Reading Nooks

Essential qualities of a proper reading nook:

  • Comfort – You must be able to sustain hours in one position while reading, and occasionally sleeping.
  • Convenience – You need to keep all necessary items within reach (see above for “sustain hours in one position”). You will need a place for your drink of choice, some food (by food, i mean chocolate), your blankets, beach towels, pillows (whatever bedding accessories you need for your location), and, only if being used for a Kindle, a charger.
  • Aesthetic appeal – Since you plan on spending many, many hours in this place, it should have a look you find relaxing, refreshing, and enjoyable. It is an art.
  • Books – A reading nook must have books! No cellphones, no computers, no distractions, just books.

I am not an overly crafty or decorative person; Pinterest and I have never clicked (pun intended). And so I have been surprised by how much care and attention I find myself giving to the creation of reading nooks. It would be difficult for me to think of anything more comforting and peaceful than a good reading nook. They are small areas of personal space and solitude and joy (something every parent of small children craves). You know you have created a good reading nook when you can curl up in that space and feel the actual world recede as you get lost in the imaginary. It is a space where you will feel every human emotion invoked by the written word and still be at rest.

These are the favorite reading nooks in my home:

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The Crib-Turned-Reading Nook option

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The Captain-Seat-Turned-Reading Nook option

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The Common Reading Nook

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The Breezy Reading Nook

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The Reading Nook…

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With The Best View

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The Peaceful Reading Nook

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The Parent’s-Lap-Reading Nook – Rated #1 Among Children of All Ages

I’ll be right back…one (or all) of these places is calling my name.

Happy reading!

 

Bedtime Books for Every “Just One More”

Being a mother of four relatively young children, I am regularly asked some variation of, “how do you do it.” Usually people are genuinely curious and kind, but occasionally I will meet *that* guy who can’t resist the birth control “joke” or *that* grandma who can’t resist saying, “Oh you finally got your boy” as my three daughters stand right there wondering why they never count. But I digress. My point was supposed to be about the “how do you do it” question. My answer is always the same, “Well, the first one is the hardest and after that your expectations lower with each child until you are nine parts chaos and one part resignation.”

One day someone asked me a question that I had never heard before. She asked me, “What is your favorite part of the day?” (Just as a note, if you feel you must talk to parents of young children, this is a brilliant question to ask!) I immediately said, “Bedtime.” Later, I  laughed about this answer thinking, “Can your favorite part of the day also be the worst part of your day?” I remember this short conversation all the time as I live through the emotional contradiction that is “The Bedtime Routine.”

I will be honest, I look forward to “The Bedtime Routine” with unusual glee. There are many, many, many moments throughout the day when I long for the silence and calm and solitude…and silence (so much silence) of when the kids are finally in bed. I look forward to the smell of clean little bodies, the warm cuddles, the attentive minds as we read together, and those beautiful, precious sleeping children all tucked in. It is picture perfect and my favorite. Except the reality is cleaning up a flooded bathroom because they decided to play “scuba diver” AGAIN instead of washing their mud covered bodies. The “cuddles” are actually a constant wrestling match over any number of things, including but not limited to touching someone or any of their things, looking at someone, getting to sit next to Dad, or generally ruining someone’s life. Those attentive minds are attentive to every single detail around them…except the words I am reading out loud. The precious sleeping children are, instead, a revolving door of requests and urgent reports.

And so, every night, I find myself actively involved in the best and worst part of my day. Like in so many parts of my life, books help. There are so many fantastic bedtime books available and I thoroughly enjoy finding them. There are few things more satisfying than finding the right book to bring everyone together for a few peaceful, quiet moments before bed. Here are a few of the bedtime books my family has enjoyed the most.

The Going to Bed Book (Sandra Boynton) – I have read this book approximately 3285 times and I still enjoy reading it.

Good Night, Good Night Construction Site (Sherri Duskey Rinker) – Riots will ensue if this book is not read each and every night. It is, apparently, impossible to fall asleep if you do not know that all the construction vehicles are tucked in for the night.

Good Night, Gorilla (Peggy Rathmann) – I love watching kids “get” this book. When they are very young they mostly like looking at all the different animals but as they get older, they start to pick up on all the hilarious nuances in the illustrations.

Little Quack’s Bedtime (Lauren Thompson) – This book is just so cute and sometimes that’s a good thing.

Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown) – It’s an American classic and it is fantastic.

Mommy’s Best Kisses (Margaret Anastas) – No matter what happened in the bath or while brushing their teeth or getting their pajamas on, the kids will love getting kisses just like the baby animals in the book and you will be happy to give them.

Hibernation Station (Michelle Meadows) – While technically not a “good night” book, this is a great book about the hilarity that can be involved in getting many different creatures to sleep.

Llama, Llama Red Pajama (Anna Dewdney) – This is one of my personal favorites of the “Llama, Llama” books.

Good Night, Sleep Tight Little Bunnies (Dawn Apperley) – One of my daughters went through a phase when this book was read A LOT, usually that ends up being a bad thing, but this book holds up even when memorized.

I’m Not Sleepy (Jane Chapman) – This book is funny, accurate, and a really fun read.

May these books bring you the silence you so desperately need!

Must Have Board Books

My niece just turned 1. She is amazing in every way. But her superpower is reading. Like her mother and her auntie (me!), she loves books. Yes, she’s only 1 and can read…I told you, she is amazing. Okay, she looks at the pictures and turns the pages just like your child, but that counts as reading when you are 1.

Her birthday got me thinking about what board books she needed to have. Her mother has done a fantastic job equipping her with the basics so far. Now anything I add is just the icing on the proverbial cake. But as you can imagine, even if my role is simply to fill in an already excellent, growing library, I take that role very seriously. Babies, like all children, should have books they actually enjoy. We get carried away using books to teach babies their alphabet and numbers and colors. What we need to do is surround babies with books they can’t put down, books with vibrant, lively pages that they want to turn again and again and again. This is the best way for babies to learn academically later on, by letting them first learn to love books.

After four children of my own, untold numbers of baby showers, newborn hospital visits, and first birthdays, these are some of the board books I found most enjoyable by babies and parents alike. I have not included any of the excellent bedtime books there are only because that should be a blog post all its own. As always, there are many others not listed, that is where you come in! It is something I truly enjoy about this blog, I get to hear your suggestions and book recommendations. Here are mine:

Moo Ba La La La (Sandra Boynton) – This is my favorite from the expansive Boynton collection.

Guess How Much I Love You (Sam McBratney) – What could be better than reading about how much you love your baby?

Peek-a-Baby (Karen Katz) – Karen Katz’s books are favorites for young children, they are colorful, interactive, and fun. Peek-a-Baby is my personal favorite.

Tails (Matthew Van Fleet) – This is an excellent touch-and-feel book for your tactile baby or toddler.

Please, Baby, Please (Spike Lee) – Go ahead and buy this fantastic book, you will thank me later!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Eric Carle) – Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? was the first book each of my kids “read” on their own. It is everything books for very young children should be.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen) – Be prepared to read this book again and again and again. There will be actions, voices, squealing, and general chaos, but it will be awesome.

First 100 Words (Roger Priddy) – There are thousands of “first word” books out there but this one is, arguably, the best.

The Carrot Seed (Ruth Krauss) – This story has everything you want your children to learn: persistence, patience, responsibility, and joy.

Lola at the Library (Anna McQuinn) – For your library story time loving child, this is a great book.

That’s Not My Dragon (Fiona Watt) – My brilliant niece just picked this book as one of her favorites and it is, therefore, amazing! In all seriousness, all of the “That’s Not My…” books are well loved by children.

My Farm Friends (Wendell Minor) – Children love animals, it’s just a fact and this is an excellent first book about farm animals.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson) – This classic tale is a must have. Also, it will prepare you for the inevitable real life version that will happen on your walls.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (Eileen Christelow) – You will never stop reading this book. I recommend keeping a copy in your purse, it will get you through some tight spots in the grocery store, the doctor’s office, really anywhere.

The Pokey Little Puppy (Janette Sebring Lowrey) – For that one child always looking at something else, stopping at every ant, crawling to every flower.

Where’s Spot (Eric Hill) – This “lift the flap” book is always a baby favorite. It is hilarious to watch their genuine surprise every time they eventually find Spot.

Digger, Dozer, Dumper (Hope Vestergaard) – Like animals, you need to have a book about vehicles and construction trucks are the most exciting.

Animals: Baby Touch and Feel (by DK) – This is another book for your purse. The different textures of each page will distract and entertain your child effectively.

Duck and Goose, Goose Needs a Hug (Tad Hills) – I am a big fan of all the Duck and Goose board books. You cannot go wrong with these, but this one is my favorite.

Baby Lit Series (Jennifer Adams) – If you are looking for a cute way to introduce your baby to some of the European and American classics, look no further.

Enjoy watching the babies and young toddlers in your life chew, wash, throw, sit on, and in general try to destroy these fantastic board books…all in the name of reading!

 

 

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Paperback Books

All the things I love about books:

  1. The weight of a book in my hands
  2. The smell of opening a new book; it smells like home
  3. The sound of the plastic library book cover crinkling
  4. The look of a beautifully organized bookshelf
  5. Looking through the books on the beautifully organized bookshelf
  6. Learning about people through the books they like or dislike
  7. Words
  8. Stories
  9. Everything

Having said that, we need to discuss paperback books. Paperback books are the spider of the literary world, I understand their purpose and, possibly, why they should exist but I want no part of them. They are eternally infuriating. They rip, bend, break, and are completely useless on a bookshelf. Why have a book on a bookshelf when YOU CANNOT EVEN READ THE TITLE? Books are supposed to have substance, gravitas. Instead, paperback books have a hollowness, spinelessness. Every single thing on my list above is untrue of paperback books (okay, that is just mean…they have words and stories, but everything else…). They have no weight. They smell like mass packaging. If you hear a crinkling sound it’s because YOU JUST RIPPED A PAGE. And they look terrible on a bookshelf!

The biggest issue with paperback books is that you cannot outright hate them. They are important, very important actually. And that makes them even worse! Without paperback books, most classrooms would be empty of books, many children would not have any books at home, Scholastic book sales would not even exist and I, myself, would not have anywhere near the number of books I have. While everything about a hard cover books is a dream, like in life, we cannot afford the dream. Paperback books make the dream a reality. Now, teachers and schools are able to afford building up classroom libraries and students can save up their allowances while paging through the Scholastic book order pages looking for books they can actually afford to order themselves. Study after study confirm that children need to be read to and exposed to books from the earliest ages. Because of paperback books, parents are able to buy more books than they otherwise would be able to afford. This makes them essential to society. Like generic brand medication, it brings something vital but unattainable into reach. You cannot, in good conscience, hate such a thing (or can you?).

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If you can read one name in this stack of books, you get them all.

Just kidding, I would never do that to someone…you get the joy of winning! (Now we know why our kids hate that term so much. It is highly unsatisfying…not unlike a certain kind of aforementioned book.)