Selecting Books that Foster Empathy, Promote Prosocial Behavior, Counteract Bias, and Support Bilingualism (page 2)
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.
When children are able to follow a story line, we can select stories with messages we would like to share:
- There are many children's books about children with disabilities, children with different skin colors, and children from different cultures. Reading them can help children respect and appreciate differences.
- There are also many children's books that encourage sharing, being a good friend, helping out, accepting a new baby, using words instead of hitting, and following rules that keep you safe.
- Often, authors of children's books use animal characters so that children can recognize the point of a story while avoiding literal identification with the characters.
Make a list of the kinds of messages you would like to send to the children during the course of the year. Once you have compiled the list, organize it into logical categories. You might want to include books that encourage children to do these things:
- To be kind to each other
- To take care of the environment
- To appreciate their families
- To learn how to share and take turns
- To avoid bias
- To cooperate
- To follow health and safety rules
- To learn about different cultures
Try to find one or more books appropriate for children of different ages from each category you create.
In selecting books to read with the children in your class, also think about whether there is an immediate message you would like to send: Is someone in the class about to get a baby sister or brother? Is a dental hygienist coming to your school to teach the children about toothbrushing? Is there a child in your group who tends to bite? Has a new child come into your class? Have the children been taunting a child in the group because she wears glasses? Some story books effectively help children cope with challenging situations and see things from another person's perspective.
If children in your class hear languages other than English spoken at home, look for books in those languages. You may also find books that are written in two languages, with the text printed in both English and a second language. Invite family members to share songs and nursery rhymes in their home language with the class or to help you make some simple books or tapes in their language. Encourage parents to read to their children in their home language as well as in English. Children may learn sophisticated concepts more easily in their first language. Also, in order to maintain the advantage of knowing two languages, children should hear both informal spoken language and more formal literate language in their home language.
© ______ 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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