Find a Book that Fits Your Child
A great book is an ideal gift for a child. Here’s some advice to find a book to match your child, for the holidays or any time of year.
Consider the Child
Christine Caputo, a librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, suggests parents gauge three criteria: their child’s interests, age and reading level. If your child loves animals or princesses, choose a book with an appropriate theme to match her interest and length to match her attention span. Your local children’s librarian can recommend books that match your child’s reading level.
Brian Fahey, a 5th grade teacher at Wilmington Friends School, served on the selection committee for the 2011 Newbery Award, given to the most distinguished American children’s book. “Lots of kids like to read series books, like Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson series, but when they finish the series, they don’t know where to turn next,” says Fahey. “We can help them identify other books that have some of the same elements (magic, mythology, adventure).”
If possible, bring the child with you when you choose a book and have him read a paragraph out loud. Ask if that was too easy, too hard or just right. You can also look at what the child is currently reading and choose a similar author, style, length and font size.
Caputo urges parents to begin reading to their children when they are infants. "Babies like looking at books with bright colors and photographs, but babies love looking pictures of babies,” she says. “Reading those kinds of books can really engage them and can build their interest in books and reading."
If you are buying a book to read aloud to a toddler, choose one that you’ll continue to enjoy if the child requests it over and over again.
What About Your Own Favorites?
Fahey believes that it’s fine to share one of your own favorite children’s books — if you think the child has similar tastes. “Everyone’s tastes are different, so we have to understand what our kids like to read,” he cautions.
Michele Strauss, Cherry Hill, NJ mom of four boys ages 2 to 9, looks for positive topics when choosing books for her kids. “I try to find books that give good messages that they might not realize they are getting,” she explains.
For pre-readers, pictures tell a story, just like the text does. “Illustrations help kids understand the meaning of a book, so they are very important,” says Fahey.
Pictures also let young children who can’t read yet tell the story, and allow for discussion between the parent and child, adds Strauss. Many adolescents enjoy graphic novels and these will often spur the reader to read more conventional literature that explores a similar theme or topic.
Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.