Monday 28 May 2012

How to Choose a Good Counting and Numeracy Book

There are lots of books available that help young children learn to count. The important thing when learning how to count is repetition and practice and books let children practice their counting skills without them really knowing they are doing it.

Here are some of the things you should look our for when you are choosing a good numeracy book for young children:
  • The story and illustrations should be just as engaging and enjoyable as any other picture book you enjoy with your child, otherwise neither you, nor your children, will want to return to it.
  • Choose counting books that display the numerical form of numbers clearly. It is just as important for children to learn how to recognise numbers, as it is for them to learn how to count.
  • Look for books where the items to be counted are scattered across a page in a non-uniform pattern, or are hidden amongst other objects. This will give them good practice at hard counting.
  • If your child is a reluctant counter, look for character books that will engage them. Flaps, knobbly bits, noisy buttons and holes for fingers are also a good way to get your child actively involved in the book.
  • Don't forget that early maths is about more than just numbers. Shapes and organising objects by size are an important part of the early foundation stage curriculum so look for books that introduce these topics as well.
  • Look for books that will grow with your child. Are there opportunities for your child to do simple addition or subtraction with the book or does it help children learn how numbers are applied, such as telling the time or measuring things?
Browse the shelves, read through the books with your children in the shop before your buy. Our local bookshop has an area for reading with children and any decent bookshop will be happy to see you engaging your children in the choosing process. The real test of any children's book is whether or not your child enjoys it! But if you want somewhere to start, here are some of the counting and numeracy books we have particularly enjoyed.

Ten Little Ladybirds by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith
Ten Friendly Frogs by Sally Hobson

These books have bumpy, raised ladybirds and frogs on the pages that my little ones love to touch and count. Because they want to touch them so much they won't let me point and count. They insist on doing it themselves. The text is also engaging, with simple rhymes. Large numbers appear on each page so the children can learn what the numbers look like, as well as counting them.They also introduce the idea of subracting one from a number, as the books count down. Our copies of these books are falling apart at the spine because they have been so well used. In fact, Garden Lass has just run away with them and is counting frogs as I type!

Counting Colours by Roger Priddy

This is my favourite counting book and is one to use when your children can confidently count to ten. Each double page is covered with a mix of objects of the same colour. The child needs to find 9 blueberries amongst all the other blue objects, or 6 purple dresses amongst all the other purple objects. It is harder than you might think, but a fantastic way of getting them to count objects, rather than just reciting numbers. All the objects are of different sizes so we also use the book to find the biggest goldfish on the page, or the smallest apple. Being able to order objects by size is one of the things your child will learn in the foundation stage so this is a really useful book to help them.

Count with Thomas, A Lift the Flap Book

Garden Boy still enjoys reading this book and will often pick it up himself to look through. This is mainly due to that fact that it is character themed and if you are struggling to get your children counting, a counting book based around their favourite TV characters is a real incentive for them. I like this one in particular because when they have counted the objects they lift the flap to reveal a clear number, which helps them learn what the numbers they have counted look like. Recognising numbers is as important as being able to count, so good number books will show children clearly what they look like.

Nursery Time with Winnie-the-Pooh, A First Lift the Flap Book

This book has been a popular choice for all three of my children and has much more in it than just counting. There are flaps about colours, recognising shadows and fun rhymes. There is a double page of flaps with things to count. When your child lifts the flap they reveal the number in its numerical and written form and as children always lift the flaps this is a great way of familiarising them with the numbers. There is also a great bit in the book which describes what Pooh oes at different times of the day and I use this with Garden Girl, who in reception is just being introduced to the way we tell time. We have dipped into this book at various stages with all three children and they all continue to use it, enabled by the fact they have not grown out of the characters.

We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

This book is beautifully illustrated and is a joy to share with my children. They love counting the animals and whilst Garden Girl is now beyond books which only count up to ten, she continues to love this book, both for the story and illustrations, but also for the fact that it introduces uses the idea that in other parts of the world people use different words for numbers. She loves learning how to count in Swahili and the book does tell you how to pronounce the Swahili words which helps me!

The Ants go Marching, illustrated by Dan Crisp

Whilst we have been reading the rhyme in this book for a long time, we have only just started to use it with Garden Girl to illustrate the idea of multiplication. It is a lovely book to introduce the idea of 'repeated addition' and Garden Girl is always impressed when there are ten rows of ten ants covering a page. It is a charming book to help explain a difficult concept.

If you have any brilliant numeracy books you would like to recommend, let me know. We love discovering new books!

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