My Very First Book of Colors

My Very First Book of Colors is written and illustrated by the famous Eric Carle. It is a core concept board book focusing on colour identification concepts while being a tactile experience for young readers and parents.

Like so many Eric Carle books, the illustrations are rich and colourful with his distinct style and heavy brush strokes. The pictures and wording is clear and draws the eyes in all the correct places without adding distracting background images or filler details. There’s no story component so this book is accessible to early ages and supports 3 of the important parts of Every Child Ready to Read: talking, reading and playing.

My Very First Book of Colors lends itself to talking and reading at the very early stages of literacy and pre-literacy. Single word pages like green, blue or pink make for an easy introduction to reading and talking with children while using the book. The book truly comes alive, however, at the play stages thanks to the unique design of the book itself.

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The split design is the highlight of this book allowing parents to read to the child while turning multiple pages, and allowing children to either play with multiple pages at an early stage or turn the pages themselves once more confident. As readers slowly develop reading and identification skills, parents will be able to use the book to ask questions like “what colour is the lemon?” or “is the butterfly green?” and children will be able to turn the secondary page and find the appropriate word or image.

An ideal pickup as an early concept book, My Very First Book of Colors by Eric Carle is an excellent board book for young readers and the split page design will surely keep young hands busy and young faces smiling.

4-flashlight-rating

Rock out with Music is…

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From music writer Brandon Stosuy and award-winning illustrator Amy Martin comes Music is…, a board book for children aged 0-3 years that pairs beautiful artwork with the building blocks of pre-literacy skills. And it’s a lot of fun to read!

This playful book has elements suitable for multiple developmental stages in early childhood. Your baby will love the bright colours and high contrast of most pages of this picture book, while the more muted tones of other pages appropriately reflect the mood and feeling described there. The hard board pages are built to withstand baby’s enthusiasm 😉

Activity and movement are highlighted throughout the book, creating a natural connection to interactive singing and dancing activities. It uses narrative rhythm and occasionally rhymes, and some playful onomatopoeia and repetition are sprinkled in, too, which the reader can embellish if desired. Children who have not yet grasped language skills will still love the pleasing sounds and rhythms.

The text is relatively simple, using descriptive and expressive language to present the concept of music alongside the concept of opposites, using both familiar terms (hard/soft, slow/fast) and more advanced ones. The images represent scenarios that might be familiar to the child (ex: banging on pots and pans) or brand new (ex: a rock band).

For children 18-24 months, the simple concept of opposites lays a foundation on which the more complex concept of music can later be learned. Complex ideas like the various moods and feelings of music are expressed in familiar terms like “happy” and “sad”, “quiet” and “loud”. Even kids older than 3 will want to read along, sparking fun conversations about what “low-fi” and “hi-fi” mean, or the difference between “a cappella” and “instrumental”.

Another wonderful element is the inclusion of multiple, diverse cultures and ethnicities. This is important because young people of colour can grow up seeing themselves and their families represented positively in the media around them, and young white kids can learn to accept and embrace difference from an early age.

I’d rate this book 5 flashlights for its beauty, playfulness, versatility, and inclusion!

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“Who Am I? Cuddly Animals”

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Who am I? Cuddly Animals is a small board book written by Charlie Gardner and published in 2014.

This fun and interactive book deals with slightly complex concepts such as different kinds of animals and how those animals interact with their environment. I would recommend this book to children ages 18-36 months because of its rare words (for example, “grain” and “hutch”), its possibly unfamiliar animals (such as a guinea pig), and the interaction between the animals and their respective settings. However, younger children that are more advanced in their literacy skills can also enjoy the book for its bright realistic pictures and amusing interactive activities.

This book also includes a “peek-a-boo” feature in which a child can receive hints to the answers of the question by looking through the holes in the page. This not only helps the child perform well and receive positive reinforcement, but it will also help them recognise aspects of an image and relate it to the image as a whole.

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Although the children may not recognise the reoccurring rare words, the context in which they are used (often accompanied by a picture that the word denotes) makes the presence of them less intimidating to the young child. It also helps that the book is abundant with repetition (every page has a similar format). This will encourage the children to predict what the next line will be or even to recite it with their parent. Along with these emergent literacy skills, this book also introduces children to some pre-math skills such as pairing the animal with their habitat, their common actions, and their sounds.

Most importantly, this book educates children both through reading and through action! According to Piaget, the development of motor skills are exceptionally important in helping a child this age learn new concepts and interact with their surroundings. Each page of this book asks a child to perform an action that relates to the animal on the page. These actions will help the child retain information while also physically engaging them with the book and having fun. This extension activity, along with asking the child more open-ended questions about the animal, (“where does this animal live? What does this animal like to eat?”) will make this book a favourite in their collection. This is a book that celebrates reading as a form of playful experience and not just static education.

This book gets a playful five flashlights!

5-flashlight-rating

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

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Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle. This complex concept book features a cast of colourful zoo animals who have a whole lot to say. It was published in 1991 as a successor to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear?, also by Martin and Carle.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear is a small board book with easy to turn pages and bright illustrations. The pictures stand out against the white space, and the text is clear and straightforward. The story begins by asking, “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, what do you hear?” and answering “I hear a lion roaring in my ear”. The book continues in this fashion, with excellent rhythm and repetition.

There are plenty of expressive and obscure words to help develop your child’s vocabulary: trumpeting, bellowing, yelping. The repetition allows for easy
interaction with an older child, with only three words changing per page. Each page begs the child to imitate an animal’s cry as a response to “What do you hear?”. Children will love shouting responses to additional questions you might ask, such as, “Can you hiss like a boa constrictor?” or “What does a walrus bellowing sound like?”.9780805092455-in03

Polar Bear, Polar Bear oozes energy and colour. The book is ideal for ages 6 – 9 months and older with its rhythmic language, repetition, and simple illustrative style. Ages 24-36 months will enjoy the interaction Polar Bear, Polar Bear so easily encourages.

Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. are legendary in the children’s book world, and for good reason. I give Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? five flashlights for its vibrant colours, simple theme, and exciting language.

5-flashlight-rating

On My Walk

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On My Walk is a picture book written by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Christina Leist. It is a short, colourful book, ideal for a child 18 months and older.

The pages are glossy and illustrated, although not thick enough to hold up to too much toddler manipulation. The illustrations are enough to hold a young child’s attention, however, so they should be content with a parent turning the pages. The copy that I obtained also was starting to come loose at the spine, so this may not be one for a particularly destructive young creature.

Each page has at most four words on it, with a corresponding illustration. There is a thin plot, where a young child goes for a walk with their parent and a dog, but it is simply presented and predictable, so it will be easy for the child to follow along. Helping to maintain interest are short onomatopeic phrases peppered throughout, such as clippity-clop made by a horse.

The child will find the repetitive phrasing and the predictable wording an invitation to repeat what they hear. There is enough detail in each page for an inquisitive young one to point to, without distracting them from the written sentences. One drawback of this book is that the colouring is a little unappealing. The muted browns and greens are the same throughout, with little that pops out.

Overall, this book is a delight that introduces familiar everyday sights and activities. The few flaws prevent a full five flashlight rating.

Four Flashlights

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Bonding with Baby over Peek-a-Boo

peek-a-who2Peek-a-boo is the favourite early game of babies everywhere.  Between the development of the early concept of object permanence and the direct face-to-face interaction of a loved one, this is the ideal learning and bonding experience.

Peek-a-boo books abound on the shelves of most libraries and bookstores, however Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden is a lovely book for you and your child that adds extra early childhood developments concepts to make the reading experience even more fun.

Peek-a-Who? has simple rhymes to engage baby and ends with a mirror for baby to see himself.  The inclusion of these concepts make it an ideal book to take baby from around 6 months into toddlerhood.  Younger babies can appreciate the simple rhymes and giggle with the repetition.  Readers can use the voice inflection to introduce the concept of surprise and discovery.  The mirror on the final page can be used to show baby an image of himself, something that fascinates him at this stage.

As babies age they can turn the pages themselves and engage in the peek-a-boo game.  As the reader, you can encourage predictions with strong cues from both the rhyme and the illustration.  Phonoelogical awareness is encouraged through these predictions, an important early literacy skill.  The repetitive nature of the book will also help the child start reading parts back, perhaps answering each question as it is presented.

peek-a-who3Peek-a-Who? is well set up to take the learning experience past the last page.  For young babies, the mirror can extend the game of peek-a-boo with baby’s own image.  For older babies and early toddlers the game of peek-a-boo can move past this book.  Try covering object in your child’s room with the pages of the book and ask pee-a-who? The game can be extended to use special stuffed animals or even siblings.

The range of learning options makes this is a nice book to read with siblings.  The younger baby can focus on peek-a-boo games and the bright colour pictures while an older child can practice rhyming concepts with the parent asking, “what else rhymes with who?” or by asking for the sounds connected to the images in the book (ie: cow, train, elephant).

Reading just 20 minutes a day with your baby can go a long way to developing early learning skills but, more importantly it is a wonderful bonding time for parent and child, so grab a copy of Peek-a-Who? or whatever book you choose and cuddle up for a good read.

Peek-a-Who? gets five flashlights on our Under the Covers rating scale for not only being a good read but for creating a fun bonding experience for you and your baby.

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Happy Reading!