I have always loved to read. I have always loved children. It makes sense that I love children’s books.
I got a part-time job at my city’s main library branch in my second year of college. I thought it would be a relaxing and quiet job. Ha! Lots of people seem to think libraries are quiet places, but they really aren’t anymore.
Suprisingly (to me, anyway), that part-time job checking in and out books turned into career. I worked part-time while going to college, was promoted and then took on more hours after I graduated. I wanted to work in the children’s library for a long time before it happened, and even took a children’s literature course as an elective while at the university. I spent six years working full-time in the children’s department of the main library, before being promoted to be the children’s librarian at one of the branch libraries. I spent three years working as the children’s librarian in the very library that I used to visit as a kid. After three years, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life and resigned. I had given birth to my daughter, Mia, a few months before and decided that I wanted to be with her as much as possible. I am still a substitute employee and work for a couple of hours, occasionally. I miss it so much more than I ever dreamed I would. I hope to return to working at the library regularly again once Mia (and any younger sibling she hopefully will have) is older.
I have been reading to Mia since before she was born. I worked full-time as a children’s librarian for my entire pregnancy. I did at least two storytimes at my library branch every week. So she heard me read stories to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers on a regular basis. She heard me recite finger plays, nursery rhymes, and sing the songs that were all a part of my storytime repertoire. I loved knowing that she had already attended all of those library programs before she was even born.
I started reading to her when she was almost two months old. I may have started before then, but I know I began making a conscious effort once she started to seem more aware of her surroundings. I would lie down with her on a blanket on the floor and hold board books above our heads and read. It was amazing. This tiny two-month-old baby was listening and watching each page as I read books that back covers stated they were for babies/toddlers 12-18 months old. I think it helped that I knew what kind of books to choose. Over the last several years working in children’s library services, board books for babies/toddlers and picture books for preschoolers had become my area of expertise. I trained other library staff on doing “Book Baby” storytime programs. But…a parent doesn’t need a professional background in children’s literature or library science to be able to successfully read to their child. It’s really so simple. I chose books that were appealing to me. I had a bunch of board books that I had checked out and brought home before I went on maternity leave. I hadn’t even thought I would be reading the books to Mia, I just brought them home for the same reason I have brought home thousands of books over the years…because I liked them. I chose board books with large yet simple illustrations. Things that were easy for tiny eyes to see. I still read her those first few books she liked as a tiny baby every now and then. I know I will never give them away. They will always be special to me.
Totty by Paola Opal (all of the books in her Simply Small board book series are perfect for babies and toddlers-simple illustrations, outlined in black line, which makes them easier for babies to see.)
Bouncy Baby (a “Begin Smart” board book for babies 6-12 months) with simple illustrations and simple text about baby actions.
Peek-a-Boo What? (another “Begin Smart” board book but for older babies 12-18 months) with more complicated, cut-paper collage-style illustrations.
These books (and reading) might not work for other parents as well as it worked for me and Mia. All babies (and children) are different and do things at different rates. Mia was ready at two months, but if your baby isn’t happy to sit (or lie) still at that young age, don’t give up. Keep trying every once in a while…and one day your baby will be ready. We started reading together before Mia was even born…and we are still going strong. It makes my heart so happy.
Before my child had even been conceived, I had already started collecting children’s books. We have acquired so many more since she was born…I am a little scared to count how many there are in our home! She has two tall bookcases in her bedroom, shelves in her playroom, and another bookcase in our living room. We usually have at least 30-40 books checked out from our local libraries at a time. We can’t get enough. It’s been so rewarding to share the love I have for reading with my little girl. I decided that I would start a blog to share book titles, give recommendations for other parents and children, and advice for fostering early literacy in family homes. I’m so excited to begin!
Our blog address is http://readingwithmia.blogspot.com
Follow Abbie (and Mia) on Instagram: @abjane17