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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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.

My Top 10 Children’s Books

Inspired by this Buzzfeed post about the 37 children’s books that changed lives, I’ve created my own list of ten books that changed my life as a reader.

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I always read this Sendak classic as an example of how imagination plays out in kids’ lives until I heard this NPR interview.

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A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss

This book’s simple explanations for everything—a hole is to dig, hands are to make things, the ground is to make a garden—is a revolutionary celebration of the everyday.

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Corduroy by Don Freeman

As a child, I was obsessed with the idea of what happened when night fell on the department store and Corduroy had free reign. (I’m not the only one; Slate editors discuss children’s books, including Corduroy, in this podcast.)

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The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The cyclical nature of this story was fascinating to me, as well as the personification of the little house.

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Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary

The antics of Ramona were worth reading, but I really related to the character of older sister Beezus.

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Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

There is a scene in this book, where a boy gets attacked by bees and has to wrapped up like a mummy in mud and cloth, that I could not get out of my mind.

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The Hobbit by J. R.R. Tolkien

For me, this book is a tribute to the power of reading aloud. When my mother read me this story, she created a voice for Gollum that haunted me up until and through seeing the movies 20 years later.

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

From the Doldrums to the Dodecahedron, The Phantom Tollbooth is full of language, ideas, and whimsical places and characters that stayed with me long afterwards.

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The Baby Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin

I believe I read every single book in this extensive series that, at the time, I desperately wanted to be my life. (Who, growing up in the 80s, didn’t start a baby sitter’s club at one time or another?)

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

I think Matilda is on every bookworm’s list. She’s the ultimate literary underdog, and Dahl creates the best everyday villans (long live the Trunchbull).

Now, finishing this list I’m thinking only about the books that I left out—Frances, Dr. Seuss, The Runaway Bunny, and on and on.