One of the best ways to encourage children’s reading is to give them books of their very own. With so many children’s books in print, however, making the best selections may seem like a formidable task.
Since all children should have books they can handle freely, durability is important, says the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Pick well-constructed board books for infants and toddlers, so they can help turn pages without damage. Consider paperbacks and plastic covers for older kids who are not quite ready for expensive hardbacks.
Next, let your children’s interests guide your selections, suggests the Department of Education. When children ask you endless questions about where they came from or why the sky is blue, chances are good there is a book with answers they can understand. If a child expresses an interest in cars, sports, computers or dinosaurs, find books on those topics. If you will be reading aloud together, remember to choose books you can enjoy too.
Quality is as important to children as it is to adults, according to the Library of congress Children’s Literature Center. Well-written fiction with a satisfying plot and strong characterization will motivate your children to keep reading. Good illustration and design are essential to picture-story books. Critical to non-fiction are accuracy, organization and clarity of presentation.
Also keep in mind your children’s reading ability. Books should be challenging enough to stimulate their thinking skills but not so difficult as to overwhelm them. The Department of Education suggests school-sponsored book fairs as an excellent source of offerings geared to your children’s ages and reading levels.
Is cost a factor in your selection? Many second-hand bookstores offer very reasonable prices. Some even allow you to bring in books your children have outgrown and trade them for others. Many public libraries also have periodic used-book sales. Ask a librarian for dates and details.
If you are still not sure what is appropriate, take advantage of available help. Teachers and children’s librarians can suggest books that are good for reading aloud and books of interest to a particular age group. Most libraries have book lists and journals that regularly review and recommend children’s books.