Today, April 2nd, was Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, and is now International Children’s Book Day. so it seems like the ideal day to talk about Thomas’s love of books.
As a book lover myself, I have always wanted any children of mine to appreciate books. I firmly believe that reading is one of the keys to developing a child’s imagination. Books provide windows to other worlds, escapism and indulgence. They teach not just facts, but good language skills and creativity.
At this stage, we haven’t had to do very much at all to encourage the utter love of books that Thomas clearly displays, from the moment he wakes to the moment he falls asleep. As soon as we pick him up from his cot in the morning he is pointing at his bookshelf and straining to reach for a book. At night, when we read him a bedtime story, he reaches for just one more book, and just one more after that, pushing it in to our hands as a clear demand that he wants it to be read. In between, he looks at books every opportunity he finds. He picks them out of the basket of books we keep in our front room, and carries them to us. If we are both at home he will listen to one of us read his chosen title, then carry the book to the other of us for a repeat reading. Visitors don’t escape either, as he insists that they read to him in the way that only a toddler can! He’s never happier than when tearing around the library with its huge selection of books to enjoy.
Thomas definitely has favourites amongst the many children’s books we now own.
He has always loved Touchy-Feely books. Two Usbourne titles – “Trucks” and “Diggers” are especially favoured, as are the “That’s Not My“… series. I used to hate those particular books before I had a child of my own, for their sheer repetitiveness. I can confirm that it only gets worse when you are reading them for the fiftieth time, but I can also acknowledge that kids love them for a reason. These books were also the first type that Thomas began turning the pages of on his own.
Lift-the-flap books also seem to appeal to Thomas’s love of exploring everything and getting a surprise at the end of it. Particular favourites include Eric Hill’s “Spot” series, and anything by Rod Campbell, of “Dear Zoo” fame. Combining lift-the-flap and touchy-feely is a definite winner, and an all round favourite is Animal Hide and Seek.
Lately he has also developed a passion for moving and sliding books, in addition to lift-the-flap. Chief amongst these are the Busy Books series, the Little Roar books, and a more recent discovery – Benji Davies’ Bizzy Bear series published by Nosy Crow. In fact, these books are probably the number one favourite right now, especially Fire Rescue (which alas we have only from the library) as it combines slidey tabs with”Nee-Nars”! The tabs and sliders in these books also seem easier for little fingers to move than the Busy Books, which means Thomas will happily “read” these books to himself for quite some time. They are always a winner when out and about in restaurants and cafes.
The final type of book that we share is the more traditional story book. The drawback of the all-singing, all-dancing types of books around for children these days is that sometimes the story can get a little bit lost. I love that Thomas enjoys engaging with the activities in the books above, but I want him to love the stories too, so we ensure we share at least one or two “proper” story books each day. I’m the one that has clear favourites here, many dating back to my own childhood. But it’s a category I sometimes struggle with, because much as Thomas loves books, he still often has the attention span of a gnat. Many of the great childhood stories out there (especially those by Julia Donaldson) just won’t hold his attention yet.
But my favourites include Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, Jill Murphy’s Peace At Last, Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Each Peach Pear Plum, Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You, Ian Whybrow’s Say Hello series, and the shorter offerings from Julia Donaldson including One Ted Falls Out of Bed and Goat Goes to Playgroup. Sounds crazy, but I love reading these tales and injecting my own personality in to the way I read.
We already own a lot of books – many of them given as gifts. But I feel very lucky to have an excellent library at the end of the road. Given the number of books I still buy for myself (fortunately, space-wise, many are now electronic), we’d be absolutely snowed under with them.
But then, you can never own too many books, right?