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There are two very different ways to think about choosing a child’s first book. One is to consider the first book that you will read to the child — the first book that a child will hear and see. The other way to consider the first book that the child owns and handles him- or herself.
Many parents read to their child before he or she is old enough to know what to do with a book. This may be either because there are older children who are being read to or because the parents feel that the experience of being read to is important for their child to have early on. If you’re considering a book from the perspective of reading to the child, there are several factors to consider.
Not least among the factors in choosing a first book to read to your child is your own ability to tolerate reading and hearing it many hundreds of times. As you are likely to remember the words for the rest of your life, you may wish to choose a text that you do not mind having indelibly written onto your memory.
When considering your child, you may wish to consider the appeal of the pictures and the sounds. Many early books for children incorporate rhyme and pictures with bright colors. At early stages, you are not looking for a book your child will understand now, but a book that he or she will understand and enjoy at a future time. Nor does the book need to have a low reading level, since the child is not reading to him- or herself.
One popular first book to read to children is Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. The “story” simply describes the room of a child who happens to be a bunny, and then a “goodnight” is wished to each important item in the child’s environment, all in rhyme. It has now been charming preschoolers for over 60 years.
Other popular first books are books that are made for interaction, which can initially be guided by the parent. An example is Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) by Dorothy Kunhardt, which invites the child to, among other things, “pat the bunny.”
Another way to encourage interaction is for the parent to point out and talk about the book illustrations. Many picture books can be used in this way. A book like A Mouse in the House (A Real-Life Game of Hide and Seek) by Henrietta may help hold a parent’s interest by the variety of items pictured, allowing the parent to talk the child about a wide variety of topics: looking for the mouse, identifying the items pictured, counting things, etc.
Two books by Richard Scarry are also popular: Is This the House of Mistress Mouse? (Board Book) and Egg in the Hole (Touch-and-Feel). These books are frequently read by adults to their very young children, but in addition, both are available as board books, so they make the transition from the book the child hears and sees to the book that the child handles for herself or himself seamless.
Since board books invite touching, page-turning by the child, or other interaction, they are likely to be valuable in the time before a child is adept enough to turn pages easily and without tearing them. Colors, the alphabet, animals, food, vehicles, and bedtime are popular topics. Books that have the lyrics of favorite children’s songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” are also in demand. Popular series such as Curious George and Dr. Seuss books are now available as board books for the youngest book owners, who will likely enjoy them, both before they are readers, and when they have learned to read.
This is a very good article. As a mommy of a one year old I often find it difficult to decide which books to get. At this age kids are much more interested in the pictures than an actual story so I find myself buying books that have little or no story.
This is a nice site. You might want to add some newer books to this site as well. A great new book that my mom told me about for my child is called Mommy Says Jesus is Coming! We purchased it online. I think it is wonderful for very small children because it is just the right size for them to hold. My son is two and he loves it!
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