Children’s Library Essentials

adorable blur bookcase books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m all about efficiency and effective organization.

I believe strongly in these principles because they give us the opportunity to get the most out of what we are doing, or wanting in life. When we are disorganized, we spend more time on trying to correct the situation, than if you put an extra couple of minutes into early planning.

Being effective and efficient also means being less wasteful. It does not mean having to live overly planned and rigid lives – quite the opposite really. A little bit of forward thinking means the ability to have control over a situation and, ultimately, more flexibility and enjoyment. This is something I try to practise in my both my professional and personal life.

I guess you’re probably a little confused at this point as to what this has to do with your child’s book collection? Well, with a little forward planning, you can have the “ultimate” library for your child that serves them well up until school age. Additionally, you can do this with minimal waste (ie books that just sit and collect dust) and have a more effective storytime each night.

My intent here with this post is not to provide you with a list of “best books” for whatever age. There are plenty of these floating around the internet (possibly with some ulterior motives for affiliate sales too..). Plus, every child has different interests, so a “best book” list may not work for your family. Don’t get me wrong, these lists are great for getting ideas for books if you really have none. I tend not to use these lists – I’d rather take my kids down to the library for a bit of trial-and-error. We pick a pile of books that has grabbed our attention, do a quick run through of each and shortlist what we want to take home (usually about 5x books). Once we get home, we read them. Some are hits, some are not.

The point of this post, however, is more a case of providing you with some ideas and tools to get longevity out of the books that you choose to buy. This point is also relevant to the reviews I post. I hope to empart some ideas to other families, but it is about adopting those ideas into what will work for you. Ultimately, if it doesn’t work, you won’t enjoy storytime as much as you want to.

The most important thing is that you and your family enjoy the books you are reading. If you don’t enjoy the books, then the frequency and quality of storytime will suffer.

I also believe that the collection you have at home does not need to be extensive (or expensive). There are so many opportunity for your kids to be exposed to different books (eg kinder, childcare, borrowing from libraries, etc) that your collection at home doesn’t really need to contain much, if done properly and cleverly. Plus, you will probably find that your child has a couple of favourites that they will just continue to cycle through (over and over and over again…).

Flexibility

Flexibility, I’ve learnt, is the number one rule for parenting.

Remember that what may work for your child one month, may not the next, so try be flexible in how you approach book purchases. You may not have control either on the quality/quantity of books in your collection, as many books you have may have been given as gifts. In all honesty, the bulk of the books in our collection are the result of gifts rather than purchases. Being effective in this circumstance, is a case of doing the best you can, with what you have, and while catering to the interests of your child.

A good way to road test books is to try them first at your library. If you find your child continues to want to read a particular book (or series), consider a purchase or even find someone who has it (and purchase or trade from them – this is a much cheaper alternative to buying new).

Inevitably, your child will grow out of some of the books. If you don’t have any younger children, it may be time to think about moving those books on. Consider donating them. Alternatively, a book swap is also the perfect opportunity if you want to update your library collection to cater to your growing family, while getting rid of older books.

Your Children’s Library Essentials

My recommendations for the ultimate children’s book collection that will hopefully stand the test of time:

  • Board Books: My number one tip. Wherever possible, get the board book version! This is especially true for baby and toddler books. Books will get drooled on, drawn on and ripped (see images below of our poor old copies of The Hungry Caterpillar and Cat in the Hat as an example). Even though these are a sign of a well-loved book, keeping them in as best condition as possible means that you don’t have to memorize the missing pages, and you can give them a second home when you are ready to move them on.20180806_084646.jpgPoor ripped pages…20180806_084702.jpg
  • Single-Worded Books: Books that contain simple graphics with a single word on each page are great books for babies, but also find a second life in toddler and pre-school years when teaching words, letters, and reading. Get a variety of these types of books that deal with different themes: animals, numbers, colours, etc.
  • Books for the Senses: Similar to single-worded books, books that combine the sense of touch and sound also make great books for childhood learning. The addition of touch (eg fabric, textured graphics, etc) and sound (noise buttons), enhance the learning experience.
  • Books with Motion: Pop-up and pull-tab books are great because they get the children involved with the story. They also add visual interest and can add a layer of suspense to the storyline. Some good examples include The Spot the Dog series, Elmer the Elephant, Look Out Leon! WARNING: these types of books get damaged easily, so try to encourage gentle reading!
  • Books with Rhyme and Repetition: Stories with rhyme and repetition are much more enjoyable to read. They also are a stronger language teaching tool.
  • Books with Photo Illustrations: See my earlier post – Illustrations Alive! for more information on the benefits of these books.
  • Classics: Build your library up with the classics – stories you enjoyed as a child and classic books your child will enjoy now. Think of the timeless books like The Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, etc. They’re called timeless for a reason – chances are your kids will also get a lot of enjoyment out of them too.

The Take-Away Message

  • Start small and build your way up. There’s no reason to go crazy with buying all kinds of books. Pick a few recommended ones to start with and build up from there. Let your child’s interest be your guide.
  • Think long term – which books could be good for babies, toddlers and preschoolers?
  • Make use of your local library! Stock your own collection with the favourites that are on repeat and borrow books for variety!
  • Stock your child’s collection with books that you like to read to them. There’s nothing worse than your child picking out stories and a) you try to push them to pick something else; or b) your story telling becomes luck-lustre! If you need to, store away books that are not age appropriate, or that you don’t really enjoy (maybe they were given to you as a gift). That way, every book your child asks you to read them is a winner for everyone.

Illustrations Alive!

I love the artistry of children’s book illustrations. They are engaging, skillful and an essential component to storytime. They give us the all important supporting visuals.

However, a good children’s book does not necessarily need drawn illustrations – photography is also often a tool used to convey a story.

I have found that books with photography appeal to a wider age group and engage on a different educational level than illustrations.

When my daughter was about 6 months old, I bought two books from our local discount book store. They were Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump by Nicola Tuxworth. I didn’t think too much about the purchase at the time. The books cost me $3 each.

It was the best $6 I think I have ever spent. My daughter is now 4 and I am still reading the books to her. They are also getting a second run on my 4 month old son to whom I have just started reading.

hopskip

splishsplash

Why are photographic visuals different from illustrations?

While drawn illustrations are great for capturing your child’s imagination, photography is highly appealing to:

  • Babies who are hard-wired to recognize and prefer faces.
  • Toddlers and pre-schoolers who begin to relate with the children/objects and recognize daily activities.

What to look for in photographic books?

Photography is particularly well suited to books that depict daily routines, activities, and experiences. Children can better connect and relate the story to the images they are seeing.

Good photographic books also have:

  • Bright colour schemes.
  • Simple images with white backgrounds for contrast.
  • Simple and direct language.
  • A diversity of representation.
  • Pictures of everyday objects as well as children and adults.

While the simple language may be better suited for holding the attention of babies and toddlers, it is a great introduction for teaching letters and identifying words for pre-schoolers.

An example of storytime with a photographic book.

I use either Splish Splash or Hop, Skip & Jump for joint storytime with both my son and daughter before my son goes off to sleep first (my daughter gets her own storytime before she goes to bed later on too).

During the storytime, my daughter often re-enacts what the children in the book are doing. This is much to my son’s delight, who has a good chuckle at his sister’s acting – jumping, hopping, dancing, etc.

I make sure to spend a bit of time on each page for the older child to talk about what they see the children doing and for the younger one to take in the colours and pictures.

I also get the kids (toddler and pre-school age) to count the ducks, buckets, cars, etc they see and identify the colours.

abc books chalk chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photographic books are a great way to get both kids involved and interacting with the book and each other. They’ve also been a fantastic tool to teach words, numbers and colours.

There are a whole heap of different photographic books on the market – keep your eyes peeled at your local library or bookstore. If you interested in Nicola Tuxworth’s books (she’s published a range in addition to Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump), they are also on sale at Dymocks.