It's no secret that preschool programs, such as Family Ties Child Center, are filled with books. That said, understanding what kinds of books pre-k kids need and why these books are so important to learning is key. Research on early childhood literacy shows that reading and writing development starts during the first three years, according to the early childhood organization Zero to Three. While this doesn't mean that by 3 years old a child can read, getting an early start with books is essential for building later literacy skills.
What types of books do young children in preschool programs need to develop language and reading abilities?
- Books with pictures. Like letters, pictures are symbols. Children learn how to decode the pictures and associate them with meanings. This sets the stage for learning letters and reading words. Picture books in preschool programs also help young children to understand the story without necessarily having to know what the words are saying.
- Books that focus on content areas. Children in pre-k aren't just developing literacy skills. They're learning about math, science, social studies, the arts and more. Preschool books should include a variety of topics that meet the curriculum's focus. These may include books on counting, shapes, numbers, animals, colors, different countries, bodies of water or outer space. Books in this category come in both non-fiction and fiction types. Non-fictions books contain simple facts, such as the life cycle of a butterfly or photos of an underwater ocean scene. Fiction content-focused books may have simple numbers or shapes along with the words that represent them or come with a story (such as an imaginary farm tale that uses numbers to count the animals).
- Books that identify emotions. Preschoolers are refining their abilities to recognize and control different emotions. Books are incredibly useful tools for teaching social and emotional lessons. Young children can look at pictures of different 'emotion' faces to identify them or listen to stories that tell feeling tales.
- Books that meet the child's interests. Holding a 3-year-old's attention isn't always easy. Opting for a book that is of particular interest to the child helps to increase focusing. For example, if the class has been talking about outer space and the children are always asking questions about the planets, a book on the subject may make them sit up and take notice.
It doesn't matter what the educational philosophy is, all preschool programs need books. From picture books with minimal words to content-centered ones that grab the young students' interest, reading to and with young children sets them on a path to life-long literacy development.