How To Find The Right Children’s Books

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Remember Scholastic book orders? Your teachers sent home a five page magazine of books and you begged your mother for anything with a Disney princess or He-Man and Thundercat. Well, as the daughter of a teacher, I still have double secret access to Scholastic book orders. And Honeybee book orders. And a whole lot of low price books. In fact, I have so much great access to children’s literature, that I feel like I’ve become a connoisseur.

My daughter was destined to love books. In face, she wasn’t given much of a choice. Before she could see colors, I had started our library. Instead of singing to my pregnant belly, I read Peter Pan to it. In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about how to choose books. I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten some truly amazing kid’s literature. I’ve also bought some duds. So I thought that I would share my expertise with you all, lucky readers! Next year, you’ll be ready for those book orders.

  • Cater to your child’s interests. One of the main reasons we read to our children is to get them interested in reading. We want to spark their imagination and teach them how to love books. The best way to do that is by getting books in topics that interest your children. It will make the story more relatable and interesting for young readers or listeners.
  • Don’t be afraid of non-fiction. Some kids respond better to real photography and facts. If that’s where your child’s heart lies, don’t force them into fairy tales. Anymore, non-fiction can begin with board books. Just because a book is non-fiction, doesn’t mean that it won’t inspire kids. Knowledge and learning can help create a base for imaginative play later on.
  • Ignore the mainstream characters. Yes, your child will recognize the Dora and Diego books. And anything that gets them interested in reading is a positive. This is all true, but the books made for well-known Nickelodeon and Disney characters just aren’t on par with the books by real children’s authors. There are so many amazing books that can introduce children to new characters and new stories, it’s hard to spend money or time with characters you already know, especially when it’s not well-written.
  • Great children’s authors are worth remembering. Jane Yolen has written over 300 books, but I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t like. My daughter’s favorite is How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Every time I see Yolen’s name, I know that I’ll be getting a wonderful piece of work. But it’s not just uber-famous authors who deserve to be remembered. A couple of years ago I bought a book called Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox. My daughter and niece are obsessed with it! So when she finally released a second book this year, I was on the waiting list. She may only have two books, but her work was wonderful enough to make two dedicated fans. Find authors your children love and remember them as you sort through a million children’s book choices.
  • Embrace the classics. But don’t get stuck on them. Classic children’s books are wonderful and heart-warming and full of amazing memories. Peeking around the corner as my husband read his favorite children’s book, The Giving Tree, to my daughter was one of the most touching experiences of my life. But that doesn’t mean that we should only read what we grew up on. Authors are still making touching and creative books for children. I can’t imagine missing books like A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead because I didn’t buy anything published after 1991.
  • Pay attention to the illustrator. Just as an author can capture a child’s imagination, amazing illustration lures children into a story. And kids respond differently to different types of pictures. I can still remember the first time my daughter saw a book with abstract art. She was so upset that she couldn’t point out the eyes, ears and noses on the people in the picture, we couldn’t even get through the story. She found the illustrations too distracting. But I also remember reading her Giraffes Can’t Dance, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. The bright colors and cartoon-like illustrations of animals struck a chord with my little girl. We sat down to Farmer Joe and The Music Show last night and even my three year old knew they were drawn by the same person. And she loved it!


There are hundreds of thousands of children’s books from which to choose. The most important part is that we read to them! Most children don’t care about awards received or whether literary critics would call it “twaddle”. They just want us to read them something exciting or inspiring or fun. So the most important piece of advice I can give you is to find something that you and your child want to hear over and over and over again. Then sit down and get reading.


(Photo: Thinkstock)