Remember Big Books? Perhaps you thought the Big Book was dead? After all IWBs and visualisers make it possible to project any book in a blown up format that can be used with an entire class. The impact has been the virtual disappearance of new Big Books published for the classroom. We often get requests fro Early Years teachers for new Big Books, so it is frustrating that the range has been reduced to those very well established favourites such as We Are Going on a Bear Hunt and Farmer Duck.
We were delighted therefore when BLOOMSBURY CHILDREN'S BOOKS launched a new collection of some of their best recently published books in Big Book format. These include, Debi Gliori's 'What's the Time Mr Wolf?', Yasmeen Ismail's 'Time For Bed Fred' and Michael Rosen's 'Rover', Charles Faustin's 'The Selfish Crocodile' and Debi Gliori's 'No Matter What'.
So it seems like a good time to reappraise the use of the Big Book in the Early Years classroom. What can Big Book reading do, that projection using the IWB can’t? Or indeed reading a small version of the book can’t do either?
The most important thing, is the way a Big Book used with a group or class affects the reading experience. It is the closest way of replicating the home lap-reading experience in the classroom. Grouping around a book creates a sense of community, a shared experience, which is more difficult to achieve with a screen.
To be clear, we are not against reading on screen but the point here is that the format we choose for reading conveys subtle messages about what we value in the experience. A book held by a teacher (supported by a book rest for easy management) allows for greater eye contact – the book and teacher become one. Children are invited into the teacher’s book world. It is an inductive experience, close to traditional storytelling. The event is about communication not simply reading the words on the page. The subtle difference when reading the same book using a screen is that the teacher and children become viewers, eye contact is focussed more on the screen. For children who may not have experienced a book rich environment before starting school, the reinforcement of the human shared experience is especially important. So while it is completely possible to project an enlarged image of a book for sharing on screen, I would argue that for very young children this is not the same as reading in a group with an enlarged copy of the book.
Using Big Books in the classroom enables teachers to model basic book knowledge, so that children will be able to approach books with confidence. Sharing a story several times develops familiarity so that children gain the confidence that they can read the book independently. Many teachers describe how a familiar Big Book left in the book corner will attract children who want to read it to each other.
A big thank you to BLOOMSBURY for making it possible for us to offer new titles to those teachers who are desperate to extend the range of book books in their classroom.