Valentine’s Day is a great time to get kids’ hearts pumping for a love of reading. Many public libraries take advantage of this special time of the year to highlight children’s books about love, emotions, and thematic stories and craft books about Valentine’s Day. Raising Bookworms by Emma Walton Hamilton is an excellent resource for ideas on how to connect “joy and reading” with children of all ages. Here is a short list of favorite books to look for and tips on how to hug and squeeze the most out of reading time for your family this Valentine’s Day.
Gary Smalley, speaker and author of a plethora of relationships books, offers this advice about the rules for giving loving gifts: “They should be either soft, sweet, or smell good.” If we are speaking of husbands buying gifts for wives, we can assume that he means a stuffed animal, chocolates, and flowers. For children, here are a few books and activities that will cover all three of cupid’s arrows to your little book lovers’ hearts.
Slugs in Love by Susan Pearson. Is that not what you were thinking of when he said, “soft”? Neither will your kids! This adorable book is a wonderful and romantic surprise. Two soft and squishy slugs leave messages in the garden to each other using their slime. Yes, they write with their slime which will encourage the shared, “eewww” right up until the kids start sighing, “awww”.
This is a great story to make predications about before turning each page. The writing is poetic and the illustrations are adorable. Will the slugs find love? Read it together and find out, then follow up with a family craft:
While most blue-blooded American have probably cut and pasted red-hearted Valentine’s sometime in their life, Slugs in Love can inspire a new tradition. This year, make valentine flowers or leaves with love letters written on them just like the slugs. Cut a little slug out of brown construction paper and have the child sign their name. Place the slug on each of their love notes so everyone knows which “slug” is in love.
You can also make an entire garden of love! Cut out corn cobs from yellow paper, tomatoes from red paper, or whatever vegetables you like. Each person creates five flowers or vegetables for the garden with a message written that starts with, “I love you because…”
Tape your love garden to the kitchen or dining room wall. If you want to share your garden with the world, place the back of each love note to the sticky side of clear contact paper. Cut around the note leaving at least a one inch border on the contact paper and your veggies and flowers love notes will paste easily to and from any window.
Counting Kisses by Karen Katz. The title suggests that this book is about helping children learn to count. While it does this educational service beautifully, it can be used for so much more! As the story leads up to bedtime, the baby in the story gives kisses to each of the members of the family.
Little hearts in the upper corner of every page gives a child the repetitive chance to point and count up to the next number. They also learn the titles of members of the family unit such as “sister” and “grandma”.
Little Baby gets to kiss everyone and finally goes to sleep. In other words, a bedtime routine is emerging in the story which qualifies Counting Kisses as a great night time book for helping your child to welcome the end of the day.
When reading this story for the first time, hopefully on Valentine’s Day, I recommend reading with your youngsters with a small bag of pink Hershey’s Kisses ® or chocolate hearts. Practice counting before, during or after reading by giving a real kiss on the cheek and sharing a Valentine’s chocolate. Make it oh, so extra sweet with this heart-warming craft:
Create your own book to count kisses to all the loved ones in your family. Purchase a small plastic photo album (usually costs about one dollar) and place family member photos inside. Start the album with a photo of your child as the little baby and retell the basics of the story as your child kisses each picture goodnight.
Be sure to encourage using the names for your own family. For example, use “Pap” or “Gramps” if that is what their grandfather is called in your family. Make your own book with construction paper if your family wants to add hearts to the corners to count their kisses, too.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. A book that smells good? I haven’t come across a scratch and sniff version of this book so I will explain the “smells good” part of this loving Valentine’s story for the craft activity. Also, I am not sure how good the adorable bunny rabbits in this book would smell in real life.
If you have not read this book, you have somehow missed one of this generation’s instant classics. A parent and child bunny rabbit go back and forth as they compare and try to outdo each other on how much they love each other. An argument as beautiful as this is what every parent needs to properly prepare their hearts for when their children turn inexplicably into teenagers.
Here is the smell good part: Make a moon shaped sachet. I’m not giving anything away about the story, so just trust me on this. Pick up two sheets of blue felt at the craft store along with a quilting needle (or ask the store clerk for appropriate needles for the age of your child). You will also need a bag of potpourri and any color package of embroidery thread that you like.
Cut out the back and front side of a moon shape from the felt. Sew this closed with your child about two thirds of the way. Fill with potpourri and finish sewing. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to pour the mix first into knee high nylons and tie the end so the stuffing won’t come out. You can also make your own potpourri with a cinnamon stick, chopped and dried orange peel, and cloves.
Now that you have given you children something soft, something sweet, you also have something that smells good for Valentine’s Day, Store the potpourri bag with pajamas, under their pillow or wherever your child will smell it and know just how much you love them.
The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary D. Chapman. The children’s books I have suggested have readers making predictions about a story and using repetitive patterns. These are great ways that all educators can encourage a love of reading in children, but there is one strategy that parents can do that could be more effective than any other: set an example. In other words, get caught by your kids reading and loving books, too.
The Five Love Languages is one book that you will not only love reading, it can possibly make you love your children even more. Is that even possible? Yes. Chapman takes the reader through five different ways that your children experience and express love. You may even learn and appreciate more about yourself as the loving parent that you are. Take time to ask your children to describe a time that they remember feeling loved. Hopefully, it will be this Valentine’s Day and every time you read a story together.