From a workshop called “Read to Your Babies — And Big Kids!” © 2003 Hope Vestergaard
CONSIDER THE SUBJECT MATTER
- Is it developmentally appropriate? Can your child understand the concepts? Is the length appropriate?
- Is it interesting? Relevant? Kids enjoy things that are familiar. They also enjoy books that represent experiences beyond their own. But they will be most engaged with a book that connects to their world in some way.
- Is it accurate? Factually? Culturally? Historically?
- Is it emotionally appropriate? Is your child “in a good place” to read this book at this time? A child who is having nighttime fears may benefit from avoiding books on the subject for a while; another child might benefit from reading more. (Also, is the content preachy? Kids can smell a lesson a mile away.)
CONSIDER THE LANGUAGE
- Is it rich? Early readers need words that are simple to decode, but picture books can boost your child’s vocabulary because the pictures provide context.
- Is it lyrical? This doesn’t mean it has to rhyme. Is the cadence of the words naturally beautiful?
- Does it rhyme well? Rhyming texts increase phonemic awareness and help kids predict and build their confidence. But bad rhyme is counterproductive! Near rhymes or choppy meter make a rhyming book a chore to read.
CONSIDER THE ART
- Is it developmentally appropriate? Babies can’t process a “busy” page. They need simple pictures and clean lines. Older children will be confused if the art doesn’t flow left to right, or if the perspective is out of sync.
- Is it beautiful?
- Is it accurate? (See subject matter)
- Is it rich? Does it illuminate the text?
CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET
- Try to build a library, rather than shopping impulsively.
- Look at the amount of money you spend on fast food, video games, movie rentals, or toys. See if you can shift a little.
- Shop library discard sales. Secondhand bookstores are great, too.
- Scholastic Book Orders earn classrooms book-buying dollars.
- Shop at garage sales.
- Check out books from the library.
- Do book swaps with friends and neighbors.
START WITH A LIST
- Shop with Caldecott and Newbery award lists; Boston Globe Best Books; NewYork Public Library Best Books; Bank Street Best Books
- Read Jim Trelease’s READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK; Esmé Raji Codell’s HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING for more great suggestions.