Revisiting the New Year’s Resolution: Building a Diverse Home Library

My New Year’s resolution was to stock my daughter’s library with diverse books and, I’m happy to say, this is one resolution I’ve been able to keep. In particular, here are three books that we’ve added recently that my daughter really likes.

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Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim

My favorite part of this book is the roly-poly little girl who sings a song with her dad before bedtime.

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Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

This book is a good one for babies who are turning into toddlers with a little girl who makes every toddler-move in the book.

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Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang

I remember reading this book as a child and this bedtime countdown book is becoming a classic.

Our home library is filling up with well-written and delightfully illustrated diverse board books. However, I’m still on the hunt for books that feature multi-racial families.

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Toddler Time: You Know You’re Reading with a Toddler When…

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It’s happened—my baby has become a toddler. And, despite my desire to sit and read stacks of books, the way we used to before she was mobile, our reading has changed.

You know you’re reading with a toddler when:

“No” Comes into Play

Before toddlerhood, she accepted most books that were put in front of her (to be fair, she’s always had a few titles that she refused to read). Now, many of the books that I choose are met with a vigorous shaking NO of her head.

It’s Time to Play Favorites

No longer do I get to choose what to read, now my daughter has the books that she wants to hear, and that’s it. We’re starting to diverge on our favorites. Enter the “If I have to read If You’re Happy and You Know It one more time…” phase.

No More Captive Audience

My daughter is also no longer a captive audience. She’s figured out how to squirm off of a lap or the couch, so if she’s not 100% interested in what The Little Blue Truck is doing in the city, she’s off to the next big thing.

Time to Take Initiative

On the other hand, she’s still seeking books out on her own and spends time reading them—flipping through the pages, looking at pictures, and making little motions to go along with some of them. All this can only mean one thing—she’s forming her identity as a reader.

(Photo from http://www.vegbooks.org)

In January, I made my New Year’s Resolution to build a library with diverse board books. Here are some of the books that I’ve added to our library:

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I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, the fun in this book is in the message as well as in the little girl whose features and coloring are not clearly defined.

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A You’re Adorable by Martha Alexander, the illustrations in this book do contain kids from multiple backgrounds.

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Baby Faces by DK Publishing, true to the title, this book features a range of baby faces.

Maybe because I’m specifically looking for African American diversity, those texts seem easiest to find. Some other books that feature African American diversity:

Peek-a-boo Morning by Rachel Isadora

Who’s Toes are Those? By Jabari Asim

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

One, Two, Three, Crawl! By Carol Thompson

What board books have you found that have a range of diverse images?

Something to Talk About: Books that Demand Conversation

The New York Times recently reported on e-reading with young children—is it screen time or story time? The author points out that when young children read e-books they have lower reading comprehension, likely because the kids interact more with the device than the text. Kids also lose the social component of reading; in terms of learning, interacting with a screen is still no match for real-life conversation.

While I’m sure that reading e-books can be beneficial, especially as kids get older and are using interactive books during playtime, engaging kids with print books provides more than an e-reader can. The article mentions how parents were redirecting their kids’ use of the interactive storybook, making the experience about the device rather than the text. It occurs to me that that’s one of the nice things about reading a book—it’s all about time. When parents are reading with their kids, they have to be one-on-one (or two or three-on-one, but still, a low ratio). That ratio opens up a different type of interaction for parents and kids.

Of course, great kids books provide tons to talk about, from the pictures to what happens next. Still, in the spirit of early reading conversations, I’ve compiled a list of books that demand participation from the youngest readers:

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Are You a Cow? and Moo, Baa, LaLaLa by Sandra Boynton

Both of these books ask students to chime in either by confirming that they are NOT a pig, lamb, or hippo, or adding their voice to the mix of animal sounds.

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Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

This book is also filled with questions and ponderings about where a bunny could live as he hops from animal house to house.

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Mr. Brown can Moo, Can You? By Dr. Seuss

Implicit in the title, Mr. Brown expects us to make noises just to show that we can.

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Don’t Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Willems is a master at creating space for conversation in his books and the pidgeon books present one character that kids can talk back to.

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What do You do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins

This book, more informational than narrative, encourages kids to put their knowledge of animals to work as they talk about noses, tails, and more.

Board Book Round-Up: Top 5 Board Book Authors

I’ve been reading a lot of board books lately (my audience is one 5-month-old) and board books, because they are read over and over, can be delightful or dismal. Over the past five months, I’ve developed a list of authors that I seek out. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 board book authors:

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Sandra Boynton

Boynton is the board book queen. With titles like Belly Button Book, Hippos Go Berserk, and Are You a Cow? her books are whimsical, fun, charming, and make incredibly economic use of language.

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Karen Katz

Katz’s books from Counting Kisses to The Babies on the Bus (a rendition of The Wheels on the Bus that actually has plot development) make for roly-poly reading.

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Margaret Wise Brown

If Boynton is the queen of board books, Brown is the tsar. She wrote the insurmountable Good Night Moon (who doesn’t have that on their baby’s nightstand?) as well as my favorite The Runaway Bunny and the charming Big Red Barn. Hers are stories that your kids will read to their kids and on and on.

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Mary Brigid Barrett

Barrett’s rhymes in Pat-A-Cake and All Fall Down are winsome, and she seamlessly incorporates children and families of various ethnicities into her illustrations.

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Mary Murphy

Murphy’s simple illustrations and story lines (for books such as Quick Duck, I Kissed a Baby, and Slow Snail) are fun to read and the illustrations are clean, crisp drawings that delight.

On Board Books

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Some of my favorite memories of childhood are of reading. My mother read us chapters from classics from The Little House in the Big Woods to The Hobbit each night before we went to bed. So, when I had my own daughter, now 3-months-old, I knew that I wanted to read to her, a lot.

 

The American Association of Pediatrics now recommends that parents read to their babies starting from birth. James Perrin, president of the AAP told CNN that fewer than half of children younger than five are read to daily. Reading, singing, and talking to babies increases kids exposure to language and decreases the word gap that can occur when babies aren’t exposed to as much language. (For more on reading to young children, check out Too Small to Fail.)

 

Of course, reading to babies improves babies’ language skills, but I think it also establishes expectations and habits. I want my daughter to expect to read daily and to be able to sit, listen, and engage with books (turning pages, eventually talking about pictures) for long periods of time (right now, her maximum is about 15 minutes).

 

Reading stacks of board books every day has also given me a new appreciation for the genre. So, I’ve compiled a list of what makes a good board book:

  • Creative Language: It goes without saying that in a board book, every word matters because they are, obviously, meant to be read aloud. Still, some are more fun than others. Consider this from Sandra Boynton’s Hippos Go Berserk: All through the hippo night, hippos play with great delight. But at the hippo break of day, the hippos all must go away. Text like that is word candy.
  • Interesting Art: Babies’ eyes take a few seconds to focus, and if she’s really into a picture, I let her stare at it, which means I’m staring too. The new series of BabyLit board books (think: Baby Pride and Prejudice, Baby Alice in Wonderland, and Baby Romeo and Juliet) are great for this. Each page is a visual feast, I’m constantly finding something new in the images.
  • Something to Appreciate: Reading board books is all about the kids, but it’s nice to think, while you’re reading, that you’re conveying a message of diversity or environmentalism or acceptance. Recently, for us, Mary Brigid Barrett’s books Pat-A-Cake and All Fall Down have reinforced a message of diversity with illustrations that feature diverse children and families..
  • Subtext for Parents: The more you read a book, the more you can read into it. Case in point: a friend was reading Sandra Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus She closed it, looked up, and shook her head. “Deep,” she said, “everyone can’t always be included.” That’s good stuff (but not the armadillo).

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Add these books to your board book library:

 

  • Sandra Boynton wrote Hippos Go Berserk, But Not the Hippopotamus, and tons of other awesome books.
  • Gibbs Smith wrote the Baby Lit series, which features my favorite book Alice in Wonderland: A Color Primer.
  • Mary Brigid Barrett wrote Pat-a-Cake, All Fall Down, and other books that I can’t wait to read