Now that Pablo is 1 year old, I’d like to share the books that made it to his year of infancy.
Before I became a mom, I had a completely different set of books in mind. In fact, the very first thing I shopped for when I found out I was pregnant was a couple of books (you can check them HERE and HERE), but after having read Montessori later on in my pregnancy, I ended up with a completely different list.
In Montessori, the recommendation is to just have a few books out – so we don’t overwhelm the child, and to help the child make meaningful choices. The recommendation I often see is about 3-4 books in one corner. LESS IS MORE, even in books. You can read more about the WHY here (backed up by a study which you can also find in that blogpost).
I have a long way to go in downsizing Pablo’s shelf (though when he was a lot younger, we followed the 3-4 books per corner recommendation), but like they say, the key is to follow the child. I observe how many he can take without ruining the books, or just throwing them randomly.
He has a lot of books. That’s one thing I cannot stop shopping for. But I don’t take them all out at once, and I don’t mind having the same books out over and over again – they need this for mastery, for language building, and for better understanding of the world.
So, what do I look for in a book?
1. Reality-based stories and illustration – Because infants and toddlers are just learning about the world and cannot distinguish reality from fantasy yet, I would rather offer books that help them understand the world better. At this stage, for example, he cannot tell yet that a flying cat does not exist in real life, so I would rather offer a realistic book about cats as it offers them keys to the world. You should see his face when he sees a cat – he smiles and laughs and squeaks – because it’s familiar – he can relate. For this purpose, I like mixing real-life photos and beautiful illustrations – because I also believe in the benefit of exposing him to beautiful artwork.
2. Simple Books – As little text as possible for some books, and not overwhelming text per page for those with rhymes. When people talk of reading, some think the more words, the better – or the more intelligent the reader is. In infants, text is not yet important. It’s comprehension that you want to build, so the more text they see, the more “noise” there is in an image. Text can serve as distraction at this point. I love books with no text and just all photos, because reading, first and foremost, is really about comprehension. I also love books that are just categorized with a simple photo and one text that describes what the image is (sort of like compiled flash cards). I like matching them with a miniature model. In the future, these kinds of books work great for children making their own story, too! It can become tools for their imaginative play, and a tool to help them strengthen their memory skills.
3. Rhyming Books – The sing-song rhymes are important for language building (plus, it’s really fun to read!), so rhyming books are a plus for me! Song books like The Wheels On The Bus is also great! I got more song books like What A Wonderful World, but that’s not for this age yet (for me).
4. Books With Baby Images -Babies are naturally drawn to other babies, so books with babies on them surely catch their attention! Pablo loves communicating with the babies in the books in all sorts of ways!
5. Beautiful Message – Most of Pablo’s books offer him a chance to have a better understanding of the world around him, but I also put out a few that have beautiful messages, mainly that his parents love him so much. I can’t help but read him P.K. Hallinan’s How Do I Love You? and Laura Melmed’s I Love You As Much every chance possible.
SO, the ones on the graphic I made below are his FAVORITES of all time!
PICTURE BOOKS / FLASH CARDS:
-Baby ABC (Deborah Donenfield)
-Baby Brainy Animals (Flash Cards)
-Baby Faces – SMILE | SLEEP (Scholastic Inc)
-Baby’s Book – 12 Series (Xu Gang Publishing – got this as a gift, not sure it’s available in a lot of places, but you can order from HERE)
-Cat (Matthew Van Fleet)
-Dressing (Helen Oxenbury)
-I SEE | I HEAR | I TOUCH | (Helen Oxenbury)
-Indescrutibles Books: Creep and Crawl | Flutter Fly | Jungle Rumble | Mama And Baby | Plip-Plop Pond | Wiggle March
–Munchkin Traveling Flash Cards
-My First Body (DK Publishing)
-The World Around Me (Ang Aking Paligid, Adarna Books) – green and red
STORIES AND/OR RHYMING BOOKS:
-All Fall Down (Helen Oxenbury)
-Baby Elephant | Baby Fish Finger Puppet Book (Chronicle Books)
-Clap Hands (Helen Oxenbury)
-Good Night, Baby! (DK Publishing)
-How Do I Love You (P.K. Hallinan)
-I Love You As Much (Laura Melmed)
-Say Goodnight (Helen Oxenbury)
-Ten Little Fingers (Mem Fox)
-The Rooster Struts (Richard Scarry)
-The Wheels On The Bus (there are so many versions, we have 2 – both from book sales!)
-Tickle, Tickle (Helen Oxenbury)
More thoughts on reading (in no particular order):
- As part of respecting the child, we waited for Pablo to really get into the groove of reading. We would read to him from birth, but whenever he’d turn away, we would stop reading. Maybe it was only around his 7th or 8th month that really showed his interest in reading. Whenever we would read “How Do I Love You”, he would stop whatever he’s doing and crawl his way to us, then listen till we finish the book. This was his first “real” favorite – favorite as a book, not as something to just look at and/or manipulate.
- When Pablo reads on his own and the images are viewed upside down, I do not correct him. After all, he has not seen many of the things that are illustrated in his books. So how will he know what is the “correct” way of viewing them? What I do is I observe what he does, take mental notes, and as much as possible, expose him to the real thing.
- Also as part of respect, we don’t force reading on Pablo. When he stops showing interest while I’m just at the middle of the book, I stop and let him. There are some days when we don’t read to him at all. However, everyday, from the time he has really grown an immense interest in books, he reads on his own. He would get a book, flip the pages, study them, and have his own quiet time. This turned out to work well for us, because now, whenever he wants us to read to him, he would get the book and bring it to us. And if we don’t read to him right away, he complains (for real). I love that the initiative comes from him, so no forcing is done, and this way, I’m sure that what I’m reading to him is what he prefers at the moment.
- While I see the value of reading early, I also agree with the Waldorf stand in reading. If your child follows the Waldorf philosophy (or is enrolled in a Waldorf school), you would know that they don’t read until they are 7. What happens before 7 is that they do a lot of storytelling and language building. I love this view because sometimes, reading something in front of you (an image with text), especially when you’re just learning, can really be a distraction in developing your skill to comprehend. You may be able to read the words and the letters, but if you cannot understand the message/ story/ content of the book because you’re too busy trying to make sense of the letters/words themselves, then you lose the biggest and most important part of reading: comprehension. Because of consistent reading, I’ve memorized many of his books already, so many times, we would just “storytell” it without the book! (PS: There are studies that back this approach up! I just have to look for them – read them before!)
- We never made a big deal about him “tearing” his books – we allow him to explore it. To help him turn the pages, I put rubber bands in between the How Do I Love You book. He would practice this on his own, without prompting. The easiest solution for us was to start with board books and those cloth or “Indescrtuctibles” type of books. Pablo though, wants the real deal, just like the other children. So, he would get my Montessori guide books and hold it while walking around. He likes flipping the pages and all that. So, I gave him some of my old textbooks so he can do the flipping. He still likes getting my Montessori books from time to time, though. 😛
- We have a reading corner at home. Those sofa chairs are for my and my husband, while the floor is for Pablo (cause that’s where he likes to read). The bookshelf on the image above is a mix of my books and Pablo’s books. The ones from below to the middle are his books, while the top corner is mine. The row just below my corner are Pablo’s books, too, but those that are to be read by me or my husband because they’re all soft-bound and long.
- Pablo also has a reading corner in his room. One shelf for his general books, and a tray for his “Good Night” books.
- We don’t limit Pablo’s reading to books. Reading, again, is mainly about comprehension, so we expose him to different things where comprehension is needed by including him in the things we encounter, like a restaurant’s menu, or we expose him to artworks from postcards to photos to paintings, etc (because that includes interpreting what is happening in a particular image).
- Although found everywhere, I noticed that not many people take time to read SIGNS. This is one thing we will talk about with in the future – by talking about the signs we see everywhere – parking signs, recycling signs, road signs, comfort room/ elevator signs, no-smoking signs, airport / airplane signs, etc.
- We don’t teach the alphabet nor numbers to Pablo yet. These are abstract concepts that he will eventually learn/figure out when he’s about 3. We are not rushing on this one and instead expose him to real concepts (for him to easily grasp the abstract later on). However, there are some books with alphabet that we have – though we don’t even read that part to Pablo. For example, my mom-in-law gave Pablo a flipbook of animals from A-Z by Munchkin. He loves that because of the animals, so we just tell him what the animals are, and totally skip the letters and numbers part.
- While I love e-books for me because I can take them with me everywhere without extra baggage (and I get a copy quickly – cause you know, very few Montessori guidebooks are available in this country + i’m not “wasting” paper), I make sure to still always have a hard copy with me. Nothing beats modeling. You cannot expect your child to have a love for reading when s/he doesn’t even see you make time for it. As much as I want to let him know that what I’m really doing on my phone is reading, at this point, the phone is just another “flashy” gadget for him that his Mama doesn’t want to share – he doesn’t know it can also contain books!
- While having a lot of books is great, NOTHING CAN EVER REPLACE the real world. I’ve seen this with Pablo. He appreciates an image more when he first experienced it! So, even if you have no budget for books, exposing your child to the world out there can really do him/her a world of wonders! PS: You can also print your own images, too. Your family photos, your child’s everyday things, your child’s food, etc. If you can’t find picture books that suit your lifestyle, you can just make one! 🙂
Now, where do I buy books? Unfortunately, our major bookstores don’t even cover many of the books mentioned here. But you can take a look at their “educational” books section and you might find simple books that can work for you and your baby.
You can also make a special order from FULLY BOOKED, or order on Amazon and have them shipped here (by cargo is much cheaper, but longer!). You can also check out Book Depository (free shipping to the Philippines but sometimes, the books are more expensive).
Lastly, do not undermine second-hand bookstores! They’re goldmine for Montessori-friendly books! Plus cheaper, too! I do have to note though that one time, while buying second-hand books, I saw a dead insect inside the books, so PLEASE, check the books before offering them to your child. You may sanitize them using wipes, or your dry sterilizer (I love our ECOMOM and UV CARE for this purpose). I just do that once, and then I don’t really re-sanitize them again.