Dec 6, 2012

Books for babies?

By Leah Ashton

As many of you know, I'm currently 35.5 weeks pregnant, and am due to give birth in early January. This is my first baby, so it's both super exciting and rather intimidating!

In between finishing up my day job (temporarily) and finishing my latest book, I'm feeling a bit behind as far as preparing for the impending arrival of Baby Ashton. We've bought the absolute essentials (pram, car seat, bassinet, sheets, nappies) and that's about it. It's such a bizarre time - I feel so ignorant (and I hate buying stuff that I may turn out not to need) and yet I'm about to be responsible for a little one. Eek! There are so many unknowns - obviously the birth itself, but also whether I'll be able to breast feed, how my baby will sleep (or not), how I'll react to the birth (having had close friends deal with post natal depression I'm very aware of that possibility), even whether it's going to be a boy or a girl!

Anyway - there are a few parenting things that I do feel confident about. The big one is that I want to do everything I can to encourage my child to read. Growing up, I read constantly. I would get into trouble for reading too late into the night, or being late for school as I'd decided to read one extra chapter before getting out of bed in the morning. More than one Christmas afternoon I spent in my bedroom reading my beautiful new Christmas book rather than socialising :)

As a shy, rather awkward teenager who was far from popular - and who wasn't kissed until she was 18! - I had lots of self doubt growing up. But because of books I always had this deep down belief that I was going to be okay. The books I read (and lots of them were romance novels!) taught me that I could be loved and respected for who I am (as I am) and that I was deserving of love. They taught me that I didn't have to be the most beautiful or most talented or most popular. Books certainly contributed (along with my wonderful family of course!) to my inner strength and belief in myself. They also helped me at school - by broadening my knowledge, vocabulary and writing skills.

But really - I don't need to tell anyone visiting this blog how awesome books are :)

So, I fully intend to start reading to Baby Ashton right from the get go. But, I don't even know where to start!

Do you have any book recommendations for Baby Ashton? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Leah,

    Being a teacher, I love hearing that parents are keen to read to their kids and you can never start too early!!! But boy, it's hard to choose books because there are so many good ones out there!

    My sister recently had her first child, so I'm in the wonderful position of stocking my niece's bookshelf with books. I started with the Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy series by Linley Dodd (NZ author).

    And I'm throwing in half a dozen DK Touch & Feel books, the ones a young child can feel textures like soft, fluffy, bumpy, smooth etc. (you can get all these books on The Book Depository if you order via online).

    It really doesn't matter what you read to children, as long as you do it as it's the language and structure of language they're learning. Enjoyment and love of story comes later. But what an exiting time to share with children, I love it!

    I hope Baby Ashton's birth is smooth and trouble free. :-)

  2. Leah, I second what Kylie said about books that engage a baby because of their touch (or sound)!. We had books for our children that squeaked and quacked. Some that had different textures and later some that had pop ups. They all helped our children develop a love of stories and books even before they were old enough to read for themselves.

    I hope you have a ball reading with your bub. And don't forget you don't need to stop reading together even when they're able to read for themselves. Some of my fondest memories are of sharing the reading of a Harry Potter book out loud while on holidays, and of reading CS Lewis aloud in instalments even though the kids could read for themselves. It was a lovely thing to do together.

    Looking forward to hearing about Baby Ashton soon!

  3. I love the Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy series, so another vote for them.

    I also love books with intricate pictures so you can read them but also talk about all the things in the illustrations, like Graham Base's Animalia and other books.

    Looking forward to photos of Baby Ashton!

  4. Oh, lovely to be planning your baby's library already! I adore the Hairy Maclary books too - the sentences are just so delicious that they beg to be read aloud! I love the Dr Seuss's for the same reason. Those Touch and Feel books that Kylie mentioned sound like great fun too.

    Seconding everyone's best wishes for Baby Ashton's birth and I'm looking forward to the photos too!

  5. Oh, Leah you're going to have such a wonderful time snuggling in with baby Ashton and sharing your love of reading! I agree with what's been said so far- anything that's bright and colorful and makes a sound at first, then 'where's...' lift the flap books when they are a bit older. Anything goes, really, because what matters at first is the lilt of your voice and sheer experience of connecting words and pictures.

    Annie's right, you needn't stop reading to them once they can read, I think I read to my boys until they were 9/10- we read all the Harry Potter books together- it was wonderful experiencing the stories with them. And we also loved audio books in the car on long journeys.

    (A word of warning from experience, though- don't read 'Guess How Much I Love You' to your darling bub until you've got over your birth hormone rush- or you'll be a hot mess of tears!)

    Enjoy every second, such a precious time. And yes! Pictures please. Best of luck! xxx

  6. The book I always buy for babies is The Very Hungry Caterpillar with the holes in it for little fingers. I believe in getting kids to interact with books right away!

  7. Ooh, Leah, don't forget some nonsense rhymes. Spike Milligan is great fun! I love the Jabberwocky too...and for sheer silliness it's hard to beat 'There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.'

    You're going to have so much fun with Baby Ashton! And by the sound of it, your new baby is going to have so much fun with you. :-)

  8. You can't go wrong with Mem Fox. Her books are sensational. She chooses each word for maximum impact.

    Her Christmas book WOMBAT DIVINE is one of my favourite picture books. Just beautiful.

  9. Oh, Leah, you're in for such a wonderful time with your bub and books. I remember my mum laughing at me reading to my twin girls at three months but I've now read to them every night for eleven years and they've become voracious readers.

    I've done the same with my boys and their not so into fiction but they LOVE non-fiction and anything about boats or dragons. Hairy Maclary is a favourite of ours as well as books by Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley. Mem Fox is a favourite too. Best of luck for January!

  10. Is it that close, Leah??? OMG!

    We have the whole set of Hairy Maclary books and still love them! Can also recommend Charlie and Lola (and the DVDs), Max and Ruby (two cute brother/sister bunnies) and Curious George. In fact, now the boy will be in high school next year (!) I can send you some of his kiddie books if you want :-) We especially love those lift-a-flap books like See Under The Ground and See Inside Your Body. Usborne Books are BRILLIANT educational books that are fun to read, too.

    Oh, and off the topic of books - the biggest godsend for me was a) a dummy and b) Bepanthen antiseptic cream (for baby butts). We never had nappy rash for 1 day with that stuff (and it's good as an all-purpose cream, too.)

  11. Wow! I was at work today (am technically on maternity leave but have popped in for a few meetings and bits and pieces), so I apologise for the late reply. Thank you everyone for such great suggestions!

    Kylie - those touch and feel books sound perfect! I will definitely get some of those.

    Annie - I loved being read to growing up, although the idea of this bub being old enough to read seems surreal! I can't wait though :)

  12. Rachel - Oh I LOVED Anamalia! There's another one, too...(googling...) The Eleventh Hour! Will need to get those :)

    Sharon - with so many recommendations for Hairy McClarey I'm so getting those books! And don't worry, there will be baby photos :)

    Louisa - I've never read the Harry Potter books (I know...) - maybe I should wait a few more years so I can read them with bub!

    Scarlet - I hadn't realised the Very Hunger Caterpillar came in a baby version! Perfect!

  13. Michelle - Bub will probably think me quite odd for reading all the time, but hopefully will one day understand! I particularly love the Jabberwocky, my sister performed it as a monologue for school years ago, and I still remember her reciting it over and over again in the car :)

    Mary - I'd only heard of Possum Magic by Mem Fox, will need to look up the Christmas book. Thank you!

    Barb - I so hope baby grows up to be a reader like your kids! And thank you for the extra author names, I'm off to search Book Depository :)

    Paula - OMG, he's going to be in high school?? How did that happen!? Thank you so much for the offer, but I suspect postage from Sydney would be as much as buying from Book Depository :) I reckon you should keep them for your grandkids ;)

  14. Leah, I raised my 2 boys as a single parent. I read to them as toddlers and with 16 months age difference, the older boy started reading to his brother at age 4. When he went to school, as 1st grader he was reading with the 5th grade the following spring. Congrats on the coming bairn. I remember being so nervous before they were born.

  15. Grandkids??? Now I do feel old ;-)