Children love to learn new things. While an adult may make a distinction between learning and playing, to the young child, the experience is the same; playing is learning and learning is fun. From their earliest days, children have an inbuilt drive to find and master new experiences. Think how many times a toddler picks himself up and tries again when learning to walk. Imagine what we as adults could achieve if we could maintain the determination and joy of learning we experienced when we were very young!
Most parents understand without being told that how they care for and relate to their children is of critical importance for optimal social, emotional and cognitive development of their child (Maccoby & Martin 1982) and so they want to expose their children to the best books for young children that they can find.
The question may be how early to introduce books to their baby or toddler and also what type of book is best. It pays to take into account that very young children experience life through experimenting and will be just as likely to put a book into their mouth as to look at the pictures! As the parent, you need to let them explore this way, so buying books that are rugged and will stand up to rough treatment are advised, both to lengthen the life of the books and to prevent any parts being ripped or chewed off and swallowed!
Colorful board books, cloth and vinyl books are popular choices. Very simple board books have thick cardboard pages with bright colors to attract the infant's eyes. They are sturdy enough that a chew or two will not harm your child or damage the book too much!
More complex board and soft page books incorporate features such as pressing buttons for sounds of animals or mechanical sounds such as hooters, sirens or musical instruments and maybe pop-ups or lift up flaps with something hidden underneath.
Touch books for children are also popular. These books incorporate different textures into the surface of the pages so the young reader can experience a range of "feels".
Up to about the age of two, while children need to see an object in front of them or have just seen it to think about it, they can relate cause and effect. Most of us will have seen how quickly young children learn that pressing the buttons will make a noise!
From the ages of 2 - 6, children begin to talk and think about objects that are not present and they are full of questions, aren't they? They want to know everything! Make-believe and nonsense stories are also popular with this age group. A good example of nonsense stories is the Dr Seuss books, which are still popular 50 years on. To children from about 2 to 6, their view of the world is that all events revolve around them so they like stories where they can imagine themselves in the role of the hero or heroine.
When you choose books for young children with great titles like "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (by Verna Aardema) or "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle, they can easily they can easily imagine that mosquito buzzing in their ear or visualize an ordinary caterpillar in a new light. Having a great imagination is very normal for children; our task as adults is not to stifle it with our own limitations.
As important as the choice of book is, even more important is to develop the habit of reading with your child. Try to have a regular time every day; before bed is the most common time, but some parents find early mornings or mid-afternoon suits their lifestyle better. Whatever time you decide, make a pattern and stick with it as often as you can.
Let your children choose the story if they want to; let them turn the pages and read along with you or even to pretend to read to you, because participating in this way will instill a love of reading. There is no greater gift you can give your children than to read them the best children's books. Start when they are babies with special books for young children.