In addition to spending a small fortune on coffee beans and regularly bathing in coffee, I also maintain an exceptionally large collection of board books, distributed throughout the house.
I keep a few in each bedroom, set some aside to distract wee Lochlan while I host the livestream discussion for our virtual co-op, place a few of the more tattered books in the playpen, and store the rest in the living room.
Board books — like other books — enjoy a central place of prominence in our home. They’re kind of a big deal around here.
[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary set of Usborne Baby Books from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. No Usborne referrals or parties involved! All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]
I believe board books matter, not just as a distraction to keep baby occupied, but as a service, and as a powerful act of love.
In a previous post entitled “Board Books are just as important as Shakespeare“, I wrote:
“Board books matter, because the tiny people in our homes who love board books matter. Because babies are no less persons than the people who are old enough, or capable enough, to be officially enrolled in your homeschool. Because toddlers are no less important than the children you need to buy curriculum for. [Because] a child not ‘old enough’ for formal lessons is still ‘old enough’ to be a wholly complete person.” [read more]
In our home, it’s less about “keeping the baby occupied so we can do school” and more about everyone learning to live harmoniously together, side by side, taking turns and learning to prefer each other.
It’s about my oldest child learning to pause what she’s doing and wait. It’s about me learning to handle interruptions with more grace. It’s about all of us learning to cultivate an enormous amount of patience and perseverance. (I said learning to –– I don’t make any claims to have actually achieved any of this.)
Even as I sit on the couch with my laptop writing this post, Lochlan keeps coming up to me, expectantly, books in hand.
Reading aloud to babies force us to stop, slow down, and put someone else’s needs before our own.
And Usborne Baby Books, like coffee, are woven into the very rhythm of our days.
What’s special about the Usborne Baby Books set from Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots kit?
These hardcover wide-format board books books come bundled together in this six-book set, and are written entirely in delightful rhyming question format (more on this unique format later) punctuated with bold, happy, stylized images. Stephen Barker’s illustrations remind me of IKEA fabric or the IKEA children’s section — so buoyant and bright!
Each thick cardboard page is glossy, not matte, making it easy to wipe off if needed. And even though these are board books, they look more like a traditional storybook, due to the conventional hardcover binding.
And when they’re all lined up? Just look at the gorgeous rainbow!
Because the books are wider than they are tall (8 inches wide when closed; 16 inches wide when opened), the format creates quite an immersive — almost panoramic — experience when you read.
Reading aloud, especially to book-loving toddlers, isn’t a passive activity. When we read to Lochlan, he is busy pointing, reacting, babbling, and trying to turn the page. Sometimes it seems the books take on a life far beyond what’s printed on the page. But that’s the fun, isn’t it?
Reading aloud to babies encourages conversation and interaction.
Each of the rhyming short stories in this set begins with a question on the cover, then take the listener on an inquisitive and curiosity-filled quest for the answer, which is revealed on the last page. The first three books in the series are focused on who, and the last three are centered around why:
- Who’s Wearing a Hat?
- Who’s up in the Air?
- Who’s Fallen Asleep?
- Where’s the Little Mouse?
- Where’s the Butterfly?
- Where’s the Busy Bee?
In fact, every page in these books asks a new question: “Who has a yellow beak? Who’s playing hide and seek?” There’s only one question per page, which gives little listeners the time and space to pause, take in the bright and cheery illustrations, and think about their response.(Although, Lochlan’s best answer to everything lately is to point and reply, “That!”)
Reading aloud to babies increases test scores, brain activity, and literacy.
Asking questions to a toddler too young to really answer might seem humorous, but there’s fascinating research in this area which suggests that babies, through facial expressions and sounds, do actively and effectively participate in conversational turns (the back and forth exchange we think of as conversation).
According to the research, “children who experienced more conversation (over 150 turns per hour) scored 12% higher on standardized language assessments. The number of conversational turns also correlated with more activity in…[the] part of the brain involved in speech production and language processing.”
Utterly intriguing! Obviously, reading aloud matters for far more important reasons than standardized testing. Don’t get me wrong — reading to children is powerful, relational, and just plain delightful, and we would do it anyway, all stats aside.
But still, this bit of research is compelling. Books which ask babies questions and give them opportunities to respond in their own way — like this series does — naturally increase the number of conversational turns and activate certain centers in the brain. It’s so interesting.
Of course, Lochlan doesn’t care about research or statistics. But he does find these books super interesting. And really, when it comes to baby books, his opinion is the only one that matters. These would make perfect gift for baby’s first birthday — you can purchase the Usborne Baby Books set directly from Timberdoodle, no Usborne party required.
Browse Tiny Tots, Timberdoodle’s full selection of books and learning toys for toddlers
Timberdoodle screens their products really well, and does a phenomenal job sorting through what’s available, selecting only the best and most engaging materials. If you’re making your little one a Christmas wish list so doting grandparents and aunts and uncles have some shopping ideas, definitely scroll through Timberdoodle’s Tiny Tots offerings (you can also go directly to Usborne’s Baby Book set.)
And don’t miss my musings on personhood in this previous post: Board Books Are Just as Important as Shakespeare.