BEST STARTS FOR KIDS

My Favourite Children's Books

 

1). VOCABULARY BUILDERS

 

​Some of my favourite simple board books contained real photographs identifying pets, farm animals, simple types of transport: and especially of items that make a noise like baa, woof woof, meow, etc.

 

As my children became familiar with those I introduced others that contain items that are in their world like flowers, a cup, a butterfly, a leaf, a spoon, a car, etc.

    

2). PEAK-A-BOO AND FLAP BOOKS

As children begin to develop some language ability Peak-a-Boo Books are great because they will learn the book and it will encourage them to talk as they predict what animal will appear next.

 

A dog may be bowwowwow, a cat meow, a cow moo, etc. Regardless of how it comes out, any attempt they make at speech needs to be encouraged. If they say 'Moo,'  you say 'That's right, it's the cow.'

 

After a month or two, or as they get better at attempting speech you can say, ' And who says Moo, its the cow.' Then again after an interval just say and who says Moo?' This will encourage your child to attempt to say cow. Again encourage any attempt at the word.

 

There are many such books and I suggest again to go for books that have recognizable images rather than those that are too abstract.

 

"Where's Spot" was very successful for a reason.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT YOUNG CHILDREN LOVE REPETITION SO IT'S OKAY TO READ THE SAME QUALITY BOOK OVER AND OVER AGAIN

4). BOOKS FULL OF WONDER AND LOVE

 

​Some of the best selling books of all time were so successful because they fill the reader with wonder.

  • 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle, after providing information on number, identification, health and life cycles has a striking colourful ending.

 

  • 'Where the Wild Things Are,' by Maurice Sendak is also a surprising book of imagination that children love.

  • When I read the story 'Owl Babies,' by Martin Waddell young children always smiled at the ending.' Are You my Mother,' is another similar one. Children love both of these books because they relate to the lost babies in the story.

  • 'A Dark Dark Tale,' by Ruth Brown is such a simple story but children love it because its a little bit scary and then turns out to have a funny ending.

  • 'Possum Magic,' by Mem Fox is a timeless favourite.

5). BOOKS I FEEL HAVE EXCELLENT RHYTHM AND RHYME

There has been a shift away from publishing children's books that rhyme but as an educator I love them.

 

Children often don't learn the nursery rhymes  their grandparents did, so parents need to provide opportunities for children to learn about word families, so when they begin to learn to write, they know for example, that rat, cat, sat, mat, hat all belong to the same family and ball, fall, small, etc belong to their family.

 

Most words have a family they belong to.

Knowing rhyming helps set children up well for later reading and writing.

Some examples of rhyming books that I particularly love are:

 

  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox (a board book)

  • 'Edward the Emu' by Sheena Knowles

  • 'Room on the Broom' and 'Sharing a Shell' both by Julia Donaldson

  • 'Our Cat Cuddles' by Gervase Phinn

  • 'Wombat Stew' by Marcia Vaughn

  • 'Ten in the Bed' by multiple authors

  • 'There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly' illustrated by Pam Adams and published by Childs Play

Books that have great rhythm are also wonderful. It's as if the words tap dance across the page. For example:

  • 'Edward the Emu,' by Sheena Knowles. "Edward the Emu was sick of the zoo" taken from Edward the Emu

You can hear the emphasis on the strong beat Da da da Da da da Da da da Da...

  • 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt,' by Michael Rosen. This book provides beautiful repetition for children to learn off by heart.

There are also musical versions of this song, the quality of which varies. The one I like the best is the Upbeat version.

  • 'Where is the Green Sheep,' by Mem Fox

  • 'Wombat Stew,' by Marcia Vaughn

7). BOOKS THAT HAVE A STRONG SOCIAL MESSAGE

I really like all of the following books as I feel they have an underlying social message and in my opinion they do it very well.

  • ' A First Book of Dos and Don'ts' by A J Wood Dinosaur Playhouse: manners

  • 'The Rainbow Fish' by Mark Pfister: sharing and being brave

  • 'Red' by Michael Hall: being true to yourself

  • 'That Is Not My Hat' by John Klassen: honesty and natural consequences

  • 'Where the Forest Meets the Sea,' by Jeannie Baker: conservation

  • 'Lester and Clyde' by James Herbert Reece: conservation and friendship

  • 'Square,' by Max Barnett: perseverance, seeing things through different perspectives

  • 'Julian is a Mermaid,' by Jessica Love: tolerance and acceptance

  • 'Be Kind,' by Pat Zietlow Miller: kindness

  • 'Tough Boris,' by Mem Fox: grief and loss

  • 'There's a Sea in My Bedroom,' by Jane Tanner: overcoming fear

  • 'The Chalk Rainbow,' by Deborah Kelly: diversity, acceptance and tolerance

  • 'Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley' and 'Stanley Paste' by Aaron Blabey

  • 'Lessons of a Lac' and 'Grey-Glasses-itis' by Lynn Jenkins as part of the Lessons of a Lac Series provides strategies to deal with difficulties in life

 

And I look at linking information books to children's real life experiences

 

For example: my son was fascinated by dinosaurs and the complexity of the books he managed to listen to at the age of 4 was quite incredible. He quickly learnt most dinosaur names and specifics about creatures that used to inhabit the earth after we went to a museum and he saw some of their skeletons.

  • There are some excellent dramatic versions about dinosaurs that provide information such as the ones by 'Modern Publishing' and are ideal for children a bit older as some of the images are of dinosaurs being eaten by other dinosaurs. They are quite thick and concentrate on specific types of dinosaurs during specific time periods. But you may have a son like mine who loved them at the age of four and he'd listen to a thirty page complex story in one go and want more.

  • If a children's book has stood the test of time & is still popular, it's likely fantastic

  • Beginning books help develop a child's vocabulary & comprehension

  • Peak a Boo Books help develop interest, prediction & recall

  • Books develop imagination & creativity

  • Books help develop rhythm & rhyming ability (This helps your child with word families when learning to read)

  • Books provide factual information. They also often teach about social interactions and give insight into cultural norms

I've seen similar books to those I'm describing at chain variety stores for around $6.00 each for the small ones. And there are excellent larger ones for around $10 -$20 from some supermarkets. Usborne currently makes a good one. There are also good sets online from $15.00 to around $24.00.

3). FIRST PICTURE DICTIONARIES AND CONCEPT BOOKS

Around the age of one I introduced a first picture dictionary style book published by Brimax called "Share With Us: Letters, Numbers, Words, Animals" by Karen O'Callaghan and Illustrated by Eric Rowe, Bob Hersey, Robert Morton and Tim Hayward and it remains one of the best educational books I have seen available for young children developing language.

 

At the time I paid $8.95 and it was the best teaching resource I ever purchased. (You can see the label still on the cover.)

​And while there were various sections in the book highlighting specific letters I went straight to the Picture Dictionary section most when my children were youngest because the images shown were excellent for vocabulary building.

 

For example snake, spaceship, sun, submarine, school, shark, etc and highlighting their beginning sounds incidentally on the same page.

Later in the book they had sections on a variety of animals in their environment so my children were able to begin to classify them.

 

But equally importantly the book illustrated many prepositions up, down, behind, in front, around, next to, etc, concepts crucial for a child to succeed in a beginning school environment.

 

They also identified opposites in, out, fast, slow, high, low, etc.

 

And action words like jumping, running, crawling, etc.

They had illustrations of weather and people in the community who help us like policeman, firemen, teachers, etc and the images were good enough for children to see the links to the real thing and while I'd love to the illustrations it would break copyright to do so, so I've used photo equivalents instead to give you the idea.

I​t also contained examples of mathematical concepts including:

  • counting from one to ten

  • counting backwards from ten to one with a rocket ship blasting off after zero

  • numerals

  • a numeral, a corresponding word and equal dots 

  • locating specific numbers of items in scenes

  • colours and specific examples of them

  • time

  • sorting and classification, done both incidentally and directly. e.g. things for eating with, clothing, etc. And that helped my children make sense of their world.

Now while I used this book with both of my own children from one through to around three years of age I used it over and over with children I taught on a one to one basis to help develop their language.

 

It was particularly useful for working with children with language delay because there were so many  complex scenes in the book for children to describe.

I checked to see if it's still available and it is, online, but new it's over $80. There are however 2nd hand copies available. Although I feel the images are dated, the concepts are timeless and there are 2nd hand copies available online.

Out of all of the books I used in my teaching career as illustrated by the condition of this book, this was the one I used the most with young children.

6). BOOKS THAT ARE HUMOROUS

 

Books that are funny delight both children and their parents.

Some of the ones I particularly like are:

  • 'The Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson,

  • 'Edward the Emu,' by Sheena Knowles

  • 'Caps For Sale,' by Esphyr Slobodkina (which is great to reenact with your children being the monkeys, you the pedlar and using old ice cream containers as the hats. I did it with my class over years and the children howled with laughter.)

  • 'The Monster at the End of This Book' and 'Please Do Not Open This Book' (Parts of the Sesame Street Series) were two of my young children's favourites.

  • 'The Teacher Eater,' by Roald Dahl

  • Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey

  • 'The Wonkey Donkey' by Craig Smith

You'll be noticing that some of the books fall into other sections as well as this category.

8). INFORMATIVE BOOKS

  • First Flaps-First Facts Series by Teresa O'Brien is a great beginning series for providing factual information. There are a number of simpler flap books available and this series is one of the better ones in my opinion. Titles include: Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef, Animals in the Wild, Animals of the Jungle, Animals of Australia, Dinosaurs, Animals of the Ocean.

  • One of the best informative books I have ever seen is 'The Robot Zoo' by John Kelly. It's suitable for children from 4+ if you read it to them to around 10 years of age. The drawings are very complex and I used it over and over with my youngest son and many of the children I taught. It was particularly useful for children to use as an input for their own drawings. Some of the detail some of my students incorporated in their drawings was amazing.

  • I also like many of the Usborne Books, particularly some of the ones designed for young children and the 'Look Inside Series' for older children, especially the ones about the body.

  • 'My First Big Book of the Human Body,' was popular with the students I taught as the images were fantastic and the movable parts made it really interesting for the reader.

  • There are a multitude of semi factual books like 'The Dinosaur Series' by Michael Salmon. These allow young children to become familiar with new facts in a story form.

If I'm looking at great information books I look at the quality of the illustrations or photographs.

I found that books that have heaps of text and minimal illustrations can quickly become boring for young children.

These were some of the books I regularly used with four year olds and they loved them.

  1. Rainforest: A Photographic Journey  by Thomas Marent. This is my absolute favourite photographic factual book. The images are remarkable, and the children I taught were fascinated by them. There was additional information for parents and I learnt right alongside the children.

  2. Australian Sea Fishes North of 30 Degrees, Australian Sea Fishes South of 30 Degrees and by Neville Coleman and Sea Life all have fantastic images of sea creatures in their environment

  3. Coral Seas by Roger Steene has similarly striking photographs

  4. Living Planet by Lanting, Rowell, Doubilet

  5. National Geographic has some amazing images available but you need to be aware because they cater to an adult market some of the images may be disturbing for children so you would have to look through them first to determine their suitability.

  6. Steve Parish has a multitude of beautifully photographed books with text catering to a variety of age groups.

'If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult to share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.'

Rachel Carson.

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