*********Edit: You can now find these books/links and more by clicking on the "Sew Liberated Book Corner" box in my left side bar. Here's the direct link: http://astore.amazon.com/sewlibe-20**********
Here it is - an ever-evolving, ever-growing, Montessori/discovery-based education inspired book list.
What qualifies as a good children's book? It depends on the age and the particular child. For example, a young child who cannot yet distinguish between fact and fantasy would best be served by reality-based books such as biographies, books about the natural world, reality-based fiction, etc. An outlandish fiction might just confuse the young child, who is trying her best to understand how the real world works, and to discover her place in it. That said, I have known young children who had a firm grasp of the difference between reality and fantasy, and have greatly benefited from the language of fanciful, imagination-inducing poetry and prose. In general, I would warn against fantasy-themed books for a child under 5. The real rule of thumb, however, is to observe and "follow the child," to use Maria Montessori's own words. Your child's own interests and reactions will let you know if you've introduced the right book for her.
In general, Montessorians look for books that are beautifully written and illustrated/photographed, scientifically accurate, and multi-cultural in scope. Here's a short list of some of my favorites, organized by age and theme. **The list is small now, but be sure to check in periodically, as I will update it whenever I come across another treasure or am reminded of an old favorite!**
Click on the book titles (not the photos) for detailed descriptions of the books.
2 1/2- 6 year-olds
Favorite Poems Old and New
You probably won't need another collection of classic poems. I love this book because it's organized by theme, making it useful for choosing poetry that touches on something of interest, be it a particular animal, season, food, or feeling.
Miss Rumphius My all-time, favorite children's book, which has been a favorite since I was a girl. This is the first book I bought for my own book collection for teaching.
Caps for Sale For a while, I thought this book was perhaps too "fantasy-heavy" to introduce in the classroom. But then I hung out with white-faced monkeys in Honduras. Monkeys are TOTALLY capable of stealing caps! Okay - in the European countryside which seems to be the backdrop for the book? Maybe not. But still, it was one of my favorites as a child and I couldn't pass it by.
All by Myself! Truly, you can't go wrong with any book by Aliki. Feelings, The Five Senses, Corn is Maize, My Hands, and My Feet are just a few of my favorites. Fortunately for my students, several of these titles are translated into Spanish.
The Gift of the Tree The first time I read this book I was in awe. A simple, poetic account of the cycle of life of a majestic oak tree, The Gift of the Tree eloquently points out the interconnectedness of animal and plant life.
Footprints in the Snow -This is a favorite in my classroom - I have the Spanish translation. The simple prose makes it ideal for a child who is practicing reading several words at a time.
Snowflake Bentley A true story about Wilson Bentley, a Vermont boy who was fascinated with snowflakes. Bentley is credited with taking thousands of photos of these unique, six-sided wonders.
Owl Moon Incredibly beautiful, moving book. I love the special time outdoors shared by father and daughter.
The Seashore Book Also, don't miss Charlotte Zolotow's Caldecott honor book, The Storm Book.
The Carrot Seed Anyone who has planted a minuscule seed and seen it grow into something beautiful and edible will love this story. I recommend reading it in conjunction with some real-life botany experiments.
Alison's Zinnia I first came into contact with this book during my Montessori training. What a boon! I learned more about flower nomenclature from these knock-out illustrations than I had ever known before. You and your children will be able to walk through gardens and identify many common flowers.
Houses and Homes (Around the World Series) Any book by Ann Morris in the Around the World Series comes HIGHLY recommended. Young children are so interested in "everyday" necessities such as shoes, clothing, food, and modes of transportation. These books highlight how all people have similar needs, yet each culture comes up with unique ways of meeting such needs. A lovely addition to your cultural curriculum.
Get Dressed (Small World) Like Ann Morris's books, the Small World series allows the child to see that, while we might look different, all humans have the same needs. Other titles in the series that you should look into are: Wash Up, Bedtime, Eating, Tidy Up, Celebrating, Smiling, and Carrying.
Corn Is Maize
Stone Soup Jon Muth takes the traditional European tale and sets it in China. Lovely illustrations. It would be interesting to read both the original and this version, and compare the similarities and differences.
Colors of Mexico Also check out Colors of Australia, Colors of China, and Colors of Japan.
Art and Music
The Quilt Story A very touching story that follows a handmade quilt though many generations in one family. If you are a crafter, treat yourself and your family to this gem of a book. It's a wonderful way to introduce a child to the value of "handmade."
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
Age 6 and up
Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook If you love to sing, or have family music-making time, then this anthology is a must-have. Even if you don't know how to play chords on a guitar or piano, the lyrics will be extremely helpful. I couldn't imagine being a teacher without it!
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices A Newberry Medal winner - need I say more?
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths You now it's a good book when you bring it to college with you to use as a reference. It is one of my most well-used books from childhood.
The Oxford Book of Story Poems
The Stars: A New Way to See Them Bring this book, a flashlight, and an old quilt and lay outside with your children to observe the stars, in all seasons. You'll be in for some unforgettable evenings!
Muscles: Our Muscular System
Bones: Our Skeletal System
Guts: Our Digestive System - (and any other book by Seymour Simon)
Animal A real feast for the eyes. I have this one, and can't wait to get the rest of the series (see below) when I get back to the states. I consider this a must-have for any family library.
Human We were so excited to find this in Spanish at Sam's Club in Chihuahua. My students love perusing it, and especially love the photography and drawings of the different systems of the body. The sections on human culture are equally fascinating.
Common Birds and Their Songs A fascinating book featuring photos and facts about nearly sixty birds, PLUS an audio CD with their calls and songs.
Education/Montessori books for the teacher/parent
How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way A good introduction to Montessori for the curious, and a great handbook for parents of children ages 0-6.
Discovery of the Child If you want to read anything by Maria Montessori herself, this is my top recommendation. In it, you will find wonderful ideas to try out in the classroom and home.
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling A thought-provoking read that put me on the path towards Montessori after a difficult experience teaching in an inner-city public school.
Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage I wrote my Master's thesis on Paulo Freire. His writing makes you reflect upon education's role in the face of grave inequality.