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It is an indisputable fact that a child’s engagement with good books is important and valuable to her development.  Not only can reading high quality children's literature expand a child’s cognitive abilities, but it can also spur a child’s emotional, moral, and spiritual development.  However, with one visit a major  online or storefront book outlets, it becomes exceedingly clear that there are zillions of children’s books.  Some of these books are good, but many are not.  

So, if you are looking to buy children’s books, you are left with a question: “How do I choose the best children’s books?”

In this video, Diane Dignan answers the question, "How Do I Choose the Best Children's Books to Read with My Child?" She is the author of the award winning book, Bartholomew's Gift, and writes stories with morals and positive uplifting tales for children and adults.

From Children’s Literature, Briefly, by Michael Tunnell, James Jacobs, Terrell Young, and Gregory Bryan, come these tips for young children:

All adults choose children’s books according to some kind of standard, even though we may be unaware of exactly why we pick one book over another. Our first responsibility when selecting  books, then, is to determine what guides our choices. For instance:

1. The lessons they teach. We want children to learn the correct lessons about life. If a book  teaches what we want taught, we call it a good book.
2. Large, colorful illustrations. Young eyes need stimulation, and color provides it better than black and white. Also, the pictures need to be large enough for children to see clearly.
3. Absence of harshness. Children will run into difficulty soon enough. Let them enjoy childhood. Protect them from the tough side of life as long as possible.
4. Absence of scariness. We don’t want to invite fears or nightmares.
5. Absence of swearing. We don’t want books to model inappropriate behavior.
6. Short. Keep the reading easy.
7. Simple vocabulary. We don’t want to frustrate or overpower children.
8. Familiar content. We think our child will respond to a book about zoos because we go to one often. If a book connects with a child’s experience, it will be a better book.
9. Personal and/or social preference. We want the values and social views represented in the book to be what we consider appropriate.

For older children, Cynthia Leitich Smith said:
A good book should be the best book it can be A children’s novel must do all that an adult novel does, but the hero and sensibility is that of a younger person. They are generally a bit leaner, though, less self-indulgent on the part of the author. The audience tends to have a shorter attention span. No kid reads a book because of what the New York Times has to say. To them, it must sing. Basically, a good book should be the best book it can be, in whatever manifestation fits best for its unique nature. Effective aspects The target audience should be able to identify with the protagonist, who may share similar characteristics such as age.
The Joy of Children's Literature, by Denise Johnson offers this summary:
• The theme appropriately reflects the emotions and experiences of children today.
• The language is not convoluted but rather specific and clear.
• The literary elements consist of a believable plot and characters, an engaging
writing style, and a theme that unite into a satisfying whole.
• The book doesn’t blatantly teach or moralize and tells the truth about the human
• The book broadens understanding and perspective on the world that open up new
possibilities and the capacity for empathy.
• Books for younger children include engaging pictures, fast-paced action that is
presented in a straightforward manner, a single setting, and a satisfying ending.
• Books for older readers may not include pictures and therefore may include more
descriptions to assist readers with visualizing the characters, setting, and dialogue
to provide insight into characters’ motives and intentions.  The stories convey ideas
that are important and meaningful and have a satisfying ending.
"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." — Jacqueline Kennedy

Please share your methods for choosing high quality children's literature.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and DKOMA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The best book (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, jayden, Youffraita

    is the one that they will pick up and read when you are not in the room. This morality stuff is all well and good but not the most important thing. A love of reading is the aim - let morality come from parents, school and the rest of the real world.

    In other words, don't suck the joy out of the experience.

  •  I'd have to say anything by Seuss (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, jayden, Youffraita

    was beyond brilliant--just for the love of words and the sheer imagination of it.

    I also loved Goodnight Moon for the atmosphere.  And Where the Wild Thing Are is always eternal.

    I take exception to some of the coddling that I see in that first list, the one in Childrens' Literature, Briefly--I see that as a reflection on the overprotection  and over-the-top fear for kids' well-being that seems to have pervaded society the last 10-15 years...  

    And full disclosure--I'm not a parent. But I would never shy away from harder language, conflict, 'harshness'...  I think it's good for kids to understand such things early, and in a comfortable environment.

  •  For science books (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, Melanie in IA, Mr Robert

    I've spent a lot of time with many good--and a lot not so good--science books for children. The Children's Book Council and the National Science Teachers Association posts the best each year.

    They are, of course, scientifically accurate and age-appropriate. But more importantly, they encourage children to be active readers and observers, not just look at lists of facts--and most of all, they grab the heart!

    Take a look at these lists.

  •  I discovered scifi at an early age. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, Mr Robert

    In sixth grade I read John Christopher's "The Tripods Trilogy" and loved it. Everyone I've ever recommended the series to for their kids have reported back that their kids really enjoyed reading the books.

    I also like his book The Lotus Caves.

    Not this mind and not this heart, I won't rot • Mumford & Sons

    by jayden on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 05:00:33 PM PDT

  •  I want to choose books that stretch a child's (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, ferg, Mr Robert

    imagination.  I've already stockpiled Treasures Long Hidden by Arthur Bowie Chrisman for my half-Chinese granddaughter.  Also in the store cupboard are the Betsy-Tacy books, and oh, joy of joys--I managed to get a copy of Hilda Lewis' The Ship That Flew.

    A classic book has, of course, an enduring quality about it, one that transcends the period of history it describes.  I buy a lot of books from Daedalus.  I'm still looking for The Endless Steppe, but have acquired The Silver Donkey.

    Another book I like is The Bridge to Terabithia.  And of course, Daddy Long Legs, the Narnia books, Alice in Wonderland, Heidi, In The Morning of the World, and Julie of the Wolves.

    Our little one is only three now, so we aren't reading these books yet.  I look for books in which the protagonists are girls who take decisive action.  I don't want Miss Baby to grow up thinking girls are people who have to be rescued because they're too stupid or too frail to get themselves out of dangerous situations.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 05:07:10 PM PDT

    •  Too true: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ferg, Mr Robert
      I don't want Miss Baby to grow up thinking girls are people who have to be rescued because they're too stupid or too frail to get themselves out of dangerous situations.
      I loved Nancy Drew.  I'm not sure that made a difference (feminism was in the air and the water back then -- or maybe I've always been a liberal, lol) but the "plucky girl detective" stuff definitely appealed.

      In fifth grade, a friend introduced me to science fiction.  We read the Heinlein juvies, of course (in retrospect, probably very sexist but back then who was paying attention: it was the cool space stuff that appealed) but I also read Madeleine L'Engle around then -- and Meg's another plucky girl who must save the day.

      For very young readers: Bunny Blue (is it still in print?) and A.A. Milne.  And of course Dr. Seuss -- brilliant man.

      FWIW, my mother taught second grade when I was a kid.  Every year we'd go to the store and select Golden Books for Christmas gifts for her students.  For some of those kids, it was the only book in the house/apt.

      To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

      by Youffraita on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 10:41:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The lessons they teach. (0+ / 0-)
    The lessons they teach. We want children to learn the correct lessons about life. If a book  teaches what we want taught, we call it a good book.
    Here in Amador County, California we have a "Backpacks for School" drive every summer. The goal is to "stuff a bus" with backpacks full of school supplies. The collected backpacks are given to low income families that need help with school supply purchases.

    It's one of my favorite ways to help children in my community and I participate every year by purchasing several backpacks, etc.

    Well, a couple of years ago someone decided that it would be nice to include age appropriate books for the children in addition to the school supplies. Unfortunately, it turned out to be pretty controversial because different parents had rather varying ideas on what kind of lessons the books should teach.

    I remember that I purchased several titles from the "Rainbow Fish" series by Marcus Pfister for the youngest children. I was quite familiar with his books because I used them when I was a preschool teacher and nobody ever had any strong feelings about them. I mean what's wrong with teaching children about the value of sharing with others, for example?

    Anyway, if you look at the reviews on Amazon you'll see that the ratings are pretty much evenly split between 5-start and 1-start. The distribution seems to reflect the reviewers politics and I believe that explains the split that you see.

    Nobody complained to me about the Rainbow Fish books that I donated, but they decided to drop the practice of including books the following year because there were some number of complaints although I don't have any of the details.

    I was a little disappointed about the change because it really was fun shopping for the books. Oh, well.

    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

    by Mr Robert on Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 05:13:48 PM PDT

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