Learning to Read: Choosing Which Books are for Children

One of my favorite things to do with my grandchildren is read a great book with them. We snuggle on the couch, pile into an oversized chair, curl up on a bed or just sit cross-legged on the floor. And they can usually expect to receive books from me for birthdays and holidays. Since they are all still quite young, choosing a good book for them is great fun. I love being able to have a part in sharing a love of books, stories and imagination with them, not to mention making memories.

However, having said all that, and in spite of the fact that I am a librarian, there are times when deciding which book for which child can be fraught with much indecision, bewilderment and confusion. There is so much to choose from!

Will my little bird like the book? Is this book too old/young? Is it something that will grab attention? Choosing a book for a child should not cause undue anxiety. So, here is a tip to help make those decisions easier and the whole process a lot of fun!

Your best starting point is to simply consider the age of the child:

Babies and toddlers like the sensory basics. Board books are sturdy and wipeable because, yes, they will chew on them. It’s okay. Books for this age focus on basic concepts such as letters, numbers and object recognition, making them quite short. Building vocabulary, even if the child is too young to talk, is an important task. Babies love to look at books that have high contrast such as black and white designs, or shapes that stand out on the page. You are building the groundwork that reading is a part of life.

Preschoolers love repetition. Favorite books are begged to be read over and over. Rhyming words, poetry rhythms, colors, shapes, animals and objects also help build budding literacy skills. Story begins to be important, which adds to the fun. The children enjoy stories that they can relate to in their lives such as family and everyday events. Picture books with engaging illustrations and simple plots can be read together. They are wonderful for talking together about what is happening in the story, what will come next and what the pictures show. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff never seem to fail.

Primary grade children are learning to read. Books with simple words, repetition and engaging pictures help them develop recognition. Check out Dr. Seuss books and the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel, favorites for two generations in my family. Picture books are still good for reading to at this age. You may find that as you read (again and again and again) they begin to tell you the story. As they grow and learn, your birds may eventually read it to you! Many at this age love fantasy or humor. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney and the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Connor are favorites. The Magic School Bus series makes science fun.

Cuyahoga County Great Books for Kids

Ages Birth to 4

Ages 5 to 8

Ages 9 to 11

Ages 12 to 14

Ages 15 to 18


Jeanne Sapir is a librarian in Northeast Ohio. She is a mother of three and

booksgrandmother to six charming birds. She loves visiting her grandchildren and sharing books with them. Each story they experience together is a new memory she has to cherish.

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