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I was talking to a friend of mine today about our kids’ bedtime routines.  She was telling me that when her three year old resists bedtime, they reduce the number of books they read so she doesn’t go to bed too late (as in “if you don’t get your pjs on now, I am going to read you 2 books instead of the usual 3).   She told me that she hates to cut back on reading time, but she didn’t want her daughter up too late and she also needed something to wrangle her into bed.  As we were talking, I realized that I had heard other mom friends doing this very thing while I was downstairs nursing a glass of wine waiting for them to get their kids in bed.

While I try to make it a policy not to make any rules against reading, I can understand how this can happen.  When you are trying to get a toddler to do anything, you need some kind of leverage.  And if the last treat they get before bedtime is a story, well – you don’t have much else to work with.

The trick, I think, is to make sure that bedtime isn’t the only story time they have.  If your kids are being read to throughout the day, sacrificing one story book at the end of the day isn’t as big of a deal.

So far, my little Wild Thing has shown a very strong interest in books and will often stop playing with his trains and bring me and my husband books to read to him (though I will admit we did impose one rule against reading – we won’t read to him if we are still at the table finishing our meals after he has been excused)  I really believe that one of the best things we did to get him so engaged in books was scattering them all over the house so that they are always in easy reach.  There is a bag of books in our living room (the little Wild Things primary play room), a shelf of books in his room which is the source of our pre-nap and bedtime stories, water books in the tub (before he liked sitting in the tub these books were the only things that would keep him from trying to escape), a bunch in the car, and a few in his “activity bag” that I bring into restaurants to keep him entertained.

Bedtime stories have a certain kind of magic.  I can still remember snuggling in bed with my sister while my dad read us the Little House on the Prairie books and I can’t wait until my son is old enough for me and my husband to read the Harry Potter series.   Reading my son a bedtime story is definitely one of my favorite times a day (okay, truth be told, its not just the story time I love but knowing there is going to be a bit of peace and quiet in the house until my own bedtime!).  But there’s enough of that magic in books to be sprinkled in through out the day.  And come on, who of us can’t use a little more magic in our lives?

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Since I decided to start this blog, I have been trying to figure out what child literacy effort I should showcase first.  Ultimately I turned to my two year old son for inspiration.  The whole point is to find books and events that grab the kiddos attention, right?

When my son (who will henceforth be called “Wild Thing”) turned two, a friend gave him a copy of the book Smash! Crash! written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon which instantly became one of his favorite books.   Had I not been lurking in the kid lit blogosphere for so long, I might not have realized that the book is actually just one component of a mulitmedia project called “Trucktown”, a project under the auspices of Scieszka’s literary organization Guys Read (www.guysread.com).

Trucktown is a series of books which includes board and picture books for younger kids and ready to read and activity books for the older set.  There is also an interactive website (www.trucktown.com) with educational games and activities for kids, and handouts for teachers, librarians and parents.  What really makes the series stand out is how the story and illustrations capture the energy that toddlers bring to everything they do – I mean seriously, how many book titles have two exclamation points?  The illustrations practically jump off the page as two trucks who are best friends drive through Trucktown leaving a trail of mischief in their wake.

The primary audience is preschoolers and kindergartners, but that didn’t stop my two year old from insisting I read it over and over for a week after he received it.   Given his love of anything on wheels, that wasn’t too surprising.  What did amaze me was how much he loved just staring at the illustrations.  I would be cranking through the story and he would stop me and turn a few pages backwards saying “see cement mixer” and then he would just stare at the picture not allowing me to move on with the story until he was ready.

I have started giving books as birthday presents to our friend’s children.  This series is going to the top of my shopping list – especially for those boys I know who have uncontainable energy.  I can’t wait to see what else rolls out of Trucktown.

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