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Research shows that reading to children has many benefits. Newborns enjoy the cuddling and the comfort of familiar voices; toddlers love an animated retelling of their favorite story; and older preschoolers like to discuss and ask questions about the tale being told.
Reading to children exposes them to rich language and diverse content and teaches them basic speech and communication skills, helping to prepare their minds for success at school. It enhances their concentration and logical thinking skills. Not least among the benefits of reading to children are the enrichment of family ties and the establishment of an atmosphere of trust. And it's just plain fun!
Grandparents come in a variety of colors and flavors. My paternal grandmother wore housedresses and starched aprons, and her house smelled of sugar cookies and tourtière (think Grandma Walton); my maternal grandmother was a matron in a jail and was always up for a serious game of euchre (think Mama Morton in Chicago).
Regardless of the packaging, most grandparents are crazy about their grandkids (and vice versa) and have tremendous power to influence them. Who has more time to provide undivided attention than Grandma?
With all the great books for kids out there, how can you choose the right ones to read to your grandchildren? First, ask them! Older children can tell you their favorite authors and the things they are interested in. Visit the library and let them choose their own books. Second, ask the librarian for suggestions or ask your friends for advice on what they read to their grandkids. Third, check out the lists of great books for kids issued by organizations, such as The Canadian Children's Book Centre, the Association for Library Service to Children, and the Book Trust.
Great books for kids include timeless classics, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902), and modern classics, such as Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (1940), Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947), and Mortimer by Robert Munsch (1984). There is also the Sesame Street collection with gems such as The Monster at the End of This Book (1971). More recent titles include Oh No, George by Chris Haughton (2012) and A Pet Banana by Donald Dale Cummings (2012).
However, the books explored here are those that feature grandchild–grandparent relationships. Grandmas and grandpas are the champions in these sweet and amusing stories.
1. Here Comes Grandma! by J. Lord. This book is about a grandma who will do anything to see her grandchild. She and her little dog travel by horse, train, skis, and car. Little listeners will be delighted by the refrain, "Here comes Grandma!"
2. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by M. A. Hoberman. In this book for beginning readers, some lines are designated for one reader, some for the other reader, and some for the two readers to read together. It's perfect for reading with grandchildren aged 5 to 9.
3. Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa by A. K. Christian. This award-winning children's book illustrates the special bond between grandchildren and grandparents. It also deals with separation. Emily loves visiting with her grandparents, but when the visits must end, she is left missing them and feeling empty inside. Grandma and Grandpa show Emily how they can still be with her in her imagination by remembering the good times they have had together. It is a heartwarming book for children who are separated by distance from their grandparents or other loved ones.
4. Old Bear by K. Henkes. In the winter, Old Bear sleeps and dreams about being a cub again, remembering all four seasons of the year and of his life. Children will enjoy the fantasies in Old Bear's dreams; grandparents will relate to Old Bear's memories of his youth and his delight on awakening to a beautiful spring day. This book can be used to teach children about the seasons, or to enjoy the themes of youth and age. The story could spark a discussion about what it means to grow older and to reminisce about the past while still enjoying the present. It's an excellent book for grandparents and grandchildren to share.
5. The Grandma Book by T. Parr. "Some grandmas have a lot of cats. Some grandmas have a lot of purses. Some grandmas give advice . . . others help their neighbors." Although there are many kinds of grandmas in the world, they all like to spend time with their grandchildren and give them lots of kisses.
6. The Hello, Goodbye Window by N. Juster and C. Raschka. This book is told from the perspective of a little girl whose grandparents babysit her. It's a delightful story of a happy childhood and a perfect book for a grandparent and child to read aloud together.
7. Me with You by K. Dempsey. This story, told in simple rhyme, is about a grandfather and granddaughter enjoying life together. It is a love letter to grandfathers, and a perfect gift for a young child.
8. The Little Big Book for Grandmothers edited by L. Tabori and A. Wong. Although reviewed as "not a good fit for modern grandmothers," the vintage illustrations, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, songs, poems, "granny stories," recipes, and activities in this book are sure to please.
Remember, the books you choose when reading to children aren't as important as simply the time you spend with your grandchild.
Here's wishing you all live happily ever after!
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