Picture Books Your Preschooler Should not Miss: Bingham, Kelly.Z Is for Moose. Carle, Eric. "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth.

Christian Parenting

It's a well-publicized fact that learning and cognition begin in the womb. We have all heard stories about how newborn infants recognize music their mothers repeatedly played throughout pregnancy. That the smallest tykes easily distinguish their parents' voices from others' is common knowledge.  While the jury is still out on the question of whether playing music before birth will increase the new baby's chances of being a lifelong aficionado, there is one area where exposure to a medium will make the child an avid devotee.


That area is the world of books and reading. A parent or caregiver need not wait until the child can recognize words or pictures before introducing him to printed stories.  From the day the infant enters the outside world, she can listen to the sound of Mommy's voice reading a beloved picture book. While Baby is yet too young to look at the illustrations, the time spent in his favorite person's arms as she shares a story plants a vital seed.


It does not take long for the new plant to take root. As the infant grows and becomes more aware of her world, the time is ripe for introducing her to the actual physical book. Whether the youngster is on Daddy's or Mommy's lap, in an infant seat, or on a blanket on the floor, brightly illustrated kiddie lit within his range of vision (whether or not a story is being read) reinforces the idea that books are an important part of the child's world.  When the newest family member becomes stronger and more mobile, it is time to do more than read to her: baby-friendly books placed in those little hands are likely to become favorite possessions.  


This should not make parents think that reading to the baby is now less necessary in instilling a love of books. For, as the child graduates from infancy, sharing classic and new stories means that he links precious moments spent in the company of a beloved family member with reading.  Further, as the young bibliophile learns the miracle of language (and begins to associate words with objects and images), books become a marvelous way to open up her world.


When the young child's environment becomes more vertical than horizontal, it is time to begin a new chapter in his relationship with the written word. Large (laminated) and attractively illustrated books beg to be shared, and will provide entertainment even when Daddy and Mommy are not actively reading.


At this point in time, as the youngster's vocabulary grows along with her ability to sit, crawl, and stand, it is not unusual to hear her "read" a book by herself. No matter that what the little guy says has little or nothing to do with what is printed on the page--the above-mentioned seedling is now beginning to blossom. (Stories like Eric Carle's Have You Seen My Cat? are tailor-made for kids from babies to kindergartners.) A bit of attention and well-deserved praise is sure to have the effect of ensuring that books will continue to be sources of pleasure.


But do not stop one-on-one or group sharing of books. The toddler's enhanced awareness of her world means that more sophisticated reading material can and should be on the menu. (However, those infant-friendly books are still an important part of the older baby's life.) Longer stories, more complex pictures, and simple facts are an ideal combination for the one-year-old-plus set.


As the second birthday approaches, the child's affinity for books is in full bloom. Now is the time for "interactive" reading. Where is the little boy in the picture? What does a sheep say? Tactile books are a welcome addition to the young reader's library: the sensory stimulation they provide expands the child's world even more.


The rest of the youthful book lover's preschool years contain ever-growing opportunities for deepening his love of reading. As letters begin to make sense, and the child can distinguish colors, a whole new world opens up. Story time now focuses on the young reader's recognizing not only these essentials but on her understanding of more complex concepts. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon encourages children--with a healthy dose of humor--to think about identity and engage in problem-solving. Regular book-sharing hours--especially at bedtime, when Daddy, Mommy, and kids need to unwind and relax after a busy day--continue to be a valuable tool in his development. These treasured moments guarantee that books and reading will remain an important part of his universe.


By the time the former baby takes the giant leap into the world of school--whether in an outside location or at home--all these steps will mean (if parents continue to place reading at the top of the ladder and engage their offspring in literary discussions) that she takes with her a love of books that will last until she brings her own precious infant into the world. And then it will be time to raise a new generation of book lovers.


Picture Books Your Preschooler Should not Miss


Bingham, Kelly.Z Is for Moose.

Carle, Eric.  "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth.

Degen, Bruce. Jamberry.

Fleming, Candace. Seven Hungry Babies.

Hall, Michael. Perfect Square.

Henkes, Kevin. Kitten's First Full Moon.

Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page.  My First Day: What Animals Do on Day One.

Martin, Bill, Jr., and John Archambault.  Listen to the Rain.

Pippin-Mather, Courtney.Maya Was Grumpy.

Root, Phyllis. Oliver Finds His Way