Quiet Time Was Never So Quiet

June 10, 2012 § 5 Comments

Let’s face it: there are times when you can’t submit to the chants of “Read to me! Read to me!” Perhaps you’ve just had a second baby and you’re looking for something to occupy the first. Maybe you’ve got a preschooler who is starting to give up her nap, but you’re still (desperately) hoping to institute Quiet Time. Or maybe your child is not quite reading but wants to feel like he is.

Whatever your motive, there is hope: it is possible to get your non-reader to engage in quiet, independent time with books. Of course, there are some books that are more likely to succeed than others. And, as a bonus, these also tend to be the books that bore you to tears if you do have to read them aloud. You know the type: books whose illustrations are jam-packed with detail; books whose pages your child wants to pour over at such length that it seems like you’ll be stuck in his room reading to him forever. Take yourself out of the equation, and these books become—not your worst enemy—but your greatest asset.

Right now a favorite with my almost five-year-old is In the Town All Year ‘Round (Ages 3-7), by German author-cartoonist Rotraut Susanne Berner. The book follows eight different places through all four seasons, inviting children to observe the changes that take place on a farm or at a town square or in a train station, to name a few. Beginning in winter and following through to fall, kids witness the different stages of a kindergarten being built from the ground up, see the changing holiday displays at a big department store, and watch the seasonal produce being picked and sold at the farm. With voyeuristic glee, they get to spy on three different families through a cross-section of an apartment building.

Flipping back and forth all they want (after all, it’s their time!), kids can go back and answer their own questions like, When did that happen? or What was that like before? As if the spectacle of change wasn’t enough of a draw, each season begins with a page displaying a cast of characters to track along the way, a diverse group of ethnicities, ages, and even some animals thrown in for amusement. Captions below each character give clues like: “Will Suzie lose something while riding her scooter?” or “Who has thrown away a banana?” My son JP’s favorite seek-and-find characters are Lucky, a stray cat who’s on the prowl for mice, and Snowy, a pet dog that’s “on the loose again!” That’s right, my boy, you look for Lucky and Snowy, keep looking, just keep on looking…Mommy is verrrrrry busy right now.

So much to see: the beginning stages of a kindergarten building on the left; the changing exhibits of the town’s cultural center on the right!

Other Detail-Packed Favorites Perfect for Independent Perusing:
Richard Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever, by Richard Scarry (Ages 2-6)
Everything Goes: On Land, by Brian Biggs (Ages 3-6)
Look! A Book!, by Bob Staake (Ages 3-7)
Anno’s Journey, by Mitsumasa Anno (Ages 4-8)
If You Lived Here: Houses of the World, by Giles Laroche (Ages 4-10)

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§ 5 Responses to Quiet Time Was Never So Quiet

  • Christine Z says:

    What an interesting looking detailed picture book! We thoroughly enjoyed Huck Scarry’s Steam Train Journey which looks like it has a similar format to In the Town. I can’t wait to check it out with K who’s still not independent enough to stay engaged in a book by himself, but loves going through them with me.

    • I don’t know this “Steam Train Journey”-just tried to find it on amazon and it looks like it’s out of print. I’ll have to check the library. Any relation to Richard Scarry (whose books are also packed with detail and highly engaging)?

      • Christine Z says:

        I didn’t realize how rare this was until after we returned the book to the library. We found it in the non-fiction section, strangely enough. Yes, this is written by Richard Scarry’s son. On second thought, Steam Train Journey isn’t quite like In the Town because there are new scenes on every page, but there is a main story line and a few funny subplots woven through the whole book.

  • Katie says:

    This is TOTALLY now on Eddie’s wish list. He LOVES examining books’ illustrations at his age (almost 3) and we need more that have lots to look at.

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