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Selection with Intention:

Thought and Deliberation Go into Each and Every Book Selection --

BEGIN WITH BOOKS (BWB) is pleased to have two new books in its rotation and on bookshelves in the month of September: Baby Builders, by Elissa Haden Guest, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, for children turning three, and Brick by Brick, by Heidi Woodward Sheffield, for children turning four.

Hundreds of potential titles are reviewed every year for inclusion in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (DPIL).  Let's explore why these two books in particular may have been chosen.

The Book Selection Process

A tremendous amount of thought and deliberation goes into each and every book selection.  The Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee, DPIL's panel of early childhood literacy experts, convenes annually to review and select books for the following program year.  This diverse group of experts is made up of  teachers, librarians, authors, and early childhood educators.  The richness of their backgrounds ensures that many viewpoints and considerations are brought into the selection process.

Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity

Inclusivity is an important criterion for the book selection committee so that all children can see themselves reflected in the books they read.  The Imagination Library has partnered with Penguin Random House (PRH) for many years.  Throughout this relationship, DPIL has pushed for more diverse titles, and PHR has responded in kind.  The PRH website links to stories Celebrating Black Joy which includes Hair Love, a DPIL 2020 selection.  It also publishes many children's titles in Spanish.  In 2018, a community of publishers, authors, illustrators, and readers came together under a PRH imprint called Kokila.  The aim of Kokila is to celebrate stories that reflect the richness, diversity, and full range of experiences that children see in the world.

Importance of Hispanic Content

Given that people of Hispanic origin make up the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority, offering books in Spanish, and having titles that include Hispanic content, is particularly important.  Hispanic refers to individuals who are Spanish-speaking or have a background in a Spanish-speaking country.  According to the 2019 census, the U.S. Hispanic population is 60.6-million.  That's 18.5% of the nation's total population.

The Blue Ribbon Book Selection Committee selects several bilingual English/Spanish titles each year. This year, Baby Builders and Brick by Brick were added, making 11 bilingual titles in the 2021 book list.  

The other bilingual titles for 2021 are:

  • Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus - children turning 5
  • Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton - children turning 4
  • I Hear a Pickle by Rachel Isadora - children turning 2
  • I Love My Daddy Because by Laurel Porter Gaylord (illustrated by Ashley Wolff) - children turning 1
  • I Love My Mommy Because by Laurel Porter Gaylord (illustrated by Ashley Wolff) - infants
  • My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero - children turning 5
  • Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse by Jane Godwin (illustrated by Blanca Gomez) - children turning 2
  • Sassy: Baby's First Words (Grosset & Dunlap) - children turning 1
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - children turning 3

Developmental Appropriateness

Aside from ensuring that the catalog reflects diversity and inclusion, all books need to be appropriate for age of child from a developmental perspective.  In line with the Imagination Library's core mission, each and every book selected must first answer the question of whether it will inspire a love of reading.   Once a book is a potential candidate, the committee uses a framework to determine where it falls within the age groupings based on the developmental milestones of a child.  You can review core themes and concepts here

Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield 

Winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, Brick by Brick promotes appreciation and pride in Hispanic culture.  The September mailing date for this book coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is an annual celebration that recognizes the positive impact that Hispanic Americans have had, and continue to have, on this country.

The majority of Hispanic parents are foreign born, and a large motivation for immigrating is the educational and financial opportunity for their children.  The value of education and hard work is the theme of Brick by Brick.  Papi, a bricklayer, works hard every day to help build the city - brick by brick.  His son, Luis, works hard too in school - book by book.  This story is very much about the American dream.  Papi is a strong father whose labor is honored as he works to make his dreams come true.  Just like Papi, Luis works hard in school and dreams big about his future.  One day Papi surprises Lui with something special - a new home he has built for his family, brick by brick.  Spanish words are both in the text and cleverly inserted into the illustrations - Luis and his father's lunches of empanadas and horchata for example.

Baby Builders, by Elissa Haden Guest, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata 

This new bilingual title wonderfully demonstrates the types of things the committee looks for when determining the developmental appropriateness of their books selections.  For example, children of this age love seeing pictures of other toddlers, and are very often construction-site obsessed.  This book combines both, with toddlers wearing hard hats, safety goggles, and work boots, and using excavators, shovels, and bulldozers to build a fun playhouse. 

The committee would be particularly attracted to the jaunty rhymes:

    forklift carries heavy bricks/baby masons know the tricks

    whistle blows, food truck's here!/hungry babies give a cheer. Whoee-ooo!

Rhyming is important for language development. It allows children to anticipate which words come next, helps them recognize word families, and appreciate the natural cadence of the spoken word. Check out our previous blog all about the importance of rhyming here.

Nakata's bold, colorful illustrations are in primary colors, another developmental consideration.  And the cherubic toddlers in the pictures are in the same positions that little readers find themselves in.  The busy illustrations mean there is always something new to notice, so it's a great book to read and reread many times - rereading books multiple times is important at this stage of language development.  The book has a lovely ending as they're babies after all.  The day ends with cozy nighttime scenes - bath, jammies, and sweet dreams!

Here's what our little ones are reading in the month of September -

 -- Caron Bell, PhD, Early Childhood Development, and volunteer 


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