Rhymes & Songs - Why Nursery Rhymes?

In our First Five (F5) collection, a great section to look for books for your babies in is the Rhymes & Songs glade (dark blue labels).

Before babies can understand our spoken words, nursery rhymes help demonstrate the rhythms, patterns and sounds of our speech to them.  By sharing nursery rhymes with your baby, you will be helping them build pre-literacy skills.  As they grow, learning the rhymes themselves will help them expand their vocabuary, learn number skills and give them confidence to express themselves through speech.

Another benefit to using nursery rhymes are that the books and stanzas are short so you can share them in bits and pieces. That will come especially in handy when your baby becomes a toddler and can't sit still for very long! 

Some of my favorites from this section are:

If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera
Knock At The Door And Other Baby Action Rhymes by Kay Chorao
Here Comes Mother Goose by Iona Archibald Opie
Tomie DePaola's Mother Goose by Tomi DePaola



YouTube Jr.

Youtube videos are everywhere, but how can you be sure you won't come across something with questionable content?  Try Totlol!  This new sub-site of YouTube is a parent moderated video community aimed at kids under the age of 13. There are videos about music, phonics, classic cartoons, even some cool series like Signing Time where you can learn sign language!  The selection is huge and if you like, you can participate too by creating a free account, creating your own playlist. The site has gotten some good reviews from ReadWriteWeb and Wired Magazine. Find our more information about how it works here and see if you'd like to join in!

Other Online Video Alternatives:

Sesame Street also shares videos on their site and you can never get enough Elmo! Check out all the fun videos about reading!

blip.tv is where our library shares videos like Opening Day and time lapse videos of it being built.  See what it looked like one year ago this month!

Vimeo has fun videos like Bob Shea's Dinosaur vs. Bedtime (a personal favorite book of mine!)

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime from bob shea on Vimeo.

Kids Music That Rocks

Kids have a natural love of music. They love to dance, shake and explore sounds and movement. Like with so many things in their lives, music is much more fun when it is shared with the grownups and siblings in their lives!  Music can help focus their attention, music can lift their spirits and research shows that music can help make them smarter!  

Many researchers believe that the earlier kids are exposed to music, the more their sponge-like brains absorb and respond to tones. In Early Literacy research, this is beneficial to their pre-literacy development and is known as Phonological Awareness. There are lots of ways you can help build this skill in and with your child including:

  • clapping with the syllables
  • using spoons to bang on pots and pans (note: do this with asprin handy!)
  • making shakers by putting rice into and empty water bottle with a secure screw cap
  • using scarves or sticks or anything to play! There are more ideas about making your own instruments here

Good Kids music is not something that is easy to find. A lot of the albums are hit or miss with quality and enjoyableness for the grownups who have to listen to it too.  We read a blog called Kids Music that Rocks and are introduced to lots of new artists and albums through there. Kiera wrote a piece a while back with links to some of her favorites from our collection like Elizabeth Mitchell, They Might be Giants and the Terrible Twos.  To her list, I'd to add some World Music presented by Putumayo (Kids):

Hawaiian Playground

Reggae Playground Folk Playground African Playground







 And now I leave you with some fun music from Feist from a guest appearance on Sesame Street. Have fun listening to music with your little one!!!

Baby Play

Babies learn through their senses. Ever wonder how a baby can be so fascinated with an object? They are exploring the texture, color, shape and even taste of the things they come in contact with.  Just like with words (the more you expose them to, the more they absorb) play is an essential part of your child's development. They don't just learn about the objects however. They are learning important concepts like cause and effect; when they touch the rattle, it makes a noise.  And boy do they like to move!  Just watch this short video of a baby at play (note: the adults were edited out of the video for streamlined baby adorableness).



Interested in learning more?  Talk to a Librarian and check out some of the great books we have in our Parents Section (F5 Parents) in the Children's Library:

Baby Steps: A Guide to Your Child's Social, Physical, Mental and emotional Development in the First Two Years by Claire Kopp

Baby Minds: Brain Building Games Your Baby Will Love by Linda Acredolo, PhD and Susan Goodwyn, PhD

Games to Play with Babies by Jackie Silberg

125 Brain Games for Babies: Simple Games to Promote Early Brain Development by Jackie Silberg


Have fun playing with your baby!


Reluctant Reader Tip#2

If you're the parent of a reluctant reader, fear not!  There are many things you can do to encourage a lifelong love of reading without resorting to bribery. 

I'll be blogging Reluctant Reader Tips (check out Tip #1) over the course of the next few weeks.  Here's Tip #2:

Silly Does It! 

Almost all kids like things that are funny, silly, and gross.  Especially if reading feels like a chore, having a laugh-out-loud book can help reinforce the idea that reading can be fun (gasp!). 

Alright, so high-brow and sophisticated Captain Underpants is NOT.  But, it certainly has phenomenal appeal for young boys- and that interest can be just the spark needed to transition into more sophisticated chapter books. 

Here are some favorite Silly Books:




Reluctant Reader Tip #1

If you're the parent of a child who does not like to read, you are not alone. 

Studies have shown that reading tends to drop off as a preferred activity as children get older and progress through elementary school.  Getting your child (re)interested in books can seem like an uphill battle.

What can you do?  Here's my Reluctant Reader Tip #1:

Try a graphic novel!

The Babymouse series follows the  hilarious adventures of a little mouse and her school friends.  And don't let the pinkness fool you- boys like it, too!   Not so much into pink?  Give Jeff Smith's Bone series a try. It's got humor, adventure, and friendship. Consider Amelia Rules! the Peanuts of the 21st century.  A cast of kids who can make you laugh, cry, or both.


Comic books have come a long way!  Graphic novels have great appeal for children who are visual learners.  Like their more traditional cousin, the novel, they help increase vocabulary and narrative skills.  Graphic novels, however, have the added bonus of helping children develop an increasingly important skill: visual literacy.  Plus, they are super funny!

For future Reluctant Reader Tips, stay tuned to our blog.  And add your own tips in the comments section!

The Link Between Art and Literacy: the 5 Stages of Scribbling

photo courtesy of Flickr user Inferis

Parents know the magic that a simple coloring book and a pack of crayons can work on a screaming toddler.  But did you know that those random-looking scribbles are an important developmental step along your child's path to reading and writing?  As early as 15 months, children enter the first of what's called the 5 Stages of Scribbling.

Here's the basic breakdown (and please note: every child grows and develops at their own pace.  Ages ranges are general approximations only.)

STAGE 1: RANDOM SCRIBBLING (15 months to 2 1/2 years)

At this early age, children are delighted to figure out how to hold a crayon (those extra jumbo crayons are super handy).  Babies and toddlers will usually hold the crayons in a tight fist and use large motions from their shoulders to produce scribbles.  During this stage, they make the exciting discovery that the object in their hand is producing lines on the paper (and hopefully, not the walls). 

Babies are most interested in the sensory nature of art at this point; the texture of the crayon, it's unique smell.  This is also a great time to introduce young toddlers to clay, play-dough, or finger paint.  [check out this recipe for homemade, non-toxic play-dough]  The different sensations produced by using each medium stimulates their senses and engages their developing minds. 

Helpful Hint: It might help to tape down a large piece of paper for babies and toddlers.  This will prevent the paper from moving or tearing as they draw.

STAGE 2: CONTROLLED SCRIBLLING (2 years to 3 years)

During this stage, children will often transition to holding the crayon between their thumb and pointer finger.  Their scribbles may show more repeated marks or patterns- such as spirals, open circles, curved lines, and straight lines.  As their muscle control develops, toddlers will enjoy experimenting with using a paintbrush, or working with model clay. 

Helpful Hint: Use regular household objects to create art- like using Q-Tips, cotton balls, or old wine corks as applicators.  Use chalk on a sidewalk, or washable paints in the bathtub.

STAGE 3:  LINES AND PATTERNS (2 1/2 years to 3 1/2 years)

At this stage, children begin to understand that writing consists of special lines and curves that repeat in certain patterns.  Very often, children will pretend to write.  While their scribbling may not have any actual letters, you may see some early components that make up the alphabet- such as "S"-like curves, small circles, and sharp lines. 

What is so magical about this stage is that toddlers are beginning to understand that those scribbles can convey meaning!  That when Mommy or Daddy is scribbling, it is a list of what food to buy at the grocery store.  This understanding is a big step on their way towards writing and reading on their own. 

Helpful Hint: Encourage your child's "pretend" writing- and take it seriously!  Ask them to "read" what they've written.  This will teach them the importance and value of words. 

STAGE 4:  PICTURES OF OBJECTS OR PEOPLE (3 years to 5 years)

At some point, your child may hand you a page of scribbles and declare, "It's Grandma!"  At the beginning of this stage, children will often produce unplanned artwork and decide what it is after they are finished. 

Eventually, you may notice your child thinking about what she will draw before committing crayon to paper.  This is an important developmental milestone.  She is now engaged in symbolic thinking!  She understands that her artwork can symbolize objects, people, or events. 

Not long after, children will begin to understand the difference between pictures and writing.  This is particularly important as they get ready to enter preschool and begin to work on letter awareness. 

Helpful Hint: As your child begins to draw pictures, use open, non-judgemental questions to discuss the final product, such as: "Can you tell me about your picture?"  Encourage your child to tell you the "story" of the picture(s).  This story-telling is also an important skill for literacy!


By this stage, children may begin writing "real" letters on their own.  Children usually begin with letters that are familiar to them- such as the first letter of their name.  Children also begin to understand that letters fit together in special ways to make words.  While they may not be able to write words on their own, they do understand that some words are short and some are long.  This may be reflected in their "pretend" writing.  One day, all this pretend practice will morph into the understanding and production of real letters and words!

Helpful Hint:  It's okay that their letters are not technically correct.  It's the process, not the product, that matters.

For more information about the 5 Stages of Scribbling, check out zerotothree.org.

And for more art project ideas for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, check out our collection of Little Hands books.

Booklists About Firsts for First Five Years

Books to accompany children's milestones; the exciting, the fearful, and the fun firsts!


First Steps

Hold My Hand: Five Stories of Love and Family by Charlotte Zotolow Will You Carry Me? by Heleen Van Rossum Spot's First Walk by Eric Hill Pig Pig Grows Up by David McPhail


First Vocab, First Haircut, First Time Potty


Simms Taback's Book of Words by this Caldecott Award winning author/artist, runs the gammet of vocab words for toddlers and preschoolers.  Looking for easier, or harder?  More titles on this vocab book list No Haircut Today!by Elivia Savadier is about a toddler who does not want a trimming from his hairdresser mom!  More titles on this haircut list. A Potty for Me is a lift the flap storybook.  More fiction titles on this potty list.  Toilet training books (geared towards grownup readers) are here.




First Dentist, First Loose Tooth





  Harry and the Dinosaurs Say "Raahh!" is a relatable tale of dentist nervousness.  More titles on this dentist list . Loose Tooth by Lola Schaefer is for those learning how to read, which corresponds to the time we tend to loose teeth!  More titles on this loose tooth list.  


Parent Favorite: Classic and Modern FUNNY STORIES (a Booklist)

Did you grow up laughing along with books like Homer Price and Mr. Popper's Penguins?  Check out these modern read-alikes that will have you and your child busting a gut!

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater

Stinky: A Toon Book

by Eleanor Davis




by Andrew Clements










The Talented Clementine

by Sara Pennypacker

Double Trouble in Walla Walla

by Andrew Clements

The Legend of Spud Murphy

by Eoin Colfer











For advanced readers with a refined sense of irony, try Richard Peck's The Teachers Funeral and Here Lies the Librarian

GIRL READS: A Booklist for Upper Elementary Girls


Click the attachment for the list! 

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