There will always be books that can take you beyond your wildest imagination. Books you remember more than others. Books that touch you in ways no other book has. I’ve been lucky to read many of those.
One book that still makes me laugh no matter how many times I read it is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. It’s a beautifully written book. I still remember sitting in the Athens Metro, doubled over in laughter as I read it for the umpteenth time. I made a friend that day. She was seated opposite me and wanted to know what I was reading. As it turned out, we were headed to the same conference so I lent her the book. She wrote a few days after the conference to say she’d had to get herself a copy.
A Confederacy of Dunces is a comic masterpiece. It made me laugh like I’d never laughed. Then it made me cry when I found out that John Kennedy Toole had committed suicide after writing the book and would never know that he’d won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 11 years after his death.
Have you ever wondered why there are some books you can’t put down and yet you just can’t seem to get the gist of others? It’s because all books are not created equal.
When it comes to books, there are the good, the bad and the ugly. And when you read a good book, you know it because awesome books transform you. They take you to places you never imagined existed. They open up your world. They teach you things.
The same holds true for children’s books. When it comes to picking the right books for kids, not all books are equal:
– Good children’s books captivate children
– They open up their world
– They teach them things
So What Should You Keep in Mind When Choosing Your Children’s Books?
1. Choose a good fit
The most appropriate book depends on your child’s age and on his or her level of development. Good toddler books use bright colours and simple rhymes and texts which make the story more interesting.
Researchers suggest that children who learnt through rhymes enjoyed later reading success. A good toddler book uses repetition and introduces simple things such as colours, letters or numbers. Picture storybooks with a simple storyline are good at this age.
Lift-the-flap books are particularly good for toddlers as they encourage them to manipulate the books and explore. Participation books are also great for toddlers because they promote active learning by encouraging the children’s participation: clap your hands, cover your eyes, and so on. There is evidence to support the fact that children who participate actively in reading benefit most from this activity.
As children grow older, simple books with lessons can be interesting to them and should teach a simple lesson. For instance, the lift-the-flap book Beautiful Oops! is an awesome interactive book that can teach your children that mistakes are an adventure in creativity.
Between the ages of three and six, children have many questions about the world. Good books for this age have simple stories with a plot and good graphic illustrations that answer these questions. Simple informational books (non-fiction) about topics that interest children are also good for this age. Good informational books such as Dinosaur Bones are simple and deal with objects children are curious about or familiar with.
Children just beginning to read need books with stories they find interesting and great illustrations. Varied books help them explore different horizons. The books should progressively become more complex, with more phrases and more complex storylines calling for more reflection as children grow older. Good books at this age are those that feature characters children can relate to. Informational books with fascinating facts presented as a story also make interesting reading.
2. No more than five difficult words per page
Books that are above your children’s reading level are bound to frustrate them. When choosing a book, take into account what they know. They need to be able to read it fluently and to understand the plot without having to look up every other word. Read a few pages yourself and take note of the words you think they may have difficulty with. If there are too many difficult words (more than five) per page, they’ll probably not enjoy the book. As they become more fluent, they should be able to read more difficult books.
3. Select a book they won’t want to put down
Let yourself be guided by your children’s interests. If the book they’re reading is about something that interests them, they’ll probably read the book with more pleasure. If you’re still unsure of the books to get for your children, read a few pages and see if you enjoy the book yourself. Keep in mind, though, that you’re getting them the book for them; otherwise, they may hate it.
Librarians and booksellers often have plenty of good advice to offer depending on your children’s age. Talk to the local librarian and ask him or her to recommend a few books in line with their ages and interests. Book boxes designed specifically for children are also a great option because the work is already cut out for you – these boxes select age-appropriate books for your child which they receive every month. The award-winning Bookroo Box and The Reading Bug Box are great subscriptions you can check out.
5. Make wise choices
Books are a wonderful resource for teaching kids about life. The books your children read can teach them important life lessons. Reflect upon the values you would like your children to develop; then, make the right book choices.