Don’t Get Tricked by Cutesy and Clever Marketing
Books are my go-to baby gift. I love them. And I loved sharing them with my children. Sadly, my last four or five shopping trips have either left me empty handed or sorely disappointed. Some of the books I used to buy have even gone out of print.
Just because the more recent books “fit” more on each page doesn’t mean you’re getting more for your money. Just because the illustrations are cutesy doesn’t mean it is the best choice. In fact, it is usually the opposite! Elusive as they are, there are a few things I look for when buying a book for a baby or small child. These books are out there, but unfortunately, even the buyers for the bookstores have been taken in by cluttered pages.
1) Letter Books: Don’t fall for the book that has a whimsical giraffe on the page for the letter G or a circus for the letter C. While it may be fun to look at, it’s not the best choice for the early reader. The soft sounds are much less common, and will not be introduced until much later than the hard sounds heard in words like gorilla and cat.
2) Less is More: We already live in a world with stimulus overload. Avoid the books with “busy” pages for these young ones. If there is too much on a page, it becomes a blur and the whole point of the page can be lost. They don’t need 56 examples of the shape of a triangle or 33 examples of the color green.
3) Illustrations: So many wonderful books fall short simply because of the illustrations. While an impressionistic style might look good hanging in your living room, it is not the best choice for a baby with still-developing eyesight. Crisp pictures, bright colors, and even black and white pictures are great. Bottom line, images with a lot of contrast are best. You can test this out yourself. If you hold up a black and white stick figure (two eyes and a mouth) and then a watercolor character with muted facial features in front of a baby, the reaction will be your evidence. Too bad more authors don’t bear this in mind.
Unfortunately, many authors are writing with the adults in mind instead of the small child. It is up to you to take these things into consideration when making your choices. At the end of the day, a wide variety of books is best for the long term. It is for the short term that the topics above are of most importance.
Books with rhythm and rhyming are great to begin reading with your newborn. Reading to your child is a great way to bond, encourage language development, and instill an early love of books! Whether you’re reading an actual story or simply pointing to pictures and talking about what you see, it will all be of benefit. Carve out time for these precious moments!
Hint: If you find a book that you love, write down the information so that you can ask your bookstore to keep it in stock for gifts!