How do you select books to read with your child? Do you rely on those you remember from your childhood, seek recommendations from friends, or wander the aisles of the local library or bookstore looking for interesting titles? As you make selections, consider providing a variety of genres or categories in your home library.
There are many ways to categorize young children’s literature. One helpful way is with these four primary genres: Concept, Predictable, Narrative and Informational. (Hint: many books have characteristics of more than one genre.)
Most concept books do not have a main character, problem, or plot. Instead, the concept or skill provides the book’s framework. Examples include alphabet books, number books, and books about colors and shapes. We may think that concept books are only for infants and toddlers, but some concept books, such as those related to number sense, are appropriate for preschool and kindergarten-age children.
Predictable books generally use repetitive words, phrases, or sentences, rhyme and rhythm. The words and pictures are closely matched. Children are able to predict a repeated word or sentence pattern and, therefore, begin to join in during the reading. One popular example of a predictable book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Why Are Predictable Books Important?
Narrative books generally have at least one character, a problem, and a plot that leads to resolution of the problem. Narrative books can foster imagination and help children see how characters deal with common fears, new situations and friendships. Fairy tales and classic stories as well as many popular children’s stories fall into this genre.
Informational books provide accurate, factual information. Also called nonfiction books, many informational books are organized into sections, and the vocabulary tends to be more complex. They often, though not always, use real photographs. People may think that informational books are too complicated for young children. However, research has shown that this is not the case. In fact, some preschoolers prefer informational books over narrative books, especially if they have a particular or “out of the ordinary” interest. Informational books are a great way to introduce science, health, engineering, history and geography topics to your child. And, there are many parents who like informational books better than fiction; they will read more with their young child if given “permission” to choose books from this genre.
Some additional questions to consider when selecting a book:
- How interested is your child in the topic?
- Does the book match the values you want to teach your child?
- Does the book provide a rich and varied vocabulary for your child?
- Do the text and illustrations match the appropriate level for your child?
- Do you think both you and your child will enjoy the book?
With these tips in mind, you can successfully evaluate a book from any genre, for any child. If your child really likes sharks, birds, or any other topic, you can probably find narrative, informational, concept and predictable books to please her. When you read books from a variety of genres, you give your child a deeper understanding of the world, more vocabulary exposure, more connections with you, and a greater chance to hook him on a love of reading for life.