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Lost in the story.

When children interact with books they become more involved in the reading experience.

Oct 20, 2021

Words: Andrea Kinsmith

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Young children are very curious, stretching out to touch (or taste) anything within reach.

Interactive books tap into their curiosity, providing both younger and older children the opportunity to be involved in their search for knowledge and understanding.

When children interact with a book – lifting flaps, tapping the page or calling out words – they become more involved in the reading experience.

Being actively engaged makes learning fun and much more memorable. It also channels their focus and fuels their desire to learn.

When children interact with a book... they become more involved in the reading experience.

Here are my suggestions of great interactive books:

From four months and onwards:
At such a young age children don’t have the fine motor skills or strength to open a normal book. Cloth books and bath books are the very first books that a baby can hold. They’re not only safe for a young child to play with on their own, but they also tap into their natural curiosity with bright, simple pictures, crinkly pages or squeakers and cloth tabs to interact with.

From six months and onwards:
Around this age, babies are reaching out to test the shape, texture and taste of everything. It’s the best time to introduce sturdy board books and some book-handling skills. The Touchy-Feely Board Book series is perfect for this age.

These books introduce children to different textures, such as a soft fur for a rabbit or a rough surface for tree bark. The “That’s not my…” and Touchy-Feely Playbook series by Usborne do a great job of this, also
Tails by Matthew Van Fleet.

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From six-to-nine months and onwards:

We can further help children develop their fine motor finger skills by introducing them to the Fingertrail Playbooks.

These books have shallow grooves cut into their pages that are just the right size for little fingers to follow along and learn about shape and direction.

As their book handling skills increase, it can also be a good time to introduce some simple lift-the-flap books such as Where’s Spot by Eric Hill and other simple hide-and-seek books. Usborne’s Little-Peep-Through series and Slide-and-See series are excellent for this kind of engagement.

Having fun interacting with these books helps children with their exploration skills, as well as memory and prediction.

From 10 months and onwards:

At around nine to 10 months of age, a baby may be able to open a small board book, but probably won’t be able to turn individual pages. Now you can introduce them to another interactive experience – sound books.

Some sound books have a panel down the side that encourages a child to match a picture and sound to a short story, while others may have a flap that, when lifted, triggers the sound of the object underneath.

Between about 10–18 months, babies develop the motor skills to be able to open a board book themselves, which means they can now explore all these books on their own.

From 18 months to two years:

Introducing simple board books about colours, shapes and the names of things is the next step. Interactive books that do this are often called see-and-say books. This is because an adult points to a picture in the book, saying what the picture is and, if it is an animal or vehicle for example, the sound that it makes. Kids love this! It helps them work on their word formation and, eventually, they say it back to you.

Introducing board books with numbers, letters and more complex concepts are usually done at around two to three years old.

Kids love this!

From three to four years and onwards:

Wind-up toy and finger puppet books come with their own wind-up toy or puppet that matches the story. These encourage children to act out the story, helping them to learn about the world through play.

Hervé Tullet books are super fun to read together. They ask children to tap dots, follow lines or make small sounds in order to change the image on the page in front of them. Other similar books that ask children to be involved in the story by tapping the page or saying something include Let's Build by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson and This Is Crab by Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee.

Flip-flap or mix-n-match books are a lot of fun to explore. Younger children will mostly play with the pictures, mixing and matching all sorts of crazy combinations of animals or characters.

At around four or five, they will become more interested in the funny words that they make. From five to seven years old, children can use these books to help them understand how words are formed.

Our favorites are the Flip-Flap books by Axel Scheffler. Lift-the-flap books are the ultimate interactive book. Simple books like Playtown by Priddy Books are suitable to be introduced to two-year-olds, while the Usborne Lift-the-Flap information books are more suited to kids over three years. These books are rich with information for curious minds, as well as being hands-on.

Search and find books, like Richard Scarry’s books, have a simple story but a lot more going on in the pictures. They can keep kids occupied for hours. Other awesome examples include the Things-to-Spot Usborne books and Where’s Wally by Martin Handford. These are more suited to five-to-seven-year-olds. For the four-to-five-year-olds there is a fantastic four book series called All Around Bustletown by Rotraut Susanne Berner.

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