There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to write this post. I am the parent of a three-year-old, which means an almost constant stream of “Why?” “What’s that?” or “What are you doing?” I am not in the mood to celebrate questions. I wish I had the patience of the mother elephant in Eve Bunting’s new picture book, Tweak Tweak, who has perfect answers at the ready for each of her little one’s seemingly endless questions about the world around them.
In my more patient moments, though, I really love my daughter’s inquisitive nature, and I want to encourage it. Parenting Beyond Belief has this to say on questions:
“How we respond to the estimated 427,050 questions a child will ask between her second and fifth birthdays will surely have a greater impact on her orientation to the world outside her head than the thirteen years of school that follow. Do we always respond with an answer–or sometimes with another question? . . . We have 427,050 chances to get it right, or 427, 050 chances to say ‘Because I said so,’ ’ Because God says so,’ ‘Don’t concern yourself with that stuff,’ or something similarly fatal to the child’s ‘will to find out.’
I like Marcus Pfister’s newest book Questions, Questions to turn the table on my little one. This lovely picture book appears simple at a glance. Each spread has a brightly colored illustration and a rhyming couplet. But if you look more closely, you will see that the illustrations have an interesting texture and often abstract connections to the text. A brief author’s note provides more information on that. The couplets are based on an Italian folksong. Each asks a question about the natural world. Some are more scientific; some are more fanciful. Some might allow for faith, but all of them have the potential to open a discussion or, since no answers are contained in the book, inspire research or a science project.
But if you want to have some answers on hand, you might try Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book About Nature, Science, and the World Around You by Catherine Ripley. Everything a kid might ever wonder is here in this book answered simply in a double-page spread. This book is spot-on for my three-year-old in terms of the questions and the answers. I mean, ”Why does it smell so good outside after it rains?” or ”Why do I have to use the toilet and where does it go when I flush?” are probably not questions that most adults would spend much time on, but for preschoolers, they are strong points of interest.
Here’s to getting in the mood to celebrate questions and cultivating the patience to answer them. :)
This post is part of a series inspired by my appearance on Atheist Talk where I spoke about children’s books for secular families. These posts are not intended to be taken as insulting to religious readers. I merely want to empower secular families to encourage their children to engage with the world through books. Read last week’s secular Thursday post, or start at the beginning with Behind the Scenes of Atheist Talk.