It’s Book Week in Australia, and there are many literary events around the place. To celebrate Book Week at Earthly Joyride, I thought I would spend the week talking generally about children's books. Why should we read them to our children? How do you choose the right book for your child? What are the best books to read aloud? How can you make your own book?
First of all, how do you choose a good book for your child or any child, for that matter? My Mum always bought me books for my birthday and for Christmas. She still does. My kids always receive books for birthdays and for Christmas. And I tend to buy books for my nieces and nephews, as well as other children whose parties my kids are invited to. I figure that if those kids are in a family who love books, the book will be appreciated. And if that particular family is not into books, well it’s my responsibility to provide a quality book for them!
Seven steps for choosing a good book
1. If you can, read it all the way through from cover to cover. As the kids grow, the books become longer, but you can read a picture book all the way through while you’re in the bookshop. Read it aloud if you like. I have made one mistake in buying a book that I only flicked through at the bookshop. Once I read it to Tom at home, I haven’t read it since. Poor language, silly story.
2. Do you like it? You’re probably going to be the main person to read it aloud, so if you’re not enthusiastic at the first reading, you probably won’t be at the 117th reading.
3. Do you like the illustrations? Are the characters expressive? Do the pictures help to tell the story? Are there extra details in the pictures that aren’t mentioned in the story?
4. Is this book memorable? Does it make you think a little differently about the world? Does it have a unique viewpoint? Does it make you smile? Have you instantly thought about the child who will read it?
5. The language – is it funny? Joyful? Fluent? Enjoyable to read aloud? Beautiful? Evocative? Stirring?
6. Ask for help. The bookseller should be able to tell you the best dinosaur books, the most popular books for a four-year-old girl, the most recent releases and the books which have been nominated or have won an award.
7. If you have a particular book in mind, borrow it from the library. Read it with your child and see whether they like it. I can still remember Mum borrowing “A Little Bush Maid” by Mary Grant Bruce from the library for me. I loved it. A few weeks later, on my birthday, the whole set, all 15 of the Billabong books, were there on a bookshelf in the study for me. I still have them.