Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: For the Love of Books

"There are many little ways
to enlarge your child's world.
Love of books
is the best of all."

~Jacqueline Kennedy ~

At a young age, I developed a love for books. I remember my mom encouraging me to read often. She'd sign me up for the library's reading program each summer, and I recall keeping tally of the books I finished. My mom also shared with me several books she enjoyed in her childhood. A favorite was a collection of poems, which included "Casey at the Bat" and "The Highwayman." Perhaps one of my fondest memories is the time my mom read aloud to my brother and me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series. Each day I could hardly wait for her to read the next chapters in the book.

And now that I am a mom, I desire to pass on a love of books to my son Hayden. One of my favorite activities with him is reading books together. I love it when he gathers a large stack of books in his arms and plops them in front of me for storytime. And I love it when he climbs up into our reclining chair in the den with one of the books, finds a comfy spot on my lap, and says, "Please read me this book, Mommy."

As best I can, I try to bring the books to life, varying the characters' voices and adding emphasis during the dramatic parts. I love to watch and listen to him as the story unravels--he imitates a dinosaur or a choo-choo train, giggles at a silly saying, and points his finger at interesting illustrations. When we finish the book, he often wants to read the same book again or jumps out the chair to grab a different one.

I'm thrilled to watch Hayden develop an interest and love for books. As a recent addition to his bedtime routine, we allow him to browse through books in his bed until he falls asleep. I'm amazed at how this has been soothing to him. Before we began this routine, he struggled to fall asleep in his bed without either his dad or me in the room with him. Now, I can leave him in his room alone as he flips through a stack of books until he eventually falls asleep.

Like many moms and their children, we have our favorite books. I must admit, as I browsed through the books in our home, I discovered I have many favorites, probably too many to list here. But I thought I'd share some with you today.

I'd love to hear about your family's favorite children's books!

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss: I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss (you'll see few of his books on my list), and I love Horton the Elephant. He's so kindhearted and, oh, so devoted! A great example for the kiddos! One of my favorite lines in the book is at the end when the crowd of people at the circus run into the tent where the egg has just hatched:

"My goodness! My gracious!" they shouted. "MY WORD!
It's something brand new!
And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that!
Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat!
He meant what he said and he said what he meant . . . . "
. . . And they sent him home
One hundred per cent!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: As a child, I loved this Christmas story. I especially looked forward to the cartoon airing on TV during the Christmas season. And guess what? I still love it, and so does my son. I must admit I always feel sorry for poor little Max, hitched in front of the sleigh with an antler tied to his head. A favorite section in this book is when the Grinch hears every Who in Who-ville singing:

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could this be so?
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!"

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: As a mom, this book is a favorite because I secretly hope it will influence my little one to be more open-minded in trying different types of foods. (Although, with age he's becoming more brave and every so often he'll try something new.) When Hayden and I read this one, I often have him fill in the words. I will read: "Could you, would you with a . . . " And he replies, "Goat!" Then I read on: "Could you, would you in a . . . " And he blurts out, "Boat!" Recently, he's been pulling this book off the shelf every day for our storytime together.

The Hippo-NOT-amus by Tony and Jan Payne: We purchased this book at a Scholastic book fair at Hayden's school two years ago, and it fast became a favorite for both of us. It's about a little hippo named Portly who doesn't want to be a hippo anymore. So he goes on a journey in search of another type of animal he can be. Along the way, he meets a rhino, a bat, an elephant, and a giraffe and tries to change himself so he is like each of them. But he soon discovers he longs to be back home, standing up to his eyes in water all day and eating "boring old grass all day." When he returns home, his mother asks him, "What sort of creature are you?" And Portly replies, "I'm a hippo-gir-ele-bat-onoceros." This is a fun book!

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney: I never tire of reading this book to Hayden. One of our favorite parts is at the end: "Llama llama red pajama gets two kisses from his mama . . . " Every time I read this, I give Hayden two kisses on his forehead, and he looks up at me and smiles. I love those moments! One other favorite section, which makes me giggle every time I read it, is:
Baby Llama,
what a tizzy!
Sometimes Mama's
very busy.

Please stop all this

llama drama
and be patient
for your mama.
The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming: I thoroughly enjoy reading books to Hayden with animal sounds. They are so much fun! This book is about a cow who wakes up one morning and discovers she's lost her moo. So she visits the animals on the farm, greeting each with a "cluck, cluck" as she tries to find her moo. In this book, you can "bzzzzz, bzzzzz" like a bee, "glub, glub" like a fish, "squeak, squeak" like a mouse, "chee, chee," like a squirrel, and make many other silly animal sounds. Another book similar to this one that we like to read is a book called The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most.

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: Have I mentioned Hayden LOVES dinosaurs? A day isn't complete unless he's played with his dinosaurs, crawled around and roared like a scary T-Rex, and sat with his dad or me to read one of his many dinosaur books. This dinosaur book is silly and educational. It teaches kids about good manners at the dinner table. I particularly enjoy this book because Hayden giggles and responds to the questions in the first half of the book. For example, the book asks, "How does a dinosaur eat all his food? Does he spit out his broccoli partially chewed?" And Hayden responds with an emphatic "No!" Then I read on: "Does he bubble his milk?" Hayden laughs and says, "Yes." And this is because Hayden likes to make bubbles in his milk. :-)

Jungle Drums by Graeme Base: This is a beautifully illustrated book with an exciting tale about Africa's smallest warthog name Ngiri Mdogo. The warthogs and other beautiful jungle animals tease and laugh at poor Ngiri because he is so small. Then he meets Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest, and she gives him a set of magic drums. So that night Ngiri beats his hooves on the drums and makes a wish to be changed. The next morning, he finds he's the same, but the other animals have changed. And this when the drama unravels. As a fun addition to this book, the author hid images of Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest on each of the spreads, and some of them are difficult to find.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale Retold by Angela Elwell Hunt: For Hayden's first Christmas, my brother and his family gave him this book, and it is unlike any book we own. It tells a beautiful story about "three trees whose wishes come true in a surprising way." Every time I read this book, I cry. It is such a deep and enriching story.


  1. I love this post. One of the best gifts my mom gave me is the hours she spent reading to me. Especially poignant is the memory of her sitting in the hallway between my brother and my bedrooms while she read Where the Red Fern Grows.

    I've continued the tradition with my own children. I could probably pay off our house if someone would give me even a small wage for every hour I spent reading over the last 18 years. I still read to my younger two!

    Thanks for your book choices. I'm a Dr. Suess fan, too. Some other favorites where they were little were: But No Elephants, Good Night Moon, and Love You Forever. We also read tons of Curious George. My favorite children's book hands down is the Velveteen Rabbit. Don't know that the kids would agree about that one, but oh how I love it.

    I remember being frustrated when the kids were really little at how few good toddlers/preschool books there were that had any kind of spiritual foundation. I thought I was reading and reading and that if I was going to spend that kind of time I also wanted them to learn about Jesus. Most spiritual books had boring pictures or too many words on a page. I was thrilled when the Toddler's Bible came out. I also loved Read-Aloud Bible stories volumes I&II by Lindvall because the illustrations were great and they writing was age appropriate.

    Thanks Juliet for a great post.

  2. Paula - Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories about reading with your mom and with your kids! I, too, love the Velveteen Rabbit. I'm hoping my son will enjoy it as he gets older (the version we have doesn't have many pictures, so it's difficult keeping his attention at three). I'll have to check out the Read-Aloud Bible stories by Lindvall. We have a few young children's Bibles, but I don't think we have that one.