Typically, developing three-year-olds are masters of a single word: why? This tiny syllable sends adults into a spin of philosophising reply, however, what is not such common knowledge is the functional purpose of that word for little minds.
It leads to story.
The most satisfying of answers begin with ‘because’ and this is what little ones want to hear. Enter the world of cause and effect. Three-year-olds now understand simple sentences and are edging towards the time when their own little tales will contain words like ‘and,’ ‘but’ or ‘because.’ But first they need to hear how it's done.
Enter the ups and downs of true narrative. A true beginning, middle and end will have little eyes wide with suspense and wonder. So what stories will capture this willing audience? ‘Once upon a timers,’ nursery rhymes and tales that grow in ridiculousness, size or sheer fun will be winners.
Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in fact any fable, classic or song where actions lead to consequences will be repeated endlessly. The House that Jack built and The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly are golden oldies, but they have contemporary parallels, too. Because a Bug Went KA-CHOO (Dr Seuss) and There was an Old Pirate who Swallowed a Fish (Jennifer Ward and Steve Gray) and Stuck (Oliver Jeffers) are just a few.
However, any story with vibrant pictures and solid rhythm that follows the ups and downs of narrative will have this age group hooked. Any story that lets little minds predict what or who will happen next will be a winner. Take a look at any of Pamela Allen’s picture books and the Great Expedition by Peter Carnavas, but these are just the beginning.