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Three Important Things to Know About Choosing Children's Stories

Updated on October 5, 2012

Reading Children's Books

Reading to my grandchildren
Reading to my grandchildren | Source

Where to Find Good Children's Books

One of my favorite pastimes is to read to children. Now that my daughters have grown I rely on my grandkids to give me this pleasure. I am always on the lookout for great stories to share and have written a hub or two with the reviews. What I look for follows the basic three:

1. Age of the audience

2. Storyline

3. Illustrations

When I’m in a bookstore I always stop at the children’s section to see if there are any new, interesting stories. If I come across something that catches my eye it usually starts with the title. From there I consider the storyline and think of which of my grandchildren would enjoy the book. Finally, I check the illustrations. Again, depending on the age of the child will depend on how much the illustrations weigh in the decision of purchasing the book.

There are many places to get ideas for children’s books beginning with the library. If I have read and reread a story to family members I know it is one of their favorites. This may prompt me to buy the book as a gift. Sometimes going online to purchase the book is the cheapest route to go. Other ways to purchase inexpensive books are through school book fairs, at neighborhood yard sales, and at bargain stores.

#1 Age of the Audience when Choosing a Children's Story

In reading aloud to children, the rule of thumb is often: let the child lead. If he is showing a particular interest in something get a few books with that subject matter to read to him. For example: Beaches-there are many books with colorful illustrations that can be read to your child. If you choose a book you are wild about, (i.e. 'berry picking'), and your child is not, there is a message here-listen up!

Another way to choose content is if you are trying to help your child through a particular situation, let's say 'fear of MONSTORS' for example. There are many books, from picture books to ones for older kids, that relate to this subject. By offering a safe and friendly way to explore the silliness of this fear your child is given new information, perhaps creative solutions to use, and a better understanding about his fears.

A third way to explore choosing books is to go with the 'all time favorites' for that age group...classics if you will. These may be the tried and true stories you loved as a child and want to share your excitement with your child, (and perhaps relive those memories), or they may be ones you missed out on and know they are popular selections. Example: The Cat and the Hat. Now, you have probably read this or had it read to you...or heard it somewhere in school. But, if you have not, you will NOT want your child to miss this classic story.

Colorful Children's Books

Books for Younger Children

Two adorable picture books for younger children are Mouse, Mole, and the falling star by A.H. Benjamin and Just one more swim by Caroline Pitcher. Both books caught my eye for my younger grandchildren, Grace and Alex. Both have brightly colored pictures that hold the attention of the younger audience.

What makes Mouse, Mole, and the falling star an enjoyable book is the lesson of friendship. When these two best friends spot a falling star they each want it for themselves. Letting the problem come between them creates lonely times for the two throughout the summer. Learning to recognize that nothing should come between two good friends is a lesson that can be learned at any age.

The delightful story of ‘Just one more swim’ is filled with tantalizing words that roll off the tongue and create vivid action to accompany the cute drawings of Mama and her two polar bear cubs. ‘Dazzling’, ‘squabbling’, and ‘tummy-tobogganed’ are just a few of the words that heighten the story of their newly discovered world.

Either, or both, of these stories are a great addition to your child’s early story experience.

#2 Storyline in a good Children's Book

Depending on the age of the child will depend on the sophistication of the storyline. Picture books are ones that have few words, but action and pictures. An older child's book has more words, a more developed plot and pictures or drawings. A pre-teen book will be complex and may not have any pictures in it. Some picture books, such as The Wolf are meant for an older aged audience and has lots of lovely pictures.

If the story is too difficult for a young child to understand, or if it is filled with lots of vocabulary words that they have not been exposed to and therefore cannot understand, their interest will wan and you will be caught holding the book while they wander off.

If the story is too simple...the child may still wander off or get easily distracted because they are bored. Watch out if they have siblings or friends who are listening...their distraction can easily domino into a chain reaction involving other children.

Story and Illustrated Book for Older Kids

Books for older children: The Wolves-A Story of Survival

A good example of connecting a book with a person is the story of The Wolves . I first came across this book while researching another topic at my local library. As I noticed the title I immediately thought of my oldest grandchild who is fascinated with wolves. I browsed through the book and noticed the beautiful watercolor pictures. Within the first couple of paragraphs I was hooked and checked it out.

Shortly after reading the book I wrote a hub about it and dedicated it to my oldest grandchild: Olivia…or as she now likes to be called, ‘Wolf Girl’. This hub, called Children's Book Review: The Wolves, is about a wolf pack and their attempts at survival as seen through the eyes of Brian Heinz, a former elementary science teacher turned author. It is for older elementary aged students. Be sure to follow the link to read more detail about the author of the book: The Wolves

Jan Brett: The Mitten

#3 Illustrations in Children's Books

Colorful, dynamic, engaging pictures are what sells parents on a particular book, because it attracts and holds their child's interest. Jan Brett has been writing and illustrating her own children's stories for years. She is an interactive writer who takes her first hand experiences and develops her stories from that. She is one of many children's authors who have a successful way to reach the targeted audience.

When I wrote a story for my first born granddaughter, four at the time, and read it to her from the pages of my notebook, she immediately asked to see the illustrations. Now, mind you...she did not ask to see the pictures, she asked "where are the illustrations, Grandma?" I was taken aback that she even understood that the pictures were called illustrations, not to mention the association between the idea of a story and the pictures that go along with it.

If you choose a drably illustrated children's book it may not be as popular as other brightly painted stories are. There is a whole crayola box to choose from now and the sophisticated audience can be particular in listening and viewing some of the most wonderfully illustrated books, while walking past a great story that has poor picture quality.

Make the effort to select for your child the most engaging story in the whole library...or entire store. It will teach your child good listening skills, to be read to; creativity, and imagination. It will teach you the delight of reading aloud to your child or grandchild.


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