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Selecting Children's Literature (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Choose books that support and extend your child's experiences with and knowledge of the world

Select books that draw on familiar concepts or experiences. These will allow your child to make meaningful connections with the book. If you have recently visited a zoo, consider a book about zoos. If you have been stargazing, choose a book about the night sky. Children's personal experiences—their relevant background knowledge—will enhance their understanding of the books you read to them.

Conversely, look for books that will broaden your children's knowledge of the world. Your children cannot possibly experience everything there is to experience, but you can expand their background knowledge by sharing books about the unfamiliar. The child who has been read Animals under Cover by Stephen Savage and How to Hide a Meadow Frog by Ruth Heller has built concepts about how life forms protect themselves from predators. Children who have perused a book on animal skeletons will bring more to the experience when they read about the animal kingdom in later years.

Share multicultural books. Listening to the customs, experiences, hopes, and dreams of people from diverse cultures not only will broaden your child's understanding of the world—building a knowledge base that he or she can access when reading books later—but also will increase your child's sensitivity to and appreciation for people of other cultural groups. It will help him or her appreciate the universality of the human experience .

Choose books that promote language development

Remember that your child's language strongly influences his or her ability to read. Reading to your child can expand your child's vocabulary. Just as reading Animals under Cover and How to Hide a Meadow Frog can build certain conceptual understandings, so too can reading these books provide your child with vocabulary that supports that knowledge. You will notice the words "camouflage," "prey," and "predator" becoming a part of your child's vocabulary as he or she attempts to describe and explain our world. Vocabulary is a powerful determinant of ability to understand text.

Reading to your child also can provide important experiences with a variety of language patterns. Include predictable books in your child's library because they can expand a child's understanding of language as he or she figures out what makes sense based on the ideas as well as the language of the book.

Select books that use simple sentences as well as those that incorporate more complex sentence structures. The language of books is different from the language of everyday speech. Giving your child opportunities to listen to more formal and more complex language structures prepares him or her for future reading experiences.

Include all literary genres in your selections. Children benefit from experiences with picture books, informational books, modern fantasies, science fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, traditional literature, historical fiction, and poetry. This variety not only provides for much enjoyment. but also develops familiarity with the many types of books your child will encounter in later years. Experience with a variety of genres also helps expand children's vocabulary and develop an understanding of different text structures. Exposing your child to fiction, for example, helps build an understanding that stories are made up of characters, settings, and plots. Research shows that young children often have a very good sense of story. Children are less comfortable, however, with the variety of informational text structures: cause-effect, sequencing, comparison, description, and problem-solution. Providing children with experiences with these text structures is important in their development as readers. In fact. there are educators who blame early lack of exposure to informational books for the problems some children have reading content texts in upper elementary grades. Be sure to include a variety of genres in your text selections .

Choose books that are likely to promote active engagement

A child's ability to make meaning during reading is enhanced when the child is actively engaged in thinking about what he or she reads. Therefore, select books that encourage active participation. Predictable books that stimulate chanting along with the author's words, manipulative books that require lifting a flap or pulling a tab, and books on topics of high interest or that answer questions your child has asked or that relate to an experience he or she has had promote active engagement.

Choose books that build alphabet knowledge and phonemic awareness

Remember the importance of familiarity with the letters and sounds of the alphabet in learning to read. And recall that the understanding that words are made up of sequences of individual sounds is important to reading success. Include alphabet books in your selections, as well as books that play with the sounds of language, such as rhyming books, books with alliterations, and books that include nonsense words created by moving sounds around. Many Dr. Seuss books are great examples of language play.

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