What should we look for in a book for young children? What makes one book a living book over another? What is a living book?
Read this post as answer to the latter two question: Living Books: What Are they and Why Are They Important?
The former question might be answered in this post.
Young children most often begin their entry into the world of reading through picture books and other story books. It is through these books that they become introduced to the idea that books can become vehicles to transport them to other worlds, other people and other ideas, allowing them to develop connections with them. Reading aloud these books will strengthen their imagination and show them the beauty of language, communication, creativity and expression.
Mrs. Crump, of the PNEU article "Living Books for the Nursery", underscores these thoughts with her article which begins "It is our business this morning to discuss Living Books for the Nursery; that is, books which will do most to bring our children into the great current of life, books which will link them with the past, enrich their present and help them nobly to bear their share in the creation of the future" (Crump).
She continues with:
What is it that we want books to do for our children? We want them to find friends in books, that wonderful company of friends to be found in history and fiction. We want to widen their small world with some knowledge of the great and marvellous worlds around them—worlds past, worlds distant, worlds of nature, worlds of imagination. We want them to gain some power of fitly and nobly using the language which is their birthright. We want to bring them into a habit of so using books that they may all their lives turn to that silent company of helpers, who never refuse, never grudgingly give.
Which picture books and story books will fit under the category of living books?
Mrs. Crump bases her article on three principles:
Clearness in picture books
Plenty, variety and freedom of choice in reading books
Access to those great writers whose influence will be all the greater and all the more dear because linked with memories of the nursery (Crump).
Clearness in picture books is further explained as illustrations and text which convey the story as clearly as possible. Pictures which are unrelated to the story or are cluttered together on the pages will only create confusion for the child. It would be difficult for the child to feel connected to the story or to reading, in general, when feelings of confusion dominate the experience.
It is better to provide the child with as many different types of books and to give her as much freedom in choosing them as possible. A tightly constrained limit on type and amount of books may work opposite of the desired outcome, turning a child away from books and not toward it.
What we parents have to do is to put as large and as varied a choice before him as we can. But although we concede freedom of choice to nursery children—that is, I take it, to children up to the age of ten years—still we must exercise some preliminary power of selection among the multitude of existing books. To do so wisely we need to think out certain broad principles by which we may secure the best book-friends and playmates, the best influences, not only in right doing but in right speaking—the best subjects "to stretch and stimulate their little minds," as Dr. Johnson put it.
Giving children access to great writers create magical moments and, in turn, beautiful memories, ones which profoundly shape who they are. These books and their authors become part of the foundation on which new reading material will be connected. This book and reading exposure begins the formation of their literary core.
"Living Books for the Nursery"by Mrs. Crump
Volume 14, no. 12, December 1903, pgs. 944-953