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How to Choose Children's Books

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

1. Fill Your Home with Books

I encourage you to dispense with a Marie Kondo-esque minimalist bookshelf (though her guidance did wonders for my closet). A robust home library correlates with academic success; indeed, a study that spanned 42 countries showed that “a key aspect of scholarly culture, the number of books in the family home, exerts a strong influence on academic performance.” Incredibly, “Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better.” Stock your shelves with as many titles as you can get your hands on.

Accumulating books need not break the bank. I rely on Little Free Libraries that populate my neighborhood and used book stores to furnish my classroom library. And, of course, make use of your local public library. As a child, I loved the freedom to choose whatever I wanted at the library, a privilege I never enjoyed at the grocery store or mall. Having my own library card, my shaky signature making it official, felt quite grown up.

2. Choose Physical Copies of Books Over Screens

Read and provide physical copies rather than electronic books. As much as I personally adore my e-reader, research shows that children get more out interacting with real, tangible books as opposed to reading on their iPad, Kindle, or similar format. This applies to both having someone else read aloud to them and reading they accomplish on their own. (Of course, reading electronic books trumps reading nothing.)

3. Offer Choice

Parents wonder which books they should select. More than anything, give your child choice. (Also grab books that you like, too, since you are frequently the one reading.) Too often, adults harbor unfortunate snobbery about book selection, preferring a book from the children’s literary canon such as Tuck Everlasting and relegating graphic novels or Captain Underpants. However, let us remember this foundational truth: if children love what they read, they will read more.

4. Read Favorites Over and Over Again

If you find a favorite book, read it again and again...and again and again. Reading the same book over and over, while slightly mind-numbing for adults, reaps many benefits for children. Young children will pick up old favorites they memorized and recite them. While this is not technically “reading,” it is amazing; it demonstrates their grasp of concepts about print and builds their confidence as readers. In re-reading, children hear new vocabulary repeated, increasing the chance that they will remember and integrate the novel words. After children learn to read independently, reaching for a cherished picture or chapter book serves to improve their fluency since they can read more quickly the second and third time through. To return to the wise words of Mem Fox, “The ideal three stories a day are one favorite, one familiar, and one new, but the same book three times is also fine.”

5. Find Favorite Authors

To add in a little variety while maintaining the interest, seek out books by authors your child already adores. Even now, as an adult, I feel great anticipation when my favorite author releases a new book and disappointment when I plough through the entirety of an author’s catalogue, necessitating that I work harder to find my next read.

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