Kids of many ages and maturity levels are learning to read. At the earliest level, we tend to dumb down reading material to make it as easy as possible. But what about the exceptional child who has a deep vocabulary? Or the older child who is coming to reading later. Think about the child who is learning English—who already knows how to read in his home language. All of these scenarios point to a need for books that are rich in concept and vocabulary, so that children do not feel belittled by the very material that should be helping support them.
Kids love special words. Children remember “dinosaur” before the word “the” because it is interesting and meaningful. Why not expand and expose? This is not to advocate leaving a child alone in frustration to “figure things out”, but there are so many ways to support and encourage new readers. I believe one way is to give them something more interesting to read.
When I developed our book packs, I started with very simple language. It’s a classic way to create the early reader. It works. Kids are very supported and highly successful. But the key is we didn’t dumb them down either. We let the art talk and really worked from there. As we developed more sets, with more sophisticated art and concepts, we continued to let the art direct the language. So the language—the vocabulary and sentence structures—became more sophisticated. At first I was nervous, because I hadn’t worked with text like this in the past. But as we put the packs out there and people started using them, we received mostly excellent feedback. I say mostly because some people are still astounded by the idea of using such advanced vocabulary in early readers. And honestly, it is not for every child. Then again, nothing is! But many people cherish those book packs the most. Children return to them again and again and really love them, feel pushed forward by them, and have their imaginations sparked by them.
Soon, we will post an interview with a tutor who has been using the book packs with a child who is coming to reading a little later than people expect, and they are loving them. Stay tuned!