When your baby is very small, it seems hard to picture yourself having daily reading time, but soon enough, your one-year-old will want to sit on your lap and paw at touchy-feely boardbooks. Then she will begin to enjoy the bright colours and images of early picture books.
Gradually, you will find your child is willing to sit through something a bit longer and the story in a good picture book becomes more important. There is huge enjoyment in the fun of language, wild word combinations, tales that are sheer fantasy and also stories which small children love because they say something about their own experience.
Experiences through fiction
One of the best ways to introduce a child to concepts – from colours and numbers to potty-training and going to sleep on their own – is through song or story.
Given that the impending arrival of a new baby brother or sister will be one of the biggest upheavals so far in your child’s life, finding good story books which gently introduce this concept can be invaluable.
Plotlines and characters
Many ‘new sibling’ storybooks start with the excitement of a new arrival, then the reality – tired parents, too much attention paid to the new baby, sulking older brother or sister – and finally how the parents share the joy and the hard work of a new sibling with the older child. This basic storyline comes in all shapes and styles, from gooey sentimental stories to raucously funny tales.
One of the latest books which taps into this theme, is ‘Little Rabbit’s New Baby’ by author Harry Horse.
The Little Rabbit books are already a much loved series of stories about a cheeky little rabbit who up to all kinds of adventures, but here, Mama is expecting a new baby. Except when it arrives, it’s three babies!
Despite Little Rabbit’s initial excitement, he begins to think being big brother to three crying babies who aren’t big enough to play his games is all rather frustrating. It’s a beautifully illustrated story which nevers gets too gooey and with gentle images that suit reading even to quite young siblings whose mummies are expecting.
Another good recent one is ‘Just Like You Did’, by Marjorie Newman. Here Tom feels decidely left out with his baby brother turns up.
There are many books like these, so if you’re preparing for twins, or have a daughter who needs a bit of reassurance, you’ll find all kinds of permutations on the basic theme. Many of these books will be filed under ‘first experiences’ in a children's bookshop, or just ask a shop assistant to point you in the right direction.
I have included the names of two books our son really enjoyed when I was expecting Eleanor. ‘I Want A Sister’ is a Tony Ross book about a bossy little princess who has to come to terms with the arrival of a baby brother. It’s funny and irreverent.
Then there was ‘Mummy’s Having A Baby’ by Jillian Harker which Lloyd enjoyed reading even after Eleanor was born! In it, his new baby sister leaves Josh a little present in her cot, to say ‘thank you’ for being a lovely big brother. We did this for Lloyd and it worked really well. Plus the boy in the story gave Lloyd some great ideas for how to make his new baby sister stop crying!
Little Rabbit’s New Baby by Harry Horse, £10.99 just out from Puffin Puffin website
Just Like You Did by Majorie Newman, £5.99 from Bloomsbury
I Want A Sister by Tony Ross, £4.99 from Collins
Mummy’s Having A Baby by Jillian Harker, originally through Bright Stars but now only available by special order through Amazon etc (ISBN number 1-84250-541-6)