Monday, June 18, 2012

Choosing Books to Suggest

Getting books for kids can be challenging...but it can be really fun too!

Today I will focus on choosing the book part, and then talk about identifying kids needs and matching books to readers later.

I think about the books I read as a kid - Nancy Drew really stands out. Initially, I dove into the pages, rapt with each suspenseful moment. Then I began thinking, "This is predictable, but I still like them." I made a new goal to keep me reading them...I would read the whole series! The mysteries had lost their luster, but I was feeling memories are pretty blurry for a while, but in the same year I had finished the series, two books came into my life that changed EVERYTHING.

One was Rawling's The Yearling and the second was E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. I remember crying with the main characters and grappling with themes that touched my heart.

What was the difference? Why do I make that comparison?

I think of Carolyn Keene as the Jeff Kinney or Mary Pope Osborne of my time (yes, I am old). Those books are great to pull kids in, but not enough to give them the "meat" they need. Again, those books are great for certain things (my boys have read them), but...

The books I pick for my classroom library have to have certain criteria. Normally, I look for favorite authors. Authors I have read before who I know WRITE WELL. That is the number one thing on my list. It must be written well. If not, even the best story will fall flat.

To test, I start by reading the blurb (book jacket). Sometimes there are reviews, and I will take those into consideration. But that's not enough. I have to read the first page of a few chapters. Again, the writing will immediately stand out. Figurative language, description, imagery and character dialogue will be evident.

This is more essential than you may think for kids. Even at the earliest of readers, there will be well written (Cynthia Rylant). If not, your child will get bored. It's also MUCH easier to teach kids with good writing. For later chapter book readers, it's absolutely CRITICAL.

It won't take long to develop a discerning palate. Spend an hour or so going through the bookshelves of your library or bookstore.

Don't hesitate to ask librarians, book sellers, and others for their recommendations. That's a GREAT place to start.

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