Exploring Children’s Literature Part One- Fiction Books for the Preschool Child

Exploring children's literature

Alright… confession time… I’m kind of a book snob.  No, I take that back, I am a full fledged, raging, soap boxing politician when it comes to children’s books.   I have always been very picky about what books we bring home to our shelves (although of course Geekling does not always agree with me).  He gets more leeway when we’re at the library than when mommy is opening the wallet, but for the most part I still ask him to think carefully about what books we want to spend time reading. So here are my guidelines for selecting quality literature for your child, both for purchase, and from the library.  This installment will deal primarily with fiction books for children under 6. I’ll include a list of authors that we particularly like, but we also love to try new authors, and think everyone else should do the same!

Picture Books

  1. Assess the over all look of the book- Are the pictures appealing to you? Are they appealing to the child?  Pictures should be age appropriate, and with some exceptions, fairly concrete.  The ability to interpret abstract images is a relatively late developing skill in most children.   Is the book sturdy enough to stand up to little hands and many readings?
  2. Look through the book without reading it, can you interpret the main point of the story through pictures alone?  Children like to be able to “read” books on their own, so the story should be represented in the pictures.
  3. If the book contains people, pay close attention to their facial expressions as you read the story, are they consistent with what’s going on in the book?  Are they contextually appropriate?
  4. Now read the book, aloud if possible.  The language should flow easily, and sound appealing.   Don’t discount books with larger or more advanced vocabulary, as long as it can be understood in context.
  5. If the book contains dialogue, pay particular attention to that.  Is the language structure correct?  Are the characters using language you want your child using?  The obvious exception of this is the use of varying dialect for different characters.
  6. Is the text to picture ratio right for your child?  Some children’s book authors miss the mark by putting too much story on one page, or too little.  The amount of text and length of story should suit the age level of the story, for instance Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar is a story that can be enjoyed by very young children, and is reflected in the fact that the story line is simple, the character is not complex, and the amount of text per picture is kept to one or two lines.  Skippyjon Jones is a series meant to be enjoyed by slightly older children, and this is well represented by the more complex character, the “good vs. evil” scenario, and longer chunks of text on each page.

7.  Is your child capable of understanding the concept of the story? Children of this age are typically concrete thinkers, they may not be ready for high morality lessons, abstract concepts, or certain types of humor.  They won’t understand most examples of irony, and they may not fully understand the lessons, which could leave them confused, or even cause unnecessary fears to be introduced.

8. Most importantly… is this a story that you will want to read over and over (and over, and over, and over)?   Is it a story you want to share with your child? Does it reflect things you want your child knowing/thinking/believing/dreaming about?   The books you read with them will absolutely shape their ideas and ideals, and you need to take a stand as a parent and at this stage particularly ONLY allow books that reflect what you want influencing them.

List of authors we enjoy:

  • Dr. Seuss and other books by that brand (good for all ages, but certain books should be saved for 3 and up)
  • Kevin Henkes- Try Kitten’s First Full Moon for the younger crowd, Mouse Books for the 3-6 group
  • Jane Yolen’s Dinosaur Books
  • Curious George Series by H.A. and Margret Reyes
  • Skippyjon Jones Series by Judy Schachner
  • Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama Series by Anna Dewdney
  • Audrey Wood
  • Mercer Mayer
  • Bill Martin Jr.
  • Donald Crews

We also have many many single books by authors, a lot of which I’ll feature in later posts, but this is a list of authors who have lots of books on our shelves.  If you’d like to take a peek at some of the other books on our shelves, wander around my amazon store here! (Affiliate link, see my disclosure policy for more information)

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