Research-Based Parent Education and Support

How to Choose a Good Book

Posted by on Sep 18, 2013 in Language Development | 1 comment

How to Choose a Good Book

What makes a book good?  Ask 10 people and you’ll probably end up with 15 different answers.   Avid readers can usually  list their favorites and some might have instinctive ways of knowing a good book without being able to articulate the reasons why a good book is precisely that.

I have given this question a lot of thought, having read countless children’s books over the years and I have taken some fantastic classes on children’s literature.  I have read many an anthology of popular children’s books as well as books and essays by children’s authors on what they believe comprises a good childrens’ book.   I wish I had a foolproof, comprehensive list of qualities to look for to offer you, but unfortunately, it is not that easy.

Here’s what I do know.  Good children’s literature have some core elements in common.  When Jack Gantos visited our school a few months ago, he gave what I consider to be a fantastic summary of the elements of a good book for any age.  What I find to be intriguing is that most of the lists I have found and read seem to have many of the same books on it.  Well read teachers, parents and children often seem to agree on actual titles of books and names of authors that stick with us and we read them again and again.

But what’s a parent to do if s/he doesn’t have time or the opportunity to look through such lists?  How does one pick up a book and just know?

Here are 5 quick questions to ask yourself:

1)  Does it look inviting?  Are the illustrations colorful and engaging?  Is this book pleasing to the eye?  

2)  Do the words flow naturally?  Read one page.  Does it sound like it has rhythm and rhyme?  Are the word choices interesting?  Avoid books that are written in short words and sentences that sound the same.

3)  Does the subject matter appeal to me and and my child?  If the book is uninteresting from the start, no one will enjoy reading it.

4)  What does the librarian or book store employee recommend?  Trust the experts.  Most libraries and books stores have quick reference guides to quality literature that children love to read.

5)  Is it based on a movie or tv show?  If yes,  PUT IT DOWN AND WALK AWAY!!!   Chances are it is poorly written and will only serve to feed the machine of consumerism.  Movies are based on books, not the other way around!

I’m working on my list of favorite books and will post it on a separate page here soon.  Meanwhile, would you please share your favorites?  Let’s work on compiling a great list together!

One Comment

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  1. Scott Adams

    I like the idea of asking what a librarian might suggest. I have been looking for new books for my son, and I didn’t know how to find one. I can see how an expert could point me in the right direction. I’ll be sure to ask a librarian, thanks!

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