How to Choose the Best Books for Your Family


 After sharing with my friend how my husband and I had raised a reader the next questions my friend asked were, “How do you select books for your child to read? Are there certain guidelines you follow?” As I shared with my friend, selecting books for your child to read is a skill a parent develops through time and experience. When we first began selecting books for our daughter, my husband and I found it helpful to keep a few basic guidelines in the back of our minds to help keep ourselves on track and traveling in the right direction.

Do you find the book interesting?
Great children’s literature has the ability to captivate adults, too. As C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”(1) Does the book contain a richness of literary language? Is the story compelling? Are there characters, actions, or lessons which will pierce the conscience and cleave to the soul?

What will my child discover in this book? Can this book teach her about life?
As William Faulkner reminds us, a good book speaks to the reader about “the old verities and truths of the human heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”

Has this book been read and enjoyed by generations of readers?
New books hit the bookstores and library shelves each year, and your child should have the opportunity to read them. However, your child should also spend time becoming acquainted with classic books. Time has a way of testing literature; weeding out the mediocre while preserving the best.

Is the book one you loved as a child?
As parents it is our responsibility to share our best loved books with our children. My husband’s Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat. Owls in the Family is the story of a boy named Billy and the adventures he shares with his two pet owls, Wol and Weeps. My husband loves this book because of its references to the natural world and the hilarious antics of Billy and his pet owls. My favorite book from childhood is Laura Ingalls Wilder’sLittle House in the Big Woods. I loved this book because it is a daily account of life in a by gone era of American history. As an aspiring eight year old writer, I was drawn to the author’s conversational tone directed towards the reader.

William Wordsworth once wrote, “What we have loved, others will love, but we must teach them how.”

Selecting books for your child is a responsibility, but it is also a gift. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child is introducing them to the wonderful world of the written word. In closing, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from author and illustrator, Howard Pyle which speaks on the importance of selecting good books for your child. “In one’s mature years one forgets the books that one reads, but the stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown into the rubbish-heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.”(2)

Kathy Alphs

1. Bibliography: Bennett, William J. The Educated Child: A Parent’s Guide from Preschool through Eighth
2. Grade, 1999, New York, New York, Simon and Schuster

(This article first appeared on the Beautiful Feet Books Blogspot June 11, 2015.)

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