Selecting Books For Young Readers: A Checklist

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.
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