Top 7 Books in Rhyme

Hey Diddle Dum

For the third week of Booktober, I have a compiled a list of our Top 7 books in rhyme, or poetry books. This was always going to be the hardest one for me to narrow down. I love poetry and I think rhyming picture books are just the greatest.

I agonised over what would make the final cut. It’s amazing how many great poems there are to read to kids. Early childhood is probably the time in most people’s lives when they are exposed to the most poetry. From songs and nursery rhymes, to the multitude of amazing books in rhyme. There are definitely some masterpieces that have been unfairly missed from this too short list.

But, in the end, I’m pretty happy with this list because it represents the books that are most special to us.

1. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Jan Brett

DSCF5064

Anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi mum!) could probably have guessed this one was going to make the list. The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite poem as a child and is my favourite to read (or sing) to my children. Pickles already knows it pretty much by heart.

The lyrical quality of Edward Lear’s writing is hypnotic. You can get lost in his words. And what wonderful words they are. Some of them are completely made up but they all fit together perfectly.

The story itself is great too. A sweet tale of love between an owl and a pussycat.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The board book version that we have is illustrated by Jan Brett. The illustrations are really magical. You see the owl and the pussycat adrift on their boat on top of the water. You also see all of the sea life under the water.

Pickles can’t get enough of the pictures. He particularly likes the fact that the owl and the pussycat have a fish in a bowl on their boat who escapes right at the end to join her love in the ocean. He loves to find her on each page.

The pictures tell their own separate but related story, which is always a wonderful thing in picture books as it opens up ongoing exploration and discussion of the book.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

DSCF5025

To be honest, this whole list could have been all Julia Donaldson books. Her books are all wonderful. But, oh, Room on the Room! Could this be the perfect picture book?

The book tells the story of a witch and her cat. They are quite content, just the two of them, riding around on their broom. One stormy day, the wind blows off the witch’s hat and so begins a series of events that sees the pair meet some new friends and face one terrifying foe.

I love this story because the witch is always happy to make room for new friends. Sometimes if I see Pickles determinedly heading outside on an adventure into the backyard, I will ask him: “Is there room on the broom for a mummy like me.” Invariably he will look delighted and shout “Yes!” And so off we’ll go together.

This was the first story he knew well enough to be able to talk about in detail. It is a great one for testing memory because I can ask him who found the witch’s hat, or wand, or bow. I am always surprised at how well he can remember.

Donaldson’s rhymes are always terrific. This is so much fun to read aloud. Scheffler’s pictures, too, are delightful. He is really able to bring the characters to life.

Just as with another one of Donaldson and Scheffler’s classics, The Gruffalo, this book also has an animated version which to date is the only “movie” that Pickles has watched all the way through. He may not have seen many but he’s seen this one dozens of times. It’s fabulous.

3. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

DSCF5076

I have had the rhyme from this book stuck in my head since primary school. I kid you not.

That is a lot of years; one severe case of ear worm.

I’ll be just be cooking a meal when suddenly I’ll have the urge to say: “Cinderella on the stairs I spy the three bears.” Or Pords will be crying and I’ll be thinking: “Baby Bunting fast asleep I spy Bo-Peep.” Or I’ll be asked the key question at a really important job interview and all I’ll be able to think is: “Wicked witch over the wood I spy Robin Hood.”

I really don’t know why this has stuck in my head the way it has for so many years, except for the fact that it’s so simple yet effective, and I read it over and over as a child. Now, as I read it over and over to my own children and I don’t even have to look at the words. I know the whole thing by heart.

The words aren’t even the best part of this book though. There is a built in game of I Spy in the pictures. So kids need to try and find the character to be spied in each picture. For older children this is a snap, but for toddlers, especially those who haven’t read it fifty times already, it can be challenging and fun.

The use of well known nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters makes it even more amusing for children. Pickles is going through a bit of a three bears craze a the moment so he especially likes the pages that feature them. These inclusions prompt further discussions about other books and stories that we’ve shared and make the book even more interactive and engaging.

This book has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why. A definite must for sharing with toddlers.

4.  The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

DSCF5092

Without fail, the ending of this book makes me smile every single time.

Four animal friends want to take shelter from a rainy day inside a snug cave. Unfortunately, a very cranky bear has already had the same idea. Three of the friends believe they have the solution by giving the bear the attributes of themselves of which they are most proud. They all think of the fourth friend, the sheep, as rather plain. However, in the end it is the sheep that has the answer when she makes a pillow for the bear from her wool.

“Well, thank you very much,” said Bear and soon he fell asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of a plain, but thoughtful sheep.

See, I’m smiling again. Well, let’s face it, if you can see me that’s a wee bit creepy. Hopefully you can’t in fact see me. Trust me, there’s a smile.

The book is a sheer pleasure. The pictures are vibrant and appealing. The clever use of rhyme makes it easy and enjoyable to read. It’s fun to do voices for all the different animals. There is everything to like about this book. Even better is that the cranky bear also features in other books. He’s itchy, hungry, noisy, and brave. He’s always a favourite in our house.

5. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Theo LeSieg

DSCF5047

My mum, who spent a long career working with young children, reported this as a favourite with pre-schoolers. She said that in one particular child care centre that she worked at, as soon as the children saw her they would run over and demand it be read. Part of that, no doubt, was that she has an exceptionally marvellous voice for reading children’s books aloud. The other part is the magic of Seuss (writing here as Theo LeSieg). It seems that even as he becomes dated he is timeless.

One of the magical things about Seuss books is their ability to get stuck in your head, much as a song might. When my toddler is being fussy about eating I often find myself thinking (and sometimes saying!) “Hay, just hay two times a day is all [you’ll] get to eat!” Such is the fabulous cadence of Seuss.

Particularly loveable about this book is that it follows the imaginings of a young child. The ideas might be silly, but the child is nothing but earnest. Earnest nonsense is nothing if not delightful. You can talk to your own children about what it might be like to have duck feet, or a long nose, or tail, or deer horns, or a whale spout on their head. Your children might imagine other additions that would be fun to have.

It is a perfect book for reading aloud and for sharing over and over again.

6. Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

DSCF5070

My husband and I once spent a great weekend away with dear friends of ours at Waratah Bay, which happens to be the home of Noni the Pony. So we feel a special connection with her.

This book shows the pure joy of a day spent at the beach with friends. In fact, often after reading it Pickles will say: “Go beach now” and that’s exactly how I feel too. The happiness of the characters leaps off the page through the bouncing rhyme and the gorgeous pictures, and just makes me want to go beach now.

Because we love to spend time at the beach, this book is a really good one for us in terms of incorporating connections to things that we have done. As I often stress, reading the actual text in the book is only part of reading with your children. Talking about the story, the characters, and the pictures is also key in terms of helping with your child’s language and other social development. Choosing books that things that your child loves can be useful in promoting this contextual discussion.

There are many things to love about this book. I love the special friendship between the pony, the cat, and the dog. I also love that the cows are referred to as “the ladies next door.” The whole thing is really adorable. Perfect for sharing.

7. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and Axel Scheffler

DSCF5124

This is a collection of poems rather than one story like the others on this list, but it is one of our favourites. Before Cats The Musical there were the T.S. Eliot poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. It has such wonderful characters: Skimbleshanks, Macavity, Mr Mistoffelees, and all the others.

This is a great book to have if you want to introduce your children to poetry at a young age. You can pick it up and just read one of the poems at a time, or as many as you like. I used to read them all the time to my babies as newborns.

Each of the poems tells a fantastic story. Some funny, some poignant, all a joy to read. They are especially great if you love cats or have cats as pets.

I think at its heart, this book is also about the magic of things. Children love elves and fairies and so on, but they also love to consider the lives of animals. It is not such a leap for them to imagine that the cat that spends all day asleep on the floor might at night have some wildly adventurous life.

Our copy of the book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has already appeared in this list for his work on Room on the Broom. His quirky and amusing pictures are a perfect pairing for these poems.

So there’s my list. What others would you add?

Facebooktwitterpinterest

Booktober

I’ve decided that this month we’ll celebrate Booktober. Nothing too out of the ordinary around our house. Just a bit more of the usual hooray for books.

Specifically though, every Sunday I’ll have a list of seven of our favourite books with a particular theme. This will mean that we’ll end up with slightly more than a book a day for a month. If you want to start reading more with your little people, or are looking for new books to explore with your little readers, you’ll hopefully be able to find some inspiration in there somewhere. Or you could just take the whole list to the library and set the challenge of reading at least a book a day every day for a month.

Tomorrow we’ll kick off with our top 7 dinosaur books. It was always going to be dinosaurs. We’re a bit dino-crazy. If anyone has suggestions for other possible lists, please let me know.

Before we get underway with the books, I thought I’d re-share my post about why you should read to little children. It can usually be found over in our Reading Corner, along with an ever growing list of reviews of our favourite books.

READINGISFUNWhy you should read to little children

Lots of parenting advice that I have come across online, and even in published books, seems to be based on personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Never sing your child to sleep because my cousin’s friend’s mum sang him to sleep when he was a baby and now he’s 45 and she still needs to go around to his house every night to sing his bedtime lullaby. You don’t need to breastfeed your baby because my boss was only ever bottlefed and now she speaks six languages, is an Olympic athlete, runs a company with a multi-billion dollar turnover, and is just the nicest darn person you’ll ever meet.

That sort of thing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this sort of sharing and learning. No doubt it has been pivotal for countless generations. The problem with this in our information age is that the wisdom is not just passed to us from those who know us best. Anyone who has ever had a child, or known a child, or been a child, seems to be able to call themselves a “parenting expert”. There are so many parenting experts and they are all shouting for attention, with confusingly different opinions on what is best.

Well, I’m definitely not a parenting expert. On a scale of expert to whatever the opposite of expert is, I’m definitely closer to the latter end. But I’m big on evidence-based policy. If a government is going to devote a lot of time and money to a particular issue, I want them to be basing those decisions on the results of rigorous research. Similarly, if I’m going to use a significant portion of the time that I get to spend with my babies while they’re small in a particular way, I want to make sure that the evidence supports that decision. I’m not going to spend everyday reading and re-reading picture books if there are better things I could be doing with my time.

So, I’ve read through some of the peer-reviewed research. I don’t claim this to be anywhere near an exhaustive review of the literature on this topic, but I did discover some good pointers so I’ll give you a bit of a summary. (Reading the whole articles was really interesting – I’ve listed the sources at the end in case you want to have a look at them!)DSCF4634

There was broad agreement in the literature that reading to babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers is really important for a massive range of skills and attributes beyond language and literacy, to areas like problem solving, relationships, and social confidence. There is this from Murray and Egan:

Reading to young children has long been recognized as an important precursor to language and literacy development. It encourages vocabulary development, positive attitudes to reading as well as strengthening emotional ties between the child and parent. Reading to pre-school-age children can make starting school easier for them as well as providing a head start in literacy… Reading to young children also helps them to develop social skills such as listening and interacting with an adult. Pp.303-304

As well as this from Nyhout and O’Neill:

Exposure to rich narratives at an early age may be important for a range of different abilities, such as children’s later ability to build rich accounts of past events and their information recall, social functioning, and broader linguistic and cognitive abilities. p.128

However, an important part of what I discovered was that the key was not that children were read to, or rather read at, but that they were allowed and encouraged to be active participants, even when they were not yet able to speak. For example, Makin wrote:

There is a danger that parents and early childhood educators may accept the importance of reading to children but do so in ways that may have less than optimal results… If children are physically restrained or forced to remain on an adult’s lap for the time the adult deems appropriate, the experience is unlikely to be positive despite the physical closeness. p.275

Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Books with no words are great
  • When a book has words, steering away from the text is great
  • Ask questions, point things out, relate stuff back to your child’s own life
  • If your little person is really not interested in reading right this second, don’t force the issue
  • Try to find books and reading styles that make the experience enjoyable for both of you
  • Start as early as possible in your child’s life and read often

Reading to my babies is one of the best parts of my day every day. I hope that by sharing the books we love, I can share that joy around. Happy reading!

Sources

Farrant B and Zubrick S (2013) Parent-Child Book Reading Across Early Childhood and Child Vocabulary in the Early School Years: Findings From the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children First Language 33(3) 280-293.

Fletcher K and Holmes W (2015) The Role of Book Familiarity and Book Type on Mothers’ Reading Strategies and Toddlers’ Responsiveness. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 15(1): 73-96.

Makin L (2007) Literacy 8-12 Months: What Are Babies Learning? Early Years: An International Research Journal 26(3) 267-277.

Murray A and Egan S (2014) Does Reading to Infants Benefit Their Cognitive Development at 9-Months-Old? An Investigation Using a Large Birth Cohort Survey Child Language Teaching and Therapy 30(3) 303-315.

Nyhout A and O’Neill D (2013) Mothers’ Complex Talk When Sharing Books With Their Toddlers: Book Genre Matters First Language 33(2) 115-131.

Reese E, Sparks A and Leyva D (2010) A Review of Parent Interventions for Preschool Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 10(1) 97-117.

Advice From The Heart
A Bit Of Everything



Facebooktwitterpinterest

6 Tips for Reading to Babies

Reading to babies can seem silly at times. When a baby is not yet talking, you might wonder if they are able to take anything in. It might feel like a waste of time. Yet, there is a lot of literature that says that reading to babies is crucial for many aspects of their development.

Here are some tips to optimise your reading for your baby’s development and enjoyment.

1. Choose books with no words

It may seem counter-intuitive but, in terms of aiding language development, choosing books without words is a great way to go. This is largely because of your own reading behaviour. When you are reading from set text, you can get stuck just reading through the book without taking the time to stop, point things out, discuss what is happening, and relate the story back to your child’s own experiences. With wordless books, you are much more likely to have an active, engaged experience.

2. When a book has words, steer away from the text

There are lots of great books for children with interesting stories and clever rhymes. Great children’s books are also well designed with repetition and rich vocabulary to help developing brains. So, of course, it is useful to read the text. As adults, that’s what we’re programmed to do so it’s probably inevitable that we’ll read exactly what the words say at least the first time around.

Once you get to the second, or third, or four hundredth read through it is a great idea to steer away from the text. Pretend that there are no words and tell your own story.

3. Make your reading interactive

Use the book as a vehicle for talking about things in your baby’s life. For instance, if there is a dog in the book you could talk about your own dog, or a dog you saw at the park. Point things out in the pictures and name the things that you see. If your baby is at an age where he or she can point to things, ask them if they can point to the tree, or the bird, or the rainbow.

A great way of making your reading time interactive is to have some books that you have made yourself. So, you could have a book that just has the faces of people you know. Then you can point to grandma, and talk about how she looks happy. Point to her eyes and nose and mouth. Or point to daddy and talk about his red shirt. Talk about something you did with daddy today. All of these things helps your baby to make connections between words and the world around them.

4. Only read when your baby is interested

When you’ve been told that you should read to your child for at least ten minutes every day, it may be tempting to get through that time, or at least through one book, even if your child is fussing or looking away. However, forcing a child to stay on your lap while you continue to read is not beneficial for development and can actually be detrimental as the child begins to associate negative experiences with reading.

5. Choose books you both enjoy

When choosing books, think about books that you will enjoy reading, as well as books that your child will enjoy listening to. Babies can pick up on attitudes and emotions. If you are happy, enthusiastic, and engaged in the reading yourself, your baby is much more likely to have a positive experience. For very young babies, you can even try just reading them whatever you happen to be reading yourself. They will benefit from hearing your voice, and the language. The content isn’t as important as the attitude.

6. Read early and often

It’s never too early to read to your children. Try and get into the habit of reading to them everyday, from as early in their life as possible. Not only will you be fostering a love of reading and enhancing their cognitive development, but you will also be nurturing your own bond with them as you share special times with books.

Did you read to your babies? What are your favourite books for babies?

Happy Mama Happy Baby

Share this:

Facebooktwitterpinterest

The Worst Best Advice

Enjoy every minuteIt was mid-afternoon. Both the kids were fed, rested, and happy. This, I thought, was a perfect opportunity to load them into the double pram and walk to the supermarket to pick up a few things that we needed.

Except the toddler insisted on walking. That’s ok, I thought, if he wears himself out this afternoon it will make bedtime easier. It might take a bit longer but we’re all still happy so let’s go with it. He stopped to watch caterpillars, smell flowers, and walk along walls. It was turning out to be a delightful walk.

Except the slow pace made the baby frustrated and want to get out of the pram too. That’s ok, I thought, I can carry her in one arm and push the pram with the other hand while we’re walking at this pace.

Except then the toddler insisted on holding the hand that was being used to push the pram. That’s ok, I thought, I knew my body was holding onto that baby weight around my tummy for a reason. I can hold the baby in one arm, hold my toddler’s hand with the other, and push the pram along with my perfectly padded belly.

It was not as easy as I imagined. The walk was becoming less delightful by the second. I was red faced and flustered, cursing my hubris with every step. My hair was blowing in my face but I didn’t have a spare hand to brush it back. One of my sneakers came untied. By the time we got to the shops all I could think about was finding a bench to stop at. I needed to get myself together.

So when I saw the woman making a beeline towards me I tried to avoid eye contact. But this one was not for turning. “Oh aren’t they precious,” She gushed. “It goes so fast. Make sure you enjoy every minute.” There it was. Enjoy every minute.

I hear that phrase, or a version of it, so very often now. It started right back during my first pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness right up until labour when I was so dehydrated from the constant vomiting that they put me straight on a drip. Labour was easily the least difficult part of that first pregnancy. Yet as soon as someone saw the bump, they would ignore the green face and say: “It’s such a special time. Enjoy every minute.”

Then again when I had a newborn. Cards and messages, friends and well-meaning strangers were all telling me to enjoy every minute. When I was so tired that I forgot that I was sterilising my breast pump in boiling water, only realising when I smelled the melting plastic (a smell that lingered on for days), I wanted to scream “What about this minute?!” When I had mastitis and couldn’t get out of bed. “What about this minute?!” When my baby was screaming and I couldn’t figure out why. “What about this minute?!” Sure he’s the greatest thing ever in the history of the entire universe but what about this minute and this minute and this minute?!?

Of course, people don’t actually mean that they think that you will, or even should, enjoy every minute. They just want to emphasise that time goes by so fast and that children grow up before you know it. The thing is, when people keep telling you something over and over you really start to believe it. Then when you are not in fact enjoying every minute you begin to question yourself.

This is the fourteenth nappy I’ve changed today, I’m getting a bit over it. No, no, wait, I should be appreciating this moment, one day I won’t have any nappies to change.

My toddler’s been pinching me incessantly while I’ve been trying to cook dinner. I should relish the pinching now because when he’s all grown up there’ll be no one to pinch me while I chop carrots.

I’ve got a headache this morning, I’d love nothing more than just to go back to bed. Hang on now, I should embrace the tiredness, one day I’ll get all the sleep I want and wish for nothing more than a return of that extreme fatigue.

Not enjoying every minute – one more thing to add to the list of things that makes me a terrible person. Worst advice ever.

On the other hand, when taken as it is intended it really is the best advice. I do try to remember it during the rough times because I know that most of the these parenting-young-children times are good times. More than good. That crazy, indescribable soaring of the heart wonder. I know I’ll miss so very much about this time. One day maybe I’ll even genuinely miss everything about this time. I have no doubt that many of the people who give me this worst best advice are in fact missing everything about this time in their own lives.

So I looked at the kindly, well-meaning woman at the shops who was looking at my children but seeing her own, smiled and said: “Thank you. I will.” Then I thrust my belly back out and pushed the pram away from her as fast as I could.

Advice From The Heart
Facebooktwitterpinterest