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Story time

Annie
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Kristina Hale, Scarlett Hale

Kristina Hale always reads to children Scarlett (pictured) and Luke before bed. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Buzz Baby is a column about life with babies. Writer Annie McQueen is a mother of four children under the age of 6.

Putting a toddler or a baby down to sleep has steps: bath, bottle/nursing/cup, closed blinds, maybe a white-noise machine. One of the most magical bedtime steps is curling up to read a special book to your child.

Books are a great way to introduce children to some of life’s most important lessons, from inspirational messages (The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper), to learning to conquer anything you set your mind to (I am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt). 

Story time is also a nice way to get a kid to wind down. Even babies as young as 6 months old can enjoy it. It is never too early to add story time into the routine. When a young child is read to, wonderful things happen. Their eyes light up as the pages turn, and their minds fill with ideas. Whether the pages are tattered from reading (or reciting from memory) one book so many times – so many times  – or shiny new, it is always an opportunity to expand their minds and soak up their snuggles. 

Researchers have said reading to a baby or toddler, or even a baby in utero, can boost early-language skills, increase emotional intelligence, build a better understanding of the big world around them, and improve a parenting bond. Also, little ones need a chance to switch their brains to calm-down mode, just as adults do.

Buzz mom and blogger Kristina Hale is expecting her third baby this fall. Kristina and her husband, Blake, have two children, daughter Scarlett, 4, and son Luke, 2, and they are a family that loves story time. Kristina is a former elementary school teacher, so it’s not surprising that reading to her children is important to her.

They make story time a family affair, starting with Scarlett and Luke selecting their favorite books and gathering in Scarlett’s room. Kristina hung acrylic bookshelves on the wall, creating a display of the kids’ favorite books. “Blake and I will take turns reading each book,” said Kristina. “We started reading to them when they were very young.”

Since Kristina is pregnant, the kids currently are into an interactive board book called Snuggle the Baby by Sara Gillingham. She thinks it is helping Luke and Scarlett feel ready to care for their new baby sibling. (Other books, like My New Baby and Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller, also are good choices for kids about to welcome a baby in their house.)

Kristina’s favorite book to read to her kids is Sam’s Sandwich by David Pelham, and she still has her own, special, childhood copy. “As a former teacher, I understand how important it is to model reading at a young age,” said Kristina. “Reading aloud to kids truly enhances your child's speech and vocabulary skills.”

Story time does not always go as planned – sometimes Luke and Scarlett do not agree over which book to read. “We read Where’s Spot religiously because Luke loves that series and the interactive flaps,” said Kristina. “However, most of the flaps have been ripped out, so the book is filled with tape binding the flaps back together.” Other parents have said they, too, have had to buy multiple copies of Where’s Spot?.

Buzz parents chimed in with their favorite books to read to small children: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr., Goodnight, Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin and James Dean, The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, Sandra Boynton’s board books, Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom by Bill Martin Jr., Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (grab your tissues for that one).

It would not be a list of great children’s books without Dr. Seuss’ name on it, with favorites like Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Lorax, Fox in Socks, The Cat in The Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! 

As Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

  • Luke Hale, Kristina Hale, Scarlett Hale

    READY TO READ Former elementary-school teacher Kristina Hale has read to children Scarlett and Luke before bed since they were babies. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Luke Hale, Scarlett Hale

    FAMILY STORY TIME Siblings Scarlett, 4, and Luke Hale, 2, read a book together each night with their parents Kristina and Blake. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Luke Hale, Kristina Hale, Scarlett Hale
  • Luke Hale, Scarlett Hale

Luke Hale, Kristina Hale, Scarlett Hale

READY TO READ Former elementary-school teacher Kristina Hale has read to children Scarlett and Luke before bed since they were babies. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Luke Hale, Scarlett Hale

FAMILY STORY TIME Siblings Scarlett, 4, and Luke Hale, 2, read a book together each night with their parents Kristina and Blake. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

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