‘What Are Your Favorite Board Books?’ and Other Questions about Toddlers and Books

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Recently Lucy emailed me asking several related questions about toddlers and books. They seemed like topics of general interest so I decided to share my answers with all my readers. Warning: This is one of my all-time favorite subjects I’m going to ramble. But I’ll break it up with some cute pictures.

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First and foremost, Lucy asked if I had any suggestions for board books for her 20 month old twins. She also wondered whether they were ready for picture books. (This was sort of an aside; but I thought it was an interesting question so I thought I’d address it.) Finally, she worried about weeding out junk books at the library with her two children going in different directions. So this is going to be a rather long response in several parts.

I’ll take the second part first.

When is a child ready to move from board books to picture books?

I suspect that the rule for when a child will be ready to move from board books to picture books is rather like the rule for when he will be ready for potty training. It depends on two factors: the child’s readiness and the parent’s readiness.

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And by readiness I mean is the child ready to handle picture books with care so that they are not destroyed. It does not depend on the child’s vocabulary or reading comprehension or anything to do with the content of the books. However, I should add that sticking to board books does make things a bit easier in that you know the text will probably be short enough for a toddler’s attention span. The target audience for picture books can range from toddlers to middle-schoolers and some picture books are definitely going to be too text-heavy for most toddlers and many stories will simply be beyond their interest.

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I’ve been thinking about this topic of when children start on picture books ever since Arwen wrote about her daughter being ready to graduate from board books to picture books. I was a bit surprised that she hadn’t already been reading picture books because my girls both started looking at picture books well before the 20 month mark. On further consideration I realized that had as much to do with the fact that I’d started collecting picture books since before Bella was born as with any sort of readiness on their parts. (I just love picture books for their own sake and my kids are frequently an excuse to indulge.) With piles of them around the house, it was natural we’d get around to reading them.

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Also Bella was a gentle child and has a innate respect for boundaries. It wasn’t too hard to keep her from ripping into the books. A few still got torn, of course; but it was always an accident, mainly due to clumsiness. That’s going to happen. But she wasn’t grabbing and shredding them or eating them.

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So I think the personality of the child is going to be a huge factor. Some kids really are more destructive than others. I’m already finding that out with Sophie. She has much less respect for boundaries and is much more prone both to carelessness and to calculated mayhem. She has quite deliberately ripped quite a few of our books. (That’s why one of her nicknames is Destructa-Phia.) The bottom line is: can your child sit and look at a book without pulling it apart?

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Another factor is the readiness of the parent. Are you ready to sit closely and supervise patiently while you teach your child how to treat books with respect? Are you willing to sacrifice a few books to the project and ready to calmly reprimand before you pull out the Scotch tape? Or are you going to blow your cool? Answer honestly and don’t let mommy guilt cloud your judgment. If you don’t have the time or the temperament, if you’ve got other kids to supervise or, as in the case of reader Lucy, twins, then don’t feel bad if you wait before introducing picture books. You aren’t stunting your child, I promise.

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These Are a Few of Our Favorite Board Books

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We don’t have nearly as many board books in our collection as we do picture books. Even so, we’ve managed to amass a couple of baskets worth. And we’ve done our share of checking them out at the library as well.

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Two of our all-time favorites are Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Two of the first we got with Bella and both she and Sophie still love them. And somehow I’m not completely sick of them even after three years. I can even look forward to reading them to Ben with something like composure.

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We also like The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. Not quite as good as Goodnight Moon; but fun and you can make all the animal noises.

Another beloved and much requested board book is a nursery rhyme book. I can’t find it now but I think it’s just called Hey Diddle Diddle. An amazon search reveals quite a few board books with this title, none of which looks familiar. But I don’t think the specifics matter. Just find one or two nursery rhyme books. It’s hard to go wrong with nursery rhymes.

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I also heartily recommend anything by Sandra Boynton. We’ve especially enjoyed The Going to Bed Book, Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time, Opposites, and A to Z.

Likewise, anything by Eric Carle. We’ve especially enjoyed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Grouchy Ladybug.

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Diving into my blog archives, I find I’ve written about others books we’ve liked.

Here is previously blogged list of some of our favorite board books. (I’d add one caveat now about If You’re Happy and You Know It. On the whole, it’s very cute and the girls like it; but I’m rather annoyed every time I read it that several of the verses require props to act them out: If you’re happy and you know it rattle and shake, with a picture of a baby holding a rattle; If you’re happy and you know it, push the blocks. It confuses the girls and means that they can’t always participate with the action of the song, which really is the primary pleasure of the book. I’d have been much happier if the book had stuck to motions which could be done alone without an adult, other child or a toy.)

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I’m very fond of the Mini Masters series of board books by Julie Merberg. We have: Dancing with Degas, Picnic with MonetIn the Garden with Van Gogh, and A Magical Day with Matisse. Start art appreciation early. Beautiful paintings and fun rhyming couplets. The girls do enjoy these.

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Here are my reviews of some specifically Catholic board books (probably not at your local library):

Baby Come to Church and Where Is God?

The Saving Name of God the Son

And then here I also wrote about meeting author Heidi Bratton and buying some of her beautiful board books.

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This is getting long, so I’ll save my further thoughts about toddlers and books, including some tips for making the most of the library, for another post.

In the meantime, please tell me: What are your favorite board books?

Updated:

Elizabeth Foss has a post up about her sweet little Sarah Annie’s current favorite board books. Looks like some good ones

 

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