When people hear I have twins, they often say something along the lines of “Oh twins! I could barely handle one!” Or, “Wow, those must have been some crazy first years.” Or, “You must have slept even less than I did!”
Those were some crazy first years indeed. And when I look back, I have to admit I’m often a bit hazy on what exactly went down… but I do remember the books.
In my professional life, I teach literacy education to teachers, parents, and schools across the country. But the reason I remember my own kids’ books is all the hours we spent reading while cuddled up on that oversized, spit-up-upon chair (which was white! what were we thinking?!). These have been some of my favorite times in all of parenting. And, when your child is one year old and you are doing a lot of chasing, cleaning up, and general head spinning, that time to sit together and read feels all the more delicious.
I’ve kept some of the books to remind me of those sweet, early days. These favorites sit on my shelves like little talismans of an earlier parenting era, though many of them are missing pages or have gnaw marks on the spines. Those little board books with their delightful rhythms and fanciful print remind me of the moments when I’ve felt truly present as a parent, when I’ve felt I could breathe and fully connect with my squirming little creatures – even for just a few minutes at at time.
Here are ten books that I still have on my shelves that my twins adored when they were one:
First of all, I love this book because the pictures of the chubby, cheerful kids from around the world always delighted my kids — and me. I also loved counting my own Annie and Ezra’s fingers and toes while I read, which was a nice, authentic interaction around numbers and counting. And of course, my kids loved getting the “three little kisses” on the tip of their noses at the end. This book is a reminder that when we love up our kids while we read to them, they begin to associate books with love. As Mem Fox herself says, “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading.”
Flap books are perfect for busy one-year-old babies whose curious hands want to grab and feel and pull. The flaps keep them engaged as they search for the snake in the basket, or the lion in the crate. Babies never tire of the surprise of seeing what’s hidden behind. (Another author with lots of great flap books is Laura Katz.)
This book features animals and is written in sing-songy rhyme. I loved reading it because for no reason at all I’d do an amazing British accent for Jane the Cow – and I’d rock my Jersey accent for Rhonda the Kangaroo. It’s all about keeping yourself entertained while reading a book for the 700th time. Even before your babes can understand what you’re saying, they’ll sense your joy and pleasure in reading the book.
I love this book because it’s ridiculous and funny. My kids, like all one-year-olds, loved the jaunty rhythm, which engages and comforts. Rhythm helps them begin to appreciate language and hear sounds in words, which is an important emergent literacy skill.
At age one, one of the only words my kids had truly mastered was (of course) mama. So, they loved anticipating the part at the end when the young girl finds a perfect yellow feather and runs to her mother shouting, MAMA! I would always pause in anticipation so they could be the ones to shout out MAMA, which they loved. As did I. Creating little rituals and games as you read is a wonderful way to connect with your kids over books.
This story is told using very few words which gives you the chance to look closely at the pictures and tell the story together by pointing at what the mischievous little gorilla is doing and wondering which animal he will bounce next from the cage. Ezra used to giggle like crazy at the illustration of the zookeeper’s face when she realizes all the animals are in her bedroom. We would make the shocked expression together and crack up at gorilla’s toothy grin.
There are a lotta twins out there these days, so this book was one of my favorites to read to Annie and Ezra. The two little birds are “almost, almost just alike…but not quite.” Not only did I love the message for my kids, but it was a great book for posing questions, pointing out different animals, and noticing what the birds were doing outside the simple story line.
There are a ton of ABC books for babies and kids and this is one of a few that we read a lot (I actually think I could still recite the whole thing from memory). We’d point out the letters as we read – and delight at the letters’ progress shimmying up the coconut tree. There is obviously no need to formally teach the alphabet to children who are just a year old, but it’s nice to begin building familiarity with it through engaging stories like this one.
In this book, the horse gives a ride to all the farm animals which gets increasingly faster and faster. I’d bounce Annie and Ezra up and down on my legs as we pretended to “clippity, cloppity, clippity, cloppity…” faster and faster and faster. The illustrations are bright and bold, and there are opportunities on each page to say, “Where’s the dog?” “Do you see the chicks?” “Let’s count the chicks!” It might feel like a one-sided conversation when your baby is young, but know that you are teaching your them invaluable language skills and vocabulary.
For some reason, this book is the one that I think of most when I think of Annie and Ezra at age one. I remember reading it first thing in the morning — I’d have my coffee and the twins would still be in their sleep-sacks drinking milk. Those opening words, “Each peach pear plum…,” always felt so pure and fresh to read aloud- the perfect way to start a book and a brand new day. Even if we just sat together for a few minutes and pointed out the three bears and the plum pie in the sun, I felt like we had a real moment together. The rhymes are lovely and sweet, almost like a lullaby. When 6-year-old Ezra spotted this book on my desk recently, he grabbed it and said, “Ahhh! I loved this book!” ‘Nuff said.