bedtime stories · picture books

Catching Kisses

catching kissesHow do you describe something like kisses to a child?  Sure, our children feel us kiss them on their cheeks, tops of their heads, and hands.  But how can we help them understand the power of a kiss?  Catching Kisses by Amy Gibson and Maria Van Lieshout (Feiwel and Friends) helps young readers understand that kisses (and love) is all around us.  This picture book takes readers on a journey around the Continental United States as a kiss is blown from one person and caught by another.

Catching Kisses begins with a boy blowing a dandelion and it says:

At any given moment,



is blowing a kiss.

And somewhere, someone is catching it.

There are dandelions blowing through the pages of the book with the final page containing an illustration of a girl holding a dandelion. Dandelions are featured on the end pages too, which help drive home the idea of kisses blowing through the air. (Great metaphor, right?!!?)

Catching Kisses helps little ones understand that no two kisses are the same (kinda like snowflakes).  Kisses are invisible. Each one has a distinct smells and feels differently depending on whose giving them to you. Kisses stay with us, long after they are given.  To convey the power of a kiss, Gibson writes:

They’re soft as lamb’s wool,

but strong as steel.

They’re not afraid of tears.

But the most powerful pages of the book include the reminder that a kiss can never be taken away once it’s given…it is the recipient’s forever.

I love Catching Kisses since it allows a child to know they’re always going to have the love we shower upon them. It’s going on top of Isabelle’s bedtime reading pile tonight since I cannot wait to share it with her (and then cover her little cheeks with kisses).  I think Catching Kisses is a perfect way to remind a child of the love you have for them right before the day draws to a close.

accomplishments · bedtime stories · OBSERVATIONS · read aloud

The Benefit of Reading the Author and Illustrator Names at the Start of Each Read Aloud Book

We’ve been reading the name of the title, author, and illustrator every time we’ve read a book with Isabelle for the past few months. Yesterday, for the first time, I understood that it’s been having an impact on her since she knows who writes some of her favorite books.

We were eating lunch with my parents and we were talking about bedtime stories (since they were going to be watching Isabelle while my husband and I went out to dinner and a movie). My dad said something like “On the day you were born” for one of the books they might read at night.

“It’s actually On the Night You Were Born, Dad,” I said.

“By Nancy Tillman!” Isabelle said.

“What?” I asked.

“Nancy TIllman!” she declared.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my parents and Marc. “She said ‘Nancy Tillman’! Wow!” Then I turned my attention back towards Isabelle. “You know who writes On the Night You Were Born! Is that one of your favorite books?”


Tonight when we were about to read bedtime stories I asked Isabelle to “hand me a book by Nancy Tillman.”

“No, pigeon!” she said.

“Huh?” I asked.

“I want pigeon!” she said.

“Is that book by Nancy Tillman?” I asked.

“No!” she said.

“Do you want to read Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Okay. We’ll read that one. Hand it to me.” She did.

“Now, would you hand me a book by Nancy Tillman?”

She searched through the stack carefully. After a moment she picked up Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. “This book Nancy Tillman!”

“You’re right,” I said. “It is by Nancy Tillman.”

{Proud Mama Moment}

UPDATED on 1/20/14: An impromptu podcast of Izzy “reading” Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late last night. (Because I couldn’t resist.)

bedtime stories · Jewish · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Six Bedtime Stories!

Isabelle only lets Marc read one book to her (My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett). I get to read all of the lyrical picture books.

It’s all because we ate an early dinner in the sukkah.

You see, we typically eat dinner at 6:30 p.m. since that’s the earliest my husband can be home from work. But not tonight. Even though my husband went into work this weekend, he was home all afternoon. We planned to go to our synagogue’s potluck dinner in the sukkah at 5:00 p.m. (We got there at 5:30 p.m. since yours truly got pre-occupied with work and forgot to start the dish she was bringing ’til 3:54 p.m.!) As a result of an early dinnertime and no kitchen clean-up, we had Isabelle upstairs, starting her bedtime routine at 7:06 p.m. That’s about a half hour earlier than she’s normally upstairs!

Everything went super-fast tonight, which enabled the three of us to crawl into bed at 7:25 p.m. for 35 minutes of bedtime stories. Never have I ever read her bedtime stories for that long! It was great. We read stories as a family, just like we do every night, but without the rush-rush-rush. Even though the clock was ticking, it seemed to be ticking slower since I knew we had more time ’til Isabelle had to turn in for the night. That means we read not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX books before bedtime! By the time we finished, she looked sleepy!

Right after we closed the door to Isabelle’s bedroom I gave my husband a high five. What an accomplishment to read that much and have such a relaxing night.

That said, we won’t be eating dinner regularly at 5:30 p.m. anytime soon. But it’s nice to know that we can do it once in awhile if we want to make Isabelle’s bedtime routine a little more peaceful.

bedtime stories · board books · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Bedtime Stories: My 2013 #PB10for10 List

Check out the Fourth Annual Picture Book Event at Reflect & Refine or at Enjoy & Embrace Learning.
Check out the Fourth Annual Picture Book Event at Reflect & Refine or at Enjoy & Embrace Learning.

20130805-145354.jpgI line three throw pillows up on our bed each evening. Each of the brown ones are for me and Marc. The blue, brown, and cream patterned pillow is for Isabelle. It sits in the center of the brown ones. Once she’s finished brushing her teeth, she arrives in our room, picks out some bedtime books, and settles into our bed for story time.

Isabelle selects bedtime stories the way I pick out what to eat for breakfast. Just as I eat the same meal day after day ’til I get sick of it, she has us read the same book night after night after night until she moves on to something new. While we’ll try to slip other books into the mix each night, she seems to have one book in particular that she MUST hear every night until she’s tired of it. Sometimes she’ll cycle back to a beloved bedtime book at nap time, while sometimes we have to reintroduce a book at bedtime.

Here are ten favorite stories, from our house, perfect for lulling a child off to dreamland and/or for reminding them they are loved.

  • A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na (Knopf, 2011) — A perfect book for helping children understand that all living things sleep, though they might do it differently. Some animals sleep standing up, some huddle together, and some sleep with one eye opened. Regardless, everyone sleeps (and implicit reminder that said child must turn-in after the book is read) — even the owl who watches over everyone in the book, but sleeps during the daytime.
    • Gifting opportunity: Great for a first or second birthday.
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2006) — I used to read this book to Isabelle when she was in the bedtime avoidance stage. I thought it was a comical way to shed some light on the issue since the pigeon in the book uses a variety of stall tactics to avoid his inevitable bedtime. The final page shows the pigeon, fast asleep with Knuffle Bunny, dreaming of hot dogs, which is a great way to talk about the wonderful things that await us in dreamland.
    • Gifting opportunity: Mo Willems book lovers and/or kids who don’t want to turn-in at night.
  • Good Night, laila tov written by Laurel Snyder illustrated by Jui Ishida (Random House, 2012) — This is Isabelle’s present favorite for bedtime reading. It’s the story of a family who journey to the oceanside for a vacation. They’re an environmentally conscious family who can be seen planting trees, pitching a tent, picking berries, and living in other eco-friendly ways. This lyrical picture book has a refrain, “good night, laila tov,” every few pages. As a result, I think laila tov might be one of the first phrases Isabelle masters since she’ll have heard it again and again in this beautiful picture book.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy for an environmentally conscious/”green” family!
  • Good Night, Sleep Tight written by Mem Fox illustrated by Judy Horacek (Orchard Books, 2012) — Bonnie and Ben’s favorite babysitter, Skinny Doug, is watching the duo one night. He tells them popular nursery rhymes (e.g., Pat-a-Cake, This Little Piggy, & Star Light Star Bright) at bedtime. They love his nursery rhymes so much that he keeps telling them new ones until it’s way past their bedtime. The book ends with Skinny Doug tucking them into bed and then falling fast asleep himself.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy this for any child who enjoys nursery rhymes.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2005) — I purchased this book long before Isabelle was born. I’ve read it to her so many times since I brought her home from the hospital so I can engrain in her how unique and special she is. This book helps young readers understand there has never been and never will be anyone else like them in the whole world. I think this is a book we’ll revisit again and again as she gets older since it’s a great reminder of how special each person is and how everyone has a special place in this world.
    • Gifting opportunity: Give this book to an expectant parent as a baby shower present.
  • Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2013) — I had no doubt, when I received the review copy of this book, that it would soar to the top of The New York Times Bestseller List. And it did. With lyrical verses, carefully selected words, and gorgeous illustrations, it’s a book that appeals to all of the senses. Plus, with monkeys filling boxcars and elephants spurting paint into tanker cars, Steam Train, Dream Train also fosters a sense of wonder.
    • Gifting opportunity: For any train-loving child.
  • Sweet Dreams Lullaby by Betsy Snyder (Random House, 2010) — For 100+ days, this was the only book we could read to Isabelle to get her to bed without crying! I’ve posted so much about it (Click here to view all Sweet Dreams Lullaby/Betsy Snyder is my hero posts.), so I won’t sing it’s praises endlessly in this post. Even though this isn’t Isabelle’s go-to book of the moment, she still loves the bunny in the story and enjoys filling in words she knows.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy this as a first or second birthday present.
  • Tell Me the Day Backwards written by Albert Lamb illustrated by David McPhail (Candlewick, 2011) — Timmy Bear wants to “play that game we used to play last summer” when Mama bear tucks him into bed. Together, the two of them relive the day that is ending by talking about the things that happened in reverse order. The most important pieces of the day include a reminder from Mama Bear not to touch things, like dusty old beehives, without consent, and thinking about the hibernation the bear family just woke up from that morning. Sometimes my husband, Isabelle, and I tell our day backwards using this book as inspiration.
    • Gifting opportunity: Any child who loves bears or needs practice with sequencing.
  • The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2011) — This book serves as a reminder of the unique gifts each of us brings to the world. This book tells of the crown s/he wears, which tells the world s/he is magnificent, was born to shine, and to believe in him/herself. The second-to-last page of the book includes a note from the child’s crown, which says, “I’m made out of magic most people can’t see/(which is really quite clever, if you should ask me)./But if ever you’re worried and really must know,/you can tell that I’m there by the warmth of my glow./Press your hand to the top of your head./Feel me? Okay. Put your worries to bed.” And finally, as with other the other Tillman books we read and love in our family, this one ends with the words “you are loved.” What an important message to send to a child again and again and again.
    • Gifting opportunity: A holiday or birthday gift for any child two and up.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2010) — The book begins with the following stanza, “I wanted you more/than you ever will know,/so I sent love to follow/wherever you go.” I couldn’t have captured that sentiment better if I wrote it myself, which is why — yet again — I love Tillman’s books. Young readers learn that even though they cannot see their love from their parents, it’s always with them wherever they travel and no matter how old they get. My favorite page, which always gets me verklempt, reads: “And if someday you’re lonely,/or someday you’re sad,or you strike out at baseball,/or think you’ve been bad…/just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair./That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.” I can’t think of a better message I can give to my daughter about love.
    • Gifting opportunity: I love buying this book for friends who have had a new baby to give to their older child(ren) since it’s a great bonding book!

Have you read any of these books? If not, which ones sound appealing to you?

Also, can you recommend some other bedtime books we can add to our collection?

bedtime stories · board books · picture books

10 Bear Books in Honor of #TeddyBearPicnicDay

Three of the teddy bears that live in Isabelle’s room.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved bears.  Give me a nonfiction text about bears and I devour it.  Show me a fiction book with bears as characters and I’ll most likely love it.  Tell me a story about bears and I’m all ears.  (Though I wasn’t so excited when I heard that the neighborhood bear showed up on my next-door neighbor’s patio last summer, but that’s another story.)

My father sang “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” to me when I was a little girl since I was a teddy bear lover.  It became one of the songs of my childhood.  As a result, I sing it to my daughter whenever we get together with her bears for an indoor picnic/tea party.

Today IS the day the teddy bears have their picnic.  That’s right.  It’s National Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day.  We’ll be celebrating at Bamboo Frozen Yogurt this evening.  They’re hosting a special story time and music in honor of this special day. Once we’re home, we’ll read some books before bedtime.  One of those books is sure to include Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb and David McPhail, which is her favorite bedtime book these days.

Want to get your hands on some great bear books for National Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day (or any day)?  Here are tenfavorites:

  1. Bears in Beds by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker
  2. Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! by Benji Davies –> Really, any Bizzy Bear book delights my daughter. However, this is her favorite, which is why I am listing it.
  3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  4. Courduroy by Don Freeman
  5. Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea
  6. Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea
  7. Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb and David McPhail
  8. The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud –> I received a review copy of this book, which will be out in October.  I will be reviewing it later this summer.
  9. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  10. When You Meet a Bear on Broadway by Amy Hest and Elivia Savadier

What are your favorite teddy bear books?  Please share.  (We always have room for more bear books in this house!)

bedtime stories · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

The Next Bedtime Book

When Mermaids Sleep coverWe’re still going strong with Betsy Snyder’s Sweet Dreams Lullaby every night at bedtime.  While there are other books we occasionally throw into the mix, the one constant is Sweet Dreams Lullaby.  That said, one day Isabelle is going to outgrow that book.  I’m not sure when it will happen, but I know I have a book waiting in the wings when she is ready to move on.

I received a review copy of When Mermaids Sleep written by Ann Bonwill and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. I opened it up and began reading and was transported to another world… a world with pirates, fairies, and unicorns.  This lyrical picture book is a beautiful bedtime story that enchants readers with its rhythmic verse. The illustrations are in jewel-tones and have a dreamlike quality to them.  (I’d love for all of my dreams to look as beautiful as the pictures in When Mermaids Sleep!)

I began reading When Mermaids Sleep aloud while Isabelle was playing.  During the first read she continued playing close to me, looking at the book every now and then.  Once  I finished reading the book, I shifted it to the side and picked up another book I received a review copy of that day.  Isabelle walked across the room, picked up When Mermaids Sleep, and handed it back to me.

“Ah-ah!” she said.  (That means again.)

“You want me to read this book again?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied nodding her head.

“Okay, we’ll read it again.”

During the second read aloud, Isabelle sat close and looked at the pictures.  She pointed to the castle and the moon.  She sat still, listening to the rhythmic verses as each page passed.  While she didn’t go to sleep (NOTE: She just woke up from a nap!), she was super-calm after I read it aloud to her.  Clearly, this book has a soothing effect.

I’ll be bringing When Mermaids Sleep upstairs with us tonight.  I’m going to add it to the pre-bedtime book pile to see what happens.  I have a feeling it’s going to become a regular read very soon.

bedtime stories · OBSERVATIONS · picture books · reading conveys love

The Act of Reading Books to Children Shows How Much You Love Them

It’s almost 3 a.m. I’ve been up for about two hours listening to my daughter cough through the baby monitor. I’m tempted to go into her room to soothe her, but I know picking her up out of her crib, in which she is sleeping, is not the solution. Therefore, I listen and wait. Wait for her to wake up so I can do my motherly duty of comforting my sick baby.

Nancy’s post, “Kiss, Love, and Go,” got me thinking about the way we show our kids we love them.  Read it if you haven’t already.  At the end of her post I left a comment:

We must, must, must tell our children that we love them often (more than once a day).

My daughter isn’t speaking yet, but yesterday I asked her, “Do you know Mommy loves you?” She smiled and nodded with her head and her entire toddler body. I enveloped her in a bear hug and said some other sweet words (I don’t recall what they were.). She might not be able to tell me that she loves me back, but, by golly, she knows I love her. To me, that is everything right now. I’ve said it enough to get my point across, which means I will KEEP ON SAYING IT so she knows.

One of the many ways we can express our love for our children is through reading.  The simple act of taking time to read aloud to kids shows them we love them. It means spending time focusing on them, rather than on e-mails, phone calls, or television shows. If reading is one of the ways I can show my daughter I love her, then she must know that she’s adored because she’s surrounded by books!

night-you-were-bornWhat we read is important too.  For instance, last night before bedtime, I brought my daughter into my bedroom to read aloud to her.  She wasn’t feeling well, so I figured I’d treat her to a read aloud in our bed surrounded by her stuffed animals (who were brought in earlier in the afternoon when she needed to chill after her nap).  I selected a few picture books and let her choose the one she wanted to hear.  She choose On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman — twice.  (If you haven’t read this gem, then you’ll love it. It conveys one of the deepest messages of love in print.  It tells a child how special they are, which is why I’ve started buying it for my friends’ oldest children when they add another baby into their family. ) I think she choose this book not just because she loves the moon illustrations on each page, but because she can sense how adored she is when I read it to her.

awesomebkloveThere’s a new book, An Awesome Book of Love by Dallas Clayton, that came out last month.  I shared this one with Isabelle yesterday morning when we were snuggled up together in her play room.  I read it aloud for the first time and she loved it.  Clayton’s book has things she seems to adore in picture books these days: vivid illustrations and rhyme.  I like the irresistible message it conveys: our love binds us together forever. While the book can easily be for a significant other, it is yet another worthwhile read for a parent-child to experience together. After just one reading, I am confident this book is going to become a favorite just as On the Night You Were Born.

Valentine’s Day is a few weeks away. While I think it’s important to tell our loved ones how we feel all year long, I think I’ll devote a few more posts to “reading conveys love” in the next few weeks.  Therefore, more lovey-dovey titles Isabelle and I love will follow!

bedtime stories · board books · OBSERVATIONS

Best Bedtime Book. EVER.

SWEET-DREAMS-LULLABY_COVER-300x300Our little girl began protesting bedtime in early November. Nothing that we seemed to do made the transition into her crib for the night easier. At first I blamed the time change. Once we got her back to bed at her normal time, and the problem still persisted, I blamed her age. Maybe bedtime was just going to be tough.

Everything changed ten days ago when I tried something new. I grabbed a copy of Betsy Snyder’s newest board book, Sweet Dreams Lullaby, which was already a beloved picture book. I put the board book version in Isabelle’s crib at bedtime with the hope she’d enjoy flipping through the pages after I kissed her goodnight.  On December 20th, Isabelle was calm when I put her in her crib. Therefore, I grabbed Sweet Dreams Lullaby from its place on her crib mattress and began reading it to her as she stood in her crib looking at the illustrations and listening, calmly, to the soothing rhythmic verses.  Once I was finished reading it to her, I turned off the light, kissed her goodnight, and closed the door.  Not a peep was heard.  Every night since December 20th we’ve been reading Sweet Dreams Lullaby aloud to her right after we place her in her crib.  It doesn’t matter who puts her to sleep (i.e., me, my husband, or a grandparent), she goes right to bed after she listens to Sweet Dreams Lullaby read aloud to her!

I had tried reading the picture book version of Sweet Dreams Lullaby to Isabelle, with her on my lap, once this whole tough transition to bed thing started.  However, the picture book version didn’t soothe her like it had in the months prior.  (In fact, no other book soothed her either!)  It seems Snyder’s board book has become the secret to calming Isabelle down and getting her to bed without any tears.

AND, to top it all off, the title page has a picture of the baby bunny brushing his teeth in his pajamas prior to bed.  Since we went out to dinner with family last night, Isabelle’s bedtime routine was thrown-off.  Therefore, when I got her into her crib to read the book, looking at the illustration of the bunny triggered my memory that we forgot to brush her teeth.  I quickly grabbed her out of the crib, took her to brush her teeth, and then put her back in her crib to read Sweet Dreams Lullaby to her.  Think that flustered her?  Not a bit. She was perfectly content to listen to the board book read aloud and didn’t mind the teeth brushing interruption.  Incredible!

bedtime stories · picture books · RESEARCH · Three Books Before Bedtime · Waldorf Education

How many books should we read to children at bedtime?

I’m reading a fantastic book about children’s development my daughter’s Waldorf teacher lent us. It’s Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven by Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley (Michaelmas, 2000). This book is helping me reimagine how we live and work as a family.

This morning I read the chapter on play and there is something the authors included that I can’t out of my head. The literacy specialist in me was completely taken aback by the following passage:

“There is a lot I could say about books. But basically, children love to be read to and love to hear stories told to them. It is good to have some books with pictures and some without. Children like the opportunity to picture their own scenes, to do their own internal imagining. At night, don’t read too many books in a row before bedtime because there will be too many images in their heads. It can give children a kind of mental indigestion that they take into their sleep. It is very rewarding to alternate story reading with storytelling, either from your own adventures as a child or from a tale you have taken the time to memorize (69).”

It never occurred to me to that multiple books before bedtime would fill a child’s head with too many images. I try to read Isabelle three books before bedtime. Sometimes she’s not in the mood and we only get through one. Other times she keeps handing me board books and picture books out of her book baskets to the point where I have to say, “just one more,” before putting her down for the night. I can’t imagine limiting the picture book reading we do now or in the future unless I do some additional research to support the author’s assertion.

That being said, I know that watching television and using a computer before bedtime (as an adult) can interfere with sleep. There was a recent article in The NY Times about this. Even though I’ve never thought of books with pictures before bedtime as a way of causing “mental indigestion” in children, there is something important to glean from what is said in the book. If my child were having sleep issues (which I’m thankful she doesn’t have and hope she never will), then I would consider limiting. However, if one’s child is sleeping well, why limit books before bedtime?

bedtime stories · board books · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Slumber Party Reading

Ever since I read Lauren Donovan’s “Embracing the Nerdy” post which took readers back to her 8th birthday party, I’ve been thinking about the role reading can and should play when kids gather together for slumber parties.  I know my friends and I never read books at slumber parties when we were in elementary and middle school.  However, as a literacy specialist, Lauren’s post sang to me.  I thought it was cute, but I couldn’t imagine suggesting it to my daughter and her future friends when she becomes old enough to host slumber parties at our home. However, if it’s initiated by my daughter or her friends, then I won’t be stopping it!

That being said, my best friend and her family spent the weekend with us.  Saturday was spent trying to stay cool in our house, at a nearby swimming pool, and in a restaurant.  Today we braved the heat at Dutch Wonderland.  However, yesterday’s heat wave and today’s theme park, something magical happened between our toddlers.  After they fought over most of the toys in the house, they sat down and “read” together.  Isabelle grabbed one of her favorites, Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! by Benji Davies, off of the coffee table’s shelf.  Addy, my friend’s daughter, grabbed The City ABC Book by Zoran Milich.  Then, as the series of photographs my husband took of the two of them illustrate, Isabelle shared Bizzy Bear with Addy.  In fact, from the pile that I found on the floor after the two of them went to sleep, it seems like they were passing a lot of books back and forth.

I hate to say it, but I missed the entire reading event.  I was upstairs changing into my p.j.’s before putting Isabelle down to sleep.  My husband witnessed it.  Thankfully he took some pictures of the toddlers together, enjoying some books and some quiet time before they went to sleep.  I’m so glad I was able to witness the two of them initiating reading together thanks to his quick thinking when he grabbed the camera.