This Fall found my very young group spending lots of play time with our farm/barn small world structure and critters, so I’ve started off our book selection with anything barn/farm animal related. These four books from my personal library offer a chance to work with colors, shapes, counting, alphabet, animal sounds, and animal movements before we even think about expanding the learning.
Let’s start with Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming.
I love sharing this book with children for many reasons: colorful illustrations, author that I have others books by, written language of the book, the ability to expand the learning in a variety of directions
Children in our area have a strong understanding of what many think of a standard farm animals, but this book opens up the understanding that there are other animals one might find on a farm. This also offers the opportunity to increase our exposure to new animal sounds. I often find that opening up this learning experience send us into all kinds of animals and we begin classifying them as to where their might live (ie. zoo, jungle, forest, farm, house).
I also wait to see if any of the children will notice the reoccurring character on each page and figure out what they are doing. With my very young I often have to introduce this after our initial reading. Once I point our goose the children are searching each page to find it. This often brings the book to the floor and allows for strong engagement with the pages. At this point the reading of the written words seems to stop and we start telling the story from the illustrations.
Any time I have large print in a story we point out “our letter” or a friend’s “letter”- this is the letter that starts our first name. I have found this a great way to get a strong start in learning the letters of the alphabet.
I think it’s important to have books that are more science or factually based as part of our selection. Gail Gibbons is a go to for that type of book for me. I have found her books are usable across the mix of ages I usually have in care, whether reading all the detail or using just the illustrations and adding my own information.
Between having our own good size garden and being surrounded by fields worked by a local dairy farmer the children here have good exposure to tractors, can can relate very easily to some of the information in this book.
I like that Farming covers the changes to the farm throughout the seasons. As we also experience 4 seasons again the children can relate to the changes and compare with their experiences.
The story also shows the work that people need to done on a working farm. This opens up lessons about other community workers, parents’ jobs, chores, jobs that the children can do at home and while in care.
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant might seem like a strange choice if I’m only doing a few books around an area of interest. I have this in my collection because it covers the concept of night with illustrations that are life-like, but in a style different from many children’s book. To me they have a sketched quality in deep, vibrant color. I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of illustration styles.
There is a softness to the written word as we are taken through the country setting exploring what is to be found there at night. This opens up lessons on nocturnal animals, comparing daytime evenings to nighttime events. For some groups we expand to the sun and the moon and stars. We have charted what each child hears at their home in the night. We have done daytime listening, laying outside with eyes closed, saying what we hearing then going inside and doing the same.
I love having story versions of childhood songs and rhymes. I like this version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm illustrated by Carol Jones because it had a cut-out on each page that provides the child with a chance to predict what animal we will be singing about next.
The pen and ink illustrations are life-like while offering another illustration style. In the illustrations we also see the life of the animals we are singing about as well as other animals on the farm.
This is another good book for what I think of as floor exploration. There is so much detail on each page that they can stand alone providing a chance to expand language as we describe what we see happening on each page.
Music is so important in the strong development of children’s language and we often use the book as the starting place adding whatever other animal we can think of following the pattern of the song. We’ve been known to switch it up, expand on classifying again and go to the zoo, or circus, or woods if the animals being called out are more appropriate there.