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    A minimalist’s guide to children’s books

    I am four years into motherhood and there is a very small collection of children’s books that don’t drive me insane by this point. I have donated TONS of titles over the years. I know it may come as a surprise that an English professor would get rid of books, but I believe in only keeping favorites in the house. If a book isn’t worth re-reading, it doesn’t get a place on our shelves. Plus, the library allows us to try out new stories and authors without having to store books long-term. Though I’ve grown tired of many children’s books since becoming a mom, about 10% of the books we’ve received over the years have wiggled their way into my heart. No matter how many times I read them out loud, I still love them. Today, I am sharing my favorite kids books to help you shop wisely this holiday season. (You can also check out my minimalist’s guide to toys!)

    0-12 MONTHS

    • Snuggle Puppy – I’m not sure why, but babies love this book. I think it’s because it’s meant to be read in a sing-song voice and has a fun whisper part at the end.
    • Brown Bear, Brown Bear – This is another one babies love because of the rhythm of the text and the brightly colored animals.
    • Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? – I’m going to honest… most Dr. Seuss books are really long and a little bit annoying to read out loud, but this one is great for babies. It teaches lots of sounds like knocking and mooing and buzzing.
    • Where is Baby’s Belly Button – This is the first lift-the-flap book that my girls interacted with. They loved it right around age one, and it helped them learn their body parts.

    1-2 YEARS

    • Alphaprints ABC – This is darling animal ABC book with playful pictures.
    • Pete the Cat – I don’t even like cats, but I never get tired of this sing-song book that reminds readers to be joyful in every circumstance.
    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – This is one of the classics I love. Toddlers get to practice counting and learn to identify different foods.
    • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Another classic filled with sound effects. This one is fun to read aloud.
    • Is Your Mama a Llama? – I love books with strong rhyming schemes and this one is well done.
    • Dear Zoo – A cute flap book that introduces young readers to various animals.
    • Cars and Trucks and Things that Go – This isn’t a book we actually read word-for-word, but our girls are OBSESSED with finding the tiny, hidden “Gold Bug” on each page.
    • Everywhere Babies – I like this book because it illustrates diversity. It shows white babies, black babies, brown babies, skinny babies, and fat babies. It talks about breastfeeding and bottle feeding and car seats and slings.. and almost convinces you the “mommy wars” don’t exist.
    • Farmyard Beat – Everyone needs a board book that reads like a rap song.
    • Little Mommy and Daddies – If you are grossly offended by gender stereotypes, avoid these books. They were written in the 50s and depict moms staying home with babies and dads going off to work each day. However, I love that they acknowledge the value of homemaking and child-rearing and also show how dads work hard to provide for their families.
    • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – One of the most fun ABC books ever written.
    • Lucy Darling Board Books – We have the All Aboard to California book, but there are books for many regions around the U.S. The author is a friend of mine and her illustrations are gorgeous.

    3-5 YEARS

    • The Wonderful Things You Will Be – I have been disappointed by many best-selling children’s books, but this one is wonderful. It encourages children to dream about the future and the pictures are beautiful.
    • When We Go Camping – If your family goes camping regularly, your kids are sure to love this book. It reads like a song and tells of adventures such as shooing flies, catching fish, cooking over the fire, and even peeing in the outhouse.
    • “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” – I have no idea when or where we got this book, and it sat on our shelf untouched for some time. When I finally read it, I was delighted by the long, silly narrative about an elephant’s powerful sneeze.
    • Lost My Name – Zianne got a Lost My Name book for her birthday, and it really is darling. Each book is custom-made and teaches children how to spell their name, while introducing them to many unique animal species at the same time. Use this link for $5 off this excellent Christmas gift.
    • Beezus and Ramona – I just started this book with Zianne, and she was instantly hooked because Ramona is four years old. I’m excited to read the whole series with her over the next few years.
    • Charlotte’s Web – This the first book Micah read out loud to Zianne. The story is a classic and the gospel allusions are so good!

    Christian books about anatomy/sex

    • God Made All of Me – This book teaches about God’s design for the human body and informs children on how to protect themselves from assault and abuse.
    • The Story of You – This is the first book in the God’s Design for Sex series. It’s intended for ages 3-5 and teaches about the human body. The rest of the series is written for older children and teaches about sex, pregnancy, childbirth, marriage, and puberty in a Biblical, age-appropriate way.

    Biblical Books

    • Hug-a-Bible – Eisley just received this Bible and it’s absolutely precious. The text is made up of cute (theologically-sound) poems about different Bible stories, and the outside is fuzzy like sheep’s fur. It’s perfect for baby hands and mouths.
    • God Knows You – This is a lift-the-flap book filled with God’s promises. It helps children understand how much they are loved by the Lord.
    • Lift the Flap Bible – This is a basic lift-the-flap Bible with lots of fun pictures.
    • Jesus Storybook Bible – This is the best Bible for kids aged 4-8, although we start reading it to our children when they are toddlers. It retells Bible stories in beautiful language young kids can understand and shows how the whole Bible — from Genesis to Revelation — is really one long story about Jesus.
    • Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – This is a children’s devotional book by Sally Lloyd-Jones, the author of the Storybook Bible. The pictures are beautiful, and it offers bits of Biblical truth in compact readings.
    • The Biggest Story – This is another gorgeous picture book that shows how Jesus is the focal point of Scripture. I would say this one is for a slightly older audience than the Storybook Bible – probably best enjoyed by kids aged 6-10.

    This might seem like a lot of books, but this probably covers about 60% of what we keep on our shelves. I let other titles trickle in and out, but the volumes listed here are the ones I would probably pay to replace if they got ruined. I hope this helps you add a few new books to your collection this Christmas!

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    Bookworm

    stack-of-books-vintage-books-book-books

    I always have a yearly goal to read one month a book. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail (it usually depends on whether or not I had a baby in that calendar year). Along with my reading goal, I planned to blog twice a year about the past six months’ books. However, I’ve finally realized I can never keep track of what I’ve read, and I should give up on such grand organizational schemes. I constantly text one of my best friends (a voracious reader who recommends much of what I read) and ask her “Do you remember what I’ve read this year?” She usually remembers better than I can. But to save her from another one of those texts, I am just going to share a brief list of some of the books I’ve read in the past year and half. I think (hope!) I’ve read more than this, but here are reviews for a few books that stick out in my mind.

    The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect – These are definitely worth reading. And in a strange turn of events, I actually liked the sequel even more than the first. The second book is more focused on the main character, Don, rather than his love interest, and he is hilarious. I would shake with laughter in bed while reading these and then read random sections out loud to Micah, so he could understand the hilarity.

    The Good Girl – A thriller about a kidnapping/murder gone wrong. I read it fairly quickly, which is always a sign that a book is good.

    Station Eleven – This is one of those dark, melancholy stories with bittersweet moments throughout. If you are in to post-apocalyptic literature, this one is for you. The author wove the stories of multiple different characters together brilliantly, so even though the story is sad, the narrative is worth the read.

    Flowers for Algernon – A modern classic I had never read. So sad, so good. Extra interesting if you are into science, brain development, or psychology, but also appreciate a good novel.

    Bird By Bird – Loved reading Anne Lamott’s classic book on writing (especially since I was working on my dissertation at the time). If you are a writer of any sort, this book is uplifting and practical.

    Don’t Make Me Count to Three – I finally buckled down and read my first parenting book (other than Babywise, which I love). I thought this book was practical and Biblical. Some of the stories about her own children (now grown up) were kind of cheesy, but once I got past that issue, I found her instruction to be very wise. She spent time explaining why we discipline in certain ways according to Scripture and how to probe your child’s heart to uncover their sin in order to share the Gospel in every disciplining moment.

    Allegiant – So I finally finished the Divergent series. This is one of those trilogies that goes downhill with each book (I thought Hunger Games was the same way). The first book is the best, but you are so tied to the characters and the overarching storyline, you keep reading the series even though the follow-up books are pretty mediocre. I will say, I actually liked the ending on this one though.

    Next up: The Martian and All the Light We Cannot See

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