That was pre-mamahood. Now, between working full-time and rearing three young girls, my schedule doesn't allow for a regular book club commitment. But I still love reading books. I still love talking about books. And most importantly, I want my children to love reading and talking about books.
So I was ecstatic when I read this blog post on book clubs for kids, and when my youngest's playgroup decided to spin off a "Toddler Book Club." On a Friday morning once a month, our group of 12-15 toddlers and their mothers gathers to play, read, and participate in a hands-on activity related to the book selection. We rotate houses to share hosting duties. We've been going for almost a year now, and both my toddler and I eagerly anticipate each meeting.
For example, one month we read Chris Raschka's A Ball for Daisy, and the kiddos made "paint ball" art by coating tennis balls with washable paint and throwing them against white paper canvases (outside of course).
In the fall, we read Joe Troiano's The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin and painted mini-pumpkins.
During the winter holidays, we read Ian Falconer's Olivia Helps with Christmas and constructed Christmas ornaments.
In the early spring, we read Kevin Henkes' My Garden and planted marigolds.
In other months, we've read Blackout, I Want My Hat Back, and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
And when I hosted recently, we read Marjorie Priceman's How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World:
The kids snacked on apple cheerios and Sprout's apple, cinnamon, and oatmeal pouches. Each child used fabric markers to decorate her own apron and chef's hat (both purchased in bulk from Amazon), and then, after reading the book, we baked miniature apple pies!
We used this Pillsbury recipe, minus the nuts.
Given that they were made by two-year-olds, the results weren't Martha-Stewart-pretty...
...but they sure were tasty!
The keys to a successful toddler book club: (1) Keep it simple. Avoid over-planning or over-complicating the activity. For example, I prepared most of the pie filling in advance so that the children could focus on spooning the filling into their crust and then folding it into their pie shapes. (2) Be patient with short attention spans, and don't expect much "discussion" of the book. The point at this age is not to teach the art of literary criticism but instead to explore, in hands-on way, the themes of the book. (3) Provide healthy snacks. (4) Allow for outdoor playtime whenever possible. Toddlers have lots of energy to burn. :)
Our toddler book club reflects its members' shared love of reading, culture, and hands-on learning. I feel so lucky that my daughter and I can participate!
(Sharing with The Jenny Evolution, Sun Scholars, The Educator's Spin On It, and The Real Thing)