Q&A Patrons Ask: Do I have to read to my baby?

Q: I'ma keep it 100%.  I love my baby, but I really don't want to read to her every night at bedtime. And I don't want to feel pressured and called a bad parent! 

A:  I'm a momma too, so I got you. I'd never call anyone a bad parent. I understand all the well-meaning advice about what you "should be" doing with your children and how to "do it right" is unwelcome and unnecessary.  That's why I'm not gonna add to it – much. 

Reading to your baby is very important, we all know that. So as a professional I can't say “don’t read to your child."  But I will say, reading is supposed to be a fun way to bond with your child. In short, your baby needs words, not a nightly ritual you dread. So if you don't want to read tonight don't stress about it; sing to her. If you don't want to sing, play with her. If you don't want to play, talk to her.  Talking, reading, and singing are all equally important for your child's language and vocabulary development. But I am a children's librarian, and I promote reading to children, so you know I can't let this post be published without at least one book recommendation right?  I'll recommend my oldest son's favorite book: 

I love read this story because it's short; and gives me encouraging words when I am tired and reading to my boys feels like one more chore to complete.  I hope you find the words encouraging as well.

Read To Your Bunny, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Photographs of families in the Eastmont Branch, and a few shameless photos of my own family.

Read to your bunny often

It's 20 minutes of fun


It's 20 minutes of moonlight

It's 20 minutes of sun

It's 20 old favorite minutes

It's 20 minutes brand new


Read to your bunny often and

Your bunny will read to you.

I'll admit I don't follow the recommended time of 20 minutes at home.   I don't bother to watch the clock, I just read a story. If the book takes 5 minutes I read for 5 minutes. Some of your babies favorite books will take less than 5 minutes to read aloud.  Don't feel pressured to read for a set amount of time.  And sometimes, when I am really pressed for time, I just put a bunch of books on the floor and let the boys "read" to themselves. (touching books counts)

Hey mom, I get it. I'm busy, you're busy,  who has time sit down and to read to babies? Well if you wait for that perfect television inspired moment with the kids all snuggly in the pajamas in their bed you will never have time to read with them. So look for unconventional moments to read to your baby.  For example: when my boys where younger I'd read to them while they played in the bathtub. Multitasking at its finest!

Now, I read paperback romance novels out loud to my one year old and library textbooks to my cat (fur babies count right?)

Why?  My baby doesn't care what I read to him. As long as I am engaging with him he's happy; and I need adult level reading in my life!  A bonus, he falls asleep on my lap while I am reading him a story I enjoy.

So relax and have fun with your baby as you talk, read, play and sing to her. Don't stress over what you "should be" doing, and please don't feel pressured to "do it right." As they say "just do you Boo."  You and your baby will be just fine. BTW: I think you are an awesome parent!  

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have some books to prepare our child for the new baby we’re expecting?

Erica's daughters - age 3 and newborn!

Q: Do you have some books to prepare my child for the new baby we’re expecting?

A: Yes, we do! Different issues come up for kids who are about to have a new sibling. I’d like to share books that include some different angles on the question. I think of them in these 5 rough categories:

Books that simply explain what welcoming a new baby might include. If you don’t know yet what your child is thinking or feeling about the whole thing, simple books without drama may be a good starting place.

New Baby at Your House by Cole Baby for Max cover illustration Cover image of A Baby's Coming to Your HOuse cover image of Babies Don't Eat Pizza cover image of How Does Baby Feel cover image of Now We Have a Baby

Books that show and tell how babies are made. If your child has already started asking questions, we have books that provide answers in kid-friendly terms – arranged here from youngest/simplest to oldest/most-detailed.  

cover image of When You Were Inside Mommy cover image of How you were born cover image of How Babies Are Made  cover image of How I Was Born cover image of Where Do Babies Come From cover of Mommy Laid an Egg cover image of Everybody has a bellybutton cover image of What Makes a Baby cover of Where Did I Come From? cover of Amazing You! cover of What's In There? cover image of It's Not the Stork 

Books that acknowledge the long wait. For your child, it’s half a lifetime away – from the time your family & friends start talking about the coming baby and the birth-day. These books help put the calendar in perspective. 


Books that address strong feelings that older siblings might have. If your child has already expressed negative feelings, there are books that address their fears, with humor, information, or simple acceptance, any of which could be a big relief for you both. Many of these stories start out disastrous, but they turn out fine in the end, of course!  


Books that give ideas of how to enjoy a baby. Whether the baby has arrived yet or not, you can build positive anticipation brainstorming ways your older child can enjoy the baby.  


Actually, there are tons more! My hands are all clicked out...this will have to be a starter list! 

If you’d like some advice about how best to prepare your child for a new sibling, there are a few websites to get ideas. Ask Dr. Sears, Baby Center, WebMD, and What To Expect each have their own advice, but most of it is consistent, so reading any one of those will give you some basic suggestions.

watercolor of a baby on a blanketGuess what?!?! Now that you’ve reached the end of this blog post, I’d like to invite you and your child to our New Sibling Workshop coming up in March, 2015. We’ll read a few of these books and you’ll make one of your own to help your first child welcome the new baby. Spread the word! 

Finally, despite the steady stream of questions coming to us at the Oakland Public Library every day, we’d still be happy to receive your question online! Leave a comment if you like, but if you have a question you’d like to see answered in depth, on this blog on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, CLICK HERE

Link to submit a question to the Children's Services Blog

Concept Books for Kids

Of all the picture books in the library, concept books are arguably some of the most useful. Alphabet books help young readers recognize letters and learn their ABCs, while counting books support early math skills. Toddlers and preschoolers may strengthen their understanding of many more concepts, such as color, size, shape, time, and opposites, through books at the library. Some branches have a special section for children's concept books; ask a staff member to help you find them!
Here are some of our favorites to get you started:


Calavera Abecedario book coverChicka Chicka Boom Boom book coverD is for Dragon Dance book coverDr. Seuss's ABCs book coverEating the Alphabet book coverIf Rocks Could Sing book coverLMNO Peas book coverRacecar Alphabet book coverSuperhero ABC book coverZ is for Moose book coverZ was Zapped book cover


Big Fat Hen book coverFish Eyes book coverFeast for 10 book coverMouse Count book coverRichard Scarry's Best Counting Book Ever book coverTen Black Dots book cover10 Minutes to Bedtime book coverTen Terrible Dinosaurs book cover

More Concepts

Sing a Little Song

musical notesSinging is fun but research has found that it is more than just that; it is also good for your health, lowering stress and releasing endorphins that create a feeling of pleasure.  Singing with your children will make you happy regardless of your musical abilities.  And there is even more reason to sing with them, it puts them on the road to reading success.  How?  Singing helps children, even ones who are very young, hear the sounds that make up words. Researchers call this phonological awareness.  Being able to hear distinct sounds helps children recognize those sounds and syllables when they are learning how to read.

Oakland Public Library can help you find songs and make singing fun in several ways:

copy of book coverWe have a collection of songbooks, many of which include the tune and lyrics in the back.  You can find them in our nonfiction collections under the 782 call number.  One of my favorites is The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort.


copy of cd coverWe also have collections of music CDs that you can borrow.  They range from lullabies for babies to the Frozen soundtrack.  Come and check them out!

Finally, we have a new music service, Freegal that lets you download and stream music from popular artists.  For music especially created for kids, click on “genres” on the bar at the top of the page, and then select “Children’s Music.”

As always, all of these materials and services are free, so check them out and let your voices soar!

Reading, Talking, Singing, Writing and Playing Works

picture of babyI recently returned from sweltering Las Vegas where the American Library Association Annual Convention was taking place.  One of the programs I attended looked at whether or not the five activities developed by Every Child Ready to Read 2 - reading, singing, talking, writing and playing with children aged 0-5 had a statistical impact on that child's literacy levels.  A research grant in Washington State looked at the literacy levels of kids who attended storytimes where those practices were modeled.  

The results?  Yes they do!  Children who attended library storytimes that incorporated those activities did have higher literacy rates.  Just another reason to come to the storytimes offered here at the library and practice these activities at home.

For more information about the study, check out:  and click on the "Project Views" link.

To find our storytime schedule, check the OPL calendar:

Parenting a Baby Part 2: Parenting Collections @ OPL

Is your baby having trouble sleeping through the night?  Is breastfeeding not going well?  How and when do you introduce food to babies?  What are the appropriate developmental stages babies go through and when should babies go through them?  Can babies learn sign language?  And, of course, a topic close to my heart, how do you read to a baby?

Raising a baby is hard work and we are here to help.  Last month I highlighted  some of the programs we offer babies and their families.  This month, we look at some of the materials we offer.  All of Oakland's libraries have parenting books, magazines and DVDs that can help you figure out how to best care for a baby and answer any questions you might have.  In fact, we have parenting materials for all ages of children and all kinds of families.   Just go to our home page at and key in your search topic or ask a librararian for help.

Here are some of our favorite parenting books about babies.  What are some of yours?

Book Cover

      Book Cover     Book Cover   

 Book Cover     Book Cover     

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep /Harvey Karp

Feeding the Whole Family/Cynthia Lair

The Nursing Mother's Companion/Kathleen Huggins

The Read Aloud Handbook/Jim Trelease

What to Expect the First Year/ Heidi Murkoff et al.

My First Signs/Annie Kubler

You and Your Baby @ the Library Pt. 1

Being a brand new parent is a joyous but sometimes scary event.  After all, you have to pass a test to drive a car but no test is required to become a parent.  You want to do your best for your baby and that best is probably pretty sleep deprived right now.  But do not fear - the library is here to help you.

We offer baby storytimes every week.  These lapsit storytimes, called "Baby Bounces" are 15- minutes long and filled with gentle rhymes, songs and movement that will start your baby on the path to reading.  After each Baby Bounce, there is a play time with age-appropriate toys.  This is a great chance to get out of the house, stimulate your baby's brain, meet other babies and their caregivers, share information, and make new friends.  Check out our Baby Bounces at the following times and places: 

  •      Dimond Library.     3565 Fruitvale Ave.               Wed. @ 10:15 am
  •      Golden Gate Library.     5606 San Pablo Ave.     Tues. @ 11:15 ambaby playing on rug
  •      Lakeview Library.     550 El Embarcadero            Wed. @ 11:30 am    
  •      Main Library Children's Room.     125 14th St.     Tues. @ 10:15 am
  •      Montclair Library.     1687 Mountain Blvd.           Thurs. @ 11:30 am

Writing and Reading

The skills needed to learn how to read and write are connected in children's brains.  In order to ready your child for reading, try some of these easy and fun writing activities:

FOR BABIES:  Of course your baby is not ready to read or write just yet, but learning to recognize shapes is the first step towards acquiring those skills. So point out different shapes you see and describe them to your child.  Find things that are round, such as balls, and let your child explore them.  Boxes are all around you; let your child play with a cardboard box and talk about squares and rectangles.  Playing with simple shape and color puzzles will also help develop these skills.

FOR TODDLERS:  Keep playing with shapes but also have fun introducing alphabet letters.  Toddlers love hearing their names,  Expand the sound of your toddler's name by writing it on all sorts of surfaces, on paper, with blocks or magnetic letters, on chalkboards or even with water.  Identify each of the letters in their name.

Child Drawing

Print is everywhere.  Help your child notice alphabet letters by pointing out the names on food containers, words on road signs and names of stores. Point out letters to your toddler as you go through your day.  

Let your toddler try writing!  Scribbles are a great way of strengthening their fine motor skills.  Fat crayons are great at helping them grip crayons without their breaking. 

FOR PRESCHOOLERS:  Play "I Spy" to find letters in the room.  Silently choose something that your child can see.  Say, "I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter (name a letter)  What is it?"

Play games like "We are going to a place to eat whose name begins with the letter "B."  Where do you think we are going?"

Sing the alphabet song while pointing to the letters of the alphabet.

Writing can be done anywhere: in the sand or dirt, on a chalkboard, in a pan filled with rice or flour, with a piece of yarn, with blocks, and even in the tub. Make writing letters a game you play every day.

Baby Faces

Babies LOVE gazing at faces. Parents and caregivers have always known this; brain research now backs it up as fact. Even the youngest of kiddos are hardwired to recognize faces, and will tend to look at pictures of faces longer than images of other objects.

Want to stimulate your baby's brains? Head on over to the library and find these board books featuring photographs of baby faces:

Global Babies book cover   I love colors book cover    Shades of Black book cover   Baby Faces book cover   Smile! book cover   Baby Food book cover

Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

Baby Food by Margaret Miller

Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children

I Love Colors by Margaret Miller

Shades of black: A celebration of our children / by Sandra L. Pinkney; photographs by Myles C. Pinkney

Smile! by Roberta Intrater


Help Your Child Get Ready to Read - Talking

Every Child Ready to Read logo

You are your child's first and best teacher. Sharing five ativities regularly - talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing - with him will prepare him for reading.

We now know that from the moment they are born, they are learning about the world around them, processing input, making hypotheses, and coming to conclusions. A baby's brain  already weighs 25% of its adult weight; it has a lot of work to do!

It is never too soon to start talking with your child. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge. Fifteen minute snippets of talking and listening while you are cooking, putting on makeup, driving, or gardening are as much as your child needs to start developing her vocabulary and understanding how language works, thereby getting her ready to read.