by Susan Straub and KJ Dell’antonia, with Rachel Payne
Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2013.
I am a big fan of books about books. I am an enormous fan of books about kids’ books. You might say, then, that this book is preaching to the converted with me as its reader, but I am confident in saying that it’s an excellent guide for any parent and it’s an especially good idea for a shower gift for a new parent. One of my go-to baby shower gifts is a starter library for the new baby, complete with our family’s favourites from the touch and feel, shapes, opposites, numbers, ABCs, nursery rhyme and bedtime favourites categories. Now, I will be able to include this guide to reading to babies and toddlers along with the selection of our favourite books for baby’s first years.
Why read to babies? Well, the authors have a ready answer for that:
She’s getting your undivided attention without having to cry or perform for it. She’s getting a safe snuggle in your arms unrelated to feeding, burping or rocking. She gets to be together with you while words wash over and around her. If she likes being read to, consider it an early investment in a fabulously calming activity you can share for a long time to come.
She’s also getting an introduction to books and language. If you want reading, storytelling, and the amazing world of the imagination to be a part of your child’s very being, if you want books to be part of the air she breathes, read early, and read often. You’ll have a baby who’s never known–and can’t imagine–a world without books.
Reading with Babies is, first and foremost, a great resource for finding great books to read with babies and toddlers. There are lists of recommended titles on topics from airplanes to zoos and everything in between, including potty training, sibling rivalry, disability and, yes, even death. There is even a list of books about mothers: “Moms: Perfect, and Not-So!” The three authors have long and established careers in children’s books, and the lists are brilliantly curated. This is the second edition of the book, so we know that it has staying power, as well as having up-to-the minute recommendations of recently published books. In addition to recommendations, the authors will frequently cite studies and research on children’s learning, and I found those passages equally useful. Each chapter ends with a chart of developmental stages and suggestions for how to match your reading to the stage your child is currently at. Again, this is a welcome twist on the “Best-of” genre of books about children’s books.
I did find this book to be very American in its outlook, and although the authors are careful to include selections of books from around the world, I found myself doing a double-take every time the authors mention that a book under discussion is available in English and Spanish. The book is available in Canada, but Canadians are certainly not the primary audience, and there are no suggestions for French books.
A very pleasant surprise at the end of the book were chapters on e-books, audio books, apps, computer games (yes, for toddlers), and television. Here, too, are lists of recommendations as well as on-line places to go to add to those lists, since the technology evolves so quickly. The authors approach these media as, well, media, and argue for an early start to media literacy in a media-saturated world. I was particularly grateful for their pointing to resources to help weed through the thousands of apps available to kids. And I was delighted to see that many of our favourite board books are also available as interactive apps. I’m sorely tempted to download them, even though Goodnight, Moon and Moo, Baa, La La La have gone out of circulation these days.
Nostalgia. That’s probably the key to my love of books about children’s books. Luckily, this book delivers not only on evoking a nostalgic look back at the Goodnight, Moon days, it gives those in the midst of them a valuable resource to create their own lists of favourites from infancy.
This book was sent to us for review by the publisher.