The Beauty of Board Books

Board Books are best when they use images and words that appeal to babies and create a playful experiences for caregiver and child.

Book coverAs a children's services librarian, I am always thrilled to see anything about children's books or children's literacy get major news coverage.  So I woke up fast when I caught the New York Times article just over a week ago on the front page, below the fold (for those of who still read the paper paper) about board books.  Board books!  The overlooked and unappreciated format for, as the NYTimes put it, "the teething set."    Yet, my heart sank as I read on. 

Board Books have a funny place in a librarian's heart.  They are harder to order than other books because they don't get listed and reviewed as regularly as standard trade books. They are harder to process (where, exactly, do you put the barcode and the stamp?  What if the book is curvy?)  They are hard to shelve (that's why you often find them in browsing baskets), and we have to replace them constantly.  But constant replacement is a sign of constant use, and that is good news.

Board Books are supposed to be for babies and toddlers.  They are supposed to be manhandled (and yes, even chewed), to get your young one practicing fine motor skills and the idea of turning pages.  They should have images and words that you can play with together, and that are stimulating and appealing to a very very young child.

Which is why I was dismayed to read in the Times article about board books reconstituting fine literary classics such as Moby Dick and Sense and Sensibility (as if those works would still be"fine" when reduced to 16 pages) or presenting fine art by contemporary artists (shrunk down to 3 inch squares).  I'm not going to dish too hard because I wish small independent publishers all the best.   But I do think it does a disservice to board books, and their readers, to suggest that this is the newest and best thing on the market.   Board books are for babies, and your baby might better appreciate some of the tried and true, and very frequently replaced, board book classics that you'll probably find in a basket, on the floor, on the cozy rug, at your library. 

Some of my favorites are here (click through to have a copy sent to your library for pickup).  What other favorites do you have? 

The article mentioned is "A Library of Classics, Edited for the Teething Set" by Julie Bosman, New York Times, October 26, 2013

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