Child literature contributes to the child’s maturity in totality. Through child literature the child is cognitively guided in his/her language development through new words and the meaning thereof which is learned in a fun and spontaneous way. Creative use of language is introduced through rhymes, nursery verses, quibble (wordplay), descriptions, etc. Oral language is promoted when the child learns to listen and then verbally participate (Van der Merwe, 1992:6-7).
Child literature promotes forming of new concepts and reinforces or channels old concepts.
The child will develop cognitively through the realization of methods of learning, such as awareness, attention, observation, fantasy and memory.
Awareness initiates learning because the child always gives meaning to all the facets of his existence to the extent that he experiences it favorable or unfavorable. Therefore, enjoyable experiences with literature contribute to stabilize awareness (Meller, Richardson & Hatch, 2009:76; McVicker, 2007:19; Van der Merwe, 1992:6-7).
To be able to pay attention is a prerequisite for effective learning (Quintero, 2004:60-61; Van der Merwe, 1992:7, 14-16). The parent / teacher should choose stories that fit the child’s developmental stage. The preschooler experiences different stages of development in terms of stories. To maintain the preschooler’s concentration the choice of stories should comply with the following aspects:
3- to 4-year-old
- The 3- to 4-year-old is egocentric and interested in books in which he can identify with the main character because he is very aware of himself as a person at this stage.
- He cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy and is not able to think abstractly yet.
- The 3- to 4-year-old has a great yearning for love and security and the stories should have a straightforward, predictable and satisfactory progress and conclusion.
- This age child is able to understand a simple plot and he must be able to understand the motives of the characters because he could have had similar experiences already.
- The 3- to 4-year-old’s attention span is short and he is very active, so the stories should be short.
- Toddlers also like repetition, because then they can retell the story themselves.
- The illustrations should be realistic and simple.
4- to 5-year-old
- The 4- to 5-year-old is still egocentric, but is starting to reach out to the world around him.
- He shows great interest in the sound of words and stories in verse especially if humorous by nature, because he wants to express his feelings.
- He cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy, and although the 4- to 5-year-old is still very active, they can concentrate for longer periods of time.
- The 4- to 5-year-old wants to start making his own story choices.
5- to 6-year-old
- The 5- to 6-year-old is much less egocentric, his interests are spreading and he gets more realistically orientated by separating reality and fantasy.
- The 5- to 6-year-old ‘s concentration is improving,
- he wants to do role playing,
- he wants to expand his knowledge,
- he likes humorous stories,
- he is separating the good and evil characters and
- he is interested in different types of illustrations (Quintero, 2004:60-61; Van der Merwe, 1992:7, 16-19).
Observation as the next method of learning is inseparable from language as the medium through which observation emerges (McVicker, 2007:19; Van der Merwe, 1992:7).
Fantasy forms part of the child’s experience. Lack of fantasy in infancy may lead to a lack of being realistically orientated (Tsitsani, Psyllidou, Batzios, Livas, Ouranos & Cassimos, 2010:266; Van der Merwe, 1992:7).
Memorizing enlivens the child’s experience, but is also the act by which new learning content is integrated and expanded. Literature for young children serves as a medium for imaginative discovery. The child is led to problem solving by the different characters in a story and soon realizes that there are different solutions to everyday problems (McVicker, 2007:19; Van der Merwe, 1992:7-8).
McVicker, C. J. 2007. Young readers respond: The importance of child participation in emerging literacy. YC Young Children, 62 (3):19.
Meller, W. B., Richardson, D., & Hatch, J. A. 2009. Using read-alouds with critical literacy literature in K-3 classrooms. YC Young Children, 64 (6):76.
Quintero, E. P. 2004. Will I lose a tooth? Will I learn to read? Problem posing with multicultural children’s literature. YC Young Children, 59 (3):56-62.
Tsitsani, P., Psyllidou, S., Batzios, S. P., Livas, S., Ouranos, M. & Cassimos, D. 2010. Fairy tales: A compass for children’s healthy development – A qualitative study in a Greek Island. Child: care, health and development, 38 (2):266.
Van der Merwe, M. 1993. Kleuterpraktyk 2: Musiek. Klasnotas (Waarde van Musiek in die Pre-primêre skool). Pretoria: Onderwyskollege van Suid-Afrika.