Selecting Books that Foster Empathy, Promote Prosocial Behavior, Counteract Bias, and Support Bilingualism
Books with pop-out pictures and movable parts are apt to be torn up if they are left in the hands of a toddler. At the same time, durability is not the only criteria that should be used when selecting books for young children. Here are some other suggestions for selecting books:
- Choose books that are well written, with language that is pleasant to read and repeat. Get in the habit of reading book reviews before you buy a book written by an author you don't know about. Look for books that have won children's book awards and that have been recommended by recognized authorities.
- Choose books with beautiful or playful illustrations, whether drawings, photographs, paintings, or collages. The popularity of some of the all-time favorites—like Winnie the Pooh, Madeleine, Goodnight Moon, and Curious George—is due as much to their illustrations as their stories.
- Choose books with antibias themes and books that are representative of different cultures.
- Choose books that show people of different races and ethnicities. If most of the children in your class are white, try to have about half of your people books show people of color. If the majority of your students are nonwhite, try to have about three-quarters of your people books show people of color. Be sure there are some white faces in the books, as well.
- Avoid books with gender and age stereotypes.
- Select different types of books to create a rich and varied library:
- Animal books
- Books about everyday events
- Fantasy books
- Books about everyday problems
- Books that describe feelings, like love and fear
- Books about mischievous animals or children
- Books about children from faraway places
- Adventure stories
- Silly books
- Books that invite participation
- Books with refrains that are easy to remember
- Rhyming books
- Books with surprise endings
Remember to include a variety of factual books about favorite topics, such as animals, dinosaurs, space, sports, and dance. Studies have revealed that teachers and parents tend to overlook nonfiction books, even though they are very popular with young children. Beautifully illustrated books on a wide variety of topics published for adults can be used effectively with young children, as well.
The books we read to children influence their feelings, their learning, and their actions. Even before children can follow a story line, they are influenced both by the illustrations we show them and by the words that we use to talk about the illustrations. Consider the following:
- If we select books in which the doctors are always male and the nurses are always female or in which the grandmothers are always sitting in rocking chairs, we are exposing children to gender and age stereotypes.
- If we talk about feelings as we point to the illustrations—"The puppy is sad; he wants his mommy"—we encourage feelings of empathy.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, 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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