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Friday, June 28, 2013

Good Reads: the Kid (and Momma) Edition

We've been really enjoying our story times lately.  I didn't make as much time for it with friends and family visiting, but usually we read together every day.  It's something special I really treasure doing with them... especially since I feel like I've been waiting FOREVER for them to get interested in reading with me!

When Lily was born I was very upset with the realization that she did not, in fact, come out of the womb being interested in picture books.  What the heck.  I thought it was highly unfair that I had gobs and gobs of fantastic books and a baby who didn't give a hoot.  But now the wait is over!  The girls will snuggle up on the couch and read with me for up to an hour.

If only I could take a few shots of espresso before we start!  The yawns get distracting after about 20 minutes ;o) but I still suffer through cause it's really important.

I always knew that reading out loud to my kids was great for exposing them to rich language, giving them a head start on being lifelong readers, and that it was just plain cozy and fun... but what I didn't realize until recently was just how influential a good book can be in teaching an important life lesson for my children.

Two books that I highly want to recommend are Tea for Ruby and In My Heart .

Tea for Ruby is all about how Ruby has been invited to tea with the Queen... and she learns some very important lessons in manners and she prepares for the big tea party.  I got this book for the girls because it's illustrated by one of our favorites (Robin Preiss Glasser also illustrates the Fancy Nancy series) and it was sheer accident that it was on manners.

Now of course I'm trying to teach my kids manners.  But they're still pretty little and they don't really get what the word "rude" means.  Until one day I mentioned at the table that Lily needed to stop talking with her mouth full of food, and she excitedly pipes in "Like Ruby?"  BRILLIANT!  Yes, Lily, don't be rude like Ruby... remember how in the book she was talking with her mouth full?  We want to use our manners like she learned how to do!  

We've had many conversations like this about everything from interrupting, to waiting our turn, to saying please & thank you.  And I'd like to thank Ruby for really driving those points home for my girls!

In My Heart is one of the many gems that I've just discovered in my own home.  We've been super blessed by receiving boxes and boxes of children's books from people, not to mention two very generous sets of grandparents.  So I really have no clue where this particular book came from.  But I love it.  

It's about a darling little boy who's Momma tells him that all throughout the day, when they're apart, she thinks of him and knows that he's "in her heart".  This one has brought up quite a few awesome conversations...

First, we get to talk about how Mommies can work just like Daddies.  Since I'm a SAHM and my kids think I'm super awesome, duh of course they assume that "only dads go to work".  The mom in this book is a veterinarian, so not only do we get to talk about animal doctors, but we get to talk about how anyone can work anywhere.  Mommy just chooses to work at home with you ;o) 

Second, we get to talk about race and ethnicity.  This is really important to me because after reading Nurture Shock I learned that white parents are statistically the most likely to leave "race conversations" until far too late in a child's development.  In their fascinating chapter "Why white parents don't talk about race" Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman discuss some really fascinating studies about how children interpret skin color from an early age.  Kids are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism.  And they love to sort and categorize everything in their life.  It was a big eye opener for me to read that if no one EXPLICITLY talks to your child about race by third grade, they will have already formed their own (often incorrect) conclusions about people who have skin that is different from their own.

Kids notice differences in skin color way earlier than we realize.  And they don't know how to talk about it unless we teach them.  The day after we had a play date with a black girl, Lily woke up the next morning and told me she wanted to play with her "blue friend"... I was so confused.  But that was our first conversation about skin color... I think she wasn't even three, yet.

Research shows that in order to be effective, conversations about race have to be specific and in terms children understand.  You can't wave the magic wand of "everyone's equal" to a three-year-old.  They don't yet know what equal means!  But they will (probably) understand when you say it's wrong to choose someone as your friend because their skin is the same as yours... or to not be friends with someone who has different skin.

That's why I love this book so much.  The main character is adopted, so you get to talk about how families, friends, coworkers, and teachers can all have skin that is different than us.  It's just like different hair styles or clothes.

The other funny thing is that I don't think the author intended that as the "main point" of the book.  But that's what my kids and I are taking away from it! 

What have I been reading lately?  It's not all about the picture books, folks!

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are  Her writing on living a more thankful life was like poetry to my grumpy soul.

Marriage Adventures: The Secret to an Extraordinary Life Together  Written by a very dear friend of mine, Carrie Starr.  On how to make your first marriage your only marriage.  LOVE IT!

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible  I so wish I had purchased this before we planted this year ;o) but I'm still learning a ton. No more "googling and guessing" my way through the gardening season(s)!!

The Robe  A re-read for me.  But I figured it was time to pull a delicious-smelling-classic off of our shelf and I just love this book so so so much.  (For the awesome story and writing, not just the smell.)

Happy reading everyone!  I wish you a cozy evening snuggled up with a good book.  Or early morning. Or mid afternoon with two kids squished up next to you.


  1. Not gonna lie- I really miss early camp mornings enjoying coffee and you reading!

    1. Aww I was thinking about camp mornings just the other day. I think I was outside on a crisp morning and the smell reminded me of camp. Seems like so long ago for us oldies ;o)

  2. Molly Bang has many different skin colors in each of her books and our kids definitely noticed the diversity more than they do in books where everyone looks the same. More, More, More, said the Baby is a current favorite in our house :)

    1. Thanks I'll add that to the library/purchase list!