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How To Choose Books To Read With Your Children

Do you have trouble figuring out what books to read to your children or which books you allow them to read on their own? Read on for some helpful ideas about how to choose books for your kids.

We read a lot of books in our house. Most often, we read before bed time, but we also pick up books on occasion throughout the day. With such frequent reading, it’s important to me that my boys like the books and also that I enjoy reading them.

I’ve heard many parents discuss not knowing what to read with their children, so I’m sharing a few of the principles we apply when choosing books to hopefully help other parents find more books the whole family will enjoy.

You can also check out all the themed book lists I’ve put together on the blog.

10 Tips For Selecting Children’s Books To Read With Your Family

Share Responsibility For Choosing Books

Whether we’re at the library gathering a haul of books or just picking a few books to read before bed, I chose some of the books and let my boys choose the rest. I tend to choose most of the books with purpose while they gravitate towards books with familiar characters that aren’t necessary all the deep. I find that if they choose too many books, I don’t enjoy reading them. If I choose too many books, they can get frustrated that they have no voice and sometimes even bored because my choices tend to be about more serious topics.

Choose Books With Human Characters

I like to choose books with human characters over those with animals as protagonists. I don’t have anything against animals, but I want my kids to see people in all sorts of situations and circumstances so they can more easily relate the stories to real life.

Choose Books With a Variety of Racial, Ethnic and Religious Characters

Sometimes I chose books that more directly address issues of race relations and religion, and other times I chose books that portray people of various skin colors and ethnicities doing everyday family activities. I want my boys to be exposed to different cultures, and I think books are a great way to experience walking in someone else’s shoes who they may not meet in a regular day. I also want them to see that people of different skin colors and ethnicities, while practicing some different cultural activities or elements, are also just like us in so many ways.

Follow Bookstagrammers (Accounts on Instagram that Recommend Books)

There are so many accounts on Instagram that recommend great books for children. Some focus on diverse books while others cover a greater variety of genres. A few of my favorite Instagram account for diverse book recommendations are:

@mslesliesbooktalks (my sister, so definitely go follow her 💖)
@theconsciouskid
@mattersofrepresentation

For children’s book recommendations in general, I also like:

@everydayreading
@happily.ever.elephants
@readaloudrevival
@book.nerd.mommy

Place Holds At Your Library

As you discover good books, place then on hold at your library. Even if your local library doesn’t have the book, there’s a good chance another library in your network has it. I reserve about 30-40 books per month so we always have a pile of books to read at any given time.

If you’re new to the library or it seems overwhelming, you can gather tons more ideas from my post about how to use your local library effectively and reduce library stress.

Don’t Fear Quitting Bad Books

Among other reasons, I love checking out books from the library because there’s no cost to choosing a bad book. I always check out more books than I expect to read so I can ditch a book I don’t like. This applies to children’s books too. If you don’t like it, there are no rules that you have to finish it or keep reading it until it’s due back. Close the book and pick out something better, even if it’s the same book you read the last 37 nights.

Remember Some Children’s Books Appeal More to Adults

In addition to letting my kids have influence over the books we read and giving them practice making choices, I recognize that some children’s books are a bit deep and appeal to me far more than the boys. The new book, Love, by Matt de la Peña, is a perfect example I think. The Illustrations are amazing and the prose is lovely, but it’s a little complex and symbolic. I’m not sure my boys really understand what’s going on when I read it. It has some great touch points for difficult conversations about what love looks like, but it covers a pretty deep topic. The last time we read it, my boys’ eyes glazed over, so I followed the book up with an easy reader about The Avengers to reengage them in our reading.

Get Books With Beautiful Illustrations

Looking at pretty things is enjoyable just for the sake of the art. If you like the pictures and not the words, make up your own story to go along with the illustrations and enjoy the beautiful images.

Try Books Beyond Their Reading Level

We read picture books, but I also read early chapter books to my boys, who are currently 5 and 3. After reading one or two picture books at bedtime, they lay in their beds and I read a few pages of a chapter book (with no rules about having to finish an entire chapter!). I often refresh their memories about what happened the day before and sometimes summarize what we just read to help them comprehend the more advanced content.

They love when I read chapter books to them. It helps them develop reading comprehension skills while they have no pictures to see. It also introduces them to more complex vocabulary and gives me a chance to read some more sophisticated books, many of which bring back a little nostalgia from my childhood.

Just Read.. Because It’s So Important

In the end, any books are better than no books. I think my boys’ favorite part about reading is cuddling and sitting on my lap more than the experience of hearing the story. Reading opens their minds to new experiences, cultures, places, vocabulary, and concepts and creates context for future experiences in their own lives that might otherwise be entirely foreign.

If you’re interested in learning more about reading with your kids, I loved the book The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It included so much valuable information and some great booklists.

Do you read a lot with your kids? What are your tips for finding good books and making reading time as a family enjoyable and meaningful?

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