“Pete the Cat” is Good Brain Food!

Do you have the opportunity to influence the brain development of a child? If you do, it’s a mighty important task! Of course, some of who we are is determined by our genetics. But in recent years brain researchers have been telling us that positive early experiences are very important to the growth and development of the brain.

Back up 64 years to when I was a newborn, the brain researchers hadn’t come out with information like that. But, instinctively, our parents did many of the things young parents of this generation are being encouraged to do: engaged us in conversation, encouraged us to pretend and imagine, read and sang with us, showed us how to color and print our names, and more…

My parents were older than the parents of most of my contemporaries. They married after WWII, both in their late 30’s. To put it mildly, they doted on my brother and me. I remember coming down the stairs in the morning, eating breakfast, and then sitting at the table for nursery rhyme time. At night, I dreamed about The Three Bears, calling down to my parents, “The Three Bears are in my bedroom!”

When I was five, my father was diagnosed with cancer. I recall sitting at the kitchen table, my mother washing clothes using the ringer washer in the background, while I composed a letter to my Dad. My mother had to spell out every word: “Ma, how do you spell calf?” It must have driven her crazy, but she did it. I got so much praise for that undertaking. My Dad showed it to everybody at the hospital.

Those early experiences helped to shape me.  I often think, though, that if I had had other, more varied experiences when I was young, I would have chosen a different career! Women role models – other than teachers, nurses, secretaries, homemakers – were hard to come by in the small town of Galesville, Wisconsin!

I have had a chance to influence the brain development of two daughters, and now three grandchildren and maybe some of my students while I was a teacher and storytime kids as a children’s librarian. But it’s those kids that you parent or grandparent that get the biggest boost from you. Just the other day, my daughter and I were walking with her two-year-old. Charlotte lifted her feet from the ground and dangled from our hands, and then broke into a chorus of “walking in my red shoes,” a take-off on words from author Eric Litwin’s “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” book — proof positive that reading the book has affected her.

Litwin will help kick off Washington County Library’s Summer Reading Program at 12 noon on Saturday, June 9 at the R. H. Stafford Library in Woodbury. Here’s your chance to influence the brain development of a child. Litwin will have his audience rockin’ to the words of “Pete the Cat” and more.

If you haven’t read “Pete the Cat,” and you can’t get to the show (tickets required; first come basis at all Washington County Library branches beginning May 8), do read the book! Super fun and uplifting! I read it to a group of seniors recently, and they loved it!  Joey Halbach is the Community Relations Librarian for Washington County Library. Contact her at joey.halbach@co.washington.mn.us

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