Aren’t board books wonderful? It’s handy to be able to buy all sorts of classics, from The
Very Hungry Caterpillar to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, in hard-wearing editions for those of
us who are still getting the hang of being gentle with books. Not only that, there are also
now a lot of new titles produced only as board books, with content aimed at babies and
Today I’d like to recommend a few new titles that could suit your family or early childhood
education centre well.
Publisher Nosy Crow has produced a colourful set of board books that stand out from the
crowd because they have sounds included – and they’re not even annoying! And they have
an on/off switch! And they’re interesting for both adults and children!
Listen to the Birds from Around the World has six spreads, with a bird and its sound
introduced on each. The text is designed to draw children into an interactive experience:
‘Listen to the noisy penguin on the ice.’
‘Can you hear the flamingos in the water?’
The last page has the all-important on/off switch, and also an invitation to try to make the
bird sounds ourselves.
I thoroughly recommend this one, and also the fascinating Listen to the Music from Around
the World, which is popular in our house for the short tunes played on six different
instruments, from bagpipes to the ‘Chinese violin’ (the erhu).
Unfortunately, for no good reason, most of the animal characters who play the instruments
are given male pronouns. Children’s books have always included more male characters than
female, even among animals, but there’s no excuse for it in 2018. Luckily, board books are
designed to be read with children who can’t read, so you can change the gender of the
animals at will as you read.
There are ten more titles in the Listen to the… series. The books are sturdily produced and
the sounds are, as I say, not too loud or irritating for adults who may have to hear them
hundreds of times. The music one is even enjoyable!
As well as loving reading with an adult, my three-year-old entertains herself for quite some
time with these, and my six-year-old is also a fan, enjoying turning the sounds into a quiz for
Chris Ferrie is a scientist and father who wants to make sure board books for babies aren’t
only about farm animals and diggers. How about quantum physics as well?
Each of the titles in his Baby University series teaches a specific principle of physics, in much
the same way one would introduce these theoretical concepts to an adult. I learned a lot!
I wish the illustrations were less plain – the colour scheme inside looks more like a
conventional textbook, rather than an inviting children’s book – and I’m not expecting
children to come to an advanced understanding of physics by absorbing the concepts.
Two of the three I have read, Quantum Information for Babies and Statistical Physics for Babies, explained concepts I hadn’t known before, in a clear way, but I had to concentrate pretty hard, and I’m a 40-year- old with two degrees! It’s a good amount of information for a much older child if we’re aiming for substantial learning, but far too complex and abstract for
But that isn’t really the point. I would still recommend these books for early childhood
centres and families with little ones, for reasons that relate to my recent article on
expanding children’s horizons when it comes to career options. Children get to school age knowing a heck of a lot about dinosaurs and astronomy. Even quite sophisticated scientific ideas, from evolution and adaptation to black holes and gravity, are contained in hundreds of stories and TV shows aimed at young children.
But I bet not many four-year-olds have even heard of quantum information. And you can’t aim for something you’ve never heard of, so if we want the children in our lives to have the option of a career in physics in the future – especially the children who don’t have any scientists in their families – reading these books with them is a great way to normalise the language and ideas of physics, no matter how much or little information they take in now.
I’d put the third one I’ve read, Electromagnetism for Babies, in another category though.
Even teachers and parents who, like me, don’t have much background in physics are
probably familiar with how a magnet works and will be able to help children explore them
off the page as well as in the book.
No doubt early childhood teachers will find plenty of other ways to build on these books to
help children develop their scientific understanding. I’d encourage teachers to take a look at
the list, and run your own experiment with a couple of titles.
Even better, we have a copy of each of these to give away to members of the Storypark
community! Head to our Facebook page to be in to win!
This is a fun board book that lets everyone who’s reading or listening become musical
instruments. You could even get a few drums or pots out and be a band while you read!
One little owl has discovered the joy of banging on a saucepan with wooden spoons: ‘BIM
BAM BIM BAM BOOM!’
‘What are you doing?’
‘Can’t you see? I’m making music!’
‘Wait a minute– I’ll be back!’
And off goes a little yellow kingfisher to fetch some pot lids to join the band.
Three more little birds come upon the music-making and run off to find their own
instruments. By the time the last has joined in, we have a cacophony of different sounds.
One goes TISH TISH TISH and another CLANG CLANG.
The different sound words are written jauntily across the page, and colour-coded, so most
toddlers can follow along and make a racket with their adult reader. You can make your own
band, just with saying the words, or you could assemble some makeshift instruments and
join in that way.
This is another book that lends itself to more games and experiments. What things in your
home or early childhood centre are good to bang on and with? What different sounds can
you get out of them? Can children practise taking turns, with one starting, and others
Please let us know your children’s favourite board books by leaving a comment below or
on our Facebook page. We love to hear from you!