Many adults have very warm feelings associated with certain books, stories, or reading experiences involving special people in their lives. All the brain research confirms what many educators and parents already know—the early years involve the highest rates of learning. The experiences a young child has now effects them for a lifetime. Thus, it is never too soon to introduce children to books. Children should have experiences with books each and every day—including time for being read to and time for reading or looking at books by themselves. In the classroom and at home, books should be available to children throughout the day.
The selection of high-quality children’s books is a very important part of the literacy process. But purchasing the easy-to-get books at the grocery store check out line does not always insure quality. When choosing books, look for books with great illustrations that add to the story and for plots the children can understand, but may have an element of surprise or introduce some new ideas. The book itself should be durable with pages thick enough to turn without easily tearing. Parents and teachers should read the book to themselves first, looking for any inappropriate words or plot line and being certain they know how to pronounce all the words properly.
Children are never too young for literacy experiences. They are attracted to the brightly colored pictures of simple objects. They listen and respond well to books with simple texts and good rhythms. Look for durable books made out of heavy cardboard calledboard books or books made of vinyl or washable cloth. Babies chew on everything and books are no exception; this is how they learn about their world. Providing books and enjoyable experiences with reading acclimates the babies to this important lifetime skill and experience. Look for these books for infants at your local library or bookstore:
· Who’s Peeking by Charles Reasoner is a sturdy book with sliding pages that provide colorful animal surprises.
· What Is It? by Tana Hoban. This author has many board books perfect for babies and toddlers with simple, brightly colored photographs of real objects.
· Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The gentle and lulling text and gradually darkening pictures make this a favorite book as we tell everything in the room good night.
· Time for Bed by Mem Fox. A lyrical book with beautiful illustrations follows numerous adult animals as they tuck their animal babies in for the night.
· My First Animal Board Book by DK Publishing, Inc. Real photographs of a lot of different animals are in a sturdy board book format.
· Baby’s Zoo by Neil Ricklen. This author has a series of small board books that fit perfectly in little hands. Real photographs of youngsters in various situations or with simple objects interest babies. (multicultural)
· I Love You Sun, I Love You Moon by Karen Panell and Tomie dePaola. A simple story highlighting the wonders of the earth in a board book format make this book perfect for infants.(multicultural)
· Touch and Feel Animal Colors by DK Publishing is a colorful board book utilizing real photographs and textures to explore the vivid colors in the animal world.
· Baby Talk by Anne Miranda is a lift-and-look flap book viewing the world from baby’s eyes.
Toddlers and Two-Year-Olds
Young children love bright colors, repetitive text, and stories that focus on familiar things. At this age, books do not have to have words to be interesting. Wordless books encourage even the youngest toddler to create their own stories or ideas about the pictures and photographs in the book. These children love to read the same story over and over again and will enjoy books with rhythmic or lyrical words. Books that are sturdy such as board, cloth, or vinyl books are important as children learn by handling and exploring them. Also look for books with sturdy pages made out of cardstock with library binding that will endure the children’s exploration better than traditionally made books. Look for these books at your local library or bookstore:
· Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle provides fun experiences with words, simple pictures, new vocabulary, and the repetition toddlers enjoy.
· Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang. This little girl enjoys counting down to bedtime. (multicultural)
· I Love My Mommy Because... or I Love My Daddy Because... by Laurel Porter-Gaylord. This book is made of sturdy cardstock for durability and explores the concept of parents and babies through the animal world.
· Baby Born by Anastasia Suen. This delightful lift-the-flap book follows a baby through her first year of life and her experience with each season. (multicultural)
· Mama Mama by Jean Marzollo. The repetitive rhyme, detailed illustrations, and board book format are a favorite for toddlers.
· In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming is illustrated from a toddler’s view of the creatures who live in the tall, tall grass.
· The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. This is a favorite book about a caterpillar that eats his way through a week of food before becoming a butterfly.
· Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee. This rhythmical story follows Fireman Small in his heroic efforts to help his friends and neighbors. (multicultural)
· On Mother’s Lap by Ann Herbert Scott. A young boy learns that there is room on his mother’s lap for more when his baby sister arrives. (multicultural)
· Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel. This story comes in a boy or girl version and follows a young child as he or she learns how to use a potty-chair.
· Pots and Pans by Patricia Hubbell. This playful poetic story celebrates the thrill of making noise in the kitchen.(multicultural).
Preschool children are excited to learn about the world outside their home, school, or environment. They enjoy listening to slightly more complex texts with more in-depth characters and still enjoy good rhythm and some repetition. Stories with a sequence allow children to predict, repeat sounds, and make word plays. Preschoolers should have exposure to a variety of different types of books like folktales, more detailed stories, fact-filled nonfiction books and books about topics that interest them. Titles to enjoy with preschoolers:
· The Quilt by Ann Jonas. A young girl enjoys a journey into her imagination as she snuggles in her new quilt made from her favorite things. (multicultural)
· The Napping House by Audrey Wood. This is a cumulative rhyming story following a young child on a napping adventure with favorite animals.
· Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill. This book of poems makes different colors into adventures that preschoolers enjoy repeating.
· Hog Music by M.C. Helldorfer is an energetic and touching story of what it was like riding in a covered wagon in the nineteenth century.(multicultural)
· You Were Born On Your Very First Birthday by Linda Walvoord Girard is an honest yet tasteful explanation of how babies are born.
· Sunflower House by Eve Bunting. Follow the life of a sunflower from seed to beautiful flower to seed.
· Elizabeth's Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen. After looking around her Tanzania village, a young girl finds her own baby doll to take care of after her baby brother is born. (multicultural)
· Abuela by Arthur Dorros follows a grandmother and granddaughter on an adventure through the city teaching some Spanish words along the way. (multicultural)
· The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn. This delightful tale follows a young girl across the fall season as she learns how to cope without her beloved security blanket. (multicultural)
· Andrew’s Angry Words by Dorothea Lachner. Andrew gets angry and bursts out with words he’s soon sorry about—he learns that while he can’t take them back, he can make it right.
· The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant is a colorful story of a summer visit by relatives from far away.(multicultural)
· My ABC Signs of Animal Friends by Ben Bahan and Joe Dannis. This concept book teaches sign language in a fun and easy-to-understand format. (multicultural)
· Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox. Harriet Harris and her mother learn that love endures.
· The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow. Meet a fickle, yet lovable child prodigy who tries out different musical instruments and ends up conducting the entire orchestra. (multicultural)
Extensions and Follow-up Activities
Reading and enjoying books with young children is very important. There are also many ways to extend the learning in fun ways that children enjoy. You can help children to think about a story outside the context of the book with the following ideas.
Have You Ever Tried?...
· Acting out a story after reading it?
· Adding props to a story like dress-up clothes and sound effects
· Having a puppet tell or be characters in the story
· Using flannel pieces to enhance or tell a story
· Having the children tell a story from pictures in a book
· Writing down a child’s story
· Having the children illustrate a story
· Telling a story without a book
· Making up your own story using the children as characters
· After reading about a book go on a field trip to extend the topic of the book
· Having a poetry festival with every child or groups of children creating or reading their favorite poem
· Making bookmarks, banners, or their own book
· Holding a family or class read-a-thon
Angie Dorrell, M.A., was the director of curriculum for La Petite Academy, one of the nation’s largest providers of early childhood education programs. She also serves as a NAEYC accreditation validator and commissioner. She is the proud mother of two young daughters.