5 beautiful books to help your child with life’s big questions
There are a couple of times in every day where Clem and I sit on the floor, his little bottom perched on my crossed legs, and we read. He toddles over to pick one up off the floor, precariously carries it over to me, and then plops down ready for the story. These are some of the happiest and most treasured times we have!
Besides being a joy, I think everyone knows how important is reading to children’s development. This excellent analysis of the research explains some of the benefits. Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes:
emergent literacy and language development
the relationship between child and parent
a love for reading, which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills
children's understanding of the world, their social skills and their ability to learning coping strategies
It’s that last one that I’ve been most interested in recently. Literacy and language development can be gained from just about any book, but what about books that help children start to understand the world? The early years are so important for establishing emotional regulation, interaction with the world and relationships with others. Anything that supports positive learning in these areas will help to give your little one the best start in life.
I’d like to share five books that have helped us to start raising these sorts of questions with Clem. He is still only little, so much of this goes over his head, but as he grows I’d love for these kinds of discussions to become central to the way he thinks about the world. And, as ever, I’ve picked books that will also look good on the shelf, because who doesn’t love a beautiful book!
We live in a busy and frantic world and I think most would love a slightly slower pace of life! Be Still, Life is a book that helps your toddler to slow down and see and hear the world in ways they might not have before. Ohara Hale uses all five senses to appreciate nature around us, and connects that to a little one’s part in the world. The fun language and bright pictures (Hale is primarily an illustrator) help little people practice exactly what the book is teaching as it’s read. Clem and I love making silly sounds and pointing at the colourful illustrations!
As Clem grows, the complexity of his emotions seems to increase quicker and quicker, to the point where he struggles at times to understand what he is feeling and how to deal with it. Learning to process emotions is a key skill for life, especially in a stressful world. The Fox and the Star is a beautiful book that reflects on fear and loneliness. The little Fox loses his friend Star, and learns how to cope with being alone and afraid. While much of the book is solemn, the joyful ending reminds children that fears are often unfounded. This is a book that deals with difficult emotions in a beautiful way.
As children get older, their world gradually expands. For newborns their entire world is their mother, but by the end of the first year they easily understand there is a very big place outside their window. Here We Are starts to help children come to terms with their existence in the context of a big universe. Oliver Jeffers’ beautiful illustrations show where we are in the vastness of space and our planet, but also help us to understand our place in a world with such a variety of people. Its message is more than just factual, encouraging children to consider how they interact with the world around them, including people who are different from them.
This is one that will really come into its own as Clem grows. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day follows a little girl who loses her favourite computer game, only to find the joy of playing outside in nature and enjoying a quiet moment with her mother. This book teaches the pleasures of imagination and simple living, and I think it will be a great encouragement for Clem to make wise choices about how he spends his time.
We are Christians, so teaching Clem about the Bible is obviously very important to us, but even if you’re not a Christian, you might like to introduce the Bible to your child. The Biggest Story explains the story of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, through an ABC. What many children’s Bibles lack is that they tell the stories within the Bible, but don’t actually explain what it's saying. By contrast, The Biggest Story explains that the Bible is about God rescuing mankind through Jesus, in a way that is easy for small children to understand. The illustrations are so bright and interesting that this is currently Clem’s favourite book. This would also make an excellent christening or baptism gift!
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