When you search for a children's book, either to read to your classroom or buy for your kids, what do you look for? Is it the title or author name that jumps out at you, the subject matter? If you're visually-minded like we are—as children will be—it's the illustrations that draw you in.
A Little Backstory
For those of you who don't know me, I'm Jennifer Silverwood, project manager for Qamber Kids and author of fantasy fiction. Writing is my nighttime gig after my little guy is asleep (or at least in bed, looking at his books). By day, I'm the project manager for Qamber Kids. But a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was a learning center teacher and after-school programmer.
I've been looking after kids since I was one, as my family likes to tell. I was always helping to watch the little ones or to comfort injured kids on the playground. As I grew up, I was often volunteered, then later asked, to babysit. It was only natural that my first full-time job was at a children's learning center. I spent over five years forming a curriculum and working with kids of all ages, from infants to music classes and an after-school program. It was like a kids' summer camp, only every day.
Books for the Classroom
I started shopping for children's books when I formed an after school program for the school-agers. These are kids that would get dropped at the learning center after school until their parents could get off work. I was constantly looking for new books to share and help entertain them with. Because I'm also a former art student, I'm a picky children's book shopper. I prefer books with color and creative text. For kids 5 and up, the more complex look & themes work very well. Here are a few examples of past classroom favorites:
Books for Pre-K
I started working with toddlers and 3's & 4's when I first joined the daycare crew. This opened my naive eyes to complexities I had never imagined to exist in the busy minds of older toddlers. Toddlers or pre-schoolers are much like teenagers, struggling with big new emotions and how they fit into the world. Which is why they constantly test and push against the boundaries, and need constant reminding of the rules. Yet their brains are growing at amazing rates, and they understand a whole lot more than most adults give them credit for.
When working with this group, we did units on vehicles, the body, families and the world. Most of all, we help teach them how to manage those big feelings and how to safely treat their friends (biting and hitting were daily occurrences in a room of 8 toddlers...) Their books tend to be simpler, but the ones that hold their attention best share their need to explore. Here are some of this age group's favorites:
Books for Babies
I can't say enough how important it is to read to babies. True, infants and 1's are more likely to eat a book than listen to you read it. But I can promise from experience, both in childcare and as a mom, start early. Train them on how to handle the books one-on-one as much as you can. Don't be afraid to introduce older books occasionally. And yes, always start with board or soft books.
While working with infants, we were often so busy with their schedules and diapers, we didn't have much time to spend reading to them individually. But when I had my boy in 2015, I knew I wanted to start him young. Before he could do much, other than slap his hands at the covers, I read board books to him. Eventually, he could help me turn the pages. Any time he started to try and chew or eat on them, or step on his books, I corrected him. Now he's four, and books are his favorite besides Minecraft and Lego. He enjoys older, Pre-K level books as much as the old board books. He has never ripped off a cover or torn a book to pieces. And it's been wonderful passing on that love of reading to him, the same way my mom did for me. Here are some of our past (and still current) favorites:
Some of you reading this are parents or grandparents, some of you are authors or teachers, or professionals. All of us have little ones in our lives. Something I think we as adults often forget is to look at reading from the perspective of a child. We forget to listen to them when they speak. But children are the purest souls, and their lack of filter allows them to be completely genuine. Which is why kids and kidlit are my favorites.