By Jenna Morton
(Photo of Jill, Joshua, and Grant taken by Brian Barber; used with permission)
You could be forgiven if you only think of music when you hear Jill Barber’s name. She’s recorded six albums, all to great critical acclaim. But she’s also the author of two children’s books, and the mother to a young boy, Joshua.
“As a songwriter and a mother, [children's books] come very naturally,” she says. “I make up silly little songs just to help get tasks done. If we're trying to get out the door I will sing to him a "getting out the door" song. Most of those are not for public consumption,” she’s quick to add, with a laugh. “But occasionally I will write one that sticks, as with my latest book, Music Is For Everyone.”
Jill’s first children’s book, Baby’s Lullaby, is a favourite in our house; my middle son has cuddled it to sleep many nights. It’s a beautiful board book, with simple, sweet words and illustrations that show various animals getting their young ready to sleep. It’s not surprising that Jill lists authors with similar styles among the most-read books in her home.
“Joshua's current fave is Hockey Night Tonight, by Stompin' Tom Connors. That's a book that I sing to him. Same goes for Raffi's Baby Beluga. Of course I love books that I can sing,” says Jill. “But I also love books that have a great rhythm for children. Susan Boynton and Dr. Seuss are masters at that.”
Jill shares a few strategies she and her husband, CBC Radio’s Grant Lawrence, follow to encourage Joshua’s love of reading.
“We have a book shelf at his level. I have a rule that whenever he brings a book to me I pause whatever it is I'm doing to read it to him. But I think we fostered his love of books and reading early on, cuddling and reading to him each morning and every night since the day he was born.”
Jill hints at not only more children’s books in her future offerings, but also perhaps a children’s recording. “I think I have a children's album in me somewhere, so we'll see. It's a fun side project and nice change of pace from my regular gig.”
Jill’s regular gig will bring her to New Brunswick in March; you can find details on her website.
You can celebrate Family Literacy Day by dropping in to any of the region’s public libraries; the Salisbury Public Library is setting up stations with literacy games and activities, snacks, and a craft. Hours are 10am to noon, 1pm to 5pm, on Tuesday, January 27.
For some great at-home ideas, visit momstown’s Early Literacy Pinterest page; one of my favourite ideas is Lego & Literacy, where everyone uses blocks to build something from the story and is encouraged to retell the tale.