March 2 is NEA’s Read Across America, and the company I work for, Sylvan Learning, is sponsoring a cool microsite that kids and parents will enjoy. Motivate your child’s reading by pledging to read on that day – together as a family, individually, or both. Easy as can be. Just go to www.sylvanlearning.com\readacrossamerica.
Parents ask me all the time for reading lists for their children of all ages. Last week I made such a list and suggested some of my favorite books and book categories (February 16, 2008).
Today let’s concentrate on what to look for when you’re choosing books for young children. Rather than come up with a list of books – there are already many such lists, such as “Best Books for Young Children” at www.familyeducation.com – let’s look at a few thoughts you should consider when you and your child are looking for that great book to read together.
1. Books that fire the imagination. Look for books with great storytelling, compelling plots, interesting characters, curiosity-inspiring settings, and excellent writing. You want the books to be entertaining and thought-provoking.
2. Books that reflect the world around us. Look for books that inspire children with main characters that they can admire and emulate, who struggle against recognizable obstacles, and who have the values and attitudes that make them ultimately successful, even after some tough lessons. Fiction is great for this, but so is non-fiction. Biographies of well-regarded figures, written specifically for children, will motivate interests in history and encourage kids to study – for fun – people who are successful in areas they’re interested in themselves. Sports. Science. Exploration. Storytelling. Music. Arts.
3. Books that have multiple perspectives. Children love to see how other folks live, what their daily lives are like, how they’re similar and different from us. They love to compare and contrast families, communities, periods of history. They love to talk about these similarities and differences. Give them opportunities to learn about the wide world.
4. Books that previous generations have loved. Children enjoy reading what you’ve read as a child, what their grandparents read, what their teachers read. This provides a bond among generations and gives children connections between their world and yours. They feel smart and confident, grown-up, when they understand the references you make. Don’t forget fables, fairy tales, well-known stories and folklore, myths from Greece, Rome, Africa, Scandinavia, for example.
5. Books of poetry. Kids love poetry, the rhythms, the rhymes, the narratives, the values that only poetry can give. Kids are especially tuned into poetry. They love to hear it read aloud to them. They love to recite it, experiencing the music in the words. They enjoy the vivid words. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to “analyze” the poetry. Just let the children have fun. They’ll have plenty of chance to analyze later.
Reading is a major influence and pleasure in my life, and I’ve spent years trying to turn reluctant readers into avid ones. Read my blog of June 10, 2008, for more thoughts, and then share yours.
We’d love to hear from you. Just click on the “comment” button below. What are your favorite books? What books would you recommend to young readers? Who’s responsible for making you an avid reader? Who are your favorite authors? Illustrators?