My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things
Dorling Kindersley, 2016
224pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
The sub-title for this new publication from Dorling Kindersley is “for little learners who want to know everything” and that is very apt. This is the perfect introduction to non fiction and the purpose of encyclopedias for our youngest readers.
There are sections devoted to the planet, places, animals, people, themselves and “other very important things”. Each topic within each section has a double page spread that is a mix of clear, colourful pictures, text and “white space” that presents the basic information in a way that speaks directly to the child and in language that they can understand. For example, they can learn that if they were to drive a car straight up it would only take about an hour to reach space and on the way they would pass through five layers of air called the atmosphere. Accompanying the car is a kid-friendly diagram that shows the different layers with a sentence about each and pictures of the things that ascend to each layer.
There is such a body of research now that clearly shows the importance of print in the development of research skills and those who have a solid foundation of skills in that medium are better able to use online sources much more effectively and efficiently later so it is no surprise that I am a fan of this book. When Miss 4 asks, “Where does the sun go at night?” it’s so easy to say, “Let’s have a look in our book to see if we can find out.” It reinforces the ideas that we can get information from books and with the index at the back, it is a quick and easy exercise. The structure mimics that of encyclopedia for older readers (although it is not in alphabetical order) so right from get-go they are learning to locate information using contents, an index, page numbers, headings and captions.
It is also perfect for those who prefer non fiction – and in this one the text is accessible so they can do more than just look at the pictures – and even suits those who like to be seen with the heaviest, thickest books (although its size is just fine for Miss 5 to manage independently).
For a few years, voluminous encyclopedias went out of fashion – and often out of home and school libraries because of the wonder and speed of the Internet. But thankfully, print versions are making a comeback as we now understand that technology does not provide all the answers; that connectivity and accessibility can be an issue; that what is available is not necessarily at the child’s level of understanding; and that print comes free of advertisements and other distractions. And a one-off cost can be cheaper than an annual subscription, particularly for basic information that doesn’t change.
In 2015 I gave a presentation at SLANZA in Christchurch called Information Literacy for Littlies (building on the theme of “From the ground up”) . Many were surprised that we can help very young children begin to develop their information literacy skills from preschool. My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is a perfect resource to support this.
Parents and grandparents will love to pop this into the Christmas stocking.