10 Tips for choosing books for kids

 16 July 2012

Choose books suitable for your child’s reading level and on subjects that he or she is interested in.


Ever step into a bookstore and be stumped as to where to start and what to get? There are so many options available today that parents often are left floundering as to where to start and what to get. 

Sometimes a book that may seem like the perfect choice for your child ends up sitting on the bookshelf untouched for months.

Been there, done that?

Here are some tips to help you choose the right books for your child:

1) Know your child
Every child has different interests. You need to know what your child likes playing with and watching on TV or reading. Just because you have a son doesn’t automatically mean he loves cars. Hence buying books on cars, trucks and motorbikes might not interest him at all. Find out what your child is keen on and buy books related to that topic.

2) Reading stage
Buy books that are appropriate to your child’s age and reading ability. Yes, you want your child to advance and start reading novels as fast as he or she can, but you can’t put the cart before the horse. Your child will have to read the picture books first before he or she can advance to the books with words and pictures and finally to the books with no pictures. Unless you have a child genius, there’s no way to jump forward. Smaller kids enjoy books with more pictures, cute cartoons, bright colours and rhymes and repetition (yes, you will be doing the reading).

3) Slowly move it up a notch
Let your child go through each reading stage and slowly move on to the next level with books that offer a wider vocabulary. Take it slow. If your child feels you’re pushing him and he’s in no hurry, you’re not going to go anywhere fast, and your child might actually end up hating reading and books.

4) Let your child lead
You can buy all the books in the world but it won’t help if your child isn’t interested in reading. Take your child often to the bookstore. Make it exciting and fun and even the focus of your whole shopping outing. He will soon look forward to going to the bookstore and will be avidly picking out the books he wants. Then you’ll find yourself facing a whole new problem – how to say no to too many book purchases.

5) More of the same
If your child likes a Roald Dahl book, chances are she’s going to love the other books by this wonderful author. And, yes, if she likes Geronimo Stilton, she’ll love all the others in that series plus the spin-off series – Thea Stilton and Creepella von Cacklefur. If your child is not into these series, check out the subject matter. Your daughter may show an interest in fairy stories or stories about heroes like Robin Hood or King Arthur. Buy books similar to those and they will usually be a hit.

6) New lands and times
For generations children have always liked a story about foreign lands and even from different times. Classics like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas come to mind. Then there are books about vikings and knights to try out.

7) The fantastical
Something that’s so out of this world is equally appealing to kids, like Dahl’sCharlie and the Chocolate Factory or Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame! Stories about unicorns, fairies and flying horses will go down well. These are stories that help your child expand his imagination as he leaves Malaysia and the world and goes to a land where anything and everything is possible!

8) Inspirational stories
If your child is opinionated and talkative, he or she may like autobiographies about strong men and women in history. Consider the stories about Florence Nightingale and Alexander the Great. These books will inspire your child to be great, excel in life and even help the less fortunate.

9) Film/TV tie-ins
If your child is a fan of Barbie, try exposing her to books on girls and groups of girls. If she is into Pirates of the Caribbean, how about trying a book or two on pirates, Peter Pan and even Jake and the Never Land Pirates? If your child loves Winnie the Pooh, then you have a choice of so many Winnie the Pooh books. From there, move on to books on other bears like Paddington Bear and Rupert the Bear.

10) Where to go for resources
If you’re stuck for which level your child is at and need more advice and practical suggestions on which books to get your child at his/her reading level, head on over to these publishers:
Usborne (www.usborne.com);
Ladybird (www.ladybirdprints.com); and
Scholastic (www.scholastic.com).

Remember to have fun with the books. Nobody wants to read just one type of book or one series. Mix it up and give your child lots of variety. Let the books open your child’s mind to all the possibilities that the world and his/her imagination allows. 

Reading begins at home, and there is no better way to inculcate the reading habit than being a role model yourself. So, pick up a book today, and do it in front of your kids!

Taken from ParenThots, thestar online, www.thestar.com.my