Books for Baby, Parenting and life, Reading Aloud

Read to your bump!

I found this video today. I’m clearly not the only one who knows that reading to your baby before birth is beneficial. Have a gander and tell me what you think?

Books for Toddlers - 18 months to 3 years, Parenting and life, Print Books, Reading Aloud

A new year… or rather a new decade!

Happy new decade! The fact that 2020 is a new decade crept up on me a little bit. I only twigged that 2019 was the last year of the teens about 3 days before the end of the year. What a muppet. Anyway, nothing like a new year to try and make some resolutions and nothing like a new decade to make some extra special lofty plans! These four are on my list…

Read more together

Well obviously I was going to put this one in here. I am all about reading together, even as adults. Sharing books and reading is so much fun but when I say read more together, I don’t necessarily mean sitting in a circle and taking turns to read a paragraph (like at school…yawn!). You’ll never read more together like that.

Coming out in July 2020, wannabe astronaut Rocket is back in the next book after Look Up. Can’t wait!

So, if you’re here because you have small children, take the opportunity to read one extra story together at bedtime or during the day. Maybe listen to an audio book during lunch or breakfast. If you have older children who are reading on their own, maybe take the time to read some of the same books as them, either together or separately so you can discuss the stories and characters – like a family book club! Speaking of which, why not join an adult book club yourself. Even if all it turns out to be is an excuse to drink wine and complain about the way the book ends, you will have read something interesting with others.

Help save the planet

This is so important. The Monkey and I joined a climate strike in Turin when Greta Thunberg herself came to speak.

A book to inspire young activists, How to be Extraordinary is wonderful for introducing role models to your youngster

Whilst she is not the only one speaking out about how we need to change our behaviour, her school strikes for climate have given young people a new power to speak out about their future. The latest fires in Australia just show that we really can’t rest on on our laurels. We can all do more for the future of the planet. Use less plastic; reduce, re-use & recycle; walk, cycle and take public transport; think about the provenance of our food & and buy local; buy natural fabrics, buy secondhand, mend where you can; do more spot washing, instead of large washes of mostly clean clothes; eat less, eat less meat or even go veggie/vegan… The list is endless and it really only points out to me the bad habits we’ve all got into, some of it our fault and some of it nudged by big business. Pick one resolution from the list first and go from there.

Learn something new

This one often makes it onto resolution lists, doesn’t it? Along with do more exercise, lose weight etc etc. I know it’s sometimes hard to even pick something new to learn, but it can be very rewarding learning something new. I’ve certainly found that since starting to learn Italian which is why the resolution is back on my list. After school and university or college, it’s almost inevitable that your pace of learning almost stops once you get into a job. And the impetus to go and find something to learn in your spare time is pretty much non existent. I mean when you were at school, you learnt because you had to, not because you wanted to. But actually, learning can be fun. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do, and go for it. Don’t procrastinate. You want to learn pottery? Find your local pottery class. You want to learn taxidermy or a language or business skills or homeopathy?  I guarantee there’ll be something going on near you or at the very least there’ll be a book about it. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, get in touch and I will help you!

Be less anxious

Jennifer Senior’s book All Joy and No Fun is on my reading list for 2020

One of the things that I’m really trying to do this year is be less anxious about everything. It’s so easy to get anxious about small things, and create stress where it really won’t help. I find that being a parent these days is a big stress inducer, not the actual loving my child bit but the pressure to be a good parent, keeping up with other parents, and doing everything we can to raise a child with all the opportunities he needs to thrive in life. It’s exhausting – am I pushing too much or not enough, should he be in nursery or forest school or at home, should we be spending more time playing with him, or encouraging individual play, should we be trying to find out if he’s a sports/music/art/maths prodigy???… that’s just what flashes through my head right now. I watched a ted talk about how parents feel constantly in crisis and it resonated hugely.  I think, as Jennifer Senior says as long as I try everyday not to hurt my little monkey – or anyone else – and I encourage him to do the same, it’s a good day.

Conclusion

I like to think these are largely achievable resolutions. It’s easy to make resolutions that once you fall off the wagon so to speak, you give up, but I think these are the types of goals that are the kind where you just chip away and if you fail one day, you start again the next. Being less anxious applies to the stress of achieving the resolutions too! What are your new years resolutions? Are you good at keeping resolutions or hopeless? I’d love to know, and gain any further inspiration from you!

Print Books

The Book People goes bust

I’ve not been writing long enough for these guys to have featured on my blog nearly enough. The Book People however was quite a mainstay of my school days. I remember the excitement of being allowed out of class to go down to the latest Book People pop-up and see all the new books you could buy. And then of course badgering my parents all the way home! I’m sad, then, that The Book People have gone into administration. I hope that a buyer can be found to keep it going, but given the amount of profit versus debt they had, I doubt it will stay in its current form. Competitors like Amazon are just too big for an operation like this. I feel for the staff who may still lose their jobs at Christmastime.

An interesting development that came out about this news is the saving of Galley Beggar, the publisher who was responsible for the Booker shortlisted title Ducks, Newburyport. They had been required to finance a print run of the title for a special edition on The Book People’s site, but their fall into administration meant that Galley Begger were facing bankruptcy themselves until a crowdfunding campaign saved them. Its good to know that people still value small publishers enough to help them out when things go awry out of their control.

Coincidentally I received my first international order from The Book People only last month. International orders were quite a recent thing. I did have a problem, but it was the fault of the Italian couriers not The Book People. When I called up customer service to see if they could intervene to help me get my order, they really stepped up and were friendly and helpful. I got my order within three days after that. Yes, using a call centre for customer service might not be as convenient as an app or the automated systems of the likes of Amazon, but sometimes your problem just isn’t on one of those drop-down menus.

The Book People are still currently trading and are fulfilling any orders already placed with them. It will be interesting seeing what happens for them in the New Year.

Audio Books, Books for Baby, Books for Toddlers - 18 months to 3 years, E-Books, Print Books

Kids books on a budget

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the pinch. Christmas is such an expensive time of year, with gifts, special food and treats and parties and events. Our Monkey has 3 Christmas parties already and we’re still only halfway through Advent. In contrast, I’ve not had any….! Anyway, I thought now would be a good time to look at how you can nurture a love of reading but without spending a shed load of cash on new books all the time. Yep, I’m going to tell you how to get kids books on a budget, and even for free!

Your Local Library

This first option should be obvious but it is not always. In the UK certainly, libraries aren’t what they once were. Funding cuts, the advent of e-readers and services like Kindle Unlimited means that a lot of libraries have had to diversify or just shut down all together. However! If you are lucky enough to have a local library still, they are a fantastic resource for children. Not only do they have books for your child to sit and pore over but they often have story events and classes. Signing up to your local library is free, yep FREE, and you can take out books as often as you like. Perfect!

One of the major changes since I was a kid is that libraries are offering digital services now. A lot of UK libraries are using a platform called Overdrive which is actually American (US libraries are using it too, for those of you over the pond), but it is a great way for them to expand their catalogue without having to have the space to keep the books. You use your library card number to log in to your specific library on Overdrive and they have e-books, magazines and (most importantly to me) audio books available for you to download to your phone/laptop/other device. They’re on loan like normal library books but instead of having to physically return them, and risk fines, the digital copies get automatically recalled at the end of your loan period, unless you renew it. There you have it: kids books online… free!

Second hand book shops, thrift stores and charity shops

This one is particularly good after Christmas, once the unwanted presents or old toys have been cleared out. Kids don’t need new books. Yes it is nice to have brand new things, but really, good condition second hand books are so much cheaper. Second hand book shops are lovely for browsing but I like a good British charity shop.

By Basher Eyre, CC BY-SA 2.0

To translate for those of you coming from somewhere other than Britain, we have quite a lot of high street shops run by volunteers, given over to charities such as Oxfam or Barnado’s, who take donations of clothes, homewares, toys and books, and then they sell them on in aid of their respective charity. There can be quite a number of them in certain towns, and they’re great for kids stuff and especially books! I recently picked up the whole Harry and the Dinosaurs collection for 50p per book and they were basically as new. I imagine some thrift stores in the US operate in similar vein. There are a few here in Italy too, but it is not really a thing. But that’s where my next source comes in…

Social media and online marketplaces

Social media has it is pros and cons, but one of the definite pros for me are local marketplace groups. Back in London, I got so much hand-me-down maternity wear, toys and other bits and pieces through our local marketplace group. You’ve got various different platforms for this, Facebook marketplace being a big one in Turin, Gumtree and Facebook groups in London, I guess Craigslist in the US. There will always be people having a clear out and getting rid of stuff. But what if you’re looking for something specific? This is where I turn to Amazon Marketplace. Whenever you search for a book on Amazon, there are always more options for who you want to buy your book from, and this is almost always my first port of call. You can get the exact books you want, secondhand at great prices. The great thing here is that often you’re actually supporting a bookshop or bookseller, you’re saving the planet a tiny bit by buying secondhand, and it is a bit kinder on the old wallet too,

Book swaps

This takes a little bit of organising but once set up, it is a good way to cycle books through age groups. The principle is that you have a place where there are books that are free to take, but for every book you take you have to replace it with another unwanted book. It’s a good way to shift some of the books your little one may have grown out of, and then pick up some books in the next age bracket. Using your school or nursery/daycare for this, if they agree, is perfect because you have the mix of age groups and a decent number of people to keep the book selections fresh. Like I said it does take some organising and upkeep with occasional call outs for new books, but it is another way to get books for free!

So there you have it.

Free and cheap books? Yes, please! the great thing is these tips ain’t just for kids books, oh no. All of these are great for us grown-ups too! If you’re still stuck or want a hand setting up a book swap for example, then drop me a line or leave a comment below and I will always be very happy to help.

Audio Books, Books for Toddlers - 18 months to 3 years

Books for Journeys: Reading or listening to books when on the road

Christmas is nearly here which means, for us and for many, that we have a big roadtrip coming up. Our little Monkey is now almost 3years old and although he is very good in the car (thank goodness), it’s still important to keep him entertained in the car. There are only so many rounds of i-spy you can keep up on a 12 hour road and we’d rather keep screen time on a tablet to a minimum, so what do we do? Books of course!

Activity Books for toddlers

Now, when you’re on a long trip, it’s not always practicle to sit and read to your child. It’s difficult to replicate cuddling up together when you have a massive baby seat separating you, or maybe you’re on your own and are in charge of driving. Either way, so long as you’re fortunate enough to have a child that won’t get carsick, activity books are a great idea. Stickers, mazes, spot the difference are all great for little ones. Since our Monkey has started learning how to hold a pen/pencil and start the basics of tracing and drawing lines, he loves mazes or those find the path puzzles. He’ll trace his routes with his fingers for aaaaaages. Stickers are always a winner, but he’s particularly fond of stickers that have a particular spot – like a puzzle piece. Try to avoid colouring books, and stick to activities that don’t need a pencil. Unless you have a tray on your car seat, your little one will get frustrated with not being able to hold all the colours. Usbourne are great to go to for books like these. check out Little Children’s Activity Book: Mazes, Puzzles and Colouring. I know I said avoid colouring, but this one has loads of other activities too. The colouring can come out when you’ve stopped at a service station!

Search-and-Find books

I-spy, just more interesting. Search and find books are fantastic for little ones problem solving, as especially when they’re learning to count. We have a search and find Pirate book, and the Monkey will sit, trying to find everything, and then come up with his own searches! The classic of course is Where’s Wally, but this may be a bit advance for really little toddlers. Instead have a look at My First Search and Find board books by Neiko Ng. They’ve got tabs for little fingers and being board books will sit well on little laps in the car!

Audio books for the car

Goes without saying, well for me anyway, that audio books are fantastic for the car. Especially if you have kids that will get car sick if they’re looking down at the pages of books. Don’t underestimate your child’s attention span for audio books either. I will have a post soon on where to source your audio books, but first of all, to get get you going, look for collections based on your child’s interests. I have already talked about the Hairy Maclarey CD collection here, but there’s the The Julia Donaldson CollectionHappy Families: The Audio Collection (read by Alexander Armstrong – a fantastic narrator) and Ladybird Classics: The Complete Audio Collection. These are particularly good as most cars still have CD players and so you don’t even have to look to reach and grab something and just stick it on.

Magnet Books

Like sticker books but re-useable and some tell stories. These magnetic books are great for toddlers who have slightly more dexterity, as if they lose all the bits on the floor of the car, you’re likely to have to endure a sizable tantrum – trust me. However if your child is a fan of stickers or imaginary play then these are great. There is also, if you wish to steer it that way, some STEM learning to be gained from them too. There are so many to choose from. If your child is into Peppa Pig, check out Peppa Pig: Peppa and Friends Magnet Book. Our monkey doesn’t even watch Peppa but still loves this one. Animal Magnets : My First Book of Magnets is great for unbranded play!

Driving home for Christmas..?

I hope that these ideas help you to cope on your long journeys with your little one. These don’t have to be just for car journeys either.

Planes, trains, buses, doctors waiting rooms, any situation where you need to keep your child calm, occupied and relatively quiet. Audio books work even, as you can put a pair of headphones at a suitable volume on your child and they can listen quietly in private to their own story. If you want any other tips, always feel free to drop me a line in the comments below!

Everything else

Which Roald Dahl Character should be your BFF?

So here’s a bit of fun in the lead up to Christmas. Roald Dahl of course was a classic children’s author. I can’t name a single person I know who hasn’t read at least one of his books growing up. Or at the VERY least, saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His books are so wonderfully silly. One of my favourites was the Revolting Rhymes about Little Red Riding Hood when she whips the pistol from her knickers to stop the wolf! My BFF is Matilda. I’m very happy about that.

As ever, if you need some help finding the right book for any gifts or even your own little ones, always always feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

Books for Toddlers - 18 months to 3 years

Nuts for Pirates? The Best Pirate books for Toddlers

One of the other things I do here in Torino is English songtime/language listening with toddlers. I basically sing nursery rhymes and child friendly songs with some explanation of the words we’re using in between. There’s also a lot of actions and a LOT of silliness. One of the themes which is always popular is Pirates. In fact I only this morning ran a session where we were pirates sailing away to a desert island dance party! Pirates are a common theme for toddlers to enjoy and so today I’m going to introduce a few of our favourite pirate books for toddlers.

1. Pirate Pete’s potty

This is really a potty training book dressed in pirate clothing, but it’s a good one. If you are embarking upon potty training, it’s really one of the good books to help potty training in the period before you begin.  We found having this book and talking about it really helped our little monkey understand what was happening. Plus it’s got one of those annoying buttons that makes the same noise repeatedly that us parents hate but kids LOVE! There’s a Princess Polly version for girls too.

2. Pirates Love Underpants by Clare Freedman & Ben Cort

This is part of a series of books about various people or creatures loving underpants. We started with Aliens Love Underpants, and then moved onto Pirates Love Underpants. It’s a silly story about Pirates on a quest for the Golden Underpants, and it’s silly enough for youngsters to laugh at. This is another book that we used in the run up to potty training, as our Monkey liked to pick which pants he liked, then I liked, then his dad liked… even so far as Grandma, cousin, etcetc.

3. The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

Jonny Duddle is an illustrator by trade, and you may have seen some of his artwork on one of the Harry Potter sets of books. He also helped to design the characters in the film The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! The Pirates Next Door is the first of a series of books featuring The Jolley Rogers and Matilda. It’s got a strong message about not judging people on first appearences and massive flaps to open up in the middle! The audio book is wonderfully read by Rupert Degas.

4. Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow & Simon Rickerty

A good’un for the littler ones. This is a nice board book to give as a gift. There are other versions featuring dinosaurs/superheroes/elves/princesses/bookworms and more, depending on your child’s obsession. It’s a fairly standard counting down rhythmic poem but the illustrations are wonderfully bright and it’s easy for your little one to learn and say it along with you.

5. The Troll by Julia Donaldson & David Roberts

I love this book, but it always makes me a little sad. I feel like the poor troll gets a bad lot in the end. The Monkey, however, loves it and he’ll go looking under bridges for trolls and demanding “who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?”. But where are the pirates, you say? Well, the Troll has an unfortunate encounter with the pirates Hank Chief, Peg Polkadot, Percy Patch and Ben Buckle and has to walk the plank, but he is saved last minute. My sadness for the poor Troll was brightened a little when we were given another book by this duo called The Cook and the King and we spotted him moonlighting in this new book! I’m always a fan of Julia Donaldson so while this isn’t necessarily one of my favourites, it’s still on the bedtime story rotation, even when we’ve had the book two years or so.

I hope this little list helps those searching for something to appease a toddler’s phase. If you’d like help finding books for a particular toddler/pre-schooler obsession then do get in touch below. I’d be more than happy to help!

Audio Books, Books for Toddlers - 18 months to 3 years, Print Books

5 Book Sets for Toddlers

Dare I use the C-word? It’s only half way through September but already I can feel the weight of Christmas obligation on my shoulders. We’re heading to the UK next week and I can guarantee I’ll be asked what we want to do for christmas by both the in-laws and my parents.

Every year I procrastinate and every year I panic at the beginning of advent and then every weekend after because I still haven’t started my Christmas shopping. Well, if you’ve got toddlers in your life, look no further than here. Box sets for toddlers and babies are always a fantastic gift and welcomed by any parent in my experience.

1. Julia Donaldson Story Collection

Julia Donaldson is a staple of any child’s bookshelf these days. She is so popular that everyone now knows who the Gruffalo is. She was UK Children’s Laureate from 2011 and is passionate about reading and performing poems or stories. We’ve been reading her books since our little Monkey was about 6 months old. Beautifully animated films have been made of the books she and Axel Scheffler have published and have become a bit of a Christmas staple in our household.

This collection of ten books contains some of her classics. The Gruffulo and Gruffalo’s Child are there of course, along with our favourites The Snail and the Whale and Room on the Broom. Some of the less well known stories are there too, like The Troll, Cave Baby and The Paper Dolls. They’re all great at engaging your toddler. Our Monkey enjoys filling in the words and even now can tell me The Snail and the Whale off by heart in both Italian and English.

(p.s. The Book People had a great deal on the Julia Donaldson audio book CDs too – perfect for the car! It’s available from Amazon too.)

2. Meg and Mog 10 Book Collection Set

Meg and Mog are very visual. They have very bold and bright illustrations and simple stories and so are great for younger toddlers. I find I have to read around the text to make the stories make more sense when read out loud, but the stories are easy to follow and a lot of silly fun. The images are so bold, our little monkey loves turning page after page by himself and tracing the story. The print is large and clear, and so the books can double up later on as early readers books.

3. Hairy Maclary Story Collection – Audio

Read by David Tennant and available as CDs, these classic stories are charming. The rhymes are easy to rhyme along to as your toddler’s speech develops and if you buy the print books too, your little one will gleefully start to spot Schnitzel von Krumm and Bitzer Maloney et al when you’re out about! There are still new stories being written but the first Hairy Maclary books are over 35 years old now and were even made into 10 minute shorts for TV in the 90s. There are also the parallel books about Slinky Malinki, the rapscallion cat and his pals to investigate. The Hairy Maclary books are all a great length for bedtime or journies in the car and won’t drive you mad.

4. Behaviour Matters Collection

This is a lovely collection for parents who like to use books and stories to help with teaching behaviour or milestones. Each story tells of an animal who has to learn how to manage a particular behaviour, whether it’s impatience or tantrums or anxiety. Using books like this can help foster empathy and be useful to let your toddler think about and talk about feelings, which as all parents will tell you, is a toddler minefield! These books are brightly illustrated and simply told with talking points at the end of the book to use to help your toddler understand the message of each book.

5. Once there was a boy… Box Collection

Oliver Jeffers is an author illustrator, who some might know from his collaboration with Drew Daywalt on ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’, and the follow-up ‘The Day the Crayons Came Home’. He has a very dry almost melancholic sense of humour in his images and solo writing, but it’s beautiful and deceptively detailed. I find that you have to look just a little bit harder at all his images and you’ll see something quirky or amusing that’s not spoonfed. The ‘Once there was a boy…’ collection is reportedly supposed to be based on himself, with some obvious embellishments. Each story is simply but beautifully told with similarly simply beautiful illustrations. I definitely recommend this set for any young boy. In case you’re looking for the audio too, all of Oliver Jeffers books appear to available in audio books. The only thing I would suggest about that is that they should be listened to with the print book. So much nuance is lost from the audio versions. However, ‘Lost and Found’ was animated in 2008 which is available on platforms like Amazon Prime and Google Play to buy.

Christmas… sorted?

So with box sets like these, you should be able to tick off at least the youngest members of your list. Then you can relax knowing that you’ve started your Christmas shopping and the rest will just happen by magic, right? If you need any more bright ideas, just leave me a comment or get in touch via email and I can help you to choose the perfect books for Christmas

 

Mum and baby reading together
Books for Baby, Print Books, Reading Aloud

First books for Baby – reading to your baby from the beginning

Books are so important to a child’s development. Those of us who shared bedtimes stories with their parents when young probably cherish those memories. I know I do. Reading aloud to and with your children (even after they learn to read themselves) is hugely beneficial to their cognitive development, principally learning to speak and understand language. It stimulates imagination and helps them to understand the world around them. Plus there’s nothing nicer than taking the time to have a bit of a cuddle together to read a story. Many parents only start reading books to their children once they’re trying to set up a bedtime routine but there is research that indicates that reading to your child even before they’re born is good for parental attachment and language learning. So which books are the best first books for Baby?

Good prenatal books to read to your baby

Well, really at this point it’s all about talking to your child so that they can hear your speech patterns and voice, so it doesn’t have to be books per se. But some mums-to-be can find it a bit difficult walking around talking to seemingly no-one and need something to talk about, which is where books come in. If you don’t have to think about what to say, you can focus more on how you’re saying it.

A Mother-to-be reading aloud

You can read anything at this stage. Sit comfortably, and read aloud at a speed where you don’t trip up, usually slower than you think is comfortable. Think of it as practice: you’re hopefully going to be reading out loud a lot in your near future, so you might as well do it well! Stick a few character voices in there if you want. No one but you and your baby has to know that your Welsh accent sounds more like Indian!

Can’t think of what to read still? If you like them, then your typical holiday blockbusters tend to be good. Authors such as Marian Keyes, Fiona Walker and Katie Fforde are ideal because they’re conversational in style and not to complex in their choice of language.

Board books for babies – handling books

Once your baby arrives, safe and sound, then books are fantastic as a sensory tool as well as just language development. I still remember how my little Monkey was always amazed every time he turned a page and found a new picture to look at. The best board books are great for little hands still learning to co-ordinate their motor skills and books that have any kind of extra textures in are fantastic for sensory stimulation. As well as taking time to read your child a story each day, it’s lovely to have some books that they can hold, chew, drop, stroke, hit. These books fulfill that role perfectly.

I don’t know a single parent in the UK who doesn’t have at least one of Usborne’s That’s not my… books. I think we totalled up about 7 or 8 in the end. Babies love them for their bright bold illustrations, different textures and the text helps to encourage a tone that sounds like they’ve achieved something by the end of them – “THAT’S my badger/unicorn/tractor!”. They’re short enough that repetition isn’t too onerous, but also simple enough for you that when you’re seriously sleep deprived in those first few months, you can almost read them on autopilot and still read them well.

Picture books for babies – it’s about more than the words

You don’t necessarily need to find books with stories for your young baby. Books with high contrast, visually stimulating pictures are great. We had books about vehicles, shapes or animals – LOTS of books about animals. You will probably have seen the kind of books I mean, with a single image or pattern per page and maybe one bold word describing what’s on the page.

In the UK there is a program to help people introduce their children to books called Bookstart. It’s a free package handed out by libraries or health visitors to parents with newborns that contains picture books for very young babies. The books themselves change from year to year but they are all very simple but visually stimulating books. One of the books we got was called Spots and Dots and it was literally just that.High Contrast books are great for young babies Each page had bright high contrast graphics of spots in different patterns. It had no words, but my little Monkey loved it. We would look through it together and talk about the patterns. We developed catch phrases about some pages that he still remembers 2 years later! Look out for it, online especially, along with the other books in the Baby Sees series. Oh and all the Brits out there, don’t forget to ask at your local library before your baby turns 1 year old about Bookstart if your health visitor doesn’t bring it up.

Interactive books for babies – flaps and tabs

What baby doesn’t enjoy a game of peek-a-boo, or cuckoo? Babies are always learning and they have a natural curiosity about everything, which is why interactive books that have flaps or tabs or annoying buttons that make noise are so popular.Baby playing with tabs in book There are even books that have wheels or little cars and boats as part of them. You don’t have to wait until you baby has the motor skills to lift the flaps etc themselves to bring out these books. Open a flap and watch your child’s face. It’s the most precious thing – even if it’s just their processing face. It’s like they’ve just witnessed magic!

One book that has wonderful tactile felt flaps, and really plays to babies’ innate narcissism is Where’s Mr Lion? and the others in its series. My little monkey loved his copy and we have versions in various different languages. The pictures are bold and the flaps are robust so can be pulled about bit by little fingers. And the big surprise at the end is a hit with every infant I know! No spoilers.

So, time for story time?

The face of wonder

I hope these ideas help you get started in reading with your baby. It really is never too soon to start and hopefully you’ll be able to establish a family ritual that you will all come to cherish.

If you need further tips I’m right here to help, so get in touch or leave me a comment!

Child reading in front of a sunset
Parenting and life

About Expat Monkeys

Hello, welcome to Expat Monkeys. This is a site where you can find out about books for kids. What’s coming out, what’s great for different age groups, what’s great for different situations, where you can buy everything (not always just amazon/audible). I talk about print books, interactive e-books and audio books primarily for children.

Reading is more than reading print

What? That doesn’t make any sense! Well, it depends on where you’re coming from. My history is audio books. I’ve worked directing, producing, engineering & editing all kinds of audio books for the last 10 years. Most of Audio Books are still readingthat time I was doing it for blind people, with the RNIB in London. And I can guarantee that most of the readers of the books I created would say they were reading, not just listening. Listening to novels and even non-fiction is entirely as all consuming as getting stuck into reading the print. Of course, the good thing about audio books is they are great for littles who don’t know how read just yet. And for those who are getting to grips with reading? Interactive or read along e-books are very helpful to get things going. This is why I am covering all bases with books for kids.

Books and stories for language learning

One of the things you will find a focus on is books in multiple languages. Our little Monkey loves books. He always has done, since the first time he summoned up the motor skills to turn a page to find a new picture on the other side. It does mean that he has a bit of a ferocious appetite for them. Even Kermit enjoys readingNow at 2 and a half, he will tell us stories, although not always entirely coherent, demand stories before repeating them back and refuses to go to sleep without at least 2 books first. The good thing about this is that it’s helping his Italian. The repetition and the appeal of the stories gives him the confidence to try his few Italian words when out and about. And this isn’t news. Books in English are very popular for European parents looking to help their kids learn English. So here, if there is an alternative language version of a book available, especially in audio books, then you will hear about it!

Where are you coming from, Laura?

Well, I’m British/Irish. Bob is British. The Monkey is British. We live in Italy. Naturally.

Bob and I talked about living abroad for years. We met whilst travelling and since then everytime we went travelling or just on holiday, most of our talk about the place is whether we feel we could live there. Oddly though, we’re not great planners and as often happens, we got stuck in the cycle of work and saving and buying a house etc etc. We ticked a lot of the boxes but when our little boy came along, our feelings about our mill wheel lives got blown out of the water. Falling down the rabbit holeWe didn’t want to just go back to work, stick the Monkey in nursery and continue trudging along towards retirement. Listening to professional actors read you stories is a very nice way to make a living but there’s nuthin’ like a newborn to make you realise what life shouldn’t be about. Whilst I was pregnant the Brexit vote had happened and at the beginning of 2018, we realised that time was potentially running out if we wanted to make a move abroad easily.

So we moved to Turin. We picked Turin because, despite not being tourist perfect Italy, it is very Italian. We deliberately kept out of the tourist hotspots, knowing that being somewhere with less spoken English would challenge us to learn. We wanted to learn the lovely language, eat the lovely food, and try to find La Bella Vita. We’re close to the mountains, lakes and the sea. What more could you want?

I’m here…

This site will have plenty of recommendations for books for your little ones, but I know that sometimes you just want a particular book about a particular subject. This is me, LauraYou might want an audio book for your holiday car trip that won’t drive you crazy. Or you need something to break your child out of whatever princess/dinosaur/farting obsession they currently enjoy… If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to tweet me or comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,

Laura
expatmonkeys.com