I am sure I am not the first to admit, but when it was suggested to me that reading to my baby would be a great activity, I was dubious. How could this little human being, who has no understanding of what I am chanting at her or why, gain anything from this? Is it not a waste of time when she would rather grab, dribble and chew each beautifully illustrated page instead of looking at them? I have since eaten my words – the opposite is true! Madeleine absolutely loves being read to, in fact I would even say that it is her favourite mummy and daughter pastime.
Reading to Madeleine has been one of the best bonding exercises. I gain such a feeling of closeness from it: we snuggle up together in a blanket, and she sits happily nestled in my lap. That is such a saving grace for us, because now that Madeleine is so mobile it has become near impossible to keep her in one place for any length of time. I love that it comforts her too. Whether it’s tiredness or teething, I have found that if she is upset or unsettled, I can always reach for a book in the knowledge that it will calm her down, and maintain her interest. Amazing!
As Madeleine’s interest in reading has grown, so too have the number of hours we have spent trawling book shops and our public library. Shopping causes me to break out in a sweat nowadays, not because of overdressing nor a lack of air conditioning, but because I have a baby who views artificial lighting and cheesy music as an invite to scream hysterically. Despite this, and now dripping from head to toe, I can safely say that it was worth the effort; Madeleine has a collection of books that she babbles and rocks excitedly at, every time they emerge. I have gathered up a selection of mine and Madeleine’s favourites, which I am excited to share. I hope that these prove useful to any of you that, like me, now find that ‘browsing’ is impossible.
THAT’S NOT MY DUCK – FIONA WATT
Fiona Watt has recently released her 50th story in this series of board books, which comes as no surprise to me (being an avid fan myself). The pages are brightly coloured, and have big, bold illustrations to match. Each story focuses on the features of a particular being; that could be an animal, a mythical creature like a unicorn, or even a form of transport such as a tractor! That has proven brilliant for Madeleine’s language awareness, as she now recognises the same animal in other books when I use their name.
Without doubt though, Madeleine is most excited by the textured patches that can be found on different parts of the animal (for example), at the turn of every page. Her eyes are instantly drawn towards them, and her hands love grabbing and exploring every touchy-feely surface. Now that Madeleine is sitting and crawling, I often let her investigate these books on her own too; since they offer endless amounts of sensory stimulation. I think that these stories are a great investment, because they are fun and relevant for young babies through to toddlers.
WHERE’S MRS LADYBIRD – INGELA ARRHENIUS
Madeleine and I adore this series by Ingela Arrhenius. I remember vividly the first time that I read ‘Where’s Mrs Ladybird?’ to her, when she was four months in age. It was the only story (of countless that I had tried) that really grabbed Madeleine’s attention and ignited in her, a love for books. Each title follows the same clever format; there are five brightly coloured, carefully illustrated pages, and on each is a creature that is hidden under a luminous felt flap! I cannot stress enough how perfect that is for little hands. Madeleine happily grabs at the felt and explores its texture, whilst unveiling the animal underneath, and all without any card being ripped.
These books are great for developing minds. Ingela repeats the same key phrases again and again; ‘Where’s Mr … here he is’. I have seen such a change in Madeleine’s understanding of this. She has learnt to respond to these cues; she now waits patiently for me to ask where Mrs Ladybird is, before lifting the flap to see her!
By far my favourite aspect of these books, though, is the inclusion of a mirror on the last page. It is no secret that babies love looking at human faces, and that is so evident in madeleine’s reaction, every time she sees herself. The story always ends by asking ‘where are you?’, which is such a great way to help your baby understand that the reflection staring back at them is, in fact, their own. Madeleine and I may have read these countless times, and they are still as exciting as ever. I could write about how great they are all day but, in short, I would really recommend!
TALES FROM ACORN WOOD – JULIA DONALDSON
This series consists of four stories, all of which are written by the famous children’s author Julia Donaldson, who was the brainchild of the Gruffalo. These books are perfect for Madeleine now that she is heading towards her first birthday, because there is more of a tale to follow. The illustrations are beautifully detailed, and each page contains a little flap for your baby to find and lift. I love that each of these is a different size and shape, and forms part of the illustration; I think that it really helps madeleine to engage with the story. The only shame is that the flaps are made from card, so you may find yourself reaching for the Sellotape!
Aside from being visually exciting, these books are also written brilliantly for little, growing minds. Julia Donaldson uses rhyming couplets to make each of these tale’s fun and engaging. She also ends every pairing with a question, which I find so useful as a parent because it allows me to show madeleine how my words relate to the pictures on the page. I think that these, too, act as perfect aids for learning new words. Since the same characters are pictured and referenced throughout, it offers ample opportunity to repeat each animal name. In summary then, if you are looking to move your baby from basic picture books to stories, then this is a fantastic collection to have.
What types of books have your little ones loved reading? Have you got any recommendations? I would love to hear them!