500 Books in the First Year

When I was pregnant with Pickles I read that it was important to read 500 books to you your child in his or her first year of life. At first this seemed overwhelming. But what can actually be more overwhelming for a new mother is to have no structure or goals or achievable targets. 500 books was like a KPI and in my yearly (self) performance review there would be something measurable to tick off. Yeah, yeah, health, happiness and all that too.

So we dutifully trundled to the library every week to get at least the ten new books a week that it would take to reach our target. Even when he was too tiny to even be able to see a book properly, we were reading to him. Choosing new books and reading together has become so much a part of our lives now that we don’t even have to think about it with Pords. She’ll probably reach her 500 before she gets to six months. And there will be many books that she’ll hear (what definitely seems like) hundreds of times each. We’ve got favourites, and are forever making new favourites. But we definitely had to wade through a whole lot of not so good ones to get there. So I’m going to start a list of the best, so if someone else wants to take the 500 books in the first year challenge, you can select straight from he top shelf.

So here goes, my first review:

Cave Baby – Julia Donaldson and Emily Gravett

The hardcover version of this book was given to Pickles about a year ago. It makes a beautiful gift because the pictures make an immediate impact, but I’ve got to admit that when I first read it I wasn’t a fan. Mum and Dad are the bad guys and poor old Cave Baby has to endure a terrifying experience before discovering ultimate liberation through art and imagination. But Pickles was a fan. Again! Again! He’d shout. And so I read it again. And again. And again. And now that I have mastered the cadence this book really is a joy to read. As with all of Donaldson’s work that we’ve discovered so far, there are exciting variations to the pace and tempo, plenty of interesting vocab and sounds, and although there are scary bits there is also plenty of humour.

As all good books should, this one takes you on a journey. We are always right there with Cave Baby as he sits bored and lonely in his cave. Right there as his parents really just don’t get it. Right there as the mammoth lifts him and takes him on the scary ride through the night. And right there when he realises that the mammoth wants him to do exactly what his parents forbade. “And they rollick and they frolic…” Perfect. Pickles delights in that page every time as if it was the first.

The illustrations, too, are glorious and fit the mood perfectly. There is enough detail in the pictures that you can spend time on each page, pointing things out and asking discovery questions. It is a great one for language development. I would highly recommend reading this book with the special little people in your life. It’s such a lot of fun.

If you have a baby and you can’t get into reading to them, my advice is to try and find books that you enjoy reading too. It’s never too early to start.


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