy!” he says, holding up his hands. I can’t attribute all of that to reading the book of course, but I still think it is fun to read a book of realization and also see him discovering himself.
We both also enjoy The Body Book by Shelley Rotner, which is one of my favorite nonfiction books (we’ve checked it out a few times). It photos of children all different ages, and it shows them engaging in fun outdoor activities with their feet, hands, legs, heads, eyes, noses. This is not a boring anatomy book, and it doesn’t have too many words or descriptions. It just focuses on all the great things a kid can do with his body: it makes me want to run around outside on a sunny day!
I also like Eyes, Nose, Fingers, Toes by Judy Hindley, but I can’t get my son to pay attention to it. It has cute rhymes about the different parts of the body, and I really like reading it aloud. However, the pictures are not beautiful or engaging, so I think that contributes to my son’s non-interest.
I’ve found that fiction can help my son relate to himself as he deals with his current awkward “am I a baby or a big boy?” stage. (It comes with a lot of tears and frustration on his part.) Although we’ve been checking out nonfiction relating to feelings and emotions (such as Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner; he loves looking at the baby and toddler faces), Baby Happy, Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli is one fictional picture book that he enjoys. He can pick out from the simple illustrations just why the baby is sad and I imagine he can relate. No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli is another “I can relate” book for my son, as he’s done many of the things illustrated on the pages! We’ve also been reading the Jane Yolen books, particularly How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends by Jane Yolen, because my son still struggles to let his friends play with his toys: it’s just so hard.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the David books by David Shannon are also ones he relates to completely. My favorite is still the original (No, David) but the baby David board books (called “Diaper David”) are also pretty well done (Oh, David and David Smells, which is about senses). I don’t particularly like the older boy David books (David Gets in Trouble and David Goes to School) beyond the first one but that may be because my son is not yet in that stage so I can’t yet relate!
My Favorite “Growing Up Book”
I have so many more books that we’ve read recently. (See my 1000 Books post for the list to date.) But today I’ll just share about one more “growing up” book that I really enjoy.
Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein shows a little gorilla and all the family and jungle animals that love him. Then, he begins to grow, and soon he is big. It ends with the simple sentence, “And everyone still loved him.” I began inserting my son’s name in it as we read: “Little Gorilla ____.” Since he had recently seen a monkey and baby in a different book or on TV (?not sure where), he was already in a “monkey” stage. Little Gorilla was, therefore, the perfect book for him at this time. He says he’s a baby monkey, I say he’s “Little Gorilla,” and when I read the book with him growing in to a “big gorilla,” I can just see the gears working in his mind. “It’s okay if I get big. Everyone will still love me when I’m big too! I don’t have to stay a baby. And Mommy will still cuddle me.”
I love my little boy and I’m glad for the baby moments, the cuddles, and the adorable things he says as he grows up. Growing up is kind of scary, though, and I love that we can read such a simple book that shows that growing up is pretty normal, and nothing important really changes.
What “growing up books” do you think are perfect for a toddler?