Beyond Reading: How Books Help Us Live and Learn

Welcome to March edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Discovering Through Books”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!

Everyone knows that books are helpful for eventually learning how to read, but books are good for more than that!

In fact, books help us live and learn. I know folks can get lost in the world of a book and experience new things through a book, but that’s not the living and learning I’m talking about. What I realized is that books are one my parenting tools, a parenting resource even.

Here are 3 ways books help my family live and learn:

Books on the Potty

We have practiced EC (Elimination Communication) with our daughter since infancy. As my daughter got past infancy and could sit on her own, pottying became a perfect time to read to pass the time and engage. As she got older and more into books, I made sure to keep books close to the potty stations and rotated in her favorites.

At one point, recently, she came to associate pottying with reading so strongly that when she wanted to read she would go sit on the potty! Sometimes, she wants to sit on the potty and read “one more” book “one more time,” when I want potty time to be over. More often, however, books are a way to help me suggest a potty break that doesn’t feel like an end to play.

All in all, just like adults can get some good reading done in the potty so can toddlers!

Books, Signing, Language Acquisition and Communication

A line from a book that was given to me as an explanation for what this is a picture of...

We have been signing with my daughter since we figured she can see well enough, maybe around one month. I have been planning to write a post on signing with children because she has exploded recently and often says “how do you say?” and “let’s look it up!” At ten months, “book” was one of her first signs.

I can learn signs easily in the context of a book, especially considering that children can read books over and over…..and over. The reinforcing happens naturally — the written word, the spoken word, the sign. Each time she sees the book she has the opportunity to hear the spoken word in her head and remember the sign to make with her hands.

Signing can also help make a connection across two other, different languages, such as Spanish and English. I can sign the same sign for both languages, and she more quickly learns the words whether in a Spanish book or an English context. Children’s books, particularly the simple board books are perfect for signing, but I find that signs help my daughter follow books with lots of text as well. I have seen that my daughter can “read” (remember) a book and how it goes after one time through if I sign it the first time more often than when I don’t.

Books and Feelings

I wrote about talking to toddlers about feelings a little while back. For a bit there I felt like reading books about feelings (and doing the signs for feelings as well, of course) was helping. Then I wondered if I was putting words in her mouth or causing her to feel things she wouldn’t have otherwise. For instance, the When I’m Feeling Scaredbook has the rabbit afraid of the dark. I don’t remember her being afraid of the dark until after she read that book.

Most interesting, however, is that yet another stage has begun, in which she seems to be integrating the language and understanding into her own experience. She does not seem as afraid of the dark anymore, and she has more nuance to her use of feeling scared, both when discussing herself and others (during pretend play, for example).  I am starting to feel grateful again that she has language for feelings she is experiencing.

Having these feelings books that we both have read, my daughter often  references the books when she is trying to explain how she is feeling. She might say she is sad and tell me why, and then she will tell me about how rabbit was sad when…. In the “sad” book, the rabbit sometimes feels like “crying and crying” so much it makes a flood. One time last week, she was sobbing about something. When she calmed down and stopped crying she said, “I was crying and crying, but I did not make a flood.”

These are just some of the ways books support and enrich our lives.

For most of her books, even the wordy ones, she has memorized what the page says or knows enough about what it says that she “reads” that page. Even though she’s 2, some of the books my daughter asks me to read are wordy and elaborate, like her books on thunder/lightening, on tadpoles/frogs, and on the skeleton/bones. She seems to enjoy them, though, and applies her understanding when we are out and about.

I’m in no rush for my daughter to learn to read. My daughter loves to read, but the best part about this place she’s at right now is that when she reads something she really doesn’t know how to read, she tells me “It says I love Uma!” Yes, it does, my love, yes it does….



10 books/authors That Have Made It into Favorites Over Time:

  1. Eric Carle — The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Very Busy Spider
  2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin
  3. Roadwork! by Sally Sutton
  4. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
  5. ¿Eres tu mi mamá?/Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
  6. Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros
  7. Moo Moo, Brown Cow by Jacki Wood
  8. Best Milk by Kate Carothers
  9. The Mitten by Jan Brett
  10. Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden and Chippy Chipmunk: Babies in the Garden by Kathy M. Miller

Books for the Car or Diaper Bag

10 Chunky Books Made from 98% Recycled Materials (animals, busy day, opposites, my body, colors)

In preparation for her baby brother’s homebirth:
We’re Having a Homebirth


My 2 Year Old Daughter “Reading”

It’s a Little Book (The “baby” version of It’s a Book.)


Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

4 responses to this post.

  1. […] Beyond Reading: How Books Help Us Live and Learn  — Sheila of A Living Family describes how, more than helping her children learn to read, books help her family live and learn together. […]


  2. […] Beyond Reading: How Books Help Us Live and Learn  — Sheila of A Living Family describes how, more than helping her children learn to read, books help her family live and learn together. […]


  3. I love your book suggestions and can’t wait to hit the library! I really like the “When I’m Scared” book because my daughter’s been going through a “scared phase,” refusing to sleep because she’s scared of her dreams. I’ve been looking for some books to help her, so thanks.

    Your comments on language development and different languages was very interesting, too. My husband’s English, and although we speak the same language, we have different words for some of the same items. We don’t sign, but when we read and point out items in the book, we each use our own syntax, so I’m sure my daughter’s picking up on the fact there can be more than one word for something.

    I recently read that kids can go potty easier when they’re relaxed (not pressured) and singing songs or reading books can help. SO true, and so cute that your daughter likes to read her books on the potty. We do songs but may try books next…as long as they don’t end up /in/ the potty! 😉


  4. Posted by pamwhitlock on March 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I recognize some of your top ten favorites. My kids are ages 9, 11, 15, and 18. Some of those books are just classics and will be around for a long time.


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