Read and Match

We’re on our second week of The Classical Preschool, and we’re off to a great start! I found a classic book that would surely rouse my two year old’s interest. This morning, I read an abridged board book version of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Since he adores trains, it certainly caught his attention.

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The book was adorned with colorful pictures of animals, toys, food items, different trains—everything that my toddler loves. It also teaches hard work and resilience, virtues that seem to be amiss among millennials these days. But the little steam engine was as optimistic as she could be. We’ll certainly return to this book for a narration activity.

After reading aloud, I added a short matching work. Matching work is actually good for brain development. It helps little children identify similar items, relating pictures with actual tangible items.

I gathered a few toys that were included as characters in the book—a train, an elephant, a giraffe, a red bear, a monkey, and an airplane. I wished we had a clown lying around the house, but we didn’t.

When doing read aloud everyday, I would ask about where the characters are in the book. He would usually point them to me, but this time he was able to match the little toys to the images in the book. I understand why parents homeschool their children. It is truly encouraging to see their development albeit in small ways.

Perhaps you might be wondering what makes our Read Aloud days different that most of our reading time? Maybe some people are more keen that I am. But most of the time, I read to my kids for the sake of reading because I know it’s good for them. I read to my kids all throughout the day. But Read Aloud times for our homeschool is a notch better. You could say that I have my game face on, if that makes any sense. So what makes it better? I would say it is Intentionality. 

How to Choose Books for Children

Time and again, I get asked for children’s book recommendations. I am a self-confessed bibliophile, and I have maintained a modest collection of children’s books at home. You should know that I am not an expert. But I am a mother who wants to share the love of great literature to my own children, and I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned over the years in choosing books that would help build a home library. I say this because the Philippines does not have a lot of public libraries. This is why having your own library is essential in raising readers in our country. A decent collection could greatly benefit your kids or perhaps even your grandkids in the future, Lord willing.

Start Early

I don’t mean start hunting for books early in the morning, although that is good, too. What I mean is to begin building your collection early on, as long as your budget allows it. I started collecting children’s books when I was still single. Although I was unsure if I was going to have kids or even get married, I was placed in children’s ministry when I was doing practicum while I was in seminary. From there, my love for teaching and training children reflected my collection of worthy resources that would help address children’s needs. For more practical reasons, you may begin building your collection while your baby is still in the womb. Reading to children in utero helps mothers bond with their babies, aside from other developmental benefits.

Stick with the Classics

My biggest tip if you have a limited budget is to pick the classics—classic books or classic authors. There is a reason why they are bestsellers. Their style and content has lasted from one generation to another, making them family favorites for years. Another tip is to look out for the Giesel Award, Caldecott Medal and Newbery Award badges when hunting for good books. Any of these awards boost the credibility of a children’s book. Find out more about these badges over here. The same goes for all-time favorite children’s book authors like Dr. Seuss (The Cat in a Hat or Oh, The Places You’ll Go), Eric Carle (Brown Bear, Brown Bear or The Little Hungry Caterpillar), Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon or The Big Red Barn), and others. Their books come up often in recommended lists (see below). You might want to stick to these classic authors if you’re building a small collection.

Stay Away from Twaddle

Choosing classics does not mean you should not buy new ones. But try to stay away from twaddle as much as possible. You can recognize twaddle when you have been surrounded by good books. Twaddle books are badly written second-rate literature that underestimate children’s intelligence, and are often book versions of their TV or movie counterparts. You can read more about what twaddle is over here. Not everyone will agree, but educator Charlotte Mason was adamant about not tolerating twaddle books when reading to children,

They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told.

Study Book Lists

Familiarize yourself with recommended book lists. I was surprised how little some people know about good resources that would point them in a right direction. A quick search in Google or Pinterest would get you there. But knowing the difference between quality books and twaddle take a lot of practice, and reputable book lists help you with that. See The Classical Reader for a compendium of age-appropriate book recommendations by different classical educators. You could also try homeschooling resources like Five In A Row or literature-heavy curricula like Sonlight or Veritas Press.

Scavenge Second-Hand Bookstores

If you have a mental list of good books to find, going to second-hand bookshops like BookSale or Biblio would be so much easier since you already know what you’re looking for. I could spend all day scavenging for good finds. But if you’re like me—a hands-on mama with two active kids—you know it’s next to impossible. So I resort to online shopping. Sure, you pay a little more than the brick and mortar shops, but it saves you a ton of time and energy. I will provide a list of my recommended online stores some other time. Also, watch out for book fairs like the Big Bad Wolf Book Fair this month, and the Manila International Book Fair every September for books sold at bargain prices.

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So far, these are the top five basic things you should look out for when choosing books for children. Selecting Christian books deserve a full post, and will be reserved for another time. My recommended book lists are also in the pipeline.

Please let me know in the comments section if this post has been of help to you and your family. Feel free to comment if you have anything to add as well. 

Read Aloud Day

I am adapting The Classical Preschool for homeschool, and the first day begins with Read Aloud. As I have mentioned in my previous post, my two-year old tot loves to read with me. I have discovered today that he only enjoyed reading books that interest him. He would usually choose the books he wants to read—our open bookshelf allowed him to do that.

I was ecstatic to start teaching my toddler, and I chose the beloved children’s classic, Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina for our Read Aloud Day. I thought it would be fun to read about the peddler selling caps. Since my son is big fan of Curious George, I also chose Caps For Sale because monkeys are a big part of the story. But I was wrong. He wasn’t interested in reading the book with me at all.

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I managed to snap a quick photo of my tot checking out the book before we got started. He opened a few pages, and he diverted back to one of his favorite books instead, that is the Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. You could say that my attempt at restarting homeschool is #FAIL. Oh well. That just proves that not everyone gets into the whole homeschool rhythm from the outset. But I will try this again, and maybe start with the book that he likes.

How did your first day of homeschooling a preschooler go about? I would love hear all about it in the comments.