Everyone knows that reading to your child is one of the best things you can do as a parent. It helps strengthen language, attention span, memory, creativity, emotional understanding, and not to mention the wonderful bonding time! But which books should you choose? Walking into a book shop can be overwhelming with so many different choices. Ultimately, we want to choose books that encourage a love for reading, and focus on a message of nature, peace and diversity. With that in mind, here are a few tips for choosing books that follow the Montessori principles.
1. Keep it Realistic
The Montessori belief is that young children, especially toddlers and those under the age of 6, learn best through reality (concrete) rather than fantasy (abstract). Never underestimate the power of nature and real life for a young child! Little minds are fascinated by the real world around them, so choose books that are grounded in reality – be it nonfiction or fiction. This means real objects, experiences and people, instead of make-believe. Think along the lines of cultures, life cycles, seasons, people, everyday activities, etc. The topics are endless!
In case you’re wondering why fantasy should be avoided, it’s because during the first plane of development (0-6 years old), children live in the here and now, and cannot distinguish reality from fantasy. A common misconception is that by avoiding fantasy, you’re limiting your child’s imagination, but in fact it’s the complete opposite. Dr Maria Montessori advocated giving children a firm grounding in reality, so that the child’s imagination would be free to create. Fantasy can be introduced to children in the second plane (6-12 years old), who possess the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality.
So instead of choosing stories with dragons, talking animals, superheroes and mythical creatures that will limit their imagination, help them see the magic in the real wonders of the world, like how a caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly.
2. Beautiful Illustrations
Choose books with beautiful drawings and pictures for children to explore and discuss. Embrace a variety of illustrative styles, from photography to painted illustrations. Always look for natural, realistic landscapes, and ensure the characters and objects are sized proportionately. For example, the dog should be smaller than the human, and the human should be smaller than the house. This supports the child’s need to make sense of the real world around them.
3. Honour Diversity
Look for books that include characters of different genders, races, nationalities and abilities, to support a feeling of diversity and inclusivity. It is good for children to see characters that look just like them achieve success.
4. Rich Language
Descriptive words and accurate language is another important factor when it comes to choosing books. Rhythm and rhyme is always a favourite amongst children, but steer clear of the age-old nursery rhymes, as these tend to have rather dark historic origins that are not age appropriate. Instead, opt for beautiful poetry for children, which has been shown to activate similar areas in the brain as music, making it a fantastic addition to your book collection.
5. Displaying Books
When curating your home library, display the children’s books frontally and rotate them occasionally, to keep the collection fresh and ensure it follows your child’s interests. For many young children, a certain book may be their comfort so let it stay on the shelf for as long as necessary.
A Love for Reading
Remember that building a home library with Montessori-friendly books is a process that takes time, so don’t feel guilty if your collection isn’t 100% realistic. It’s all about creating balance between fostering a love for reading and your Montessori ideals at home.