October 13 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Grace Lin’s Storytelling Math Books

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to introduce the new Storytelling Math initiative by Charlesbridge with four board books by Grace Lin. Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website. And watch this space for more reviews of Storytelling Math books from your favorite authors!

Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Thank you to Charlesbridge who sent me copies of Grace Lin’s board books for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

What Will Fit?

By Grace Lin

 

Olivia is at the farmers’ market ready to find a fruit or vegetable that will fill her basket just right. The small beet she tries just rolls around in all the empty space. An apple is bigger, but still too small, and a zucchini doesn’t fit any way Olivia tries. After trying another vegetable that isn’t quite right, Olivia spies a display she thinks might just work. “Hmm…how about a pumpkin?” she thinks. She looks them over, chooses one, and puts it in her basket. “Yay! Just the right size!” she exclaims.

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Following the story, adults and children can explore math with the included discussion on how kids develop spatial sense. Learning how shapes fit together in different ways is an important concept in science, math, and everyday life. Then Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver, introduces activities that adults can share with kids to build their spatial awareness. Doing puzzles together, matching pairs of socks, shoes, or other items, and fitting a toy to a box are just a few ideas to try. Using special words – such as above and below, inside and next to, and up, down, and between – while doing daily activities teaches kids about positions, orientation, and other special relationships.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541255

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The Last Marshmallow

By Grace Lin

 

The snow is deep and Olivia and Mei have just come in from building a snowman. They slip out of their boots and warm coats. It’s a perfect time for mugs of hot chocolate—with marshmallows! They make two cups of cocoa and get out “three big marshmallows.” Olivia dunks one marshmallow in her cup. Mei floats one marshmallow in her cup. “There’s one left! Who gets it?” The girls gaze at the marshmallow and think. “I know!” Olivia says. “Pull!” Now the third marshmallow is shared by both Mei and Olivia. “Hooray! Yummy cocoa for both of us!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals that even the youngest children have a sense of what is fair, even before they can count. Sharing can help kids “begin to develop real-world understanding of division and fractions.” Early childhood expert Douglas Clements also provides several Try This! activities to engage children in sharing even and odd numbers of items with two and three people. He reminds adults to listen to a child’s reasoning on how they share and why to discover what they think is fair.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541262

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Up to My Knees!

By Grace Lin

 

It’s springtime and Mei is planting seeds. With “dirt, water, sun, and time, what will happen?” Soon a plant sprouts! The little stem with its two leaves is just poking out of the ground. Mei notices that “it’s as tall as my toe.” She gives her plant “more water, more sun, more days” to grow. It continues to climb past her knees to her waist. Later, Mei measures her plant again. She reaches out her arm and sees that “it reaches my shoulders!” What does summertime bring? A sunflower that is taller than Mei!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” paragraphs discuss how “young children learn about measurement as they compare the sizes of things around them.” Comparing things to their own bodies helps children make sense of using rulers and yardsticks as they get older. Early childhood expert Douglas Clements presents ideas for encouraging children to measure and compare items in relation to their own knees, arms, hands, etc.; compare lengths; and explain how they can tell, for instance, that a “cracker is wider than their hand.” He also reveals examples of vocabulary words that allow kids to think more deeply than simply “big’ or “small” about items and their measurement or size.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541231

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Circle! Sphere!

By Grace Lin

 

Manny, Olivia, and Mei are going to blow bubbles! First they stir up soapy water and get three wands. Manny’s wand is a circle, Olivia’s wand is a triangle, and Mei’s wand is a heart. Manny swishes his wand in the soapy water and blows. “My bubble is a ball—a sphere!” he exclaims. Next, Olivia dips her wand into the soapy water and blows through her triangle wand. “What shape will her bubble be? Another ball!” Perhaps Mei will blow a different shape. Come and see! So many bubbles float in the air! Mei, Olivia, and Manny chase after them. Clap…clap…clap. They “Pop! Pop! Pop!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals how children learn about shapes as they explore everyday objects, such as boxes, tubes, and balls. “These kinds of experiences give children a hands-on foundation for later study of geometry.” Douglas Clements then gives parents and caregivers ideas for activities they can do with their children to enhance their math learning of shapes and how they are used. Clements also encourages adults to talk with their children about shapes and provides vocabulary that will give them the words to express their understanding and thinking about shapes.

Ages Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541248

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At their core, each of these board books by beloved author Grace Lin are sweet stories of three friends having fun throughout the year and exploring life through common experiences, which, just as in real life, hold organic connections to math concepts so important to understanding our world. Adults will love sharing these charming books that blend straightforward ideas with lyrical rhythms that will captivate little ones, make them giggle, and entice them to try filling a basket, blowing bubbles, planting seeds, and eating a marshmallow or two (adults will want to get in on that action too!) all while developing an awareness for relationships that will translate into a stronger understanding of math as they grow older, begin school, and proceed through the grades.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations and adorable depictions of Olivia, Mei, and Manny playing, reacting, and spending time together will enchant little readers. As the three kids ponder dilemmas, readers can clearly see their intelligence and musings in their thoughtful faces. The images are also infused with the excitement of learning and discovery. The page spreads in each book incorporate other aspects of math as well, such as patterns, matching, and shapes plus opportunities for counting, talking about colors, and engaging with science.

Outstanding books to give as gifts for baby showers, new babies, or special events, What Will Fit?, The Last Marshmallow, Up to My Knees!, and Circle! Sphere! would make an often-read and -used set for home bookshelves and are musts to enhance any school and public library board book collection.

You can learn more about the Storytelling Math Books and find downloadable Activity Kits on the Charlesbridge website.

Discover more about Grace Lin and her books on her website.

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You can find The Last Marshmallow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers

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You can find Circle! Sphere! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find What Will Fit? at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

 

September 30 – National Teach Spanish Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its first anniversary this year, National Teach Spanish Day was established by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) to promote the profession of teaching Spanish, raise awareness of the shortage of Spanish teachers for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and to emphasize the importance of Spanish as a world language. For more information, visit the AATSP website.

Today I’m featuring a collection of Spanish/English bilingual board books that teach little ones Spanish and English words for numbers and other concepts as well as nursery rhymes. With bright colors and charming characters, these books make language learning fun. These books would make excellent gifts for baby showers, new babies, and any young learner. The series would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections. To learn more, visit the Canticos website.

Thanks to Encantos for sending me their latest bilingual board books for little learners for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

Bilingual Firsts Series

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Feelings

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

For little ones, learning about feelings and how to recognize various facial expressions aids their social-emotional development and helps them manage their emotions and have empathy for others – skills that will benefit them in school, with family, and as they engage with the world. In this chunky board book, kids discover eleven emotions, including happy, sad, excited, brave, surprised, confused, and proud.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Each feeling is written in English and Spanish. On the facing page, adorable depictions of the feeling lifts to reveal a more exaggerated portrayal of the emotion along with a prompt for little ones to recreate the expression themselves. For example: “Can you show me a happy face?” / ¿Puedes poner una cara feliz?”

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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First 100 Words

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In vivid, two-page spreads Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross introduce kids to one hundred common words from nature/naturaleza, transportation/transporte, school/escuela, sports/deportes, music/música, the beach/playa, / the ocean/océano, a party/fiesta, home/hogar, the kitchen/cocina, and the bedroom/dormitorio.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Abigail Gross’s fun-packed and detailed illustrations that clearly show each item and its name in English and Spanish will excite little ones to learn both languages. The first book in the Bilingual First Series, this board book is one you’ll want to carry along as you go shopping, to the park, on walks, and elsewhere to refer to and enhance your child’s language learning.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635298

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Letters A to Z

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In beautiful two-page spreads, Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross teach kids one English word with its Spanish translation and one Spanish word with its English translation for each letter of the alphabet. Spanish letter combinations Ch and Ll as well as Ñ are also included.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Bold imagery allows children to clearly identify the meaning of each word, and the chicks, bunnies, elephants, and other familiar characters are, as always, enthusiastic and encouraging friends that will captivate children as they learn.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635335

 

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Numbers 1 to 100

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

From 1 sun to 100 raindrops, little learners will love counting along with the cute chicks, frogs, elephants, and bunnies as they gather in groups and present kid-favorite items, such as bubbles, presents, butterflies, and candy that young children can easily point to as they count. After numbers 1 through 10, kids count by tens from 20 to 100. All numbers and the names of the items appear in English and Spanish.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635328 (Available for preorder)

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Opposites

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

Learning opposites with the sweet characters in this Cantícos series will have little ones giggling as they discover pairs like “Loud / Ruidoso” and “Quite / Silencioso,” “Tall / Alto” and “Short / Bajo,” “Inside / Adentro” and “Outside / Afuera,” “Above / Encima” and “Below / Debajo,” plus nine more.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635519 (Available for preorder)

Nursery Rhymes

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All the Colors

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

Six colors (red/rojo; orange/naranja; yellow/amarillo; green/verde; blue/azul; purple/morado) are introduced with three jaunty verses that reveal that “It’s these colors that much like our love, fill our hearts and make everything oh so alive. / Y por eso los grandes amores, de muchos colores me gustan a mi.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

With English on the right side and Spanish on the left, little ones and adults can easily compare translations, allowing for enhanced learning. Each individual color is presented on a flap with the English word on the front and the Spanish word underneath by one of the Canticos characters that fans of the series will love sharing their educational journey with.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635366

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Little Chickies / Los pollitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

This interactive lift-the-flap book introduces little ones to three adorable chicks who have just hatched – in fact, kids can just lift the flap to help the third chick pop from his egg with a cherry “Pio, pio, pio. These little chicks love to peep “…when they get so cold, and when they want a meal. / “…cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frío.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

When their mother hen hears their “Pio,” she runs to the corn field then “serves them each their food and warms them head to heel. / les da la comida y les presta abrigo.” Satisfied and happy, it’s time for the family to snuggle in their nest until the next day.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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Little Elephants / Elefantitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In this sweet board book, based on the traditional Mexican counting song “Un elefante se balanceaba”, kids learn to count from one to five with a group of playful little elephants and one creative spider, whose web the elephants just can’t resist. What do they do? “One little elephant, looking oh so elegant, balanced on the web of a spider. Along came a friend, from around the bend and the elephant called to invite her.” / “Un elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una araña. Como veí que resistía fue a llamar a otro elefante.” These two elephants have fun dancing on the thin thread, but what happens when five elephants pile on? “Ooops!” / “¡uuupa!” Hey! “Let’s do it again.” / “Hagámoslo de nuevo.” Flaps lift to teach kids the words one through five in Spanish and English.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-0996995917 (Available for preorder)

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You can find Canticos Bilingual Firsts and Nursery Rhyme board books for preorder on

Encantos Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

September 23 – International Day of Sign Languages

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About the Holiday

Coming mid-way through International Week of the Deaf, which was instituted by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1958, today’s holiday is observed by the United Nations every year on September 23 to “celebrate the linguistic identity and diversity of deaf people and sign language uses across the world.” With more than 300 different sign languages around the globe, the UN recognizes sign languages equal status to spoken languages. The theme for 2020 is “Sign Languages are for everyone,” with the goal of enabling national associations of deaf people to work in conjunction with political leaders to promote sign language. For more information, visit the World Federation of the Deaf website and the United Nations website.

Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents

Written by Kathy MacMillan | Illustrated by Sara Brezzi

 

Following the popular Nita’s First Signs, the first Little Hands Signing book, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents brings parents and caregivers ten more ASL signs to share with their babies and toddlers to give them the power and joy of non-verbal communication. Through a sweet story that takes Nita and little readers through a fun day with Mom and Dad, kids learn the signs for wake up, change, eat, potty, clothes, go, play, bath, book, and bed.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Nita’s day starts with her mom and dad lovingly gazing into her crib. “Good morning, Nita! Time to wake up!” they say. “WAKE UP, signs Nita.” Nita recognizes that she needs a diaper change and lets her parents know with the sign for “change” that she’s learned. Next, it’s time for breakfast then getting dressed and going to the park with Dad to fly a kite. When she wants to play, Nita “extends the thumb and pinky of each hand and twists [her] wrists back and forth.”

After her busy afternoon, a bath feels nice and warm. Then it’s time for one of Nita’s favorite parts of the day. “It’s time for a story book!” Dad tells her. She puts her outstretched palms together then opens them like the cover of a book “BOOK, signs Nita.” Now Nita is getting sleepy. “BED, Nita signs.” Her mom snuggles her into her crib and says “Good Night.”

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

A Note for Grown-ups on the back cover explains how using signs with children helps them to make sense of their activities during the day and can provide comforting grounding if used when they are away from their regular routines. Adults are also referred to a website where they can find a video demonstration of all of the signs in the book.

The structure of these Little Hands Signing books is a highlight of these chunky board books. Slightly larger than typical board books, the format allows for tabs that clearly depict the page on which each sign can be found. Opening to these spreads, readers can then pull on the tab to open the page and find Nita demonstrating how to make each ASL sign. A written description of the actions accompanies the images.

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Image copyright Sara Brezzi, 2020, text copyright Kathy MacMillan, 2020. Courtesy of Familius Publishing.

Kathy MacMillan’s enthusiastic story is perfect for all children and helps them to communicate with parents and caregivers whether they are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or not verbal or fully verbal yet. The repeat phrasing will charm little readers and acclimates them to the uses of each sign as well as giving adults a way to prompt signs during everyday activities.

Sara Brezzi’s vibrant and whimsical illustrations are infused with love and Nita’s pride in her accomplishments. In each two-sign spreads, Nita is a happy helper, holding her bottle at breakfast, alerting her mom that she’s ready for toilet paper, grasping the kite string at the park, and playing with her duck during bath time. Scattered toys and items on shelves, racks, and counters give little ones and adults things to name, match, and talk about.

Whether you’re adding to the series or new to signing with your baby or toddler, Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries to inspire early bonding and communication between babies and adults.

Ages 1 – 3

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641701488

Discover more about Kathy MacMillan and her books on her website.

You can connect with Sara Brezzi on Instagram.

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You can find at these Nita’s Day: More Signs for Babies and Parents booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 28 – It’s Family Fun Month and Interview with Author Robie H. Harris

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-look-babies-head-to-toe-coverAbout the Holiday

This month-long holiday encourages families to spend time together having fun, learning, and getting to know each other on an all-new level. Having a baby in the family means there are plenty of joyous moments and new experiences to enjoy as the little one learns about the world and their place in it. For children any moment—whether while playing, shopping, or doing chores—can become an exciting and enjoyable opportunity for discovery. Reading together is one of the best ways to nurture a baby’s development—as you’ll see in today’s book!

I received a copy of LOOK! Babies Head to Toe from Abrams Appleseed for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Abrams Appleseed in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

LOOK! Babies Head to Toe

Written by Robie H. Harris | Illustrated by Anoosha Syed

 

With a baby on your lap or cuddled up beside you, you can open the world of self-awareness for your child as you open the cover of this engagingly written and adorably illustrated board book. Little readers will be immediately entranced by the baby who smiles out at them from the first pages as adults exclaim, “Look! A baby!,” show them the baby “Head to toe! Toe to head!” and share a greeting: “Hi, baby!”

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

What baby doesn’t love playing peek-a-boo? Here, babies learn about eyes by playing along with the enthusiastic baby in the book who hides his eyes and then reveals them with a happy smile. What are ears for? Listening, of course! And as the sweet baby on the page listens to her mom play the ukulele, your baby hears “Look! Baby’s ears!” and can be encouraged to repeat “La-la-la!”

Noses are for smelling, but sometimes they’re for sneezing too—“Ah-choo!” Turn the page again and “Look! A baby! Look! Baby’s mouth” is puckered up for a kiss. Moving on, babies “clap-clap-clap” with their hands, discover their tummy, try out their strong legs, and, for a last bit of fun, wiggle their toes.

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

With her delightful, lively text, Robie H. Harris provides parents and caregivers a dynamic way to not only introduce little ones to parts of their body but to help with the development of  language and motor skills. The repeated phrases “Look!,” “A baby!” and mention of particular parts of the body, accompanied with pointing to the baby on the page as well the little reader, orient children to these often-heard words and give them concrete meaning. Active words that echo familiar sounds and motions offer opportunities for little ones to vocalize and play.

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Image copyright Anoosha Syed, 2019, text copyright Robie Harris, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Anoosha Syed’s charming babies are bright-eyed and smiley, sweet friends who are ready to play. Their enthusiasm is infectious as they make direct eye contact with young readers—an important aspect of communicating with children. Each of the ten diverse babies are highlighted on two-page spreads with plenty of white space that allows readers to focus attention on the child and the part of the body being introduced. In each image the children demonstrate a different expression—from welcome and surprise to love and joy to contemplation and uncertainty. Adding this range of emotions reflects studies which have found that looking at pictures such as these can help children form feelings of empathy and understanding.

A cheerful, enchanting book for sharing fun and quality time with babies and toddlers, LOOK! Babies Head to Toe makes a wonderful new baby or shower gift, an engaging take along for outings or times when waiting is expected, and a go-to read at home, in preschool classrooms, and for public library collections.

Ages Birth to 3

Abrams Appleseed, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419732034

Discover more about Robie H. Harris and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anoosha Syed, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Robie H. Harris

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Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Robie H. Harris about her board books for youngest readers and the importance of reading with babies and toddlers.

You’re well known for your books about growth and development for children and teens. Your recent books with Abrams Appleseed, Who? A Celebration of Babies and LOOK! Babies Head to Toe highlight the development of babies and very young children.

I have always been fascinated by babies and toddlers and how amazing and interesting they are. I have always wanted to write board books for them, especially books with which they could connect and that would engage them. Thanks to Abrams Appleseed, LOOK! and WHO? are out in the world. The words I wrote for each of these books are my way of talking with babies and toddlers and having a conversation with them and, hopefully, drawing them into the book.

Here’s what a mother of an 11-month-old baby emailed me this morning about her infant’s reaction when she shared LOOK! with her baby: “My baby giggled as soon as I opened the first page (a rare reaction, typically he’s either serious or squirmy for story time these days) and giggled right through ‘til the end.” Another parent of a six-month-old infant emailed me: “My baby looked and listened the whole time I read the book to her. She also gurgled and cooed and at times reached and gently touched some of the drawings of the babies that are in LOOK! After I read it to her, she grabbed the book and hugged it and gave it a kiss.” This kind of engagement these infants had with LOOK! was what I was hoping for as I was writing WHO? and LOOK!

Do you feel that there is now more attention being paid to these important early years?

Yes, there is a lot more attention to the early years, and that’s wonderful and can be helpful to authors writing for our youngest children. Thank goodness, the notion that a baby is not a person yet or is just a “blob” has been discarded by most. The abundance of infant and toddler research that is now available and that is continuing to gallop forward has fueled my board books and tells us how powerful babies’ thinking and emotions and brains are. When I am writing, I need to understand what is going on emotionally with an infant or toddler. From my own observations of infants and toddlers and also from research, I try to create words and/or a story that will strike a responsive chord in them. When I finish writing, an artist, such as Anoosha Syed, the illustrator of LOOK!, can find even more ways through art to connect our book with the babies and toddlers for whom I was writing.

What research has contributed to our deeper understanding of babies’ learning?

I will cite one of many studies that deals with shared reading as an example of the type of research that informs my thinking when writing a board book. The principal researcher of this recent study is Alan Mendelsohn, MD, pediatrician, New York University School of Medicine. “The study identifies pathways by which parent-child interactions in shared reading and play can improve child behavioral outcomes.” In addition, as a children’s book author, I continue to have the good fortune of consulting with pediatricians, child development and infancy specialists, child psychologists and analysts about what I am writing to make sure that it will ring true for an infant, toddler, or young child.  

Why is it important for parents and other caregivers to read books to babies, even before they can talk? How can age-appropriate books, like these from Appleseed, help?

This statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics site says it all: “​In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement recommending parent-child home reading beginning at birth and continuing at least through kindergarten. Behavioral evidence has shown that children who are read to, especially before school entry, experience stronger parent-child relationships and learn valuable language and literacy skills.” I would add the following statement of my own: Board books are one way our very youngest children begin to understand not only themselves, but also the people and the world around them. It is also a way for our youngest children and a significant adult in their lives, be it a parent or caregiver, to have a moment together away from the bustle of their everyday lives.

Story time is a time to build a loving relationship with each other and, yes, have some fun together while sharing a book. Additionally, make sure you read to your child once a day, every single day. Find a quiet time to do so, if possible, and don’t be interrupted by a call on your phone or anything else. Just enjoy your special time together. Start early and keep on reading books to them. Have a basket of board books on the floor with just board books in it—nothing else. And it’s okay if your infant or toddler sits on a book, chews on it, puts it on top of their head, drools on it, or opens it and is looking at the book upside down. This is one of the ways books become part of their lives and will continue to be part of their lives as they grow up and grow older. 

Look! Babies Head to Toe includes repetitive phrases and onomatopoeia such as “La-la-la” and “Achoo!” How do these aspects of the story benefit a baby’s developing language skills? How can adults expand on that type of learning?

I purposely use repetitive phrases such as “La-la-la, Achoo!, Kiss-kiss. Clap-clap-clap” and others in LOOK! because they are sounds that infants have heard and may have uttered out loud. While writing LOOK!, I believed infants and toddlers would mimic these sounds and words and have fun doing it while at the same time expanding the words they learned and could eventually use to communicate with others. I felt it could also be a way of engaging infants and toddlers in the  book. I purposely use repetitive sounds and words in WHO? for the very same reasons. Adults can expand on that type of learning by continuing to share a book with a child each and every day.

What are the long-term benefits of engaging babies in language and activities?

There are many. Here are two: Sharing a board book such as LOOK! is early literacy in the making and helps to create a love of language, art, and books for years to come. Reading a book with an infant or toddler also gives that child and their parent or caregiver the chance to spend time together, which can help to build a loving and caring bond between them and with others in the years ahead.

Anoosha Syed’s illustrations of babies are adorable while also being realistic. She also includes actions and gestures, such as crawling, hiding and revealing eyes, and smiling. Can you talk a little about how babies and toddlers react to seeing photographs or illustrations of children and how that helps their physical and emotional development?

Anoosha’s pitch-perfect drawings of babies do draw infants and toddlers into the book. Parents and caregivers have told me that while reading LOOK! babies gurgle and coo and often touch the drawings of babies in the book. They’ve also said that their toddlers sometimes kiss the drawings or pat their tummies or clap their hands just as the babies in the book do. The fact that this happens delights me as an author and as a person who feels that infants, toddlers, and young children are true learners.

You love to meet your readers of all ages! Have you held readings or events for parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers? What do these consist of? Do you have an anecdote from any event that you’d like to share?

I have held some readings for parents and have given talks at conferences for infant and toddler professionals. These revolve around the benefits of sharing board books such as WHO? and LOOK! with infants and toddlers as well as the benefits of sharing picture books with young children. I show a video of a parent reading WHO? to a six-month-old infant, who is responding to the book in many ways both verbally and physically. The response from the parents and professionals who watched that video surprised me. Here’s why: Many parents and professionals were amazed to find out that sharing a board book with a baby does engage the infant at such an early time in their life. Many told me that they would now start sharing board books with babies.   

Do you have any other books for this age group in the works?

Yes. I can’t seem to keep myself from coming up with yet more ideas for another board book. One is almost fully written. I am just fiddling with the end of the book and need some more time to work on that. I read it out loud to myself this morning. This is something I do often to hear whether the words or the story I wrote work. Work for whom? Work for the age-range of the children who would be the audience for that particular book. I also have extensive notes on another board book idea. I have written only a few words for that book and am just at the beginning of my process of writing it. A lot more work is needed to move this book along. But I’m too busy with other books under contract to spend much time on it now.

Thanks, Robie, for this fascinating talk! I wish you the best with Look! and Who? and all of your books!

LOOK! Babies Head to Toe Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Appleseed in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of LOOK! Babies Head to Toe, written by Robie H. Harris | illustrated by Anoosha Syed

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from August 28 through September 3 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on September 4.

Prizing provided by Abrams Appleseed

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Family Fun Month Activity

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Child’s Sensory Board

 

Toys or objects that provide many opportunities for sensory experimentation and observation stimulate a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your own child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items. While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them outloud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich language learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or can catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Door knockers
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

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You can find LOOK! Babies Head to Toe at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review