Have you wondered what to look for when choosing books for your little ones? There are SO many wonderful, fabulous books!! Where does one start? What makes a book just right?
The first thing to consider is the purpose:
1. Am I looking for a book for my child to listen to and enjoy?
2. Am I looking for a book for my child to primarily practice their phonics skills?
3. Am I looking for a meaningful book I want my child to learn how to read independently at some point?
If you answered #1, we have shared some of these books on earlier posts. Click here to revisit that post.
If you answered #2, there are many phonics based books on the market. These books typically focus on one skill, such as the “short a” sound and while a little bit of this practice may be helpful for young readers, the language structure in these books is usually very contrived (not matching the natural language patterns) and children have a tendency to put more cognitive energy into sounding out words than they do on what is happening in the story (the meaning). Certainly, a critical part of learning to read is decoding words, but the purpose of reading is to get meaning from the printed words. It is important to balance reading material with text that more closely matches natural language patterns and allows children to decode to get meaning from the printed message.
If your answer is #3, there are several characteristics to consider. We will discuss those in just a few moments. Before we do, we want to reiterate how important these kinds of texts are for your young reader! Children will spend hours reading and rereading text if it is well chosen!! Reading and rereading text is exactly what we want emergent readers to do! Matching kids with books is an essential decision and can not be overlooked! So, let’s get at it! Here are a few things to consider:
CONTENT – Is the content:
- familiar and easy to make connections to for the child (about child’s family, friends, pets, experiences)?
- about concepts that are supported by personalized, familiar pictures?
THEMES – Are the themes and ideas:
- very familiar to the child and his/her experiences?
LITERARY FEATURES – Is the language and literary features:
- composed of patterns and repeating language structures?
COMPLEXITY – Is the sentence complexity:
- limited to short, predictable sentences that are close to the child’s oral language?
VOCABULARY – Is the vocabulary:
- familiar to the child and likely to be used in their oral language?
- supported with specific pictures and images?
WORDS – Are the words:
- mostly one syllable words with very easy and predictable letter/sound relationships?
- very easy high frequency words that are used over and over in the text?
PICTURES – Do the pictures:
- very closely match the print?
- support each page of text?
PRINT FEATURES – Do the book and print features include:
- short books with one or two lines of text per page?
- text printed clearly and separated from pictures?
- font that is large and easy to read?
- ample space between words?
- consistent placement of print on the page (always at the bottom or always at the top on each page)?
That may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but with a little practice, you will be a pro! Would you like to see an example? One of our favorite collections is the First Little Reader sets from Scholastic. There are three levels to choose from and each set has 25 books that demonstrate the criteria discussed above.
Let’s Read About Me also attends to each of these criteria when designing books for youngsters with a bonus…the books are also ABOUT the child which makes them highly engaging! There are a variety of titles to choose from including books about favorite activities during different seasons of the year, family members, friends, different colors, celebrating holidays, etc.
The most important thing of all, is to keep the reading a fun and enjoyable experience. When we invite little ones to read with us, we want them to be excited and