Part Two: An Interview with the Creators of ¡Leámoslo otra vez!
At HighScope Educational Research Foundation, equity has been at the core of our mission since our founding in 1970. In our curriculum materials, assessment tools, and professional development offerings, we strive to provide high-quality classroom experiences from which all children can learn. This month, we have officially launched the Spanish Read-Alouds, or ¡Leámoslo otra vez!—an entirely Spanish-language companion to our bestselling literacy tool, Let’s Read It Again! Interactive Read-Alouds.
The Spanish Read-Alouds include a teacher’s guide, five high-quality Spanish-language children’s books, and lesson plans for multiple readings of the books with scaffolding strategies for vocabulary, comprehension, and other critical literary skills. This product was developed for use in both dual-language programs and Spanish-speaking classrooms; all materials included are written entirely in Spanish.
The interview below, the second of a two-part series, was conducted with Amy Vandament, President of The Book Vine for Children, who selected the books to be included in the Spanish Read Alouds. Click here to read the interview with Graciela Borja of HighScope Mexico, the translator and chief creator of the Spanish Read Alouds.
These responses have been lightly edited for space and clarity.
What is The Book Vine’s philosophy when it comes to publishing books for children? How does it align with HighScope’s philosophy to classroom practices?
The Book Vine’s mission for over 40 years is to find the best books for children birth to five years. Each year, we review the 3,000 books published and select only the best for teachers and the students in their classrooms.
We believe that reading to children is an act of nurturing. When a book brings a teacher and a group of children joy, there is no better way of sharing ideas and concepts. A good book in the hands of a teacher who loves the text and the art is a powerful agent for the growth of literacy and social-emotional support.
We are an independent, woman-owned business, and we are not beholden to any publisher in our book selections. We select high-quality books to support literacy, social-emotional development, diversity, and STEAM.
What does “high-quality” confer when talking about a children’s book? What aspects of a story are best for children’s development?
A high-quality children’s book is a marriage of excellent text and beautiful art. When the text and the art are strong on their own and also in sync with each other, something magical happens: The union produces a work that transcends other books in the genre.
Whether a story, a biography, or a book on concepts, the text must have rich language and phrasing that pulls the reader in. The language in quality children’s literature is different from the language spoken in casual conversation or at home. The sentences often feel patterned or poetic, even when they are straight prose. Good books should present children with words that are new to them, used in different contexts. Overall, the language should be tempting and give them something to savor.
The art in children’s literature is of equal importance, as these images are the first examples of art many children will view. The quality should be of the highest level, no matter the media. Just as a child learns phrasing and vocabulary from quality text, they can also learn examples of quality artwork from observing the illustrations in good books. It is this observation that also builds general knowledge of the world. Repeated readings are as informative to the eye as the ear.
A great children’s book is layered: No matter the subject, any good book will have multiple layers of content just waiting to be explored. For example, a book about a family picnic might seem to be about the day in the life of the members of the family. But the foods they eat, the sounds of nature they hear, the description of the colors of the season, and their relationships to one another bring so much more to the table than what is on the surface. A well-crafted book adds these layers deliberately and with care.
A great children’s picture book should be a good read not just for a child, but also for the adult sharing that book, whether it is a teacher, parent, or caregiver.
What aspects of a story are best for literacy development?
Well-written books provide word patterns, rhythm, and sometimes rhyme. They use interesting vocabulary and turns of phrase. They teach children that there are different kinds of speech that one can use in different situations, to express different feelings. This attunes a child’s ear and grows a child’s understanding of and ability to use language.
Stories need a beginning, middle and end, sometimes referred to as a narrative arc. This construction is easy to rely on and helps children follow the “thread” of a story. It means that the story builds, peaks and resolves in a way that feels satisfying to readers. It can help children summarize the story and at the same time develop memorization skills and build language fluency in their retelling of the tale.
Repeated reading of favorite titles is important! Young children learn the story and can “read” along with the adult. This step toward decoding is essential in the journey to reading.
Children who have been read to learn how a book works, how to turn a page, and that page turns are responsible for the pace of a story and can hold them in suspense.
One of the best ways to support literacy is to continue to read to children, even after they are reading independently. When their own reading skills are still new, reading to them gives them access to more complex texts, more interesting ideas, and the adult-child reading relationship they’ve come to enjoy. The time spent sharing a chapter book or even a novel with an older child reinforces the same concepts as reading to young children: developing vocabulary, exploring characters and plot, and sharing their thoughts about the story or concept.
Good books teach a child that reading is a rich and rewarding experience. When children look to books for pleasure, literacy and learning grow.
What aspects of a story are best for social-emotional development?
Good stories are satisfying on their own, but a tale about character, such as being kind to an animal, helping a neighbor in need, or knowing yourself, sows the seeds of learning about emotions. Reading together, talking about the story, and sharing points of view about social-emotional elements are the best way to help a child develop a solid foundation of self-awareness and relationship skills. Repeated reading, intentional book selection, and a caregiver or parent with time to read to a child will set them on the path of social-emotional literacy.