Book clubs are not just a chance for exasperated mommies to get together and drink too much wine. And as for book clubs where actual reading and literary discussion take place, they’re not just for reading age kids. Babies and toddlers are the perfect age for Book Club and will love this pre-reading activity.
Years before I even thought of having children, I knew that the most important thing we would do together is read.
My best memories from childhood are snuggling in bed with my mom and little brother (now big Uncle B) before bedtime, reading our favorites – first Richard Scarry stories, then the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series over and over until we had memorized every chapter by heart. It was heaven to spend the last minutes of our days wrapped together under the warm yellow glow of the reading lamp in the softness of pillows and blankets and our mother’s love. This bedtime reading ritual was the precursor to the Book Club I’ve instituted with Jane and Sam.
Now, one of Jane’s and Sam’s favorite indoor activities is Book Club. We don’t save it just for bedtime (although that’s what I did when I was working full-time). At some point during our day, I’ll shout, “Book Club!” and the rugrats come running out from their mischief-making to grab their favorite boardbooks and paperbacks and clamber up onto the bed.
You’re thinking, wait a second, your kids can’t read and don’t understand the concept of literary analysis, so how do they participate in Book Club?
Well, if you haven’t tried it yet, you’ll be quite surprised at how quickly your little one will pick up on the concept if you just go through the motions as if they were school-aged readers (or your tipsy mommy girlfriends … probably a more accurate comparison for babies and toddlers). When Sam was pre-verbal, he would just pick up a book and look through the pictures or touch them. If I asked him what his favorite part of the story was, he’d look up and babble some nonsense. Now, at 21 months, he can talk about the story characters and the plot lines (in toddler terms, of course!).
It’s so fun to watch their little minds at work and their progression over time. When we all sit around with books in our hands, you can see they’re proud of being a part of the activity and enjoy mimicking my conversational style, even if they don’t exactly understand what I’m saying.
Just having turned 3, Jane now takes the helm and runs Book Club herself: deciding which books we should read, asking the questions, and helping Sam out with some of the answers. I just play along as a more passive member these days.
Here are a few ideas for starting your own baby or toddler book club at home or with your playgroup:
- Start by finding a comfy place to read. We like to cuddle on a bed, snuggle on a couch, or lie on blankets piled on the floor.
- Provide your children with a basket or stack of books to choose from. When we first started, I put together a group of books. Later on, I sent the kids out to their various bookshelves to grab a favorite or two.
- Let each child handle her own book and either read, look at or touch the books, or pretend to read. I usually model the act of reading quietly. Sam was really rambunctious for several months (unlike Jane, who could sit still for half an hour reading books when she was just a few months old) when we started, but he’s finally gotten the hang of it.
- Ask the children questions about their book. Some questions to ask: what is your favorite part of the book? Who is this story about? What happens to so-and-so? Even if your child has no idea what you are asking, they’ll be prompted to babble back at you or ramble on about whatever interests them – even if it has nothing to do with the book. You haven’t failed if this happens. Those are great responses! It’s all preparation for actually reading and discussion.
- Let the children take control of the process whenever they express a desire to do so. Sam is happy to still play along, but Jane comes up with all kinds of rules and procedures nowadays. (Wonder where she gets that from).
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to be “working.” It is! You’re just trying to get your children familiar with reading to hopefully encourage a lifelong love affair with books. Just getting them engaged for a few minutes is success. If they’re not interested, come back to the concept later. Babies and toddlers are fickle and move at their own pace. As long as your only expectation is to have fun with your little ones, you’ll be pleased with this fun activity that, at minimum, fosters precious together time.
Right now we’re reading:
Need more reading inspiration? Here are more 30+ more great reads: