Children do everything so that their parents can deal with them. Previously considered helpless, passive creatures, new discoveries in infant research and developmental psychology show that humans never learn so much in any phase of their life, change and develop as quickly as in childhood. Children are now seen as active and targeted contributors to their environment and picture books can play a very important role in linguistic, emotional and social development.
Even for very young children, there are feel books that deal with children’s sense of touch, or books that produce certain effects when touched, such as sounds, lights or movements, and with which they can deal independently. Of course, reading by the parents is more interesting, where the children can have different linguistic experiences, such as speech, speed of speech, emphasis, facial expressions and body language, which go hand in hand with reading, but also learn to listen carefully.
The ritualized reading gives the children a pleasant feeling of security and thus forms a positive basis for the child’s future attitude towards reading. Viewing picture books together offers numerous opportunities for dialogue, question and answer games between parents and child. Numerous everyday topics can be treated in a playful manner and expressed in language, e.g. be angry, "go to the toilet", etc..
While parents instinctively adjust their language to the linguistic abilities of their child, children in children’s books are usually asked for more language. Vocabulary and sentence structure are usually more complex than the everyday language of the child, which promotes language development. Stories in rhymes are particularly popular, which are quickly grasped and memorized by the children and open up new linguistic dimensions.
In the field of pedagogy, the generic term “literacy” has become established for the various skills associated with reading. This not only describes the ability to grasp characters in terms of content and language, but also .
the joy of reading, dealing with texts and stories, dealing with books, linguistic and narrative skills, interpreting symbols and images as well as dealing with new media such as notebooks, tablets, the Internet or television. (Albers, The Picture Book, p. 17)
This broad term expresses the fact that the basics of reading are laid before the actual “learning to read” in school. The child’s engagement with language, writing and the media thus takes place as part of the upbringing in the family but also in kindergarten. This includes everyday experiences of children with symbols such as for McDonalds or different car brands as well as the meaning of the colors at traffic lights or the different pictograms on toilet doors. It is no less important that children in their family experience that “reading” and books, booklets and newspapers are an important part of the daily life of adults.
Picture books such as Bernd Penners "Good night, the owl wishes" promote children’s imagination and language, as well as playful dialogue with parents.
Image: Ravensburger Verlag
There can be huge differences between families in terms of promoting literacy. These hang e.g. depends on how much parents read to their children, how often they look at a picture book together or how consciously they promote the linguistic development of their children in everyday life. In kindergarten, children with very different experiences in dealing with language, books and symbols are encountered. Early education specialists therefore have the important task of making up for missing children’s experiences in order to ensure the greatest possible equality of opportunity until they start school.
As in the family, picture books can also be used in kindergarten to actively involve children in viewing and discussing the pictures together. The focus is on the questions and interests of the children, who bring their own ideas and perspectives into the discussion about the story and thus stimulate and specifically promote their linguistic and narrative skills. Children’s books, with their linguistically more complex structures, help to balance the different linguistic foundations of everyday language in families.
The importance of picture books for the linguistic development of children
Children who cannot express themselves verbally can find it difficult to establish relationships in kindergartens or crèches. Targeted and recurring routines in everyday kindergarten life can offer children a linguistic form of security. This can be, for example, regular conversations in the seating group or narrative circles, whereby viewing picture books together can form the starting point for talking about the content, developing games or re-enacting the content as role-playing games.
The picture book serves as a starting point and basis for creating regular occasions in everyday life in kindergarten, for practicing language and its correct use. Children learn the functions and basics of language in a playful way.
How often and how intensively parents read with their children has an impact on children’s reading skills and enjoyment. Photo: Pixabay
Picture books and ages
Which picture books are now suitable for which age groups? What are the criteria for choosing children’s books? Which books are essential in a kindergarten library and how do children actually choose their favorite books? These questions will be examined in the following section.
In the case of very young children up to three years of age, the adults usually choose the picture books, and they prefer to select books that reflect an ideal world or an ideal childhood, but which often have little in common with the real experiences of the children. For children who cannot identify with this “perfect world”, it is good if parents read aloud from picture books or books in which different life situations of the child’s world of experience are discussed.
In order to choose the right books, it is important to get an overview of the preferences of the different age groups.
Picture books for the different age groups
0 – 3 years
With which linguistic and illustrative means do picture books work and what do children like about pictures and language. In its program “Zero to three”, the University of Boston tried to determine which criteria should be taken into account when selecting picture books for the age group 0 – 3 years.
- Books with simple motifs, large pictures and clear, clear colors
- Stable books made of thick cardboard, made of fabric or suitable plastic
- Stable books made of thick cardboard, made of fabric or suitable plastic
- Large formats
- Pictures and photos of other infants, of the known environment (chair, table, ball, baby toys etc.)
- Pictures of members of a family (mom, dad, siblings) and house or apartment
- Cardboard picture books that can also be taken in a stroller or when traveling
- Images with large images and little text
- Images showing activities from the own Show experience area such as Swing, play sand, splash in the pool, build blocks
- Books as bedtime stories that also focus on bedtime.
- Books with easily predictable actions
- Books that rhyme and fit the picture
- Books with animals, cuddly toys, vehicles like police, fire brigade, pediatrician etc.
- Books that build on the children’s experiences
Picture books offer exciting reading experiences for the little ones on a wide range of topics that affect small children.
- Books with short stories
- Books with rhyming texts for easy memorizing and reviewing
- Story with a slightly repeating structure
- Books on sizes, quantities, numbers and letters
- Books about children from all over the world, different ways of life
(See: Albers, Das Bilderbuch, p. 25 f.)
In addition, the program also offers numerous tips for using picture books both at home in family and in kindergarten
- Dealing with children’s books should be a matter of course (daily)
- Reading in a group, on excursions and in all positions
- Children should experience that reading is fun and arouse interest
- With young children it is not important that the entire book is read, but that it is read regularly
- Images are supposed to make people tell stories
- Re-enactment of stories
- Children should turn the pages
- If children skip pages, it doesn’t matter
- Talking about front pages, what’s this about?
- Show words (promotes understanding of written language)
- Reading different protagonists with different voices and inserting the whole body (makes reading more lively, fascinates children)
- Ask children about the story
- Allow children’s questions
- Let children tell parts of the story
(See: Albers, The Picture Book, p. 27)
Picture books for the age group 3 – 6 years
Picture books for this age group are characterized by higher content and language complexity. Below is a list of the types of books that different age groups are interested in, although the transitions are, of course, fluid.
- Books with funny texts, also with contradictions and irony as a stylistic device
- Books that play with role models and reverse them
- Books that play with language
- Illustrations / hidden objects, on which numerous stories can be discovered
- Stories that make you think
- Picture books in which the child’s interests are taken up
- Series books are told in the stories of the same heroes
- At this age, children can capture longer stories with fewer illustrations
(See: Albers, The Picture Book, pp. 28-30)
Picture books such as Christine Henkel’s "My First Hidden Object – Seasons" already helps to learn the first factual information in a playful way.
Picture: Thienemann Verlag
Tim Albers, Professor of Inclusive Education at the University of Paderborn, orients his tips for the selection of children’s books especially at work in crèches and kindergartens, which are also interesting for reading in the family.
1 year: Small books with thick pages and one item per page are suitable. Children can already turn the pages and recognize the pictures. The illustrations in the books can be combined with real objects that are placed next to the book.
1½ years: The interplay of the senses is refined. The pictures in books are recognized and the children are attentive listeners who can already name the objects in the pictures.
2 years: Children can understand small scenes or episodes. Short, simple stories are now particularly suitable for playing or telling them yourself. Books are an engine for vocabulary acquisition.
3 years: The vocabulary of children has increased rapidly, children can now understand and produce more complex sentence constructions. Picture books are now very important for grammar development and should take up a natural part of everyday kindergarten life. Children already have favorite topics and books.
4 years: Children can compare the stories from the books with their own experiences. Children’s feelings, desires, interests, and fears should be closely monitored, as picture books can help process these emotions.
5–6 years: Children exchange information, play stories from the books in their own role-playing games and are interested in numbers and letters. Books should serve these interests.
7 years: In the transition to primary school, learning to read is now in the foreground. Children especially enjoy reading with an adult alternately.
(See: Albers, Das Bilderbuch, p. 30 f.)
Numerous children’s books, such as the book “The Little Dragon Coconut Comes to School” by Ingo Siegner, have consciously taken up the importance of reading children and parents together. Image: Cbj Verlag
Timm Albers, The Picture Book – Promoting language, creativity and emotions in daycare. Weinheim, Beltz Verlag 2015, 136 pages, ISBN 978-3-407-62904-3
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