There can be few greater joys for a parent or a teacher than introducing young children to the wonder of books. Books, after all, contain the whole world. They can take children on magical trips of discovery, they can inspire in them a love of language, they can help them learn to express their emotions. They come in an infinite variety and are always ready to share their treasures.
At our Play House programs, we take special care to select books that are not only great to read and fun to listen to, but that also speak to the unique experiences of the children we care for. It's so important that they see themselves - their culture, their struggles, their history - reflected in the pages. Crucially, these books can also provide the words our kids need to share what they're feeling inside.
We asked two of our preschool teachers, Rachel Moore and Alexis Vazquez, to look through our libraries and pick some favorites. Here's what they chose.
By Molly Bang
Play House West teacher Rachel Moore selected this book. Rachel writes:
"This book explores what happens when Sophie gets really angry. It talks about how she is feeling in descriptive language; for example, 'She roars a red, red, roar', and 'Sophie is a volcano, ready to explode.' It also shows how Sophie deals with these big feelings. First Sophie runs and runs, then she cries for a while. When she is done crying, she listens to the wind and the animals around her and comforts herself."
"This book is very relevant to our children because Sophie experiences a big emotion that they also experience. The book teaches that this big feeling is natural and it also shows how she copes. The ways in which Sophie experiences her anger are nonviolent and involve self-soothing; an important skill for our children to learn."
By Anna Dewdney
Play House North teacher Alexis Vazquez chose this book. Alexis writes:
"This is a story about a little llama on the first day of school and the sadness and loneliness he feels when his mom drops him off. The little llama is sad and lonely until a teacher reminds him that this mother will be back. He starts to make new friends, and when his mom comes to pick him up he is excited to tell her all about his day."
"This book helps children talk about missing their parents when they are dropped off at school; about the separation anxiety they might feel. We use this book to help some of our children transition into the classroom and to help them put words to what they might be feeling."
By Chris Raschka
"This simple book illustrates two children meeting. Using only one-to-two word phrases they greet each other, talk about their feelings, and become friends. Although the two boys are very different, they form a bond together."
"I think this book is fascinating to our children because it shows them how a friendship can be developed using only a few words. It teaches pro-social skills with a minimum of language, which is great for our children, who may sometimes struggle to make new friends. It showcases how they might form bonds with their classmates."
By Susin Nielsen-Fernlund
"This book is about a little girl who moves into a shelter with her mother, leaving behind most of her possessions. At her new school she learns that she'll have to bring something in for Show & Tell at the end of the week. She gets more and more nervous, worrying that she'll have nothing to share with her class. By talking to her mother, she realizes that she does have something to share - her magic beads. They're ordinary beads by themselves, but with her imagination, they can take her anywhere."
"So many of our kids have had similar experiences, losing their toys and clothes - sometimes all of their possessions - when moving to a shelter. This book helps our children talk about how it feels to leave what they had behind. It also helps them share their shelter experiences with other children in the classroom."
By Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
This story follows a family as they set off on an adventure to find a bear. The words can be sung and the children can use hand motions and sound effects as they read along with the teacher."
"The beauty of this book is that it allows children to get lost in the narrative by using their whole bodies and their imagination. While it doesn't necessarily speak to our children's unique situations, I believe it is therapeutic because it allows them to sing, move, and be creative. They can experience the simple pleasures of this children's classic."
By Keiko Kasza
"This book is about a yellow bird named Choco, who doesn't have a mother. He goes in search of one and every animal he meets points out the physical differences between them and tells him they can't be his mother. Choco begins to cry. A bear who sees him crying as she's walking by decides to become his mother, despite their different physical appearances."
"This book illustrates the diversity in families in a way that is simple for children to understand. It helps them realize that families come in all shapes and sizes."