Is there magic involved in sharing books with young children? If there was magic, we would wave a wand and magically, books would be in abundance in the home of every young child. And if there was even more pixie dust to go around, each book would be of high quality, every one of them becoming a favourite, read over and over, tucked into overnight bags, duplicates at Grandma’s, part of bedtime rituals. We are dreaming of the magic, but in the meantime, we are working with the reality.
We constantly have books donated to our projects, and many of them are high quality, exciting books that we are delighted to share with families in our areas. Our volunteers read them aloud, enjoying the rhythm of the text, ooh and ahh over the gorgeous illustrations and feel excited about the anticipation of the magic of reading such a book to a child. Sometimes the books are not such high quality and we have to share those, too, because we do not have enough of the best books to go around. Some books come in with batteries to make noises or repeat phrases – they are not our favourites – the batteries are usually not working and it seems such a shame to take a great book and turn it into a mechanized toy. Some donations just do not make the cut – not good enough for the young children we distribute books to.
Then there are those times when we have the opportunity to purchase books, through generous donations. That feels like magic.
How do we use this money? We spoke last month about scouring garage sales, book sales, thrift stores and about our partnership with Orca books to make our purchases.
What does a good book look like for babies? In the first four months of life, the experts agree that it doesn’t matter what you read to a child. It could be a manual for your cell phone, a recipe, a magazine or your own current novel (when parents of infants get to read, that is!). Infants at this stage are just listening to the sound and rhythm of your voice. After that, it does matter. We all agree that Board Books are best – they hold up well to the demands of reading to babies, with milk, spit-up, little fingers and, perhaps, the beginnings of solid food, like bananas and crackers. Books with beautiful covers, bright, simple illustrations or photos and simple rhyming text captivate young children, and their parents as well. Combining these qualities, maybe adding in some predictability or silliness make them perfect choices for babies and toddlers.
When we choose quality literature for 3 and 4 year olds the story lines can be more complex. We look for books that have humour, or surprise elements. If the reader enjoys the book, there is a good chance the child will, too. The exciting world of non-fiction often captivates these young children. Sometimes the books are about ordinary daily activities, sometimes about things the child has never heard of. The 3 – 4 year old can listen to more complex sentence structures that may be quite different to those spoken in the home. Often the repetitious parts of a story become part of the child’s speech for a little while. They will often ask for a favourite story over and over again.
We feel privileged to able able to share good books. We are so grateful for donations to purchase them. Pure magic!