Jim Scheppke, the outgoing Oregon State Librarian, has an amazing opinion piece in today’s Oregonian. He reminds us all the literacy development comes not just from school, but from reading for pleasure. Having fun and interesting things readily available for reading is what changes children from reading because they have to into children who read because they want to.
Often when we talk about children’s literature and reading, we’re talking about readers from ages 4 or 5 and up, but attention should be paid to our younger readers, or pre-readers as they are often called. These little ones get a special section of books that tell simple stories in a solid format. I’m talking about board books.
Board books are often made from cardboard, though some use other soft materials, and deal with easy concepts, like colors, numbers, or shapes, or are adapted versions of picture books. The idea is that babies can turn the pages themselves and be read to or “read” a book from a very early age. The cardboard and soft materials are used because babies are still learning about themselves and are tactile learners. This can mean that pages end up in their mouths, but this is all a part of the reading and learning process.These small size books are designed to be handled by babies and give them a head start in learning to read.
Some of the best board books have other tactile learning opportunities, such as through the classic Pat the Bunny, which uses soft fur, mirrors, and pop-ups to create an interactive reading experience for babies.
Other great board books to consider are:
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. This classic goodnight story is perfect as a board book as there are things to spy and a loving poem to read.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle. Using Carle’s distinctive style, babies can learn to identify colors through repetitive language.
- Animals (Baby Touch and Feel) by Dorling Kindersley. DK publishers know a lot about teaching children and this fun board book uses different textures to teach babies about animals, which is always a fun subject for little ones.
- Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin. This book does double duty in teaching children about Chinese culture and shapes at the same time. The illustrations by Lin are beautiful and even if baby ends up chewing on them, they will get a lot out of this book.
When looking at board books, look for bright colors, conceptual ideas, and tactile learning opportunities. And don’t forget your favorite authors – many classic stories have been made into board books.
Though it seems weird to have my inaugural post be something other than “hi, welcome to the blog!”, today is National Pancake Day and that deserves some respect.
So what does National Pancake Day have to do with children’s literature? Well, a lot actually. My first thought after starting this blog and realizing the importance of today (because a day dedicated to pancakes cannot be anything other than important, right?), I thought of a very special book from my childhood. That book is, of course, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
This was the book that I checked out from the library over and over again and part of that had to do with the pancake that lands on the school. How utterly ridiculous is that? That kind of nonsense is what draws some children in to read. Of course we know a pancake could never land on a school. But what if it did? What would a town like Chewandswallow actually be like? I think this book could be a part of a fun National Pancake Day lesson. Why not read it while eating pancakes? Or after teaching children to make pancakes?
There is a wide variety of cookbooks for kids. Everyone from high end cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma (The Cookbook for Kids: Great Recipes for Kids Who Love to Cook) to Nickelodeon (Dora and Diego – Let’s Cook) has come out with a cookbook that will help you teach kids how to cook. This kind of tactile learning is important for some children and can help connect the imaginary world of a book to real life.
So dig into a short stack of pancakes and books and celebrate National Pancake Day!