Babylit Primers boast they are “a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.” This book line includes a Frankenstein anatomy primer, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Dracula counting primers, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland color primers, Jungle Book animal primer, Anna Karenina fashion primer, and Moby-Dick ocean primer. I’m currently working on a project that is looking specifically at the Jane Eyre a Counting Primer, and have been researching the benefits of reading picturebooks, like the Babylit primers, to children.
- Reading to children builds their vocabulary. Many studies show that reading to children “contributes to children’s language development . . . and research suggests that book reading contributes significantly to children’s vocabulary and concept development” (Anderson, Anderson and Shapiro 6). This point is largely self-explanatory: the more words read to a child equals a greater potential for these words to be incorporated into the child’s speech. Babylit primers offer an even more enriching possibility, for they have vocabulary not found in typical infant primers. Babylit primers borrow words from the classics they are parodying. For example, in the Jane Eyre primer words such as governess, trunk, insect, towers and soul appear. How adorable would it be if your three year old asked for help packing his “trunk”?? Or said, “mom, look at this insect” instead of “mom, look at this bug”?? It would be amazing.
- Engaging with literature, even at a young age, enables us to go beyond our own lived experience. Perhaps the best and most fun part of reading picturebooks with children are the questions they ask you while reading. Education scholar Mary Roche argues that these types of conversations allow children to go “beyond their lived experience” (52). For example, coming across an unfamiliar word and concept like “governess” opens up opportunities for conversations between reader and child such as: what is a governess? Why would someone have a governess? Are there still governesses? Who were governesses? Were only girls governesses? How does a governess fit into Jane Eyre? My example is probably the most basic, but this is why reading to children in general is so important: it opens their eyes to the lives of others.
- Picturebooks can help develop aesthetic sense. This may seem too elevated a concept for infants and toddlers, but through the beautiful art in Babylit primers children “are exposed to feelings and language and experiences that words alone could not offer” (Roche 53). The primers, ALL THE PRIMERS, are illustrated by Alison Oliver, and they are simply attractive to look at. The color, the illustrations, the type sets are all aesthetically appealing. Children, like older human beings, like to look at beautiful things, things that are aesthetically pleasing. The books young children like the most are the ones they are aesthetically drawn to, in other words, the ones with pictures they like. Part of reading picturebooks to children is discovering what their aesthetic sense is. So it doesn’t hurt that the Babylit primers are gorgeous. Likewise, the color and fashion primers link a developing aesthetic sense to building vocabulary.
- Develops spatial and mathematical knowledge. Numerous studies show that picturebooks are beneficial for learning. When looking specifically at counting primers like Babylit’s Jane Eyre, psychologists such as Lovitt and Clarke argue that there is a framework offered “with cognitive stimuli which may initiate the children’s exploration of mathematical concepts and development of mathematical skills” (278). This is less complicated than it sounds. When the Jane Eyre Counting Primer says “1 Governess” and shows one woman on the opposite page, this stimulates mathematical thinking. A young child can begin to link “1” to the single figure. Likewise when the text reads “3 candles” and the opposite page shows three candles, a conversation can be encourage: “how many candles do you see, can you point to each candle ect.” However, in the experiments I read, this depended greatly on who was reading the book to the child. Often it is up to the reader to encourage counting.
- Develops a love and interest in literature. This argument is my own. I have no evidence, other than my own life, so it’s more a hunch. If someone was read Jane Eyre a Counting Primer as a child, and loved it, then perhaps they would be drawn to read the actual Jane Eyre later in life. The primer introduces a skeleton version of the novel, as do the other primers, and this can facilitate an interest in the stories. When someone is old enough to read the works of literature for themselves, they may be more inclined to do so because they have already been introduced to it. Jane Eyre is not some foreign character, but an old childhood friend. I obviously did not have the Babylit primers growing up. But I did have a mother who loved all things Jane Austen. I first watched the Pride and Prejudice six hour BBC miniseries, staring Colin Firth, when I was in grade two. I did not understand everything that was going on, but I loved it. I loved the dresses, I loved the balls, I loved the gardens, and I loved the polite men. I really attribute this early introduction to my own love of Jane Austen (and my then expanding obsession with any “good” book). When I was old enough to read and actually understand Pride and Prejudice it was like meeting my old childhood friends. So I can’t make any promises, and I don’t have the data to prove it, only my own experience, but maybe if you read your children Babylit Primers you could be creating for your child a lifelong love affair with literature.
Click here to check out the Babylit Website.
Anderson, Ann., Jim Anderson, and Jon Shapiro. “Supporting Multiple Literacies: Parents’ and Children’s Mathematical Talk within Storybook Reading.” Mathematics Education Research Journal 16.3 (2005): 5-26. Web. JStor. 15 Jan 2015.
Elia, Iliada., Marja van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, and Alexia Georgiou. “The Role of Pictures in Picture Books on Children’s Cognitive Engagement with Mathematics.” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 18.3 (2010): 275-97. Web. Informaworld. 15 Jan 2015.
Roche, Mary. Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.