The Page Turner


Audience

Interest

Genre

Quality


Each issue of The Page Turner will feature a question for our librarian.
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us a question! Email: librarian@bowne.com.

What Guidelines Should I Use
When Choosing Children's Books?

    by Lori Ragsdale and Pamela Little

It's exciting to choose children's books for your program, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Here are some guidelines that will make things easier.

Audience

Who will be reading or hearing the story? Pre-schoolers? Teenagers? Your book collection should contain books that cater to the ages of your kids. Imagine reading Lord of the Flies to first graders. Bo-rrring! Similarly, a fifth-grader may find a picture book too babyish. Consider, too, the children's reading and developmental levels. That fifth-grader may not have the vocabulary to read some of the books designated as "fifth grade" in the catalog, while the first-grader may well be reading well beyond the first-grade level. And sometimes a child can read beyond her usual level if she knows and likes the topic, which brings us to the next criterion.

Interest

What do your kids talk about when they come to your program? Sports, music, animals? You know your kids best. Ask the kids what they'd like to read about, and select books with their interests in mind.

Genre

Genre refers to types of books: fiction, picture books, poetry, biographies, science fiction, and so on. Lately, for instance, many older elementary and middle-school kids love to read science fiction and fantasy, thanks to Harry Potter. Even if many children in your program have a favorite genre, be sure to keep a variety of books in your library, so the kids can have choices.

Quality

Over 6,000 children's books are published in the U. S. each year. How can you tell which ones are good? Read reviews, or look carefully at the book.

  • Read reviews
    At online bookstores such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you can browse or search children's books by subject or by age group. Check out the children's essential bookshelf—including bestsellers, classics by age, and award winners—or look at What We're Reading or Spotlight books. Click on a book that comes up in the resulting list, and, voila! You get a summary of the book, its price, and reviews, often including reviews by customers.

    Professional library journals such as School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, or Booklist are sources for more objective reviews. Unfortunately, these excellent resources are expensive and not usually available at public libraries, though a few featured reviews are available for free on the journals' websites.

    Other sources of reviews are more accessible and less expensive:
  • Look at the book
    Don't judge a book by its cover! Read a little of the story.
    In addition to the children's developmental needs, consider the following criteria:
    • An engaging storyline and characters that capture a child's attention
    • Language and tone appropriate for the subject and the children
    • Vocabulary that is relatively familiar to the children while including some challenging words—of course this will depend on the age and reading experience of the children
    • Illustrations that help to communicate a story or convey ideas

These are just few suggestions; for a more extensive list, read Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide by Betsy Hearne (Delacourte, 1990), which offers information on how to choose appropriate books for every age level.

 

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