How do you pick books for your child?” “Oh, I let my three-year-old choose what he likes.”
“I don’t know why they won’t read. I let them choose any book they like, and they leave the bookstore without buying anything.”
It breaks my heart when mommy friends share these experiences. I always liken this situation to the blind leading the blind — if your child is not into reading, how will he or she know what a good book is?
A lot of times kids judge a book by its cover: one time, my then 6-year-old daughter insisted on buying a Barbie book which did not have any sort of plot. Instead of asking that she drop it, I bought her another book – a classic which I was sure she’d enjoy. If she liked her Barbie book more than the classic book, I said, she could choose her own books from then on. Needless to say, I won that contest!
But that’s easy for me because I spent my entire grade school lunch break inside the library. And I once worked for the world’s biggest publisher of children’s books. How does a regular mom know what kind of books her kids would like?
Here are favorite tips we share with parents at The Learning Library:
1. Younger kids need books with lots of pictures and very short text.
Young children have shorter attention spans and need books that accommodate their fleeting interest. Picture books and books with single word text are the type of titles your toddler will enjoy.
2. Buy leveled books for your beginning reader
Beginning Readers need titles that they can read on their own. Look for Leveled Readers that fit your child’s reading skills. Leveled Readers usually have descriptions of the type of reader that will be able to read their books. Start with books that have pictures in the sentences. Then, you can begin buying books with short sentences composed of easy to read words. The goal is to make your Beginning Reader enjoy reading!
3. Take the 5-finger test! Open a random page.
Put your child’s hands on the page. Read the words that each of their finger touches. If they are able to read all 5 words then the book is just right for them. Anything less means that the book is too hard.
4. Buy books that your children can relate to.
A child’s background knowledge is extremely helpful in helping children understand the stories that they read. The more they relate to the story, the easier it will be for them to understand it.
5. Help your child choose books.
When buying books, your child will naturally prefer characters that they are familiar with. This doesn’t mean that those books are right for them. Many popular TV characters have books for sale. The stories and text are often unfortunately too difficult for many young readers. Choose titles that are right for your child’s age and ability. Do not base books choices on what is popular or what is often seen on TV.
6. Ask other mommy friends what books their children like.
If your kids are anything alike, chances are they’ll take to the same books! It’s not easy to find that one great book which will turn on a child to reading. But this mission – should you choose to accept it – is far from impossible and well worth it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vanessa Bicomong is a reading enthusiast and an awesome mother of three. She’s also the general manager and one of the co-founders of The Learning Library.