You can say anything with a book. And children love them. They are essential tools for teaching and learning that color the process of delivering content to young minds. Appropriate, quality literature goes far beyond stimulating children’s literacy learning. Books help to convey messages of every kind and illustrate ideas in concrete, visual ways to help them make sense of their lives, of others’ and of the world. They establish meaningful foundations for literacy, critical thinking, social interactions, emotional literacy and more.
Children’s literature is an invaluable part of teaching in early childhood. I know many times my students need to unwind, relax and spend some time escaping through a window to a world that is not their own. I reach for a storybook and a cozy moment of unwitting learning happens via my dramatization of delightful pages. Inquiry and exploration are perpetuated and encouraged, as they are exposed to differences in the world, momentarily pulling them away from their natural egocentrism.
On the other hand, with books that contain characters who look like my students, and involve situations or places they are familiar with, they are seeing themselves represented. These hold up a gilded mirror by which these little children may feel visible, important and a part of the world— intertwined and invested, not standing on the sidelines. They can develop a sense of ownership and leadership, empowering them to shepherd their lives.
Young children are typically at the emergent literacy stage where they are exploring print and seeing it all around but cannot make sense of it. Slowly, literature, labeling and print-rich learning environments make way for acquisition of phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge.
I wrote a blog post of how my own upbringing was filled with books and how my memories of literature and reading were charming ones. My love for it spills over unabashed into my pedagogical practices, by which I often wield books like wands and transform moments into whimsy.
Here are just a few of my favorite books for children, what are some of yours?
Roe, Mechal Renee. (2014). Happy Hair. Victoria, BC: AbeBooks. Print.
This book celebrates self-love and highlights beauty in children of color. It focuses on curly hair, which is a topic near and dear to me.
This is a lovely story set in New York City that focuses on the attachment and relationship between child and parents. It also has two additional books in series which are equally wonderful (Knuffle Bunny Too, Knuffle Bunny Free).
Anything Melissa Sweet is fantastic, but this book brings an airy, fresh perspective on an oft overlooked, traditional attribute of Thanksgiving Day in a whimsical, irresistibly cheerful literary piece. This book is long and complex for 3s, but the illustrations are unlike anything I’ve seen and are worth early exploration. A look at only the images, leaving text to a minimum makes for a rich story time.