The Early Childhood Years
“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” —Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature
My daughter is moving to a new school opening up in our area that focuses on a classical, liberal arts curriculum. Classics books are at the core of this education, and the school emphasizes on the tradition for students to build a personal library of books that they mark in, keep, and return to over the years to treasure. They call this collection “Classics To Keep.”
This is good practice for obvious reasons, but research proves just how good it is. According to the Oxford Journals, test scores from 42 nations provide evidence of the benefits of having a home library. But did the study mention which books were included in the homes? Are they all stocked with just classics?
In browsing my own collection, my personal library is an eclectic mix of classics, professional women memoirs, YA novels, anthologies, science and history textbooks, as well as books on pedagogy. Naturally, my choices for building Zoe’s early childhood books have followed the wide-ranging style of “Let’s get whatever we’re in the mood for…”
Today, Zoe and I hand-picked what we call “Our Classics.” Our classics list had very little to do with the classical liberal arts philosophy but more to do with Italo Calvino’s The Uses of Literature definition.
When it comes to stocking your child’s bookshelf, there is method in the madness. Not all pieces need to be classics - nor should they be. Our bookshelves represent something meaningful for us that help us bring back some wonderful memories. That’s what all great books should do. High test scores as a result of this ongoing project would simply be icing on the cake.
Here’s our list of Favorite Books in Early Childhood For ALL AGES:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. Illustrated by Lois Ehlert - This rhyming alphabet book will burn into your memory. The colorful paper-cut pictures are easy to emulate. So if you’re an early childhood teacher, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom would be one of the most fun DIY decor for your classroom bulletin boards. If you’re a kindergartener, the tempo will keep you dancing, and before you know it, you’ll be the cool kid saying, “Look who’s coming! It’s black-eyed P...Q, R, S, and loose-tooth T!"
I’m Zoe! I Can Do It Myself (Little Blessings) by Melody Carlson. Illustrated by Elena Kucharik. The Little Blessings series is known for addressing Christian concepts, but the four character books (I’m Kaitlyn! I’m Jack! I’m Zoe! I’m Parker!) focus on skills and social development. In I’m Zoe, young readers meet a little girl taking small steps towards gaining independence: making her bed, getting dressed, brushing her teeth, and playing with her friends. My daughter still adores this one because she gets a kick out of seeing her name in print (like mother, like daughter). An added bonus is the girl in the book is Asian and looks like her. Super cute.
Blue Dragonfly by Pia Villanueva-Pulido. Illustrated by Rene Espinosa. Speaking of getting a kick out of seeing my name in print, this book holds many special meanings for us. Michael and I planned a series of children’s books for emerging readers called River of Imagination years before she was born, and Blue Dragonfly was the first one. Before she learned how to read (age 3 or 4), Zoe could already tell the story with sound effects! In his search for new adventures, curious little Blue Dragonfly embarks on a journey of self-discovery, but his temptations soon lead to trouble. The soothing voice-over narration and accompanying music make the story engaging, along with the colorful detailed pictures illustrated by a comic book artist turned tattoo artist/rock band lead guitarist in L.A.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. The ever-romanticized quote “I love you to the moon and back” isn’t so cheesy or eye-roll inducing in this sweet book at all. The tenderness between Little Nutbrown Hare and his father Big Nutbrown Hare show just the right amount of reassurance for the young ones (ages 0-2) who need to feel safe and loved. The illustrations complement the text well for the emerging readers (ages 4-7) who need clues to read aloud the short phrases and simple vocabulary.
Your Own Keepsake Journal Baby Book - I can’t stress enough just how much I have treasured my keepsake baby book I made for Zoe’s first year. There are so many selections available in Amazon alone that you’re bound to find one that suits you whether you’re a first time mom or a busy working mother with multiple children. Zoe and I love to flip through the pages of her book together - a scrapbook with journal entries. Her sonogram pictures, first day at home, and monthly updates recorded in my own handwriting. I love writing, so I wrote letters to her before she was born. When she was old enough to read and understand, she asked me to continue writing to her. Even if you’re not a writer, I would highly encourage getting a journal with your child together and interact with each other through the written word. There are no rules. Just fun.
Next time you get a chance to browse your bookshelf, do yourself a favor and pick up of those books that bring back memories. Think about the specific time in your life that compelled you to buy that book and find meaning behind them. And do the same for your kids.