Reading and talking are the most important and impactful activities you can do with your child. No matter what the day brings, reading together, talking together and connecting are fail-proof ways to encourage literacy, build confidence and bolster social-emotional learning.
While having casual chats can be easy enough, choosing books to read to your little one can feel a bit more daunting. As early childhood educators, we have a passion for children's literature. That said, we are not surprised when we hear parents share that this is not THEIR interest or passion! But, if you're ready to dip your toe into the literacy world for your child, here are some guidelines that may help in the process:
Ask around. Check in with a beloved preschool teacher, librarian or a friend who has children a bit older than yours. Often just asking about favorite authors, series or books can bring a whole new world to your bookshelf. And with friends, you may even be able to swap and share books!
Clear off the shelves & sort through the baskets. If it’s been a stretch of time since you’ve looked at what you have, this may be the perfect starting point. Bring out all the books and sort through them. Donate the ones kids have outgrown. Toss or recycle books that are tattered or torn. Sort them by author or subject, size or color...whatever is accessible and inviting to your age child.
Consider a variety of genres. Think about what you are offering. Do you have some fiction as well as non-fiction? Are there books with animal characters but also books with children as characters? Are there longer books with more text and shorter books with less text? Do you have any beloved series or authors? Do you have silly books? Books about feelings? Books that inspire art? Books that depict real world objects?
Older titles vs. Newer titles It’s our belief that there is room on the shelf for older and newer titles. We often find ourselves reading “old favorites” that still ring true today (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, for example.) While others can make us rethink if they are still relevant -- whether due to dated illustrations, antiquated language or depictions of day-to-day that are no longer the norm (such as the pipe-smoking father in The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.) This will be a personal decision that best reflects your family’s values. For us, we often point these details out and give the context and history. And, when faced with illustrations or themes that are unkind, unjust or not inclusive, we will remove them from our shelves. For older children, an age appropriate conversation about why can be important and needed.
Consider perspectives. It has been shown time and time again to be beneficial to offer books that reflect your child’s world and books that offer a window into another’s experience. Look for a range of perspectives - such as geographically, culturally, linguistically, physically, a variety of body abilities and mobilities. Consider seeking out a variety of voices of authors and imagery in illustrations.
Follow your children’s lead. The customer is ALWAYS right! Observe what your children are drawn to in literature and books. If they love silly books, seek out more of those. If rhyming books catch their interest, keep them coming! If books about trains or trucks are holding their attention, then seek out more of that genre. If a favorite character gets them excited, consider adding more titles to your shelf. Even when the tried and true favorites may not seem like the highest quality literature, reading is reading. Embrace where they are (even if they only want to read manuals on how to play video games, joke books or comics!)
If you are looking for an accessible, effective way to support your child’s learning and development then look no further. Read & talk to them every day. Read alongside them as often as possible. Being a reader yourself will show them that reading is fun, relaxing, worthwhile and enlightening. Having books handy and a natural part of their day-to-day life from an early age really will make a difference in their development.
If you are looking for more suggestions of books and authors, keep following us on Instagram! Check out our reading highlights for authors and illustrators we love. Happy reading, Workers & Players!