Do you remember the old Audrey Wood book The Napping House? I just added it to my shopping cart the other day in hasty pursuit of a new bundle of books to add to mini’s burgeoning collection, and I thought to myself, as I glanced down at the Kindle on my lap and the littering of books across the carpet of our living room, that though we are not a napping house (why do I never learn to nap when mini naps to make up for the consistent 5:30 a.m. wake up calls she’s been treating us to for the last many weeks?), we do qualify as a reading house. I worry, though, that mini sees Mr. Magpie and I reading on our digital devices and does not understand that we, too, are reading. My parents were never an arm’s length away from a physical book at any given time. I’d routinely find my mother reading in the carpool lane as her car idled in the handful of minutes before the end-of-day bell, and my father would often bring whatever hefty historical tome he was into at the moment to venues as ill-suited to reading as parent-teacher conferences and Christmas pageants. At the time, this embarrassed me, but the truth is this: the fact that they were so commonly found sneaking in a few pages whenever they could squirrel away a minute or two of vacant time modeled a voracious and omnivorous appetite for all kinds of literature that my siblings and I in turn cultivated on our own. We saw the way they prized the books in their lives and the unanticipated and fleeting opportunities to read them amidst a whirlwind of five children and their attendant and incessant needs. Through the model of our parents, we came to understand reading as a part of the fabric of quotidian life: eat, sleep, read. I hope to be establishing the same in my daughter, but I grapple with the unique challenge of modeling readership in the digital age in front of a wide-eyed daughter who might be interpreting my time on the Kindle as something else entirely.
Regardless, at a very minimum, I trust that I am instilling a love of books in her (an intention I set early on) by reading to her routinely, multiple times a day, and at virtually any request of hers. (Though I have occasionally drawn the line on the fifth or seventh reading in a row of Goodnight Moon, one of her current favorites.)
Below, I thought I’d share some of her absolute favorite books now that she is just shy of a year and a half–ones that, importantly, I enjoy as well. One tip my sister shared with me that helped when mini was a bit younger and less capable of sitting through any of the longer books: it’s OK to abbreviate some of the text on the pages. For example, mini loves the book Corduroy, but some of the pages are a touch text-heavy and I find it easier to abridge the writing and sort of summarize what happens on the page instead of laboring through an entire paragraph while mini wrestles to turn the page or loses interest. Maybe that advice will be helpful to some of you, too.
The Best Books for 1.5 Year Olds.
+Corduroy. Something about the illustrations in this book speak to mini, and I think the simple story of a misfit toy venturing out to better his life and then finding the friend and home he always wanted is simple and poignant.
+The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I mean, who doesn’t love this book? I like counting out the fruit with mini, and she enjoys pushing her finger through the cut-out in the board book version. Though the book does not rhyme, it has a good rhythm to it.
+Curious George. This book is a little long for mini right now, but my goodness does she love the 10 or 15 pages we manage to get through before she loses interest. What baby doesn’t love pointing out bananas and monkeys?!
+The Pout Pout Fish. One of her all-time favorites. A super catchy rhyming book that Mr. Magpie and I can recite to one another from memory, and of course mini dies at the “SMOOOOCH” part at the end.
+The Sleepy Little Alphabet. This book is lovely because it introduces ABCs and features a lot of images/objects mini can identify: a rubber duck, an octopus, a car, etc. It also has a great, soothing rhythm to it and it makes me sleepy just thinking about it. A perfect bedtime book.
+The Runaway Bunny. OMG, mini has a deep and fierce love of this book. She loves to help me find the baby bunny in the pictures (they’re kind of hidden) and we linger for a good couple of minutes over the page with the circus setup. She needs to point out the dog, the horse, the clowns, etc. every single time.
+Is Your Mama a Llama. I was skeptical of this book at first because the images are less bright and distinct than most childrens’ books — but my goodness does mini adore this. Again, it has a strong rhythm and rhyme that she will sort of sing along to.
+Dear Zoo. A great lift-the-flap book with easy-to-identify zoo animals. She just never tires of this one; she’s loved it since maybe eight months?
+Pig the Pug. Adorable book about sharing, also with a strong rhyme sequence. The illustrations are wonderful.
+Christmas in the Manger. Do not ask me why, but mini adores this simple Christmas book.
+Please Mr. Panda. Mini laughs every time I get to the climax of this story and yell: PLEEEEEEEEASE, MR. PANDA?! A clever story about manners.
+I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug. Mini loves the marching rhythm of this book and all of the different animals in it; we often pause at each page to make the animal noises together.
+Brush Brush Brush. This is not exactly great literature but I bought it for mini just after we went to her first dental appointment. She’s very into brushing her teeth at the moment especially given this new book and her own special toothbrush. She’ll often ask us for it by pointing to the drawer in which we keep her toothbrush and then at her mouth!
My Current Book Wishlist for Mini.
+Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. A rhyming alphabet book.
+Where’s My Teddy? “A fast-paced comedy of errors” that has apparently been in print for over 25 years. I’ve never read it!
+Should I Share My Ice Cream? My sister (an early childhood reading specialist) mentioned that she loves all Mo Willems books recently.
+Hug. I know just from the colors and existence of a monkey that mini will love this one.
+Ten Black Dots. My sister says she reads this book to her son nearly every day. I like that it’s a counting book — we’ve got so many alphabet ones already!
+Dragons Love Tacos. A current best-seller.
P.P.P.S. These massive beach towels are so eye-catching — and so on sale!