On HBO's Newsroom this week, a character played by BJ Novak says, "Books are the new art. They look nice, but we don't need them." In some ways, he's right. I'm definitely guilty of picking up a beautiful vintage book for its looks, but there's one category that should never go digital: Children's books. Picture books help form early understandings of words, language and story for children.
This makes them great gifts during the holidays. It takes kids away from the tech and brings them closer to older kids who can read or adults who gift the books. With so many books out there, how can you choose?
Children's book author, Kate Banks, whose award-winning books include Fox and Max's Words, says:
Choose a book that your child will like, but that you will like too!
The best way to do this is to pick the book together. If you visit a store or a library the child can look at the pictures and turn the pages and get a feel for what’s waiting in inside. If you are shopping online, encourage your child to participate. This is good opportunity to practice “choosing” which can be hard for some children. You might begin by selecting a few books and then eliminating them one by one until you come to that one special book. It’s important that you like the book too so that reading time doesn’t become a chore or a race to the finish in order to move onto something else. Reading a book is a time to savor with a child, an invitation to explore together and can be just as rewarding for the reader as for the child.
Make sure the book is appropriate to the child’s age and abilities in terms of complexity of story and vocabulary.
This doesn’t mean the child needs to know every word. Reading a book is a great way to learn new words and play with them. Depending on the child’s age, holiday books can be a wonderful introduction for children to other customs and cultures.
Use the holidays as an opportunity to make a ritual of reading.
Story time should be a celebration in itself so set aside the time to enjoy books with a child. Enter into that space and become part of the story. Engage in the process. Look and listen. And share which is really what reading with a child is all about!