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Round-Up: The Literati Youth: Building a Child's Library

Children's Book Reviews: Building a Child's Library
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The Literati Youth: Building a Child’s Library

By J. A. Young

Research demonstrates that it is never too early to introduce your child to books. Instilling a love of reading in your child means devoting time for books each day even from your baby's first days. Setting aside space and shelving for your child's books will eventually show them how important books and reading are to your family. The following article offers advice for building a child's library that will take them from infancy through age eight.

Black and white board books should be among the first books you show to your new baby. Infants may be able to see the contrasts of white and black objects. Tana Hoban's books are ideal for their simplistic black and white illustrations. Consider the popular Black on White for your first purchase. Other titles to consider are Dots, Spots, Speckles and Stripes; Panda, Panda; and White on Black.

For the first few months, what you read will be arbitrary--your infant is just getting used to your voice and quite often the rhythm of the text will be a soothing companion for them. Stick to picture books with bold colors. Very detailed illustrations will be too much for them at first. Consider books by Denise Fleming for this stage of reading. In the Tall, Tall Grass; Time to Sleep; and Pumpkin Eye are fine selections. Books by Lois Ehlert, like Leaf Man, are also worthy considerations.

There are many classic and classic picture books to consider for your child’s collection. The Real Mother Goose which was first published in the early twentieth century is a wonderful choice for children who do not have the attention span for a full book--a few nursery rhymes each night will be fun. Other considerations for purchase might include the works of Hans Christian Andersen (The Ugly Duckling, Little Mermaid and other fairytales), H.A. Ray (Curious George books), Grimm Brothers (picture book versions of fairytales like Little Red Ridinghood), Beatrix Potter (Tales of Peter Rabbit); A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh). There are more, of course, and it never hurts to beef up any collection with classics.

A serious youth collection will also provide as many Caldecott books as possible--Caldecott medals are awarded to one book a year for outstanding illustration. Some especially entertaining titles include: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, and Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Remember to consider runners up for this award too. No David by David Shannon is an excellent book for boys and even girls faced with the trial of brothers! The illustrations are priceless.

Pop up and novelty books are always excellent tools to demonstrate to children the magic of books--in a visual way. Pop-up books by Robert Sabuda are works of art and his older works are actually quite collectible today. Titles like Dinosaurs: Encyclopedia Prehistorica, The Movable Mother Goose, Cookie Count and The 12 Days of Christmas are fabulous books that even adults will marvel over. A novelty book that is also a Caldecott winner is Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback. This adorable story is a tribute to ingenuity as a character finds many new uses for his old coat.

As you continue to expand your child's picture book collection you may want to choose titles according to themes. Depending on your religious beliefs, you may want to include religious books for early readers that may include both stories and prayers. Another theme might simply be historical to introduce your child to past people and events. Henry David's House by Henry David Thoreau adapts simple text to fine illustrations to introduce children to this great American writer.

Alphabet books are another super genre of the picture book world. Not only do they teach the alphabet, they are often geared around a particular theme. For example, Appaloosa Zebra: A Horse Lover's Alphabet by Jessie Haas showcases the different types of horses. Sharkabet by Ray Troll is, you might have guessed, about sharks. A wonderful alphabet book put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is called Museum ABC and introduces children to great works of art.

Other book themes to consider are titles that teach manners or other important lessons. You may want some picture books about children from other cultures; Demi is a wonderful multi-cultural author. Animals will take up a lot of space in your collection. Other themes might include holidays, poetry, food, seasons, families, town and country life, communities, modern retellings of fairytales, etc…

Finally, choose books that you yourself might have read as a child and loved. Visit bookstores and read along with your child and make book-buying a special event. A book does not have to be award-winning or fit into a theme to be loved by a child--there are many tales that will draw your young reader into a love of books. A few more titles that you might want to consider are Slow Loris by Alexis Deacon, The Reptile Ball by Jacqueleine T. Ogburn, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman and The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. Be sure to teach your young reader how to properly care for their collection of books. Be sure to make time for your own reading; when your youngster sees you read he will be sure to note it--it’s a great habit to pass on.


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