When I search my memory for the best gifts I received as a child, they were often books. You might even have kept your favourite books to hand on to your grandchild.
Today, we buy our children a book every so often when we go to the supermarket or the shopping mall. To tear the wrapping off a special book or a series of books and then find a quiet corner away from the bustle and begin to read is wonderful. This wonder of books starts when we are young. Finding special picture books for your pre-schooler’s birthday could be the start of that wonder.
It can be difficult to find the right book, so here are some clues for you on how to pick the pictures, the words and the content.
The content must interest the child at their stage of development and add to their knowledge or enjoyment.
Find pictures that match your child’s level of understanding – i.e. clear, simple pictures with bright colours and things with which they are familiar. There should be just a few words used at this stage as they are learning to match the picture to the word and thus, learn the language. The content should be familiar, including items from around the home as well as people.
Choose pictures that are brightly coloured. A bit of glitter in the insets doesn’t go astray as well. Books with textured pictures and flaps that lift up allow the child to participate in the ‘reading’ as well as listening.
Simple stories that represent the everyday world around them and have a beginning, middle and an end are great to begin to see the sequence of the plot. Toddlers especially like books about animals.
Choose pictures that show the action of the story. Perhaps they have hidden secrets to discover or a complexity that children can admire. Try humorous and ‘fantastical’ books featuring a complex story with action, humour or a problem that must be solved or with beauty and an emotional heart.
It’s a good idea to read the words of a book before buying. If you find the story boring, then your child might find it so as well. Sometimes books have wonderful artistic pictures but little creativity in the words. Alternately, sometimes the words are wonderful but the pictures are poor.
It is important to be careful about the storyline that you choose. Some older books that you may have adored as a child may now be seen to have a gender bias, e.g. they many only portray white children with a father at work and a mother doing the housework.
It’s okay to introduce your children to these beloved books as long as you introduce them to other stories with different ideas in them. For example, you might like to also include books with the father looking after the baby and washing up, the mother at work and a family with clothes, hair and skin that represent other cultures.
Finally, it is important to check that books for pre-schoolers are not too scary.
Many of the most popular stories have wolves, nasty witches, monsters and strange creatures that can strike fear in your child and cause nightmares for a long time.
The more imaginative your child, the more he may be scared of the story.
Happy hunting in your favourite bookshop!