Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Raised by Readers

Few things make a better gift for a child than a book, in my mind. Toys wear out, clothes are outgrown, gadgets wane in popularity. But a book is forever, in the sense that it opens the mind and the heart to new ideas, and for a young child provides an excellent opportunity for one-on-one time with an adult. The one gift my niece and nephews could always count on was a book, like it or not!

Sprout is fortunate to have several adults in his life who give books as gifts (this is what happens when your mom and dad are avid readers, and their friends are too). To my delight he is as thrilled by a new book as he is by a Thomas engine, and that's saying a lot. And we always welcome an addition to the reading rotation, as it usually comes just when we think we can't read Goodnight Moon one more time without losing our marbles.

One friend in particular seems to have an innate knack for finding fun, engaging titles that also happen to celebrate diversity. We always get excited when a package comes from Miss Mary, because it is guaranteed to have great books inside! Even as I type this, Sprout and Daddy are reading our very favorite, Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury. We love this one for lots of reasons -- it's fun to act out (wiggling fingers and toes), it features illustrations of babies who are all kinds of cute, and it has the big finale, where Mama's baby gets "three little kisses on the end of its nose". Of course, we always plant three kisses on Sprout at the end, and he giggles in anticipation all through the book. What could be more fun? Such a great read-aloud!

Another gift from Miss Mary was, appropriately, Mary Had a Little Lamb by Jonas Sickler. This title is in the Indestructibles line of books, which are, as promised, darn near impossible for a baby to ruin. Seriously! Skip the fragile pop-ups and lift-the-flaps, or at least postpone them until your kiddo is read. T
hese books can be bent, squashed, chewed, pulled, wadded up and drooled on (and don't think they won't be). I've found ours folded up at the bottom of the train bin and stuffed into the couch cushion, and you'd never know it. Oh, and did I mention? In this version Mary and her woolly little friend live in Africa! We like to point out to Sprout that the hut in the pictures is similar to those in the village where he lived. This is a great way to bring two cultures together. Also look for their version of Old MacDonald, whose farm is in Bolivia. Love it!

For Christmas, Miss Mary sent us Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim. Not only is this fun to read aloud, with its rhythmic text and creative premise, but it's also a true pleasure to look at. The chubby-legged boy in question is depicted legs-only in various poses, from lounging on a boat to marching up a stair, and everything in between. In the last spread the oh-so-adorable boy is revealed, grinning devilishly like he's really pulled one over on you. Sprout likes to point at it and say "Me!", and it actually does look a lot like him, especially that gleeful smile. I really love this one, and will be on the lookout for more titles by Asim as well as by illustrator LeUyen Pham (and check out Pham's website, if you want to see something really fun).

Every kid should be as lucky as we are, to have family and friends who value books and want to share them. If, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child, then a village full of booklovers is just who we want for Sprout. And we'll do the same for others.

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