'Tis the season for giving the gift of literacy to young children

The holiday gift giving season is here and many parents have contacted me asking for book recommendations. Gifting books is a great idea. It shows children that books, and reading, have value. Books and stories can feed children’s natural curiosity, stimulate imaginations, develop language skills, grow vocabulary and foster empathy.

Are you looking for a book to give to a young child? Try one of these favorites.

• “A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals” by Lucy Ruth Cummins (3+)

• “Ada Twist, Scientist” by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (5+)

• “Are We There Yet?” by Dan Santat (4+)

• “Hooray for Hat” by Brian Won (2+)

• “Let’s Play” by Herve Tullet (3+)

• “Maps” by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski (4+)

• “My Coyote Nose and Ptarmigan Toes: An Almost-True Alaskan Adventure” by Erin McKittrick and Valisa Higman (3+)

• “My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure” by Claudia McGehee (5+)

• “Peeking Under the Hood” (part of the What’s Beneath series ) by Esther Porter and Andrés Lozano (4+)

• “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall (3+)

• “Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep” by April Pulley Sayre and Steve Jenkins (3+)

• “Waiting is Not Easy” by Mo Willems (3+)

• “We Found a Hat” (latest, and last, in a picture book trilogy) by Jon Klassen (3+)

• “We Sang You Home” by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett (board book) (1+)

Digital media and tablets are also on the minds of parents, grandparents, and other gift-giving adults. Here are some considerations inspired by Lisa Guernsey’s “3 Cs.” Guernsey is co-author of Tap, Click, Read, among other books, and an early childhood technology expert.

• Content: Just as with paper books, board games and traditional toys, high quality e-books, book apps, digital toys and game apps that engage kids are the best choices. In combination, paper and digital books can offer a reader lots to explore. Some of the best apps and digital tools provide inventive ways for kids to tell their own story. For families looking for stories from around the world or in multiple languages, the digital format often offers many more options.

• Context: Using digital media with young children is most valuable when the focus is on learning, relationships and open-ended play. Think about how your child will use the digital media. Will someone be around to help your child navigate the device as well as the app or book? Do you have Wifi at home to download books and apps or will you do that at the library or elsewhere? How can you connect the digital learning with real-life experiences?

• Child: You know your child best. Find media that matches her interests and needs. The format is secondary. Depending on your child’s needs and situation, one or more different media formats may be a good fit.

Research supports limiting children’s digital media use to encourage a healthy media diet that includes a variety of experiences such as playing outside, exploring traditional art materials, and spending time with family and friends with and without digital media. Limits, for both young children and older kids, might include device-free mealtimes, reading on a tablet until dinner time, keeping devices in family spaces (not in bedrooms), playing one toy/game app with another child or an adult, or watching a quality children’s TV show while a caregiver does an important task (takes a shower, etc.). Children learn about device etiquette from the adults around them, so early childhood is a great time to decide what works for your whole family. Make a plan for a healthy media diet, but keep in mind that it will change over time as your child grows.

Claudia Haines is the youth services librarian at the Homer Public Library. Have a question about early literacy, reading, or digital media use with kids? Call 235-3180 or email chaines@ci.homer.ak.us.

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