You may have heard about the importance of reading to your child, but what books are best? Can you read any book that interests your child, or should you pick one that is of higher quality?
Quality literature expands your child’s world! Through well-written stories, their imaginations are inspired and they pick up important educational concepts like sentence structure and vocabulary. Watching stories unfold helps children develop social and emotional skills.
What Makes Literature of High Quality?
What exactly is quality literature? It’s not just Shakespeare or old poets!
A book would be considered quality literature if it includes all (or most) of the following:
- Well-written, interesting stories: Some stories are too simple, don’t make much sense, or don’t provide a positive message.
- Age-appropriate words: Most of the words should be understandable to a child, but quality literature will stretch a child’s vocabulary just a little bit.
- An overall positive message or conflict is resolved: Quality literature often has role models, teaches life lessons or positive character quality, or has inspiring themes. Conflict resolution is also important.
- Illustrations are detailed: Interesting illustrations draw children back to the book because they want to look at the pictures. Detailed illustrations allow you to discuss the pictures, which further expose your child to language understanding.
- Has won an award: Outstanding books are awarded every year. Some popular awards are the Randolph Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and Pura Belpré Award.
In summary, if you (or your child!) want to read the book more than once, it’s likely quality literature.
What’s not quality literature? Here are a few things to avoid when choosing books:
- Trending animated characters: Children may want to read books with their favorite movie or TV character over and over, but it’s not because the literature is quality.
- Graphic novels: While not all graphic novels are bad, these can be a crutch that keeps children from making the transition from picture books to chapter books. The plot lines are often shallow and too much like a cartoon.
Finding Quality Literature
It’s easy to find quality literature for story time! While you should purchase some of your favorite books, you can find most books through your local library.
Type in “quality literature + age of your child” into a search bar for thousands of options for quality books. You can then request your favorite titles from the library.
You can also ask your librarian for suggestions. They will know of classic books as well as new award winners and recent releases.
Here are some age-appropriate quality literature books for young children.
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox.
- Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
- I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom
- Mommies Say Shhh! by Patricia Polacco.
- Peekaboo Bedtime, by Rachel Isadora.
- Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
- My Farm Friends, by Wendell Minor.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
- Moo, Baa, La la la, by Sandra Boynton
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr
- Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
- The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
- Corduroy, by Don Freeman
- The Little Red Caboose, by Little Golden Books
- Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
- Little Blue Truck, by Alice Shertle
- Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
- The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
- Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
- Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman
- Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
- Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
Go a Little Deeper
As you read a book with your child, ask age-appropriate and thought-provoking questions or commentary before turning the page.
For instance, if a picture has animals in it, tell your baby or toddler what sound it makes. If your child is older, ask them what sound it makes. You can also tell young children about colors, shapes, and numbers, as well as spatial concepts like up and down, in and out, and over and under.
Older children can also make social and emotional connections through stories. If a picture shows a character who is sad, happy, or surprised, ask them why they might feel that way. Or if there is conflict in the story, ask your child what should happen to make things right.
Technology Can’t Replace the Parent
If you want your child to experience the benefits of reading but don’t have the time to sit down with your child, you might turn to audiobooks or children’s podcasts. Your library may also have children’s books that read the book aloud to your child.
While these are better than iPads or television shows, podcasts and audiobooks aren’t the same as reading with your child. This is because the emotional bonding over books is lacking; a stranger is reading to your child.
This doesn’t mean that you can never let your child listen to a podcast or audiobook, but if you want your child to fall in love with reading, it’s vital to take the time to read with your child.
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