The boardbook is a specific format of children’s literature typically made of thick, laminated cardboard that can withstand the chewing, tossing, and general abuse wrought by its very young readers (ages 0 to 3 or “Sprouts” ). Like similar formats—including pop-up, pull-tab, feelie, sound, panorama and other toy books, as well as the more archaic linen, cloth, and rag books that were among some of the first “indestructible” books for children— boardbooks are intended to be infants’ first introduction to book culture. They are useful in developing pre-literacy skills that include recognition of text and image, awareness of print conventions (text orientation, direction of page turns, etc), and the fundamentals of narrative.
As such, boardbook content is often very simple: a single image with accompanying text displayed against a monochromatic background, such as Sandra Boynton’s A to Z. Other boardbooks may include very sparse narratives that convey everyday routines, objects, animals, or concepts, like the iconic Clap Hands by Helen Oxenbury. Still, boardbooks are not only introductions to print culture. They are also technologies of socialization. They are laden with values about what is considered “everyday,” “normal,” “good” etc. For this reason, boardbooks are instrumental in either reproducing or challenging prevailing cultural assumptions about human society and its relationship with the non-human world.
Related terms: preliteracy