The saying goes that a Child who reads will become an adult who thinks, and since that has worked pretty well with the child’s parents (ahem!) I was determined to get Sucrose into reading books. But the journey didn’t start off like I expected. There were parents who were reading to their three month old child, and I was not doing that. Sucrose used to turn her head away distracted every time I tried reading a story for her. She didn’t seem interested when I read out stories even when she was as old as 8 months. It didn’t help matters that my husband Sanjay and my mother were master story tellers and would have her in rapt attention through out. I was happy she was lapping it up, but with books it was a slow journey. I really started buying books only after her first birthday and even then they were mostly to complement the books she received for her first birthday. In a way, I was thankful for all the books she received for her birthday as it took off the guessing from which book to buy for her and it did give me a chance to see what interested her.
Keeping that thought, here is a list of five books which kept her attention immensely to this day. I haven’t included My First Words or Parts of the body or Touch and Feel books, and have only concentrated on story books for children.
Spot Books – One of my dear friends had gifted a set of Spot books for Sucrose’s first birthday which were just perfect for her. This is a classic, written by Eric Hill and is colourfully illustrated with just a line in each page to read out to your baby. Initially, I had used those books only for show and tell. I would point out Spot’s friends hippo, dinosaur, monkey and other characters like the inquisitive cat, bird, his family and such to Sucrose, in addition to the many things happening on the page. This exercise helped improve her vocabulary and formed the basis for future reading. These books bring to focus Spot’s family members and friends. Since your darling would be having a similar experience as a baby, she would be able to associate with the characters shown in the book. This is a good buy. Available on Amazon India as individual books.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – This was the first one that made me realize the potential of a brilliant book on a child. Sucrose took to it like fish to water. The fantastic journey of the caterpillar through the seven days of the week, cut -outs in the book to show how the caterpillar ate through food in its hungry quest, the colourful illustrations – everything made this her most favourite book in her 1st year. I used to mimic getting a stomach ache as I read out the large fare the caterpillar ate on Saturday and she used to love it, making me read the list of foods again and again and laughing when I acted as if I got a stomach ache myself. Eric Carle has written this book with a great understanding of children that age. And that brings me to the next book in the list, written by him.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle – This book has whole page illustrations of single animals and birds in vivid colours. I love this book as a reader too. It is simple, rhyming and colourful. It is very cleverly designed to help children learn colours and names of animals and birds. Mine did it very easily and soon she started ‘reading’ out the whole story simply by seeing the pictures in the book. I have taken video of the way Sucrose reads the story and I am darned proud of her!
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell – When Sucrose started Montessori, the school encouraged reading in children and so they happened to have a library going on with parents sending five books each. As per Montessori rules, the books should not be those of animals talking or doing what animals or birds wouldn’t do – so I couldn’t send the Spot books or Polly Penguin or the many Pepper books. As a result, we received books that were merely sent to fill up the token 5 books in a bag. Many were on Good manners, parts of the body and such. And then, we got a pack of books from one of her friends which had Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell in it. This was a flap book which told the story of a child sending animals back to the zoo because they were unsuitable as a pet. This book was a delight. It led to many interesting reading with the lil one opening the flap to see which animal was going to visit. I particularly liked the words used to describe the animals – too big, too tall, too fierce…and so on. This one was a keeper. I have since bought My Presents by Rod Campbell. And she likes it too.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – After The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this was one book that was real value for money and an absolutely wonderful book for babies and toddlers. To this day, Sucrose asks me to read out the rhyming story of the bunny who says good night to all things in his room. Not only does this book have references to my favourite poem – The Cow Jumped over the moon, it also introduces the child to numbers in the form of words like – a pair of mittens, three little bears sitting on chairs etc. Also Sucrose loves the part where I would go, “and a quiet old lady who was whispering hush”, I would linger and repeat the word “hush” softer and softer just for emphasis. What I first thought as a publishing mistake, actually turned out to be a deliberate inclusion in the book, for as we turn the pages and as bunny says good night to the room and the light and the cats, the pages become darker and darker until at the last page, the colours are dim just like bunny’s room, The lights are off, the quiet old lady is gone and the kittens are sleeping peacefully curled up on a rocking chair while the mouse sits on the window sill watching the stars. I would recommend this wonderful book written by Margaret Wise Brown with illustrations by Clement Hurd which sits right next to our bed side table, to any parent who loves to read a good night story to her darling pet.
This list of course does not include the very many Parts of the Body, My first colours or 50 words to know or the touch and feel books. I have listed only story books which have held her attention during her first and second year as a baby. She still likes them but the dynamics has changed. She sometimes ‘reads’ these books herself, stringing a story from the pictures and illustrations, but what hasn’t changed is the timelessness of these books.
Don’t forget to drop in a line about books you read out to your little moppet. It will help improve the list and bring clarity to the choices available in the market.