Find pictures of familiar, everyday activities in magazines. Slip each colorful picture into a plastic sleeve. (You can use sandwich bags.) Choose pictures such as a child blowing bubbles, a teacher feeding a baby, a father walking and carrying baby in a back pack, a baby hugging a teddy bear, and other familiar scenes to create your very own book for a baby. Punch three holes and thread sturdy ribbons through the holes to hold the pages together.
Ask parents to bring in photos of baby with family members. A photo of a baby held in his grandpa's arms at Thanksgiving and a picture of the baby enjoying a meal in his high chair will make good selections for the photo albums. Be sure to have photos that include baby being cuddled or held by his parents. This is a book that baby will want you to take out and "read" with him at times when he specially needs the comfort of seeing the dear faces of his family.
Sing nursery rhymes and chants to increase infant pleasure in picture books. If baby is on a rocking horse in the classroom, be sure to chant, "Ride a cock horse to Bambury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse!" Babies who can barely repeat "ba-ba" grin with delight as you begin chanting, "Bah-bah black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!"
Babies enjoy the personal satisfaction that comes from recognizing words, lilting rhythms, and the pictured characters that go together. They feel a sense of ownership and pride as they start to recognize the chants and begin to repeat some of the sounds of familiar nursery rhymes.
Toddlers are ready for simple story lines, so you can choose a wider variety of books. Toddlers love books that have "silly" pictures. Thus, a book where a toddler tries on her aunty's shoes thinking they will fit her or a picture of a bathtub with a goose swimming in it may elicit whoops of laughter from a toddler.
Toddlers like to participate in chanting recurring rhymes in a picture book. Thus, "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" is beloved by toddlers, who may enjoy the antics of the "naughty" monkeys. Toddlers love "The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round." They will yell out, "The babies on the bus go Wah!Wah! Wah!" and learn quite well the rhymes of each verse as well as the hand motions for each couplet.
Choose picture books that tell a story in which kindness matters. Such stories not only nourish an early love of listening to stories, but they awaken feelings of empathy with characters in stories.
Arrange low bookshelves in a special, quiet corner with toddler-size beanbag chairs, or an inviting soft mattress to stretch out on. Toddlers love to show how independent they can be. From low shelves, a toddler, without adult help, can pull out a favorite book, lie down on comfortable cushions, and turn the pages while babbling or saying the story words he has heard you read so often.
This article originally appeared in the October, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.