The gifts of spending time together and learning to love reading are gifts that children will treasure forever. Choosing books together is a wonderful start to the reading process, unfortunately leisurely browsing through library stacks is not an option right now and browsing through book stores is also not ideal. There are many wonderful lists that have been compiled and posted on library websites, school websites, as well parenting websites.
A few of my favorites:
New York Public Library - Recommendations for Kids
Central Arkansas Library System - Reading Recommendation Form
The Anthony School Reading Recommendations (4th-5th Grades)
Tips on Choosing a Book to Read Together
Not all books are created equal when it comes to reading aloud. There are many aspects to consider when choosing a great read aloud book.
Read a selection of both picture books and chapter books. When children are younger, be sure and incorporate nursery rhymes; as they get older, incorporate poetry. All children can enjoy the poems of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. Also keep in mind there are picture books that teenagers appreciate...such as It’s a Book by Lane Smith.
Choose a book you think your child will enjoy. Make sure the character or story line is something that will be of interest. While many of the classic children’s books are classics for a reason, some amazing books have been written recently.
Let your child be a part of the choice. If your child is very young, you will clearly be the one making the bulk of the decisions on what to read, but narrowing down the choices and letting your child make the final decision on what to read is a smart move. If your child is older, pull up one of the many websites and let them narrow down the choices. Remember it is perfectly acceptable and comforting to read books over and over, to gravitate to a favorite author; however, there is value in trying out something new.
For younger children starting out with chapter books, try and avoid books with long descriptive paragraphs because these tend to lose younger children’s attention.
The Importance of Reading Together
Choosing books together can be a fun experience. It is a time not only to introduce your children to your favorite books, but also to discover their interests. You may not be in love with their choice of book, but choosing books is a wonderful first step in independence.
Reading aloud allows children to grow their vocabulary and build their background knowledge. It is more than okay for children not to understand all the words in the book by learning new words in context. In addition, children often feel more comfortable asking their parents about hard topics when referring to situations characters may be going through.
Listening to stories also aids children in learning to use cadence, flow, rhythm and tone. When learning to read, fluency is one of the most difficult skills. Listening to adults read aloud is one way that children learn to read with fluency.
Take your time when reading with your child. Reading together and talking about what the characters are experiencing is critical. These discussions give parents insight into what your own child might be thinking or feeling and also is a time for children to learn to develop compassion and empathy.
Lastly, if a book is too scary or otherwise does not hold your child’s interest, it is perfectly fine to agree not to finish the book.
Amanda Taylor, MSLIS, is the Librarian and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Instructor at The Anthony School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She has been a librarian for 14 years. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys reading (of course), hiking with her husband, walking her dog, and watching her 2 daughters play soccer.