Kids love to be read to. When my kids were preschoolers, I read them many classic picture books I loved as a child. I chose books with rich language, interesting story lines and captivating illustrations. These kinds of books often satisfy children’s curiosity and sense of wonder.
We also read our fair share of books based on favorite characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego as well as Caillou and Dinosaur Train. There are many many children’s books available these days. Some books are just fun fluffy reading, like those based on TV or movie characters, others are rich with complex and emotional story lines that captivate kids.
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The picture books the kids and I love most are:
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.
- Curious George Classic Collection by H.A Rey
- Corduroy by Don Freeman
- A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Many of the books we enjoy reading are Caldecott Award Books. The Caldecott Medal award was established in 1937 by the American Library Association. It is given to an artist who has created the most distinguished American picture book each year. The award is named in honor of the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott. More information about the Caldecott Award can be found at the Association for Library Services to Children website. The list of Caldecott Medal Winners since 1938 can be found here. Amazon.com also has a page dedicated to the Caldecott Winners. Of course almost all libraries have these beautifully illustrated books available.
Other popular Caldecott winners and books we enjoy are:
In Some of My Best Friends are Books, Judith Halsted explains that picture books written with engaging characters and rich language “expand the child’s world, encourage further exploration, and enrich the mind and spirit with artistic integrity”. I also find that as a parent and teacher, I enjoy reading these books too, especially since I am asked to read them repeatedly.
Imagination and Creativity
Choosing books that are beautifully illustrated and engaging allows for better discussions and extensions. Picture books help promote imagination and creative thinking. Books and art can be combined to encourage children to tap into their own ideas and imagination. For example, the book serves as the inspiration for a creative response for the child. The parent or teacher can help guide the child’s response by posing questions or supplying materials the child can use to create his response to the story, illustrations or characters. Some young children may choose an artistic response to the story such as painting, drawing, or using a variety of materials. Some children will imagine themselves as the characters and act out the story or pretend play. Children who are writers may enjoy coming up with their versions of the story.
Ideas for Creative Responses
This Snowy Day inspired landscape collage is found at Deep Space Sparkle.
KidArtLit.com offers provides a monthly book and creative art activity for the family.
Anna at KitLitCrafts provides craft tutorials and free printables based on a children’s picture books. KidLitCrafts.net chooses beautiful books to inspire creativity. I highly recommend checking out the many ideas she provides.
The most important part of reading to your kids is building connections and enjoying a shared experience. Choosing quality picture books, including nonfiction, helps keep kids and adults engaged in the story. Encouraging creativity or responding to a book should be a natural extension. Together, you can imagine alternative endings or change the characters and/or plot. If the extension leads to art or drama, fantastic! If it doesn’t, that’s ok too, just keep offering choices and materials.
I offered the following invitation to make snowflake art based on The Snowy Day. It looked fun to me, but the kids didn’t really take to it. My daughter and I made some watercolor salt paintings. They prefer making paper snowflakes just folding and cutting it up and as you can see in the photo, I didn’t offer that. 😦
We moved on and spent time reading fairy tale retellings by James Marshall.