As I talked about last week, I am looking to introduce a few new writers to Mommy Shorts. The first person who feels like a natural fit is Lauren Davis from Happily Ever Elephants, a blog which focuses on children’s books. I’ve been following her for about a year and after the horrific events in Charlottesville, I asked her to write a post for me about books that promote kindness and inclusivity. She knocked that post out of the park, so I am pleased to announce that she will be become a regular Mommy Shorts contributor!
Lauren is a mom (those are her two boys in the pic up top) and a library media specialist at an elementary school. She will be sharing her recommendations on everything from board books to chapter books every other Wednesday. On the Wednesdays she is not writing for me, I’ll be writing posts with my own book recommendations, so “Reading Wednesdays” will become a regular thing.
But before I bore everyone with the changes in my editorial calendar, I’d like to hand this post over to Lauren, who will tell you more about who she is, how much she loves reading and which books are her favorites to read to her kids.
Sixth grade assignment:
Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, create your own pyramid. What do you need to survive?
I remember sitting there, chewing on my pencil, my fingers tap-tap-tapping on my desk and my legs curled up underneath me in my chair. I remember listing out the basics – family, food, water, air, love. But I also remember an urgent need to include something that probably wouldn’t have made most of my classmates’ pyramids, and it wasn’t something frivolous I could throw in at the tiny tip of the triangle, like Spree sweet tarts or my favorite chocolate chip cookies from Publix.
Instead, I scribbled in the letters at the base of my hierarchy, right where I probably should have put those other things I listed out – like air or food or water:
It has always been like that for me, I suppose. Reading has always been as essential for me as breathing, and it is readily apparent within the first few minutes of anyone who meets me. Nothing was more magical to me as a child then curling up on the couch under a blanket, with my stuffed Saint Bernard under one arm and a wondrous book in my hands. It began with The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins, which eventually turned into a love for classics like Anne of Green Gables, which then evolved into learning about other girls my age who grew up during times so foreign from my own. Number the Stars and The Devil’s Arithmetic shaped my childhood and teenage years, instilling in me the power of perseverance, the importance of love and loyalty, and the sheer preciousness of life.
And I didn’t just read. I wrote too. Journals, half-written stories and essays stuffed my dresser drawers, my mind bubbling with ideas begging to be put on paper. But as I grew older, as I graduated high school and then began college, I kept coming back to the same question. What would I do with my life as an avid reader and writer? I really wasn’t sure of the answer, so I did want many others with similar passions did. After college I went to law school, believing a career as an attorney would quench my thirst for reading and writing. And though I was certainly doing both of those things day in and day out, it was just… fine. Then I got married, and two incredibly amazing little boys followed – who I call “Pickle” (4) and “Bo” (3) on my blog.
I knew I wanted to continue working after I had children, but I felt strongly that if I was going to be away from my kids all day, I wanted to pursue what I was passionate about – children’s literature. But that seemed awfully scary. Where would I even start? When my youngest son suffered from a stroke at only ten days old, my world changed. Bo’s medical complications affected me profoundly. Because he was in daily physical and occupational therapy where he was continually pushed to reach particular goals, I found myself reevaluating my own goals frequently. I quickly realized I couldn’t comfortably ask Bo to keep challenging himself if I wasn’t doing the same thing myself. So that was it. One day I ignored my fear, opened up my laptop, and began writing creatively once again. I haven’t stopped since. I am currently drafting several picture book manuscripts and a young adult novel, and I’m also blogging about my favorite children’s books over at Happily Ever Elephants. I was floored when my blog took off and then actually led me to my new job as a library media specialist at the very same elementary school where I began my schooling as a child. From a professional standpoint, I have never been happier or more fulfilled, and I owe so much of this to my warrior baby who truly became the compass that directed my path.
And now here I am with you – joining the team at Mommy Shorts- and I’m absolutely thrilled to share my passion for children’s books with the vibrant audience Ilana has worked so hard to acquire. With such a huge platform, I’ll be able to get fabulous books into the hands of so many kids – books that will give them mirrors through which they can see themselves and windows through which they can learn about others.* My goal? To help your little ones fall in love with the magic of a good story… and maybe, just maybe, books will eventually become the base of your kids’ hierarchies too.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this: a big list of books that have become part of our family, read over and over until the pages tear and the covers are worn. I hope you love them as much as we do, and I can’t wait to continue sharing more beloved stories with you over the coming months.
My Family’s Favorite Books:
The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper: There is nothing more powerful than hearing your tiny children repeat the words “I think I can, I think I can.”
Moo Baa La La La, by Sandra Boynton: We probably read this 100 times a day when my boys were babies! Both of my kids were infatuated with the vibrant colors, infectious rhymes and goofy illustrations.
Gossie, by Olivier Dunrea: I love both the rhythm of this book and the way it teachers even the littlest of readers how sweet it is to share.
Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina: This one stands the test of time- and will cause giggles galore if you attempt to act out the story. We love those mischievous monkeys!
The Watermelon Seed, by Greg Pizzoli: So simple, so fun. This might be one of my absolute favorite read alouds– both at home and at school.
Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You, by Nancy Tillman: There’s nothing better than bedtime snuggles and telling your baby “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.”
The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers: This was the book that truly introduced my oldest to the wonder of story.
Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell: The flaps are torn and the pages chewed – the sign of a gem! I also love how the flaps work those tiny fingers – great for fine motor development, too.
Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski: This is a magical bedtime book, with illustrations that make me swoon (it was a Caldecott Honor for a reason).
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond: “The cookie book,” as it’s called in our house, is a fantastic read for so many reasons and is especially helpful for teaching kids about cause and effect.
Hannah and Sugar, by Kate Berube: Our favorite book about courage, right here! This is read every couple of weeks in our house, and when Pickle had to bring his favorite book to school this week to share with his class, this was the one he chose, without hesitation.
Monkey and Me, by Emily Gravett: This is the first book my big one “read” to me all on his own. The repetition of text makes this a great pick to stimulate early literacy.
Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett: We read this on repeat when my big one was scared to go to sleep at night. This is our most beloved story about being scared of the dark.
Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsay Ward: This is one of those magical books that lets the imagination take flight and always prompts such fun discussion.
The Dot, by Peter Reynolds: Make a mark and see where it takes you. I love the way this book encourages play and experimentation.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems: If your kids love monsters, or making loud and goofy monster noises, you must have this in your collection. It’s a winner, every single time!
Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson: This is, without a doubt, a treasure. It reminds us that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places — and it is an ode to gratitude, community, and giving back.
Creepy Pair of Underwear!, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown: This book only came out a couple months ago, and the title says it all. If your kids are anything like mine, they will be laughing and talking about glowing underpants for days.
I Have a Balloon, by Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Scott Magoon: This is the newest book on our list, and it cracks us up! A great introduction to explaining wants and needs– and a sure fire story to get belly laughs from your little ones.
Do you have a children’s book theme you’d like Lauren to tackle? Tell us in the comments below! Or just say, “Welcome to Mommy Shorts! So glad to have you.”
* The notion of books serving as both “mirrors” and “windows” is a widely used metaphor in children’s literature. The idea was originally coined in a 1990 article penned by Rudine Sims Bishop, entitled Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors. See Rudine Sims Bishop. The Ohio State University. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. Vo. 6, no. 3. Summer 1990.