Carrying home from the library a tote full of books for children is a singularly powerful demonstration for small ones how this reading thing is really important. It also can be just another pile of unrelated books about random topics for bedtime wind-down.
Given the vast range of book topics for small children that invite them out into the very complex and very busy world that they are just coming to know, it’s easy to choose books of all sorts. Let me suggest, however, that at least on a semi-regular basis, we bring home a pile of books with similar themes. For example, that could be five or six books about hippos, or that focus upon space, or that invite them into a particular kind of workplace, or that showcase a scientific endeavor or exploration or a recent or remote historical era, a new favorite author or series, or a particular art form…book topics are endless!
Early on, you or a librarian will make book selections for wee ones, but then youngsters should be allowed to choose their own set book topics and pursue their own current, even if fleeting, interests. Either way, books are a fabulous source of exploration and conversation between adults and children, in the classroom or in the home.
Books brought into the home can be the catalyst for even more learning, too. Some of my very favorites for little ones are George and Martha books, which cleverly include lessons about friendship, respect, and courtesy. And given George and Martha are hippos, that in itself can lead to adding to the tote bag a non-fiction book on large mammals of Africa. Then consider adding books about animals that live in or near the water, dangerous animals (hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa I was told), any animals that live in herds and something about families. Beyond that, maybe add books about herbivores, other herd animals (male hippos are called bulls and females are cows), babies being born in the water, and for a final addition, perhaps check out (if available at your library), borrow or buy a plush toy hippo. Then to really add some excitement, go online to find a recording or video of the “trumpeting” of the hippos.
Parents and teachers can create media collections like the ones I suggested here and then initiate a conversation with the children to consider and discuss what the child finds interesting, how various items are alike or not, and what these particular selections have to do with each other. The inspiration possibilities for lively discussion and the children’s growth in language, concepts about the world, and inquisitiveness about what else is “out there” will inspire subsequent collections.
What’s key is introducing inspiration into the home or classroom conversation, spurring richness of thinking and language and love of books and learning.