Saturday, June 03, 2006

Books That Do Stuff

When my oldest was a baby (18 years ago) I don’t remember many books that did other stuff, besides tell stories with pictures and words. Nowadays we have books with working wheels, touchy-feely stuff, finger puppets, sounds and music… all sorts of multimedia. My boys love it. I think the authors and publishers have put a lot of thought and sound pedagogy into them too, as the multisensory, interactive approach teaches higher thinking skills and a variety of strategies for making meaning from the text.

When I was in the store and first saw the Tonka truck series of books with wheels I thought it was kinda gimmicky and pooh poohed it. But my little boys love them. We have Fire Trucks! by Melissa A. Torres and we discovered that if you unsnap the closure and stand it up on the floor and give it a push it rolls along and opens like a fan quite smoothly. It gets a laugh from all of us.

Someone gave us Little Ladybug Finger Puppet Book from chronicle books. It is adorable. You put your finger through the back and it makes the ladybug’s head wiggle. Punkin likes to chew on it. I have no idea what the text says cause he never lets me read it.

Touch and Feel Farm was another gift book. Of course farm animal books are always popular for the sounds you make. It’s interesting how farm animals are still part of the required curriculum for babies. They love the silliness of moos and squawks, and we like to see them getting all the names right. Neither of my little boys seemed to care much for the panels of fabric and fur you are suppose to stroke. Since it is just a cut out overlaid on the animal picture it strikes me as a bit arbitrary anyway. We like the photos and the sound play in any case.

Pop-up books are really popular these days too. We like Riggeldy Jiggeldy Joggeldy Jam Can You Guess Who I am? by Esther Nelson and Davida Hirsch. I have to read the rhyme really fast because Buddy Boy and Punkin race to open the flap and see the object of the riddle on each page. The rhythm and rhyme element of learning language is a good foundation for reading skills, as well as the prediction and analysis thinking skills involved in riddles. So it may seem like a silly book but a lot is going on while we read this one.

Who’s Under That Hat? By David A. Carter is a Lift-the-Flap Pop-up Adventure book that encourages pre-reading skills. At this point I have to keep taking this book away from Punkin cause he loves to rip and chew. But a couple of times I have managed to hold it just out of reach while zipping through it and he adores seeing what is under the hats on each page. Each page incorporates movement, surprise or tactical features as well, so it is stimulating and complex on a variety of levels.

Buddy Boy loves trains and stories about trains, and he loves to push buttons. So A Surprise for Thomas Play-a-Sound Book by Deborah Upton is right up his alley. There are flaps to lift on each page and buttons down the side of the book that make distinctive music or sounds for each character. This book is a favorite entertainment at naptime as he tells himself the story. The battery has lasted a long time too, considering we got the book second hand two years ago.

One of the skills that I have been fascinated with observing develop in my little boys is the understanding of pushing buttons to make things happen. I think we are teaching that at younger and younger ages. My 14 month old can turn on the DVD player even though he doesn’t watch movies or understand what the machine is for. He sees a button and pushes it. He knows which one is the power button - blue lights come on and things light up! He has a toy car that moves and makes noise and flashing lights when you push the drivers’ head down. He has always watched with fascination when one of us made it move, now he crawls over and does it himself and smiles when it goes as expected. I actually think my older boys started using the remote and pushing buttons at an even younger age. Maybe it is an evolutionary development for humanity… advanced digital elocution. We probably have five different types of toy phones in this house, and most of them make noise, flash lights, and/or record your voice when you push buttons. We have a toy remote that does the same. Over half of the baby toys we were given have computer chips and sounds/lights in them that respond to touch or movement. If you stomp your feet or slam the door in this house tinny computer music springs from under the couch or behind the toy box. And sitting quietly with a book isn’t what it used to be… but I digress. What can your books do?


Ancient Kingdom said...

My books sit in shelves...Nothing much.....:(

Japan is way ahead of us on this...

Jenna said...

We need the firetruck book. WOO!

jo(e) said...

Scratch and sniff books were a big fad when my sister was little. I loved them.

My own kids always liked the books with wheels that you could drive around on the floor.

Deb said...

You made me think of my favorite kind of book-that-does-stuff from my childhood: the ones that came with a little 45 record. You'd play the record and follow along, turning the page when you heard the little "ding." Remember those?

My kids have some books that come with cassette tapes, but I've always been disappointed that the little "ding" isn't there!

cloudscome said...

Oh Yes! We had Mary Poppins and Bambi with 45 records in them I think! Thanks for the memory!

I had some of those books with tapes for my oldest son and my first graders. I think on one side of the tape there is no ding, and the other side of the tape has the story with the dings. Check it out again...

Deb said...

Oh, good tip about the "dings!"