While selecting which books to read to children will vary from family to family and is largely subjective, if you’re familiar with Maria Montessori and her educational pedagogy then you’ll most likely be aware she advocated against exposing children in the first plane of development, typically ages 0-6 years old, to magical and/or fantastical elements.
Based upon her research into child development, Montessori believed children under the age of six should be told stories that are firmly grounded in reality. Since they have not yet developed the ability to think abstractly, telling them fairy tales and anthropomorphic stories can lead to confusion since:
“(The young child) cannot distinguish well between the real and the imaginary, between things that are possible and things that are merely ‘made up’.”Maria Montessori
With this in mind, here are just a few of the criteria I look for when selecting children’s books to read in our Montessori-inspired home:
- Places a strong emphasis on community and peace as well as kindness and cooperation.
- Actively promotes stewardship of the environment and how even one person can effect change on a grand scale.
- Characters and situations are firmly grounded in reality.
- Encourages practical life skills and learning.
- Shows children being included in the work of adults.
- Emphasizes the importance of family bonds and traditions.
- Celebrates the uniqueness of every individual
- Culturally diverse, while avoiding stereotypical representations.
- Highlights a growth mindset. Characters exhibit determination, perseverance, and resilience, and mistakes and setbacks are presented as learning opportunities.
- Contains beautifully rich and diverse language. Rhyming and lyrical language is a bonus.
- Serves as a jumping stone for further child-led research and inquiry.
- Highlights the fundamental needs of humans.
- Includes evocative and alluring illustrations, preferably realistic, but I do recognize and respect all artistic mediums and will not discount a book simply because it does not have realistic images — instead, I make sure to supplement with a few books that do.
Looking for book suggestions?
Don’t forget to visit the Ultimate Montessori-Friendly Book List for a searchable database of good picture books for children ages 0-6.
If your child is ready to begin listening to longer length books, be sure to read about our favorite Montessori-friendly chapter books.