Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Babies and Books

Your humble author has returned, and hopefully for real this time. Much has transpired since the last post, and I hope you will excuse my lengthy absence. I am no longer working as a children's librarian, as I am now spending my time as a stay-at-home mother to my daughter born in August of 2011. And it is about babies and books that I wish to touch on today.

Before having my own daughter, my knowledge of babies and books came from two places: family lore, and my schooling as a librarian.

When asked by a patron about books for their baby, I would dutifully explain about high contrast images, nursery rhymes, and the rhythm of story. I would explain how the concept of "book" as pleasurable object was probably more important than the "right book" at that age. I pointed them to excellent resources such as Brooklyn Public Library's First Five Years pages, where they break it down so nicely. And so on.

As to family lore, well, as legend has it, my father apparently read me The Hobbit and the whole Lord of the Rings saga as a newborn/infant. When I began to talk, I would point at trees, and say "hoom!"

This was my starting point. And I had big plans for my daughter. I would read Alice's Adventures In Wonderland to my "peaceful newborn." And then we would move on from there.

Well, my little darling had some medical issues that sucked all our time and energy, and she's a feisty high energy girl. I think that now, at around 8 months, we're still at the same 2 chapters that we were in that first month. Perhaps parents of more placid babies have better luck with such things.

But my daughter is still the child of a librarian, and she does love her books. From the time she was about 1-week old, I began reading her Peter Sis' Fire Truck:

It's still a favorite, and she surprised us all when she was maybe 4-5 months old, and my father and I were reading it with her. On the page where it lists all the items the fire truck holds (1 driver, 2 ladders, 3 hoses etc), she began placing her hand in the right spot just before we read the next item. She really does pay attention!

My biggest surprise in regards to babies and books has to be her bedtime book. We started with Goodnight Moon when we first wanted to try a bedtime ritual. A classic, and a good first choice. But it's not long enough for my daughter, and we found ourselves doing it over and over in one sitting. After a number of tries, we have landed on The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter:

We were first given this book by my Great-Aunt when my daughter was about 2.5 months old. While waiting for a bottle to warm, I decided to give it a try. I did not expect my high energy 2.5-month-old to sit still for the whole thing. But she did. She was rapt with attention. And at the end, she softly drifted off to sleep. (Of course, I wanted her to eat so this was a bit of a problem!)

And now we read it every night. She may not sit for more than a page or two of another book during the day (on her most high-energy days), but Peter Rabbit is a must. And whether she wants to go to sleep or is fighting it, she waits each and every time for Peter to get out of that garden.

I still stand by the advice I gave my patrons, and still give to new parents. What matters most is that you do read aloud to your baby, no matter how young. But your baby may surprise you by having strong book preferences from an extremely young age, like my daughter did.

This entry is cross-posted here at Dreamwidth.