Choosing and Reading Books for Children

I. Introduction

Our book shelf is full of books, some chosen by my children and some chosen by me or my oldest son. There are so many choices out there whether you go to the library or decide to buy a book that it can be overwhelming to decide which one(s) to bring home. Here are some tips on how I select books, how I set up a reading environment at home, and what reading strategies I use to engage my children in the reading experience. I will list some resources as well and add some of our favorites. Feel free to add resources and your favorites as well as what things have worked for you when reading to or with children. I have created a three additional pages. "Book Suggestions" where you can list your favorite reading selections for children, "E-Book Suggestions" where you can list favorite electronic book choices, and "Your Ideas" where you can add your thoughts regarding reading to children.

II. Selecting Books

First of all, it's important to know your child's interests when selecting a book or helping them select one. Often times my children will choose some kind of character book because it's familiar to them and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. After all, as adults, how do we select books? We don't walk up to the shelf and think, "Let's see, which topics are the least appealing to me because I want those books." In order to be excited about reading, we pick topics that interest us or subjects we can relate to; children are no different. When I choose books for my children, I look for the type of language used, quality of illustrations, and the story line involved.

A. Type of Language Used

What I look at when I preview books is how difficult the language is and if it's a rhyming or non-rhyming book. I like to have a good mix of books where some are early reading books that my children can read independently or with a little help and other books such as chapter books that are read by me over time. Repetitive language can really help those early readers predict words and get familiar with a story. (That way when I get tired of reading it, I can ask them to read to me. Grin.)

B. Quality of Illustrations

I pick books that have illustrations that support the text, except in the case of chapter books where there are either no pictures or only a few of them. What qualifies as a "good" illustration to me might be very different than what someone else considers a "good" illustration, but I choose books that have clear illustrations with distinct lines and shapes.

C. Story Line

Here again, I like to have a mix of different types of stories. There are books with a moral basis, which I tend to really like, and there are stories that are just funny. I find that most of the books we have entertain as well as inform us. The messages in the books go from subtle to obvious and I think it's important for children to be exposed to both.

III. Creating the Reading Environment

Setting up the environment is just as important as selecting what you read. Here are some suggestions on creating your reading environment.
  • Eliminate distractions by turning off the television and selecting a quiet place for reading. There are adults who can read in a noisy environment and some who cannot, but for children, I recommend that the reading environment in your home be as distraction free as possible.
  • Get comfortable. How long will you or your children want to sit and read if you are uncomfortable?
  • Use proper lighting to maximize the benefits of reading together.

IV. Enhancing the Reading Experience

Often times I will employ different strategies to engage my children more in the reading experience. For example, let's say the name of the story is, "The Perfect Nest". I will start out by reading the title wrong to make sure they are listening right out of the gate. I might say, "The Perfect Hat" or "The Perfect Test" just to get them tuned in before we get going. At other times in the story, I might go off on a tangent and ad lib to check and see if they are listening. Of course, this strategy works only with kids who are reading already or with children who know the story by heart. It usually gets them laughing and saying, "Mom, that's not right." Another strategy I use is that I stop in the story and ask direct questions either about what we just read to check for comprehension or about what they think will happen next (prediction). I will also refer to the picture and ask what a character is doing or saying. With some books, I read them with an accent or character voice (usually a bad one) to keep them engaged. I have even mimicked a "beep" when it is time to turn the page like the audio books do, so the children take turns turning the page for me.

V. Conclusion

Reading to your child or asking them to read to you sends the message that reading is valuable and encouraged. Regardless of the books you choose or how you read, one thing is certain; reading is essential to all learning.

VI. Resources

The Department of Education has a list of books that are good for reading aloud. Once you get into the link, scroll down to "Read Aloud Books to Share with Children" and a PDF file will open with books listed by age group. Department of Education

Amazon is a good place to buy books for lower cost. You can preview books, see a summary of the story, and see reviews from other buyers to help you make choices on what to buy. It can be a bit overwhelming with so many books to choose from, but you can search the kind of books you are looking for easily.

Here is the list of some of our favorites, but I could go on and on.
  • "The Hallo-Weiner" by Dav Pilkey~ This is a great book for Halloween with a moral to the story.
  • "The Perfect Nest" by Catherine Friend ~ Fun to read in different accents.
  • "Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo" by Rosetta Stone ~ Exemplifies cause and effect
  • "Purplicious" by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann ~ Great for girly girls who love purple, moral
  • "Pinkalicious" by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann ~ Same as above only regarding pink, moral
  • "Franny K. Stein" (Mad Scientist) by Jim Benton ~ Oddly enough a chapter book that my youngest loves though she can't read.
  • "Diary of a Fly" by Doreen Cronin~ Cute story line and illustrations
  • "The Flea's Sneeze" by Lynn Downey~ Rhyming and repetition
  • "David Goes to School" by David Shannon~ Simple words regarding rules of school and what happens when you don't follow them
  • "Who's in the Bathroom" by Jeanne Willis~ Very cute story, rhyming