Picture books play an important role in the educational and developmental processes of children and thus in day-care centers. However, children come to daycare with completely different previous experiences from their families. In a large American survey in 2006, the US scientists Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano found that some children have an almost unmatchable knowledge advantage because their families of origin read 40 times more than others. While dealing with picture books is an integral part of everyday life for some children, contact with books is less a matter of course in other families. This is where early childhood education professionals play an important role in awakening the desire for books and in convincing parents of the importance of reading.
Picture books over the ages
Books and stories accompany children throughout their lives. There are books that are tailored to a certain age and that arouse children’s interests in certain topics or also address the need for children’s play and exploration in an age-appropriate manner. It should be emphasized, however, that children often cannot be classified into the schematic considerations of adults and are often also interested in books that do not correspond to the age or topic selection. Nevertheless, the following criteria can help in the selection and correct use of books in day-care centers:
Age range 2 to 3 years
- Short storybooks
- Books with rhymes that are easy to remember and repeat
- Stories that are based on a certain structure, such as the very hungry caterpillar (on Monday it ate its way through …, on Tuesday …)
- Books on sizes, quantities, numbers, and letters
- Books about children all over the world, children with different abilities and in different life situations, without serving or stirring up prejudices
Age range 3 to 4 years
- Books with funny texts that might trigger contradictions and use irony as a stylistic device
- Picture books that reverse typical role models and expectations.
- Picture books that play with languages.
- Illustrations in which the children can discover many actors who in turn tell a multitude of little stories, such as in the well-known large-format Wimmel books by Ali Mitgutsch, such as “The Giant Picture Book”
- Picture books that make you think.
Age range 5 to 6 years
- Picture books that take up children’s interests
- Picture books that always tell new stories from the same title characters
- Children in this age range can grasp longer stories that are less illustrated. For example, books that contain several stories by different authors are also suitable.
Multilingualism as an asset
Children with a mother tongue other than German contribute to a great linguistic and cultural diversity in daycare centers. Children growing up multilingual can benefit from the manageable situation of reading in small groups or in individual situations. However, they also bring their own valuable experience with stories and books that professionals can involve in the work of the daycare center. For example, if parents are asked to read a book in their mother tongue, this not only increases the child’s self-confidence and language skills, but it also arouses the interest of other children in languages.
Everyday experiences in day-care centers that benefit from a large linguistic diversity provide impressive evidence of how fascinated children are listening to an adult even though they do not understand the language at all. In the meantime, libraries with a good selection of children’s literature also have a large number of books in different languages.
So that the parents themselves can become a model for their children, the use of picture books can be practiced in the day-care center: First, the early childhood teacher presents a picture book from the kindergarten at a parents’ evening. She reads it out and starts talking to her parents about the story. Was everything understood? What was the story about? She can also ask what role books play at home and whether they are read aloud there. What role do oral narratives play? Overcoming the distance between daycare facilities and families can only be achieved through the participation of parents in the facility. Picture books can be a bridge here.