Thursday, 17 October 2013

Baby Book Club: Gems for the future

There have been some really interesting articles turning up on my twitter feed recently on the value of reading to children. This has prompted me to catch up on a belated post on a few absolute gems we have been sent to review by the wonderful Blue Apple books. I believe that a good collection of children's books takes time to build, and the beautiful titles we have been sent are just the sort of books that we will grow into and treasure. Every one is a work of art, with stunning illustrations and innovative content.

Culturebaby was recently two, and quite a bit older than the last time I wrote a Baby Book Club post. Something I'm really pleased we began a long time ago is her bedtime story routine, which is now well and truly established and loved by us all. It gives us the chance for real calm and quality time, allows her to wind down after her bath, and she really enjoys the opportunity to browse through a basket of books (which we rotate regularly) and select exactly what she wants. Many of her first words and experiences have related to things we have read in books - from obsessions with scooters and blackberry picking, to her grasp of colours and patterns. One of her first 'sentences' was rather amusingly "Sit there, book me"! Bossy already, she knows what she wants (or doesn't want) to read, but I love how excited she gets about certain stories and how their themes become her points of reference.

It is therefore so sad to read that Children's bedtime stories are currently on the wane and only 13% of parents read to their kids at night every day (with 4% surveyed saying their children own no books at all). Author Neil Gaiman gave a really interesting recent lecture, excerpts of which were published in last Tuesday's Guardian, about how he believes our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. He highlighted the importance of fiction as the 'gateway drug to reading' and path to learning new words and thinking new thoughts. He talks about the crucial choice for a child in what they want to read - and therefore the value of having lots of books around (yes mother, Enid Blyton really was ok), the role of fiction in building empathy, and the ever increasing role of literacy in social mobility, independence and freedom. Likewise, I rather like the "bang for your book" pun in Graeme Paton's much more utilitarian article in the Telegraph (2010), where he cites research that 500 books in a household could buy you 3 extra years in education, and up to £200k more in lifetime earnings. A bargain really... Future earnings are, however, not a primary motivator for me in introducing books to my little lady (and I imagine most parents) - reading is about joy, freedom and opening up new and lifechanging worlds for her. My friend and author of the popular blog Being a Mummy captures this so well in this recent post. She quotes the much loved author Roald Dahl as he rhymes: “So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.” And on it we would certainly showcase these five wonderful titles:

Red Cat Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond - I love love love this book, and at a recent Baby Book Club with our pals, the children were really drawn to it too. Of the five titles, I'd also say that this is most suitable for Culturebaby's age. This stunningly illustrated book is an amusing tale about the jealousy between our eponymous heroes when they meet and proceed to try to become more like the other. Of course the moral of the story is that friendship can enable us to learn from others and grow to appreciate our own attributes... until of course we then meet yellow cat and it all begins again...

Alphasaurs by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss - My mother has a thing about beautiful ABC books and consequently between us we are amassing rather a lovely collection. This innovative offering, with its clever illustrations, useful facts and flaps to lift is high up my list of favourites and was a real hit with Culturebaby's scientifically minded 5 year old friend. Whilst it is an ABC book, with each dinosaur cleverly crafted from the letter of its name, it is also massively informative and stunningly designed. Frankly it wouldn't be out of place on any arty adult's coffee table.

ABC Doctor and ABC Dentist by Harriet Ziefert and Liz Murphy - This fabulous pair continues our theme of informative ABC books and came highly rated by the mums in our baby book club. With bright collage artwork of children and covering everything from roots to reflex hammers, these books are a great way to reassure a child visiting either surgery, covering the why and how as well as the who and what of a visit.

Flying to Neverland with Peter Pan, by Comden, Green Leigh and Bates - Now from what I gather this stunning book features lyrics from two of the songs in the broadway musical based on J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I've never seen the musical, but this in no way detracts from the stand-alone beauty of this gorgeously illustrated book, which also serves as a really good introduction to the classic tale for younger children. As Albert Einstein said "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales". Here's a perfect addition to that collection...

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