Choosing great books in preschool
The following post is from Colleen Brunetti ... our Early Literacy Expert. She will be doing a series of posts on early literacy for preschoolers. Since this ties in so nicely with our recent Book Study Blog party of the book "Literacy Beginnings" (Fountas & Pinnell, 2011), I'll interject a couple of quotes from the book along the way! --Laura
Choosing high quality children’s literature is an important part of inviting your child into the world of books, and for fostering a love of literacy. But what exactly is “quality children’s literature”? Google the phrase and you come up with a list of hits that are non-specific, and very much based on opinion. So, in that spirit, here’s my opinion! My top 5 tips for choosing quality children’s literature.
1) Choose something with engaging pictures: Illustrations very much carry the story, especially in the early years. Brightly colored illustrations are great, but don’t discount black and white. Touchable pictures (scratchy cardboard box, or a soft kitty) for the very young are very engaging, as are pictures of real children. There’s nothing babies like better than looking at pictures of other babies!
"Select informational texts that have large, clear pictures and focus on familiar topics that children can understand." (Fountas & Pinnell, "Literacy Beginnings", 2011)
2) Look for stories with simple prose: Less is more in the early years, and you can go to reading longer and longer stories as your child indicates they are ready (i.e.: can sit through more than a page or two!). Enjoy the time lost in words together. It’s okay if children don’t sit through a whole story at first. Everything in time.
3) Look for rhyming stories, or writing with a rhythm to it: Lots of exposure to rhythm and rhyme is excellent for young children. It develops early phonemic awareness skills (a child’s ability to hear and distinguish units of sound), which are key to later reading success. We’ll talk more about that in a future blog.
"When children hear poems and rhymes, they start to notice the words that sound alike at the end. Recognizing rhyme is one of the first signs of phonemic awareness." (Fountas & Pinnell, "Literacy Beginnings", 2011)
4) Don’t forget the classics and look for award winners: There’s a reason some books have stood the test of time. Certain characters have captured children’s hearts and continue to charm the generations. Think titles like “Goodnight Moon” or “Where the Wild Things Are”, for example. There are also wonderful awards out there that can help you choose some great books. Look for past Caldecott winners (for illustrations), the Newbury Award for distinguished children’s literature, or the Nutmeg Book Award for Connecticut’s very own awards. (Check HERE for a list of awards in other states too!)
5) Avoid the crummy stuff: Now this item is probably left more to opinion than any other. What is bad children’s literature? Consider things like appropriate content, underlying messages, good role models, diversity… pick things that are important to your own social values and consider if they are reflected in the books you share with your children. Personally, I also don’t care for books that are a weak synopsis of things like movies. Pick up a Disney book re-telling one of their classic movies and see what I mean. The descriptions and dialogue are weak, the pictures un-original and computer generated. Personally, I’d rather invite my child into a world of books where his own imagination takes hold, and not the pre-conceived images he’s already seen on screen.
How about you? What makes for good (or bad) children’s literature in your opinion? What are some of your favorite titles and why?