Choosing the right books for your child is important; getting it right the first few times can spark the beginnings of a lifelong enthusiasm for reading. So how can you spot a good children’s book amongst the dizzying variety of titles and genres?
The most memorable books from childhood are usually the ones which include vivid imagery, exciting stories and interesting characters. Here’s what you can look out for:
Good books are easy to relate to. Choose books that allow your child to explore different worlds and lives but are still familiar enough that they can see themselves in the characters. Even if it’s a story set in an imaginary world of monsters and fairies, if the characters have hopes and desires that are easy to relate to, your child will be more interested in reading it until the end.
They teach us important things. Whether it’s learning a timeless moral in The Tortoise and the Hare or learning about numbers, fruit and days of the week in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the best books often teach things without us even realising it. Choose books that deliver an important message or subtly teach essential skills such as the alphabet, counting, colours or seasons.
They may not be your personal pick. Children’s author Libby Gleeson suggests that when choosing a good book for children, parents should “resist the desire only to feed their children the books they loved when they were young”. Your child may not share the same passion for your childhood classics, and, as Gleeson notes, “The world has changed and children have changed.”
They are not too difficult to read. Use the Five Finger Rule if your child will be reading on their own. If the book has a few difficult words, read aloud together with your child. There’s nothing wrong with exposing children to more complex language in context. But if you know the language and concepts will be too difficult for them to enjoy the story, avoid putting them off reading altogether by choosing a simpler book.
They have strong illustrations. Vivid and clear imagery that supports the story is powerful for early readers aged 4-8. Choose books that have good illustrations that correspond with the storyline. Wordless books are also a great way to develop your child’s language skills, as they require readers to interpret the illustrations as the story progresses.
They are fun to read aloud. How many times has your child requested yet another reading of Dr Seuss? Books that rhyme or have a good lyrical flow are fun to read aloud and listen to. Read with enthusiasm and use different voices for different characters to bring the reading experience to life.
They’re often trending. Talk to your child’s teacher, librarian or other parents to find out about popular children’s books. Alternatively, search online for award-winning children’s book lists or hop onto book review sites to read what other parents are suggesting.
Good books can simply be the books your child desires. At the end of the day, what makes a good children’s book is any age-appropriate book your child wants to read! Let your child choose which books they would like to read, because choosing to read over not choosing to read is a significant step towards a lifelong love of reading.