Counting books were also one of the earlier types of picture books for children. Numbers and letters have always been considered the rudiments of early education. However, unlike ABC books, counting books usually do help children learn basic numbers and give them practice counting, typically from 1 to 10.
The simplest form of the counting book provides a printed Arabic number accompanied by the same number of like objects:
However, the better counting books allow for personal discovery and are beautifully illustrated. Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno (1982) is a classic example.
Anno begins with an important concept generally ignored in counting books: zero. Teachers who work with older elementary children can attest that many of them do not understand how zero works and therefore have problems with place value. So, Anno wisely introduces the idea of zero to children just beginning to learn numbers. The first double-page spread shows a barren, snow-covered landscape. The Arabic number 0 is on the right side of the book, and an empty counting stick partitioned into 10 squares is on the left.
Each succeeding double-page spread shows the same scene, only buildings, people, trees, animals, and other objects are added. For example, on the spread for seven, Anno has the Arabic numeral on the right and seven different-colored cubes stacked in front of the counting stick on the left. Also, the once-barren landscape now has sets of seven of a variety of objects: seven buildings, seven children, seven adults, seven evergreen trees, seven deciduous trees, seven colors in the rainbow, seven windows in one of the houses, seven pieces of laundry on the line, and so on. So much can be discovered in each scene that older children who have mastered counting long ago still search the pictures to find all the sets of one, two, three, and so on. Even the clock in the church tower always shows the hour of the number in question!
Besides variety and opportunity for discovery, Anno also offers fledgling mathematicians one final boon: He does not stop at 10. Anno wisely chooses to go on to 11 and 12, two transitional numbers that do not conform to the usual pattern (oneteen and twoteen?). Anno also has applied the 12 numbers to other concepts. The seasons change throughout the scenes and correspond to the 12 months of the year. Twelve hours are, of course, on the face of the clock. As a whole package, Anno’s Counting Book is a marvel: beautiful, naive-style paintings, sound-teaching processes, and pure entertainment.
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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