This is Part 4 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information. Today's tip also includes links to a variety of book suggestions for the holiday season.
Tip #4: Make sure that your children (and nieces and nephews and grandchildren) have books of their own. Sure, it's great to visit libraries (we'll talk more about that in the next tip) and explore a wide range of books. But it's also important that kids have at least a few books of their own. Books that they can re-read as often as they like. Books that they don't have to return by a certain date. Books that they can save and cherish and (eventually) look back on as priceless childhood mementos. I know that the books from my childhood that I still have on my shelves will always remain among my most treasured possessions.
There's a special bond that comes with re-reading a book many times. Especially as a child becomes older, and is reading on his own. The experiences of reading a beloved book build upon one another. Each reading becomes a celebration of the book, and a reminder of the past readings. To have that bond, I think that you need to own the book. Sure, you can check the same book out of the library every year. But it's not the same as having the book on the shelf next to your bed, and being able to pick it up when you can't sleep, or aren't feeling well, or just need the comfort of familiarity. The shelf doesn't need to be large, but it needs to be filled with books that are loved.
There's also a sense of pride that comes with ownership of possessions. And attaching that pride to books elevates the importance of literacy. When you spend your hard-earned money to buy books for your children, you're putting your money where your mouth is. You aren't just saying that books are important. You're demonstrating that you value books and literacy. I think that's important. And books are a bargain, compared with video games, going out to eat, going out to a movie, etc.
So, if you're doing any holiday shopping for the children in your life this season, I urge you to consider buying at least a few books. Great books are truly a gift that can last a lifetime. I know that it can be difficult to know what books to buy. Fortunately, quite a few bloggers have taken the initiative to offer targeted suggestions. Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has a post in which she's keeping track of other people's gift-giving ideas (mostly books). You'll find lots of links there.
Here are links to a few of my favorite sources for book ideas this year:
I hope that you'll find these lists a useful resource. But really, however you choose the books, and whenever you buy them, the important thing is that you make sure that your children have at least a few books of their own, to keep. You'll give them books to re-read and fall in love with, and you'll show, in a tangible way, that you think that books are important. And that's worth doing, both at the holidays and year-round.
Today's title may be confusing, but it's not a mistake. In looking for books to give for the holidays, I thought I could share which of the dozens of new picture books I'm choosing to give as gifts this season. Chosen from the Cybils nominated titles I'm judging for Fiction Picture Books, today I have the books I selected for my adorable three year old niece.
There are Cats in This Book
by Viviane Schwartz
Bright, fun, clever and let's repeat fun, this book will surely entertain any toddler or preschooler. Using cutouts, flaps, and oddly shaped pages, the book interacts with the reader in a - can we use fun again? - fun way. The end papers even get in on the act with the first words on bright blue informing the reader that "The cats aren't on this page." They aren't on the next page either, but then move ahead to see purring and a quilt as a large flap. Lift it to find three awakened kitties, surprised and then happy to play with you. The cats address the reader the whole time, asking for pages to be turned, yarn to be tossed, and boxes to be opened. The happy cats are brightly and simply drawn, which lends even more of a surprise to finding the pages with more detail. This is a truly delightful book to share with a child and just plain - yes, I'll say it again - fun.
I Always, ALWAYS Get My Way
by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins
The terrible two's might bring tantrums and frustration, but the tricky three's are all about testing limits. One of the hardest things in approaching this age is figuring out when the child isn't old enough to understand something and when they do know better. This book is a wonderful, learning tribute to that concept handled in a light way. Emmy spills juice on dad, but mom intervenes in Dad's annoyance knowing that Emmy is only three. Same with a mistake with her siblings toys. But then Emmy does things Wrong, and learns that "only three" doesn't always excuse her behavior. The message is strong, but not overbearing. The rhyming text lightens the tone, and the pictures are excellent - especially in capturing the moods of three year old. Emmy's bad choices are pretty funny to see, like seeing her dress the lizard in a doll's bathing suit, but the consequences are firm and appropriate. An enjoyable book that will ring true for any preschool parent.
Jeremy Draws a Monster
by Peter McCarty
This title is one of my favorites of 2009, though it seems to have slipped under the radar in the book world. I didn't think the amazing message contained within was too subtle, but maybe it did escape many readers who looked at the surface and saw a simple, light story. It's a shame, because people missed one of the better combinations of art, story, and message that I've ever seen. In the simply written and illustrated book, Jeremy stays in his room, never goes out, and draws pictures. And one day, with his special crayon, he draws a monster. The monster is demanding and Jeremy has to keep working to satisfy it. He's relieved when it goes out for the day. But can things end that easily? No. Only when Jeremy takes an active role in getting rid of his monster does he find a chance to be happy. Young kids will enjoy the story - especially as you read in the cranky monster's voice - but can also absorb the deeper meaning within. Hopefully the adult readers will too. In my own family, after all enjoying this book, we've taken to saying, "you draw your own monster." And we now see that you can't feed it or ignore it, but you have to tackle it. An amazing message wrapped in a charming book with engaging illustrations. Not to be missed.
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader may receive a referral fee.
When my son was a baby, he loved a book called Alphabet Band. An older friend had handed it down as a present. Outfitted with a side panel of buttons to push, the book talked. I can still remember the very electronic voice starting off, "Alligator number one/Squeezes the accordion." We took it with us wherever we went.
When the kiddo grew into a toddler, he decided to figure out how Alphabet Band worked. I'm not sure what he discovered, but the book did not survive the thorough investigation—and is no longer in print, either.
These days when I'm looking for gifts for babies, one favorite resource is the annual "Best Books for Babies" list at Beginning With Books, an early-literacy center in Pittsburgh. The 2009 lineup (for books published in 2008) can be found online here.
Now ten, the Alphabet Band enthusiast is happily reading (and not tearing apart) chapter books, but if he were a toddler or preschooler, I'd use the recommendations for that age group at the blog Your Friendly Librarian. I like her roundup of 2009's best, which includes the lovely rhyming picture book All the World, written by a blogging pal, Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Marla Frazee.