On reading for children

A while ago we went to a "Smokken"-meeting about children and books, Anne Borge who runs the bookshop "Bokstua" at Bislett near us gave the talk and introduced several bags of books for children at various ages.

In the Suttung-environment many have strong opinions about literature for children, so I arrived at the meeting somewhat sceptical and prejudiced against theoretical pedagogy. Indeed, we heard a number of statements I found it rather hard to agree to. With four younger siblings and two years of being a father I think I can claim to have some practical experience with the subject..

- Start reading for babies from about four months age.
Um, why wait until 4? I started at 0 months with Alf-Eivind and I think we both enjoyed that.
- The first books should have drawings with few details and clear, sharp colours

Hm.. Why? The recommended books vere almost violent in their sharp colour clashes. Personally, I started with the Elsa Beskow classic Putte i Blåbærskogen with its fascinating detail and pastel illustrations.

I just don't get this advice.. Imagine if we were talking interior design instead of books: nobody would recommend painting every second wall bright red and light green and remove all details or patterns from your home to create an ideal environment for the baby..

Books for the slightly older should have few words, your typical point-and-tell books.

Well, maybe..? Reading aloud is great for young and old, but reading books with one image, one word becomes a bording duty pretty fast. I believe it is important that the grown up also enjoys the book, to convey reading pleasure generally.

When a child is less than 1 year old it doesn't understand the contents intellectually anyway. It's all about the speech rhythm, tonality, and enjoying being together. As far as the baby is concerned we could be reading Shakespeare. Since I am lucky enough to work in a very international environment I compare the listening baby to my own fascination for listening to a foreign language...

There is a saying which goes "you are your child's first teacher". Being a parent has taught me how true that is. And with that in mind, reading aloud for your baby is meaningful fun: I also work on developing my teaching- and communication skills.

From me you only get two pieces of advice on books for children:

  1. Start with literature you love yourself
  2. Experiment, investigate what you can convey, and listen to the child's response.
  3. Enjoy your next reading session!

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