Five books that are worthy of sharing with children ages 0-8. Goals hit:
d) social and moral
e) aesthetic and creative development of preschool age children.
Books have the potential to lead to remarkable memories that last a lifetime. Children’s books carry the potential to make these memories and do it while enhancing the budding minds of young readers and listeners. Intellect, language, personality, morals and values, social and creative abilities can all be enlivened and developed with meaningful sharing of literature. From infanthood to age 8, children will benefit from adults who not only bring books into their lives but share them with enthusiasm for the ultimate lifelong gifts they are truly sharing. A few books listed below stand out among the thousands that are out there to be discovered.
To enhance: Children’s language development
Fox in socks, By Dr. Seuss
This book is about a fox (in socks) who takes his friend Mr. Knox on a tongue twisting tour; sightseeing in the land of Dr. Seuss. There are rhymes on every page and colorful, imaginative illustrations to match the game-playing fox, an increasingly bewildered Mr. Knox and a menagerie of other strange creatures. The fox challenges Mr. Knox to play his games by simply repeating increasingly difficult rhymes Mr. Knox gets even with the clever talking fox in the end.
Fox in Socks puts the listener in the shoes of Mr. Knox. While sharing this book with children, it would be fun to challenge them to say the words of the rhymes, involving them in a game of “If I can do it, why can’t you?” Whenever children play while learning, the pressure to perform is taken away and they learn vicariously while having a good time. This book lends itself to speech participation by listeners and is useful in language development for that reason (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009).
To enhance: Children’s intellectual development
An Extraordinary Egg, By Leo Lionni
Three frog sisters living on a pebbly island discover an extraordinary pebble. It turns out to be an egg. One of the frog sisters deems it a chicken’s egg because she ‘just knows’ these things. A baby alligator hatches from the egg yet the sisters continue to call the little gator a chicken. The story follows the little ‘chicken’ through a rescue of the frog sister, Jessica. They become inseparable buddies and one day, they re-unite the baby alligator with her mother. However, the frog sisters never concede in their conviction that the little creature is most definitely a chicken.
Literature for Young Children identifies this book as an appropriate literature choice to support the goal of the development of logical thinking (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009). An obvious error in logical reasoning among the characters in the story gives children an opportunity “to feel superior to the book characters because they know what is going on” (Giogis & Glzer, 2009, pg. 156). Expanding logical reasoning in this way enhances self-esteem and teaches children to study the evidence instead of taking the word of someone who “just knows” as truth.
To enhance: Children’s personality development
Frederick, By Leo Lionni
Frederick is a story about an especially thoughtful mouse. He cogitates quietly in the meadow gathering nothing more than thoughts and memories for winter. This behavior is not appreciated by his very busy friends. He doesn’t appear to be doing anything at all! As winter falls upon the small pack, the supplies are plentiful and everyone is satisfied. As winter wears on, food and supplies dwindle to nothing and everyone becomes quite low in spirit. The supplies that Frederick offers are as endless as his imagination and he replenishes the little family’s spirits with colors, feelings and more.
Frederick’s gift to his fellow mice is unexpectedly needed in a very dark time for them all. The story reminds the audience that everyone has a gift to give and it may not be recognizable while it is being created. This story lends itself to lots of questions: What if Frederick had just been sleeping while his family gathered the supplies for winter? Is thinking working? What are some other things the mice could do after all of the food was gone and they only had the gray room to be in? Would you like to have Frederick in your family when it was time to get ready to going camping? Why or why not? Role playing these scenarios would lend itself to numerous responses, especially for the child playing Frederick.
The artwork in this book is simple and expressive of its characters. I would ask the children to talk about one of the characters pointed out and suggest what they thought the character was thinking according to their expressions. How do they know? Role-play or draw expressions that show the same thoughts of the mice family.
To enhance: Children’s social development
No David, By David Shannon
Perhaps one of the least favorite words for a child to hear is “no”. However, when the character of David is experiencing reaching for the cookie jar while standing on his tilted chair, splashing all water and more from the bath tub, playing with his food, picking his nose and running out of the house naked, it is hard not to laugh about the boundaries he is breaking. The illustration in this book is absolutely eye-catching for young children, and they will connect to the little fellow who is always being told not to do what he is doing. He eventually gets into trouble and is sent to the corner for a time-out, a little tear rolling down his cheek. The story ends with redemption in the warmth and love of his mom’s arms.
This is an important book because children will come to know that they are not the only ones being told not to do what they are doing – David is in the same boat. This is supportive of the social goal to see things from another person’s perspective (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009). A fun conversation to initiate while looking at the adorable David and his antics is why he shouldn’t do some of the things he is doing. These social behavior conversations take the pressure off of the child or children and let them put David on the spot. The pictures are so funny it’s hard not to laugh at the bad behaviors and move on with a better idea of what good behavior is. The premise of this story is important for children to understand; David is not a bad boy – he just makes some unacceptable choices. He will continue to be loved and accepted after making poor choices. For personality development, this supports their development of weighing evidence and to make appropriate choices (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009).
To enhance: Children’s social moral development
Leo The Lop, By Stephen Cosgrove
This story, about a bunny named Leo who looks different from the rest of the bunnies, takes place in the imaginary land of Serendipity. He is made to feel that looking different is not ok. He attempts to change his gorgeous, loppy, long ears to be like all of the other bunnies whose ears stand straight up on their heads. In a wonderful twist, he comes to the conclusion that the he is the normal one and all of the others must not be since they are different from him! An especially wise possum vicariously informs all of them of the moral of the tale which is: “Normal is whatever I am and whoever you are!” Illustrated by Robin James, the pictures are bright, expressive simple and colorful.
This book lends itself to role play and is a good example of the importance of not treating others differently because of the way they look. Differences are normal and natural. This is especially applicable when working with children with disabilities (if there are physical differences) in the same classroom or anywhere. Normal physical differences could be emphasized and celebrated such as a large nose, large mouth, big ears, a pot belly, oversized hands, or any other costume that is available that shows an exaggerated physical difference. A follow up activity: Write or draw a picture of one thing that makes you different from anyone else you can think of and why is it good. What makes you the same as other people you know? Post the stories and pictures in a collective book for classroom sharing.
To enhance: Children’s creative and aesthetic development
Harold and the Purple Crayon, By Crockett Johnson
Harold is a little boy who carries a purple crayon to draw the world unfolding around him. He draws himself into an adventure that leads him from his room into forests, which leads to picnics, which leads to scary dragons, which lead to the ocean and the city. He begins to miss his room and draws himself the moon because it is always visible from his bedroom window. Before we know it, he has drawn himself safely into bed, looking out his window at the crescent moon and is tired from all of his adventures. Now he can go to sleep.
The power Harold derives from a single crayon is pretty incredible. As his blank pages turn into a variety of adventures, the imagination is at work, and creative aesthetic development is occurring. One event leading into another like a step ladder gives the reader an impression of endless possibilities for this story. Using this book, a child could be encouraged to draw what they would like to see happen next for Harold. The children could be asked to draw themselves into the story and talk about what they see, smell, hear and taste in the pictures they drew themselves into (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009). Experiencing the work of others and participating in the arts themselves is important goal for aesthetic and creative growth (Giorgis & Glazer, 2009). Crayons are turned into little power wands when given to the children after ideas are presented as they are in Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Sharing literature with children is a pleasure that benefits them when the selection is appropriate for their age, the content is meaningful and the visual art is not only pleasing but also something that is appreciated for the different qualities and mediums it uses. Offering a variety of books to children is necessary for them to experience intellectual and social growth, development of individual personality, creative thinking skills, aesthetic appreciation and moral understanding. Prior to exposing children to fiction, teachers should read and evaluate it for literary elements, coherence and integrity. Evaluate non-fiction for organization, accurate presentation of facts and current information. All literature illustration should develop the text, be in reasonable proximity to the text and convey or capture the emotion of the characters. Illustrations should be evaluated for accuracy and screened for stereotypes. Using criteria like this for selection of literature will help teachers build a library of literature they can use to help children reach their potential in all areas of education.