How to choose books in a Montessori environment?
This question is asked a lot in Montessori groups around the world: What type of books should I get (buy or from library) for my child?
I can answer this question with another question: At what stage/plane is your child?
Because it does depend on how young your child is.
I will focus here on the first plane (from birth until 6 years old) as it is the trickiest for people to understand sometimes and I will try to make it simple and to the point.
- During the first 6 years of her life, your child has an absorbent mind and takes everything in. Any piece of information is being processed in her brain and her idea of life bases itself on what they get from the outside world. This is why the environment we live in/create for/around them is so important.
- During these first 6 years, your child understands and seeks reality. She cannot process/understand what is not concrete or real. She processes information but not the same way we do later on, she sticks to what she sees, hears, tastes, smells, touches so to sum up, she takes in and believe what she feels sensorially.
Now I have a question: Based on what you just read, do you think children can understand fantasy, make believe or fake?
Naturally, the answer is no. Your child cannot make the difference between reality and fantasy. Fantasy would be taken in as reality. This is why children of the first plane are often scared of fake characters like Santa or monsters. They think it’s real and well, I am not one to lie to my child in general so I don’t read her books that are based on stories that would be totally unrealistic.
Therefore, we choose books based on reality and children love it. As a teacher and a mother, I can vouch for this need for reality and connection to what is close to their own life. We read books about children who do real life things like cooking, gardening, and any activity they can relate to. We don’t use books where bears, fish and rabbits talk. Children would be very disappointed and waiting a long time for their pet to answer them back if they thought it would be possible. We read books about what real animals do.
And YES we do have lots of fun reading realistic books, our daughter is 20 months and loves to build her vocabulary so she likes vocabulary books and preferably with realistic pictures (when it’s possible). Our students, who are a little older (around 3 ), love and connect to books like Henry helps, as they can often relate.
I will leave it at that and hope it gives the minimum you need on how to choose books for your child.
Around 6 years old, the child starts abstracting and can then understand that fantasy is not real and they can start appreciating these fairy and monster stories with a little more maturity. Never forget that they need you to help them guide their young minds towards understanding the world. The real world.
What are your favourite realistic books for young children?