Monthly Archives: April 2014

Margaret Wise Brown was a Champion for Reading to Children

Goodnight Moon“Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown, may be the most recognizable children’s bedtime book in America. With its bold green, red, blue, and yellow illustrations by Clement Hurd, the whimsical story has seen many children to sleep. More than 14 million copies of the book have been sold since it was published in 1947.

The book begins, “In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of … the cow jumping over the moon.” This isn’t a story with a plot, but instead is the description of a bedtime ritual told through the eyes of a child, written by a woman who never really grew up herself.

Margaret Wise Brown was born in New York City in 1910 and died in 1952 at only 42 years old from complications from a surgical procedure. Brown never married or had children of her own but lived a life full of a magical reality.

She acted like a character in her own storybook: She spent her first earnings as an author on an entire flower cart full of flowers. In a Paris hotel, she brought giant orange trees and live birds into her room. On the island of Vinalhaven, Maine, she had a house she called “The Only House” where she kept a nightstand outside with a mirror nailed to a tree and stored eggs and butter in her well. Once she gave an illustrator two puppies to use as models but the pups licked off all the paint on the newly created paper illustrations!

There were times of frustration, but Brown wrote prolifically, with over 100 children’s books published in her lifetime. Many stories she would dream and then quickly write down in the mornings. Among her most well known books are “The Runaway Bunny” (1942), “Little Fur Family” (1946),“The Color Kittens” (1949), and “Big Red Barn” (1956). She wrote an additional 70 manuscripts, which went unpublished.

“Brownie,” as she was known to friends, had a gift for understanding a child’s thoughts and concerns and wrote about the common place with child-like wonder. She loved to create rhythm in her stories by using rhyming words and repeating word patterns. She often builds anticipation by leaving off the last word of a sentence so you have to turn the page to find out how it ends.

Margaret Wise Brown was a champion for reading to children. In her own words, “[A book] can jog [a child] with the unexpected and comfort him with the familiar, lift him for a few minutes from his own problems of shoelaces that won’t tie, and busy parents and mysterious clock time, into the world of a bug or a bear or a bee or a boy living in the timeless world of a story.”

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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