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Books for Kids

There are so many good books out there for children, but the ones that captivate me are those that communicate on many levels.  I love books that show some aspect of childhood from a child’s perspective.  I loathe books that are education badly dressed up as fiction.  While the Bernstein Bears are topical, I think most kids can see through the thinly veiled message they’re trying to send.  I prefer books that celebrate the subversive.  I love books where there are no adults present (like Max and Ruby).  While I loathe Dora, or any book that expects the reader to talk back, I love that she travels around with a backpack and a monkey with no supervision – wouldn’t Emily Carr approve?

I believe in reading to kids from birth. Give them pop-up books until they’re old enough to tear them apart, then graduate to board books.  So many classics are being published as board books.  Here are a few of the most excellent ones I’ve come across:

Toddler Books

Sandra Boynton.  Her earliest books are her best: But not the Hippopotamus, Red Hat Blue Hat, The Going to Bed Book

My Truck is Stuck by Daniel Kirk and Kevin Lewis.  Counting, repetition that encourages early sight-reading, and illustrations that tell a story of their own about the reason the truck is stuck make this an excellent book for all ages.

Jan Brett.  Her illustrations stand alone, and the sidebars give hints about what’s coming next.  I recommend just looking at the pictures with little ones, then graduating to actually reading the words as their attention span for sitting lengthens.

Books Without Words

I’m learning that as important as learning to read is learning to tell stories.  I am the parent of an early reader who devours books by sight reading, and gets the overall picture of the story, but has no patience for details.  A teacher recommended looking at picture books without words as a way of encouraging attention to detail and understanding that one story can be told many different ways.

Jan Ormerod’s Moonlight and Sunshine

Boy, Dog, Frog

Preschool Books

Leo Lionni writes books with a message, but one that’s subtle and global.  It’s Mine!, Swimmy, Alphabet Tree, and A Colour of His Own are all excellent.

I’ve talked to many people who find Franklin books just too long for Kindergarten kids (the target audience) to sit through, but I think they’re just excellent.  They have a message (Franklin is Messy, for example) but told from the perspective of how it feels to learn from logical consequences, are often very touching stories about common childhood experiences.  The newer books try to leverage Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clarke’s magic, but are unsuccessful, with the exception of Franklin Celebrates.

Little Critter books epitomise the importance of literature in letting kids live vicariously through a character who tests mom and dad’s patience but ends up being loved and accepted.

Similarly, these books are on the subject of being different but still loveable:

Harry the Dirty Dog

Leo the Late Bloomer

Whose Mouse are You?

School Age Books

Leo Lionni writes books with a message, but one that’s subtle and also global.  It’s Mine!, Swimmy, Alphabet Tree, and A Colour of His Own are all excellent.

I’ve talked to many people who find Franklin books just too long for Kindergarten kids (the target audience) to sit through, but I think they’re just excellent.  They have a message (Franklin is Messy, for example) but told from the perspective of how it feels to learn from logical consequences, are often very touching stories about common childhood experiences.  The newer books try to leverage Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clarke’s magic, but are unsuccessful, with the exception of Franklin Celebrates.

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