Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

After thinking through how we want to be intentional with our children’s books moving forward, I’m looking back at the things we have done so far to foster a love of books in Nora. Right now we feel like great parents who did everything right when it came to reading, but it’ll be super interesting to see if it was really just Nora and that we had nothing to do with it (like so much of parenting seems to be) or if Charlie will also find a love of reading. Either way, I’m trying to remember all that we did so that I can do my best to set Charlie (and any future children we may be blessed with) up to have a love of books too.

1) Start ‘em young

While I was pregnant, I read that it was important to expose your kiddos to books and all sorts of words from an early age, and I took that to heart. I remember feeling so silly reading to my one month old, but also it gave me a way to interact with Nora when I didn’t know quite what to do with a little baby. She didn’t really get into it until later into her first year, but some of those first snuggles with books are really special memories and ingrained into our little family a love of reading together that I hope will last. I think by introducing reading as a bonding activity from a really young age, we made it more accessible for both Nora and for us as she continued to develop. It became a go-to activity instead of an afterthought.

Embarrassingly, I kind of forgot that reading to small babies was a thing with Charlie until a couple months ago. I guess that’s the problem of the second child. However, he got to soak in all of the books that I was reading to Nora while he was also on my lap or wandering the room, so I don’t really feel too too bad. When I do remember to read just to him, he’s been really into all of the touch and feel books. His favorites right now are the “That’s not my…” series through Usborne and any of the Alphaprints ones. Nora liked those too, but Charlie LOVES them. Nora seemed to be more into books with rhyming like One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton (really anything by her is great!) and my personal favorite, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  It’s been really interesting to watch as their tastes in toys, books, and activities already differ! If I recall Nora correctly, the flap books will come next developmentally for Charlie (though with his ability to destroy things, we might need to hold off for awhile!) Some of Nora’s favorites were Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? and the Usborne Little Red Penguin series, and I’m excited to bring those out for Charlie to read when he’s ready!

2) Never say no to reading and read often

As Nora became more interested in books, I did my best to read to her whenever she’d ask for as long as she would listen. We’d often read first thing in the morning while I was still coming to (I’m not really a morning person). It was a really sweet way to start our day, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve gone away from that in our new morning routine. Thinking about this now, I might have to start doing this again in our mornings! We have also always associated books with naptime and bedtime, and then sprinkled them throughout playtime. When we were trying to get Nora to sleep on her own (at 14 months…), we finally got to the point that we’d leave her in her room, and she’d read books for 5 minutes- 2 hours, and then finally fall asleep (our kids really aren’t fans of sleeping). We figured there was nothing wrong with her reading as long as she wanted if she eventually fell asleep!

Of course, I’ve had to start bending my “never say no to reading” rule now that her books are getting longer (those 5 Minute Stories add up!) and Charlie is needing more attention. I do still try to make a point of sitting down and reading with her for a good amount of time each day, though. I’m much better at reading than doing pretend voices for all of her animals, so it’s always my first suggestion during Charlie’s morning nap and my Nora alone time.

3) Be surrounded with books

We have books everywhere. There is a basket of children’s picture books in the living room, a basket of Charlie’s books next to the recliner, a bookshelf of board books in Nora’s room, and even potty training books on the toilet. Not to mention the books Nora carries into different rooms and forgets about. I think it’s so important to be in close reach of books as it makes it easier to pick up a book to start reading. It’s also, then, a reminder of reading as an activity to both the kiddos and to me. Charlie is just now starting to grab books out of his basket or off the shelf in Nora’s room, and while he’s doing it just to explore and make a mess, it reminds me that I should be reading to him (a reminder which I apparently need!).

We also like to make a point of reading books out and about. I like to have at least a couple books in the car for when we’re going places for Nora to read- this works well for books that are duplicated! I’m realizing that I should also start putting some in for Charlie too! Nora has a knack for finding books everywhere we go. There are sections of books at both the children’s museum and the mall we go to (it’s a really awesome, child-friendly mall!), and we also try to make it to the library at least once a week for Toddler Time and/or just to read. Reading out in the wild is way more exciting than at home! It’s also really good for us to switch up which books we are reading and find new ones that we might want to get for home.

4) There’s no such thing as too many books

We were blessed to have people gift a favorite book instead of a card for Nora’s baby shower to really start off our collection of books. Since then, between gifts and our own book-buying addiction, we’ve more than filled up Nora’s bookshelves. I get sick of reading the same stories over and over, so I like to have enough that we can mix it up a little bit. We currently have too many board books than what can fit on Nora’s shelf, so I rotate them once a week to freshen her up and make it seem like she has a whole new shelf of books to choose from. Nora LOVES new books, so this tends to work pretty well. Whenever an actually new book enters our household, Nora wants to read it what seems like hundreds of times in those first few days of having it. It’s fun to see that excitement come from something as simple as books.

As we grow out of our basket of children’s picture books, I’m looking at ways to store them. In our someday house, I’d love to have a playroom with a library wall (#bigdreams). I’m really eyeing up either this or this shelf so that we can start displaying our books with the fronts out instead of just the spines.

There’s a meme I saw on Facebook that sums up how I feel about this subject:

Usborne- too many books, not enough shelves

Tony and I love having our own books around and that addiction has poured over into our children’s books. We hope to foster a love of books in our family that continues throughout our children’s lives, as it has in ours. These are just some of the ways that we’ve attempted to do that with Nora, and it’ll be a wait and see if it also inspires the same love in Charlie.

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Getting Intentional with our Children’s Books

Getting Intentional with our Children’s Books

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links from which we may get a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you 🙂

There was an article going around earlier this year that talked about about how the Inuits use storytelling as a way of teaching their children rules, boundaries, and emotional regulation.*  I really loved the premise of this, but had a hard time figuring out how to create the right stories for the lessons that applied to our family.  I tried to come up with stories on the spot about characters who shared, who brushed their teeth well, or who listened to their mommy, but it turns out, I’m a not a natural storyteller.  I’m embarrassed to admit that in just the last couple weeks, I realized that I can use already written story books to teach these lessons and many other values.  I didn’t need to make my own stories up when I have a wealth of stories right at my fingertips.  Since we are reading often with Nora, I bet she’s already been picking up on these lessons through the intentional children’s books we’ve already been reading.

Getting Intentional with our Children's Books

Learning Lessons Through Books

Getting intentional with drawing the lessons out has been a little harder, but seems to be worth it.  Nora has been having a really hard time sharing what used to be “her” baby toys with Charlie now that he’s big enough to be playing with the more exciting ones. We recently checked out the Big Book of the Berenstain Bears from the library and in it is the story The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby. In the story, Brother Bear gets a new big bed so that Sister Bear can have his baby bed when she is born.  Brother Bear is so excited that he has his new bed, but also that he has a little sister that is using his old bed.  When Nora was trying to take over Charlie’s play house the other day, I brought up the story of how Brother Bear had to give his little bed away, and it clicked for her in that moment that it was good to share her things. Of course, this didn’t last all day, but it’s a start!

Prepare for New Activities

As I’ve shared in past posts, we have been using books to help us with all sorts of activities already. We have our potty training books (The Potty Train and Usborne Books What is Poop? are still read multiple times a day here) and our church books.  I just bought some new Usborne books talking about feelings in hopes that Nora will share what emotion she is experiencing instead of just melting down- the two’s are fun.  We started pretty young with Nora with all of the shapes, numbers, and letters books, and I think, because of that, she’s got those pretty well down, so we know that books are a good way, at least for her, of teaching her different ideas.

Introduce New Ideas for Play

Even the books that don’t have as obvious of an emphasis have been helpful for creating new play ideas, introducing places we are going, and talking about how to handle different situations. One of the most random lately is from her 5-Minute Mickey Mouse Stories in which one of the stories talks about a picnic at which they eat fruit salad. She went through a huge phase of serving us fruit salad made of all sorts of different objects.  Nora’s also all of a sudden very into Pete the Cat books, and after reading Pete the Kitty and the Case of the Hiccups a million times, every time she gets the hiccups (which is surprisingly often), she says “How do you stop the hiccups?” and then goes through all of the different ideas the friends in the book have. It’s pretty funny!

Live and Learn Vicariously Through Books

In thinking about how much she is picking up from these stories right now, I’m trying to be intentional in the books that she’s reading. I want to surround her with materials that help her become a good human as she continues to grow and learn. I recently read The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie and came away with so many ideas for forming a family culture based on stories. One of the ideas that stood out the most to me was that reading allows people to live vicariously through experiences of those in the book, so that they don’t necessarily need to live it themselves to gain the perspective and learn the lessons. Books also can then have an impact on how compassionate your children become by exposing them to these different perspectives. I feel like we know this intuitively as adults with the difference that reading a headline in the news feels vs. reading a story about someone who is experiencing what’s going on in that headline. Stories are the conduit by which people feel the perspectives of others and, hopefully, then grow in compassion.

Introduction to Empathy and Kindness

In our family, then, I want to find intentional children’s books that are not just a cute story but also, either subconsciously or not, teach values and tell stories that we want to be a part of our family culture. If I had to choose one quality that our kids have when I send them out into the world, it would be that they are kind. I want them to be empathetic and compassionate with others.  I may not succeed (who knows what kind of kiddos Tony and I make), but I can give them a good foundation to start from. To help with this, I’ve started looking for books with a diverse set of characters in race, class, and ability, as well as in family type. I want to find more books about characters from different places in the world and about different cultures. I want to find books in which characters figure out how to solve disagreements compassionately. I want to find books that the characters face hardships, and though they may not solve all of their problems, they still find sparks of happiness. I want to provide a wide basis of characters for my kids to fall in love with and learn alongside.

We're Getting Intentional with our Children's Books

Let’s Choose Intentional Children’s Books

This is a little overwhelming- there are soooooo many books to choose from and not near enough time to read through them all. Luckily we’re starting early- Nora’s only 2.5 and just starting into the “big kid” books, and Charlie’s just starting to get into his touch and feel books. I’ve started looking at lists of intentional children’s books on different blogs, finding different classics that are classic for a reason, and just trying out different books at the library. Nora’s an eager book listener, so she’ll definitely be our guinea pig as we figure out which books are worth adding to our shelves and which just don’t fit.  I’d love to hear if any of you have books you love dearly- both intentional and just fun ones to get us started. We’re just starting to fill our bookshelves with true children’s picture books, and I need help finding the ones that will help us instill the values we hold dear in our kiddos <3

Read More:

Fostering a Love of Books from Early On

Fun Indoor Activities Both You and Your Kids will Love 

*https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/13/685533353/a-playful-way-to-teach-kids-to-control-their-anger

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