Reading to Babies

For those of you with young children, you know that reading to a baby is much different than reading to a toddler. The youngest babies are still being held in your arms and don’t crawl away! Infants sleep a lot and may have their eyes closed much of the time even when not asleep. And, an infant doesn’t respond with a smile when you read, like a toddler will.

But know that reading aloud to your baby is giving him or her the best start in life. Your little child is like a sponge soaking up all the loving attention of being held, and absorbing the many sounds in the words you are saying. Read aloud is creating a bond with your baby that lasts a lifetime, connecting the joy of being with you to the joy of books.

Soon enough, in just 6 short weeks, your little baby will start smiling and you’ll see a happy response to all the books you’ve been reading aloud. Babies smile with their whole bodies, stretching and squirming in delight! Even when babies don’t know the meaning of the words you are reading and saying, they are beginning to discriminate sounds and associate read aloud time with snuggle time. CountingKisses

You are feeding your baby a diet of words when you read aloud. Over time your baby will begin to know what words mean and respond to the pictures and story in books. It’s a magical process!

You can read any book to an infant, but you may want to start collecting board books that are sturdy enough to go through the teething stage coming up for your baby. Choose books that you like to read aloud, that flow nicely or have rhyming, sing-songy text. Books that have silly, repetitive sounds are great too. Babies are most interested in photographs of people’s faces and books that show daily family life. Experiment with different books at different ages and see what your baby likes most.

Books for Babies:

  • “Flip Flap Fly” by Phyllis Root. Rhyming text and beautiful words describe how baby animals move through the world.
  • “Whose Toes are Those?” by Jabari Asim. Wiggle toes, touch a nose, and tickle your little baby!
  • “Baby Dance” by Ann Taylor. Dad and baby twirling, lifting, swinging, around and around.
  • “Moo, Baa, La, La, La” by Sandra Boynton. Silly farm sounds that repeat keep a baby engaged.
  • “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear” by Annie Kubler. A classic nursery rhyme with friendly teddy bears.
  • “Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz. How many kisses does a baby need? Hundreds!
  • “Splash!” by Roberta Grobel Intrater. It’s bath time! Full of beautiful baby faces and wet, wonderful words!

To learn more about a baby’s read-aloud stages and find more book suggestions, read the grown-up book, “Baby Read Aloud Basics” by Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez.

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April 11, 2014 · 12:11 pm

Spring into Read-Aloud

What are signs of spring? Warm sun, eggs hatching, grass growing, green! Flowers blooming, rain falling, baby animals, windy breeze! Even though the weather has been wintery, the official first day of spring is March 20. Let’s say good-bye to the cold and hello to warm days ahead.

Here are some springtime books to read aloud as you anticipate the new season with your young child:

“Cheep! Cheep!” by Julie Stiegemeyer, illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee. There’s a chick on his way to being born, “cheep!” There are only seven different rhyming words in this book, but a hatching story is told. The illustrations are simple collage of fabric, clay, and other materials that young children will adore.

“Baby Bird’s First Nest,” written and illustrated by Frank Asch. One warm night, Baby Bird fell out of her nest. Frog helps her gets cozy on the ground and then back home in the tree where Baby Bird belongs. This is a story about bravery and persistence.

“Spring is Here,” written and illustrated by Lois Lenski. Originally published in 1945 and now back in print, this cheerful, rhyming book is illustrated with “old-fashioned” pictures.


“This Little Chick,” written and illustrated by John Lawrence. A long-legged, yellow chick gleefully visits all the farm animals and their babies. In rhyming verse with a repeating refrain, Little Chick skips and jumps and finds out what noise each of them say.  The pictures look like woodcuts stamped in block of color.

“It’s Spring!” by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. A very cute, hopping rabbit bounces through this book gathering animal friends and announcing, “It’s spring!” One by one all the signs of spring appear, including a bear family, waking from their long winter’s nap.

“The Windy Day,” by Frank and Devin Asch. This father and son team created a book told from the wind’s point of view. What would you do if you were the wind? A little girl finds out and she tumbles, glides, and soars.

“Mouse’s First Spring,” by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan.  The illustrations are rounded and colorful, the story full of vivid descriptions of the many discoveries young mouse makes that signal that spring has arrived. This is one of a series of “Mouse’s First” books.

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March 25, 2014 · 2:41 pm

Let’s Read More!

Have you ever read a book that you just don’t want to end? You’ve grown to know and love the characters. You ache for them as they face challenges, cheer them on as they begin adventures, and celebrate their triumphs… and then, the story’s done! It feels like you’ve lost a friend!

The way to continue the relationship with these new-found friends, is to read books that come as a series – multiple stories about the same characters with new challenges, adventures, and triumphs.

Series books are written for all ages. Beginning with the youngest listeners, there are groups of books that use the same characters to explore a child’s world. Helen Oxenbury has a series of four board books:  “All Fall Down,” Clap Hands,” “Tickle, Tickle,” and “Say Goodnight,” that are all the same-sized, square books featuring the same cute, round headed children doing baby things.  Also popular with young children are the “Baby Face” books that all have photos of real babies.

You can keep up with the adventures of “Spot,” the yellow dog, in Eric Hill’s many books about the lovable canine. If your child likes the story by Don Freeman of how the mischievous bear “Corduroy,” comes to live at Lisa’s house, make sure to also read “A Pocket for Corduroy” and the other books about this same fuzzy stuffed animal with shoe-button eyes.

Corduroy Bear

Nancy Carlson’s plucky character Louanne Pig, Rosemary Wells’ bunny siblings Max and Ruby, Kevin Henkes’ feisty girl mouse Lilly, and Tedd Arnold’s boy frog Huggly all have many books written about each of them, so when your child befriends one character, you can read more books about that same individual. As the personality and behavior of the character becomes clear, your child can start predicting what that character will do in the story. Where is Louanne going to ride on her bike? Will Max and Ruby get into trouble this time?

Older children will enjoy series books such as “The Box Car Children,” by Gertrude Chandler Warner, about four children on their own. (There are over 100 books in this series.) For some American history, read the autobiographical “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her family’s trek across the New Frontier. In this collection of books you’ll read about Laura as a young girl and witness her growing up and finally get married in the 9th book of the series. The series continues in books written by her children. There are also series of books about “The Magic Treehouse,” “Cam Jansen,” “Harry Potter,” “Redwall,” and many, many others.

To relate these books to real life, pick out some activities from your child’s favorite stories to do at home. Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters (like Lilly does in “Chester’s Way”), create a pocket with paper and tape (like Corduroy’s) or make an old-fashioned bonnet out of a paper bag and string (like Laura Ingalls wore on the prairie). For more titles of books in a series, ask your school or public librarian.

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March 6, 2014 · 2:10 pm

100 Great Children’s Books at the New York Public Library


I’m always on the lookout for recommended children’s books and was happy to recently come across the New York Public Library’s top 100 at They also have lists of “best” picture books, baby and toddler books, and easy books for children ages 4-6.

The “100 Great Children’s Books |100 Years” list was compiled on the occasion of the NYP Library’s exhibition “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” on display now through September 7, 2014 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, adjacent to the main library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

This exhibit highlights children’s books that have become classics and what those books reveal about the time periods and societies in which they were written. The library says about the exhibit, “Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time.” The library hopes to show us that good children’s books stay with us and motivate us to learn more and read more.

Here are some of the books that made the library’s top 100 list, with their descriptions. Are any of them your family’s favorites?

  • “Bark, George” by Jules Feiffer (1999) He meows, quacks, oinks, and moos, but why can’t George the dog bark?
  • “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle (1967) A gentle rhyming delight in a storytime classic.
  • “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina (1938) Naughty monkeys prove a challenge for an innocent cap seller.
  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman (1976) A little stuffed bear searches in vain for the button that will help to get him adopted.
  • “Freight Train” by Donald Crews (1978) A train ride to remember with bold colors galore!
  • “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say (1993) A young man struggles with both loving his new land and feeling homesick for the Japan he left behind.
  • “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gág (1928) When an old man sets off to find a cute little kitty, he ends up with millions of cats, billions of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.
  • “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats (1962) A little boy explores the first city snow of the year from snow angels to a snowball tucked away safely into his pocket.
  • “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989) All he was doing was trying to borrow some sugar.  Alexander T. Wolf tells his side of the story.
  • “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (2004) Woolly kooks go amuck in this seemingly simple story.

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Filed under children's books, classics

The Book I Threw Away

I threw away my first book the other day. I don’t believe in censorship, but this was a book I never want a young child to see, so it ended up in my trash. My cast-off was a board book, a book with each page made of thick cardboard constructed especially for babies who might be exploring a book by chewing and handling. The title of this baby book was “Star Wars: Villains.”

The cover featured a picture of Darth Vader’s black helmeted head with his light saber, ever ready.  Inside were pictures of all the major bad guys in the Star Wars movies. Online I found that there is a companion book called “Star Wars: Heroes.”

It’s not that I think that “Villains” would be especially harmful to read to a baby, but why would anyone think a baby would even be interested? Scary faces from a PG movie? The format is the wrong choice for the content.  The publishers are marketing to parents, not to little babies.

This is the sad fate of many great picture books, too. A good selling book, or in the case of Star Wars, a good selling story turned phenomenon, is marketed to parents of babies to broaden potential sales. Some picture books translate well into board books, but some do not. If the content is too complex, the pictures too detailed, or the story too long, the picture book may not make the best board book.

Board books are a wonderful invention and the perfect way to introduce books to the smallest of children. It’s easy to find lots of great board books to buy or to borrow, just keep baby in mind when you are choosing.

Babies like to look at pictures that are bold and colorful (black and white for newborns) or people’s faces. Babies like to hear rhythm and rhyme, so a good story read aloud is like music to their ears. Babies are beginning to learn the names of things so they also like books with just a few words that relate to their world.

Here are some recommended board books that are just right for newborn babies through 18 months. Have fun reading to your little one!

“Baby Dance” by Ann Taylor
“Baby Faces,” a DK bookTen, Nine, Eight“Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz
“From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle
“I Like It When” by Mary Murphy
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” by Annie Kubler
“Peek-a-Boo” by Roberta Grobel Intrater
“Say Goodnight” by Helen Oxenbury
“Ten, Nine, Eight” by Molly Bang

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Filed under board books, books for babies, books for toddlers, family reading

Well-Loved and Recommended

I usually peruse the library, book stores, and look online for children’s books to recommend to families, but this week I asked my young friends Lucas, age 8, and Oliver, age 5, to tell me their top 5 favorite picture books. Of course, these are their favorite books at the moment. I know how these things can change! Here’s what they chose:

“Otis” by Loren Long.  An old red tractor named Otis and a young calf are best of friends on the farm. They play games together and keep each other company… until, the farmer decides to buy a big shiny yellow tractor. Otis sits in the overgrown grass and feels like he’s not useful… until, his calf friend gets stuck in the muck in the pond. Then… see what happens! The theme of enduring friendship is a good one to introduce to children .


“Good Night Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. Looking at this well-worn board book from the boys with the spine falling apart, I can see that it has been a favorite for a long time. The inside cover is inscribed “To Baby Lucas, for many a good night’s sleep! We love you, Uncle Jeremy and Aunt Mary Ellen.” Doesn’t that just tug at your heartstrings? Lucas has had this book since birth—no wonder it’s a favorite. This classic story is entwined with years of memories the boys have of snuggling up and reading with mom or dad, grandma or grandpa—maybe even Uncle Jeremy and Aunt Mary Ellen. This book is a reminder of family times, so I’m sure it will remain precious to the boys long after they’ve outgrown it.

“Oliver” by Syd Hoff. Hmmm, maybe my friend Oliver who picked out this book is just a little bit fond of the title! The story is an “I Can Read” picture book, meaning that there are short sentences and a limited vocabulary for children to know so they can more easily read the book out loud themselves. This is an endearing tale of an elephant who unexpectedly arrives in a big city after a journey across the ocean on a boat. He tries out many ways to fit into the city, such as being someone’s pet, selling peanuts at the park, and using his trunk as a slide for children to play on. Nothing is really satisfying until Oliver finds out he can dance and joins the circus.

“Rain, Rain, Everywhere” by Christine Leeson, illustrated by Gaby Hansen. Little Molly Mouse and her 3 mouse siblings go out to play on a sunny day. The sky turns darker and darker, then it rains and they look for shelter. Should they stay with the squirrel in his hole, in the harvest mouse’s nest, or in the rabbit’s burrow? In the end Molly generously finds a place for everyone to stay dry and makes new friends.

“Never, EVER Shout in a Zoo” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Doug Cushman. This story starts even before the words in the book, with little pictures on the title and copyright pages of a girl dropping her ice cream cone. When the cone falls, the “shout” happens, and a series of unlikely events tumbles out of the book. A giant, grouchy, grizzly bear, a big, bull moose, and clever, conniving apes are just a few of the animals that escape their cages and cause trouble you can’t even imagine. Filled with anticipation and humor just right for a young child.

Do you have children’s books to recommend to other families? Write to me at and I’ll post as many as I can on our Facebook page.

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Filed under family reading

Books for an Active Child

Running, jumping, and leaping; building blocks up and then crashing them down! Do you have a young child who plays rough and tumble games? An active youngster may be drawn to books about cars and trucks or wild animals and adventure.

Action books will hold that child’s attention, but see what happens when you read a more emotional book now and then. A book that has a story about compassion, thoughtfulness, and caring could broaden your child’s thinking and teach a few life skills.

See which one of these books your whirling dervish will sit down and enjoy.

“Officer Buckle and Gloria” by Peggy Rathmann. Officer Buckle gives very bumbling and boring presentations at schools. No one is interested until his companion dog Gloria starts flipping and twirling behind his back and changes his ho hum safety tips into lively entertainment. Embarrassed that his dog is stealing the show Officer Buckle quits his school tour! In the end Officer Buckle and Gloria realize they need each other to be a winning (and safe) team.

“Sheila Rae the Brave” by Kevin Henkes. Sheila Rae is the big sister who is the cool one, compared to her baby sister Irene. But, Sheila Rae’s confidence goes to her head and as she tries a new way home from school and then gets lost. Irene saves the day by showing her big sister the way. Sheila Rae finds she can be humble and Irene realizes she has a lot of common sense of her own.

Horace“Horace and Morris, but Mostly Dolores” by James Howe, illustrated by Amy Walrod. These three mice play very happily together until Horace and Morris decide to do “boy” things and exclude Dolores. Dolores decides to do “girl” things without her buddies. The three friends are divided because of what others expect them to do. They are all miserable being separated! Will they learn to be true to their own feelings?

“Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad” by Dave Soman and Jacky Davis. Ladybug Girl dresses up like a ladybug and her friends dress as insects too: Bumble Bee Boy, Dragonfly Girl, and Butterfly Girl. They are super-hero insects with special powers! When they all go home celebrate Ladybug Girl’s birthday, misunderstandings arise and they have to find a compromise.

“Don’t Touch My Hat” by James Rumford. This cowboy is the sheriff of a small Western town. He gets all his courage and determination from wearing his big ten-gallon hat. He doesn’t go anywhere without it, until he has to break up a fight in the middle of the night and grabs the wrong hat to wear. His wife tells him what he found out: “It’s your heart, not your hat” that keeps you feeling powerful.

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Filed under family reading, Feelings