I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~Anna Quindlen
It was an odd feeling to see one of my first storyhour kids come in last night with his daughter. I can't possibly have been working here that long, can I? Well, I suppose so. This wasn't the first child of a former storyhour attendee that I've met. This is the first time I've had a conversation about books for babies/toddlers/children with a former kid. Crazy.
I vaguely remember being a new parent. Books were always part of my life, but it amazed me to see the different books that were available for kids. Who knew they had books specifically for babies? It was only after my oldest child was about six months old that we really got into reading. It was later that I went to a conference about early literacy and found out that I should have started reading to her at day one. Oh well. We made up for that in the years to come. What I remembered from when I was a kid reading, had been updated for my own child. Babies like black and white pictures, pictures of faces. They don't completely understand the words, so the words you use don't have to match the words on the page. You can read them anything! If you read while feeding the baby, read aloud. Books, magazines, newspapers, it really doesn't matter what. Tell stories without printed words. When they're babies they're just soaking it all up to be used later. Those words and stories come back later as a neurological pathway that's more like a highway.
The books for children have changed from when I was a kid. I don't really remember board books in my childhood. It's possible my youngest siblings were given them, but I was too cool for that. Books that are a bit more sturdy; books that will hold up to a child who is still exploring how things work and therefore throwing, eating, and standing on (among other things), books. As babies you have control over what you read to them. They get mobile, and chances are that you will be reading Goodnight, Gorilla over and over and over and over again.
There are books for kids that are not boring, that are funny, that don't rhyme, that are conversation starters, and the list goes on. If you grew up reading the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss and haven't checked out the children's section since, you're in for a happy treat. There are so many fun books. Books that are as much fun for you to read as they are for your child to listen to, look at, and memorize.
Kids will pick books you hate, books you don't enjoy, and books you'd rather they didn't. But that will come later. During the toddler years, you still have some control over the books in your house. Some. Bring a toddler to the library and chances are that you will come home with a book you aren't crazy about. Oh well, you can return it earlier than the due date. Books you hate might come into your house. It's okay if you tell your child that you don't really care for the book. At least, that's my opinion. You can have a little discussion about why you don't like it and let them respond with what they do like about it and emphasize that it's okay to have differing ideas. It's a good thing to let them pick out their own stories. The book may be pure torture to you; but if your kid likes it, read it at least once. Surround yourself with books you like, and chances are that your kids will bring you books you like.
Eventually they will be picking their own books without any help from you. If you read a lot of fun books, it won't be hard for them to do. It's a fun experience to watch your child's literary development. It's fun to see them select their own books. You just never know what they'll pick. For all the books they pick out for themselves, it's good to pick one out for you to read to them. Then you'll know that there is at least one choice in the house that doesn't make you cringe. While you're at it, pick one out for yourself. Then you can reward yourself for having had to read Clifford's Big Adventure again.
If you want some suggestions, stop in. We're full of them. I'd love to share some of my favorites with anyone who is willing to take them. I have a lot of favorites.