Just as with “big kid” books, there are different genres or categories in the children’s publishing world.
Also like the children’s publishing world, these categories are narrowed down by interest... though not quite the kind of interest we adults would consider when selecting a book. In this case, it’s not so much the subject material that matters but the intended audience’s reading ability and attention span.
For the very littlest of kids, that means we’re talking about the aptly named board books.
If you’re talking about writing a board book, then you’re thinking about a tiny tot audience: the kind who can’t yet read for themselves.
Board books are called board books because they’re made out of paperboard, not the traditionally thin and flimsy paper that “big kid” books are printed with.
They’ve got sturdy, thick pages: material that small children aged 0-3 can’t rip up too easily since, let’s face it, small children are destructive little darlings.
Destructive and inquisitive and full of so much potential that should never be taken for granted. Children aged 0-3 might not be able to read themselves, but they could be little bookworms in the making depending on how they’re nurtured.
That’s why board books can be such instrumental development tools.
I just had a lovely interaction with a board book the other day thanks to my 2-year-old niece. She didn’t want me to leave, and so she brought over one of her board books, sat down on my lap and opened up to the first page.
How could I say no to that?
I can’t tell you the book itself was all that inspiring to a “big kid” like me. There was no story line to it and very little information to actually read. Its whole purpose was to teach about colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, black, brown and white.
There may or may not have been grey. I can’t remember.
Each sturdy, thick set of pages featured maybe two full sentences (e.g., This is the color orange.) and then a bunch of images with accompanying labels (e.g., carrot, pepper, orange juice).
Honestly, some of the images I found a bit questionable – as in, really? The author used “snake” for both black and brown? Talk about a lack of creativity!
Yet ultimately, my editorial critiques didn’t matter much considering how engaged my niece was. Fitting right there in that key demographic – small children aged 0-3 – she turned each sturdy, thick page to “read” off each first line that she’d already memorized and then “help” me identify each consecutive image.
It was adorable!
But more importantly, it was a book she could easily interact with based on her reading ability and attention span. That board book might not have seemed like much to me. But for her, it and the rest of her board books could inspire her to read bigger kid books once she’s into the next reading phase.
And then bigger kid books after that. And then even bigger kid books after that!
It could foster a love of reading about animals that could turn into a passion for zoology.
It might prompt her to pick up more books going forward, these ones about historical facts and figures that motivate her into shaping positive political movements of the future.
Or it might lead her to her own priceless moment someday where she’s sitting on the floor, holding a precious little life on her own lap and fostering a love of learning all over again.
That’s the potential power of board books, no matter how insignificant they may seem to us adults.