Choosing the Right Storybooks For Your Child

Every once in a while, I would spend an hour or two in Booksale, looking on every shelf, reading cover summaries, and browsing through pages, to find books that would match our child’s interests and reading level.

It is quite challenging to spot stories that are not too lengthy for our 3-year-old but are stimulating enough for her growing vocabulary. Books that are not too complex but are interesting enough to keep her engaged.

If only I could explain that to the store attendants.

I could hear them murmuring and betting on how many books I’d buy or how much my bill would total to after noticing that I had already been there for a fairly long time.

What exactly is she searching for? They probably thought.

When I finally found 10 that I like or at least I thought Mia would like, and paid P800, they looked quite disappointed. LOL. They must have expected more considering the hours I spent hunting.

Well, I used to just grab and go once I have popular titles on my hands but after having bought a number of wrong books in the past, I have learned to be more selective.

I am no book expert but choosing the right books has helped us in so many ways that I actually consider storybooks a powerful parenting tool.

Here are the kinds of stories I often look for that might also be useful to you.

Stories in a preschool setting.

We transferred to a new preschool so anything that could help her strive in the new social setting would be great. Making new friends, dealing with a difficult classmate, having a new or substitute teacher, falling in line, following the rules, I’d take them.

If yours goes to daycare or stays with grandma when you’re at work, you might want something written in that setting too. Or if you have recently started ballet or soccer, your child might enjoy reading about a character that attends the same class. It really adds excitement and understanding of their everyday life as kids.

Stories that teach good values.

Our strong-willed children are not easy to raise. That is why stories that instill good values are very helpful to us in times of defiant behavior.

Being polite, obeying and respecting elders, caring and showing compassion to others, anything that Mia can copy acts of kindness and good attitude from, you can expect them in my cart.

There are plenty of times when my commands to “keep quiet” or “stay still” won’t do. But a gentle reminder from a book character will!

“Remember Curious George? What happened when he was too naughty and loud? Do you like to be in a time out too?”

She would most likely answer “No” and she would try to calm down.

It lessens the struggle and increases the chance of cooperation when you take the context from a book that they’ve read. 😉

Stories that encourage good health habits.

I often use these stories whenever we find ourselves in similar situations. Tooth brushing, hand washing, getting dressed, drinking lots of water, sleeping early, and the list goes on.

They really come in handy in our daily routine.

On nights that she refuses to brush her teeth, for example, I would say,

“Oh, remember Billy in the Over in the Meadow story, he didn’t want to brush his teeth too. But in the end? What did he learn?”

It works. 95% of the time!

 

Stories that trigger creativity and imagination. 

One evening she said to me,

Mommy, I’m already in my dreams… I see the King of Egypt! He’s made of gold and jewels, and glass panes!

“Panes?”

I’m already in Egypt Mommy!

She was apparently travelling (through her dreams) to Egypt like in the Adventures of Bella and Harry book.

I really love books like these that take kids to a different place. Books that make them wonder. Books that bend their realities.

Flying fishes, talking clocks, funny giants, goofy elves, in the basket they go!

Reading level and age-appropriate books.

I believe we now fall somewhere in between Levels 2 and 3 (See how we started with Level 1).

Like schools that make sure kids are playing age-appropriate activities, reading-level appropriate is important to us too.

I have noticed that if the plot is too simple, Mia won’t bother reading it again after the first run. If it is too wordy, it will end up in the shelves as well. And since not all books are labeled with levels, I always have to check and assess my picks before buying.

If you’re not sure what level your child is in, click on this article for a quick and easy strategy to find out.

There are different guided programs and leveling systems but here are some that you can take a look at for reference.

I Can Read! – by reading capacity (Shared reading, reading with help, reading alone, advance reading)

Hello Reader! – by grade level (Preschool – Grade 1, Kindergarten – Grade 1, Grades 1 & 2, Grades 2 & 3)

Dr. Seuss and Early Reader – by age (Birth to age 3, 3 to 6 years old, 5 to 8, 6 to 9)

In the same way, you can also use the book wizard at Scholastic.com. Just type the title of your child’s favorite book and click on Search for Similar Books to pull out other stories of the same level.

Topics of interest.

I take advantage of this.

A few months ago, she was fascinated with heavy vehicles and construction sites.  Boyish as it may be, we read about tractors, bulldozers, excavators, and cranes.

Last summer, it was fairies. I was suddenly exploring the fairy world and because of that we now have a mini-library of five Tinkerbell books at home.

This month, she has been enjoying Word Search and Word Play on my phone and I thought it would be better if she’s not playing those on a screen. Hence, the 2 activity books you see in the above pic.

Next up are stories where the good and bad ones fight until the good ones win. She has recently started obsessing on characters that have “powers” and I wish we could jump right into the Harry Potter series for that (hehe) but we of course can’t.

I haven’t found a good one on this yet. If you know any, please share the titles with us. 🙂 I would gladly look for it.

There. Those are the 6 things I always consider in buying storybooks. I hope this post was helpful to you.

And if you ask why we buy old when we can buy new?

Well, some books become favorites while some never get touched after 1 or 2 reads. Some get torn, some get wet, and some end up dusty. Young children’s interests are hard to predict and they don’t really know how to take care of books yet.

That’s why I find it impractical to buy brand new ones all the time.

As they grow and develop, they change habits, they meet new people, they adjust to new routines, they adapt to new environments, and they change interests quickly. And the books? They outgrow them quickly too.

So I’m ok with second-hand ones.

Quarterly, we stock up on new finds and sell or give away the ones we no longer like.

However, if you have kids of different ages at home, buying new books that would last longer is I think more advisable. Having a library of the classic ones is a really good investment. The older ones may outgrow them but the younger kids would surely enjoy them next.

Have you started yours? What are your kids’ favorite books? What else do you consider when choosing books?