Karen MacPherson - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Corralling an energetic baby or toddler to sit on your lap and then reading a book to her is one of life's more interesting challenges.
But it's a challenge worth meeting, as study after study shows how important it is to read daily to babies and toddlers to develop their minds and their hearts. It's also one of the most joyful duties of parenthood.
Finding the right books to read, however, also can be a challenge.
Enter Beginning with Books, a Pittsburgh-based early-literacy organization. Six years ago, the group released the results of its first "Best Books for Babies" awards. Among the first group of judges was the late Fred Rogers, TV's beloved "Mister Rogers."
Each year since, the Beginning with Books group has developed a list of 10 books that its judges believe are the best of the previous year for readers through 18 months of age (although children up to 3 often will enjoy these books as well).
Although there are many children's-book awards - including the prestigious Caldecott Medal given for best picture-book illustration - the "Best Books for Babies" list is the only one focused solely on books for babies and toddlers.
In choosing the books each year, the judges look for a number of things, including:
- A story that sounds good when read aloud, and encourages reader participation with "lift-the-flap" or pull-tab features, or by posing questions or playing with words;
- A text with interesting language that introduces children to new vocabulary;
- Engaging, child-appropriate illustrations that match the text.
Veteran children's librarian Amy Kellman, one of the judges, said the idea is to choose memorable books, adding: "It is so important for children to learn early that a book holds treasures for the eye and the ear that will stay with them for a lifetime."
Here are the "Best Books for Babies - 2005." The listing includes comments from the Beginning with Books judges about each book:
- "Buenos Dias Baby!," written and illustrated by Libby Ellis (Chronicle Books, $3.95). Familiar objects, pictured one per page in appealingly simple illustrations and soft colors, are identified in both English and Spanish in this charming miniature board book.
- "Tomie's Baa Baa Black Sheep and Other Rhymes," written and illustrated by Tomie DePaola (Putnam, $6.99). DePaola, one of the most popular children's-book author-artists working today, illustrates four traditional rhymes in this brief board book, providing a perfect introduction to Mother Goose for babies and their parents.
- "Little Bo Peep," written and illustrated by Tracey Pearson (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $5.95). A wakeful toddler tosses her toy sheep from her crib in this amusing board-book update of a familiar rhyme.
- "Truck Duck," written and illustrated by Michael Rex (Putnam, $9.99). Animals and vehicles are paired in humorous rhyming combinations; bright bold illustrations add to the fun.
- "Baby Danced the Polka," written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (Dial, $12.99). An energetic baby jigs, polkas and cha-chas with a variety of stuffed animals hidden behind flaps in this rhyming story that will likely inspire both participation and imitation on the part of little listeners.
-"Te Amo, Bebe, Little One," written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Maribel Suarez (Little, Brown, $15.95). Playful rhymes and colorful pictures describe baby's first year, punctuated regularly by Mama's repeated declaration of love and devotion.
- "Duckie's Rainbow," written and illustrated by Frances Barry (Candlewick Press, $7.99). A cleverly designed book with pages that grow ever smaller, this story follows a bright white duck as she travels homeward and eventually sees a beautiful rainbow.
- "Me Baby You Baby," written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Dutton, $14.99). Colorful paintings and cheerful rhymes showcase a delightful day in the lives of two families, as two toddlers and their mothers head off to the zoo to admire the baby animals.
- "Snug in Mama's Arms," written by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by John Sandford (McGraw Hill Children's Publishing, $14.95). Celebrating the comfort found in cuddling on Mama's lap, this soothing picture book uses soft, somewhat dark colors to evoke the dreamy drowsiness of a lullaby.
- "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod," written by Eugene Field and illustrated by David McPhail (Cartwheel Books, $15.95). Field's classic poem is brought to vibrant life by McPhail's exquisite, oversized paintings that excel at capturing both the elements of fantasy and the coziness of being tucked safely in bed.
Copyright Scripps Howard News Service 2005