Books, especially for children, are meant to encourage a joy in reading which in turn, will lead to a proficiency in a vital educational skill. Sometimes that joy, for an individual child, will be found in a classic children’s book and at other times in an inexpensive book featuring a popular cartoon character. In either case, the important thing is that a child is reading or sharing a book with beloved adult. It is that experience that is the true measure of quality.
When looking for books, look for visual appeal, content, and message. Books should also have interesting language and illustrations that are attractive and colorful. Click on the bold print below to expand for additional information.
- Developmental Guidelines8
There are very general guidelines to help when selecting books (by age group). The developmental stage of the child should determine the type and length of the books they are given. As children grow up and their attention span increases, they like longer stories.
- Photographs and images (other babies, familiar objects, like balls and bottles). Pointing and naming images for infants helps language development.
- Strong contrasts and brightly colored.
- Durable: Board books have pages that are heavy, sturdy, and laminated. Babies and toddlers can chew on these books without causing damage. They are perfect for little hands. Board books are brightly designed, and they have pictures that are simple and clear, and stories that are short. Cloth books have pages made out of heavy-duty cloth. They are not as easily turned as those in board books, but they are durable.
- Photos and images (sleeping, playing, animals).
- Topics: Going to sleep for bedtime, saying hello and good-bye, animals.
- Engaging and rich text to encourage children in learning new vocabulary are good choices for the youngest readers. Look for books with only a few words per page.
- Repetitive phrases, simple rhymes, predictable text, or books that pose questions involve the reader are ideal.
- Sturdy board books are still a good idea for toddlers, with their new found mobility, but by age 2½ most children have learned to handle paperback or hardcover books well.
Early Readers–Grades 1-3
- Topics: Books about kids their age, going to school or doctor, having brothers or sisters, making friends. Books about their own experiences are enjoyed for their familiarity but children also enjoy books that open new worlds up to them.
- Paperback books with longer stories can be read to children who can be asked to guess what will happen next in the story.
- That have simple texts they can memorize.
Learning to read is a difficult task so while children entering school still enjoy being read to using books with complex language, they also need books with simple but engaging language that they can master. Books like “Nate the Great” or “Hop on Pop” are good choices for those learning to read.
Chapter Books–Grades 3-5
Chapter books offer longer stories for children and there is a book on almost any subject, fiction or non-fiction, for any reader. Children should be allowed to help choose their own books. Series are popular with this age group and adults should understand that there is value in these books. Reading, above all, should be pleasurable.
Grades 6 and Up
Young adult novels range from the light stories like “The Princess Diaries” to powerful fiction such as “Letters from the Inside”. There is a goldmine of books available for teenagers at the same time that there are many other distractions like television or computers for their leisure time.
Having a doctor suggest a book can encourage a teenager to rediscover the joy of reading. Books should be selected with both parents and children in mind. Books must be interesting and appealing to both for family reading time to be enjoyable.
When selecting books, be sure to consider the following important factors (click on the bold print to expand for additional information):
Make use of the professionals in your community to offer suggestions. Booksellers, librarians, and teachers are always delighted to assist in the task of finding books for children.
- Cultural Appropriateness8
Books need to be carefully evaluated for messages they give to children, especially as they relate to racism or sexism. Examine books by looking at the following:
Are characters stereotypically drawn?
Do people of color have Caucasian features except for tinted skin?
Do the illustrations depict cultures, abilities, genders, and families in positive ways?
- Story Line
Are people of color or females in subservient roles?
Are cultural beliefs and practices portrayed accurately?
Are negative judgments implied in depicting varied lifestyles?
Does the text depict cultures, abilities, genders, and families in positive ways?
Are females or people of color represented equally in all character roles?
How are individual characters presented?
Who has the power?
Who are the heroes in the story?
Who are the villains?
- Child's Self-Image
What messages, overt or covert, are children receiving from the story?
How does the story support or undermine a child’s self-esteem?
It is important to have a variety of books available to account for the different interests among children. Children tend to like characters, situations, and topics to which they can relate, and they also enjoy learning about new things. There also should be a variety of selections. Stories can be fictional or non-fictional. Books can be about people, animals, imaginary characters, the environment, folktales, sports, or nursery rhymes.
Most paperback children’s books range in cost from $2-$3 wholesale per book. Hardcover books usually are more durable, and cost between $5-$7 per book based on wholesale rates. Discounts often are available when books are ordered in bulk, and pediatric early literacy programs may qualify for publisher discounts. Reach Out and Read programs have access to a specially discounted book ordering system.
Excerpt is adapted with permission from Rice KF, Klass P, Needlman R, Zuckerman B. Reach Out and Read. A Pediatric Literacy Program. Program Manual. Mexico: Association of American Publishers Trade Division; 19959
Excerpt is adapted with permission from Koralek D, Collins R. On the Road to Reading: A Guide for Community Partners. 1997:23 Available http://nationalserviceresources.org/learns/reading
. Accessed April 27, 1999