The art of reading could possibly be the best gift you can give your child. It goes a long way in developing their imagination, vocabulary, communication skills and knowledge. Introducing your child to the world of reading at an early age is like handing him the keys to a wonderland full of pictures, stories and fantasy. Reading will entertain, empower and enrich their thoughts and character all through their lives.
Here is a list of books that I have found to be extremely helpful in myriad ways. Some of them I happened to stumble across while browsing leisurely across a bookstore, others were strongly recommended by teachers and friends.
Every publication seems to have their own version of baby’s first words and 100 first words. These are very useful tools in introducing or reaffirming a child’s first few words as well as understanding of the world surrounding him. One suggestion is to choose a book with fewer pictures per page as it helps the child to focus and linger over a single word longer than just glancing through multiple images. The books we first chose for our baby contained no more than 10-15 words. We also made sure that we reinforced these few selected words whenever we found the opportunity - be it while taking a stroll outside, looking through a story book or even while watching television. This strategy of consciously limiting the exposure to new words and appropriate reinforcement ensured that the baby picked up the words quite easily (and promptly) and we could move to a new book every two weeks.
Touch and feel books
These are for the youngest children. The books incorporate varying textures that young children would like to touch repeatedly. USborne publishers has an entire range of touch and feel books for kids. “That’s not my Owl” is probably the most popular but there are many other equally entertaining books from the series. “Things that Go” by DK publishers is also a very good book with varying textures for kids to feel and enjoy. Also noteworthy is that these are excellent for kids with sensory processing difficulty. Hence, all these touchy feely books are very popular with both our boys though for very different reasons.
Lift the flap books
These are probably the most adorable amongst all. Not only do they trigger a sense of curiosity but also help the child develop his gross motor skill while trying to lift the flaps to see what's underneath. My younger son nearly tore off all the flaps out of his unbridled enthusiasm to unravel the mystery. I would suggest applying tapes over the flaps to avoid similar experience and also to prolong the life of the book. “Where Is Baby's Belly Button?” by Karen Katz is a wonderful book. To name a few others would off course be “Where’s Spot?”, “Dear Zoo” and “Where’s the Unicorn?”. The peekaboo books with a mirror at the end also serve an important purpose of teaching the sense of self to the child. Usually kids are overjoyed when they lift the flap and see their own reflection.
Repetitive or Predictive books
I cannot emphasize the value of these books. Be it the legendary Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”, “Goodnight Moon” or “Pete the Cat - I Love my White Shoes”, they are great resources that encourage speech and language development. I have personally seen the unbelievable impact Eric Carle books had on my son, who suffers from speech delay. First, he could end the sentence when prompted with the first part of the repetitive text. Then, he learned to recite the entire “Polar Bear, Polar Bear” book (while pausing appropriately to turn the pages), and we knew we had made a breakthrough in our journey. Hence, please do consider at least one of these books for your kids library. You’ll not be disappointed.
Special Interest books
Every child seems to have their preferred area of interest. Some like animals, some are fascinated by cars while some adore a specific cartoon character. Using a book that matches their personal interest or has their favourite character is the best way to introduce reading for a child who otherwise doesn’t show any inclination to do so. National Geographic Kids has a great collection of books for kids that love animals. Big Book of Machines are very informative and full of attractive pictures for kids that are interested in cars, trucks, fire engines, construction equipment and any other types of vehicles. Peppa Pig books are great to teach kids about family and various occasions. Even Paw Patrol has come up with their own range of books and reading buddy toys for the youngest readers.
We have all grown up on a fair dose of fairy tales and Mother Goose Club nursery rhymes. A good book collection will always have one of these. I found myself buying books that intrigued me as a child like Wizard of Oz, Aladdin and The Jungle Book for my son. I also found the pull out version of The Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs for his library. When I was pregnant with our younger son, my son's teacher gave him a book “We Have a Baby”. We read it almost everyday. It helped him prepare for the inevitable changes that were about to take place in our lives. Another lesser known book that I should mention is “I Have Feelings”. It helped us discuss the different feelings and the context behind these emotions.
Families today are spread across cities and countries. Children don’t get to see their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins as often as we did while growing up. Hence, creating a small family album with the picture of the child and close relations is a great idea for reinforcing family ties and developing a sense of safety net that extends beyond the immediate family members. Nowadays there are cloth versions available that are perfect for little hands and exploring mouths.
Kids books cannot be possibly slotted into an exhaustive list but I have tried my best. If you are looking for a specific kind of book talking about a situation specific to your child, my suggestion would be to build a simple social story around it using your child's pictures or the ones freely available on the internet.
All the pictures of the books, that I have used, are from our little home library. Needless to say, there is a lot of wear and tear, and you can see for yourself how many times little and not so little (anymore) fingers have leafed through these timeless books. Long live curiosity!
I would like to end this article with a special note of thanks to the The Children's Book Bank for providing free books as well as a safe haven for children reading books. If you are based in Toronto, do try to visit them at 350 Berkeley Street.