Choosing books for every age and helping children to enjoy reading is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, and it’s well worth the investment of your time and energy. One way to help them enjoy reading is to choose books that are well written and capture your child’s imagination.
Children should never associate reading with work. They should associate it with pleasure and enjoyment; otherwise, they will quickly lose their desire, curiosity and interest to read; in other words, the skills necessary to read successfully.
From a very early age, read aloud to your children. Let them listen to your voice, see the beautiful illustrations, and assist with turning the pages. Durable books with cardboard pages are a great way to start. Encourage them to think about the story and ask questions, e.g. “what do you think will happen next?” or point out, “where is the bird?” This will help them when they start to learn to read.
Once a child can read unassisted, don’t stop reading to your child, as there is still something charming about spending this special time with your children. Don’t let them be distracted by television, mobile phones or loud music/noises. Do this somewhere quiet; say at the end of the day before going to sleep, perhaps laying on a blanket outside on a sunny day or reading to them while they do some colouring in. Chapter books are great to do this with as their imagination is captured, and you can just pick up from where you left. It is also important to choose books you both like (nothing unappealing or dull).
As children learn to read for themselves, let them read aloud to you as you cook the dinner. Listen actively and nod along to acknowledge the story. Don’t stand over them; simply enjoy listening to them read and help them if they get stuck.
It’s a great idea to start a home library for your children, even if it’s just a shelf or two in their bedroom or in a quiet part of the house. You can also join your local library and visit each week to select new books. This is a great free way to develop their love of reading. It will also help them build independence by selecting their books, checking them out with the librarian, looking after them and returning them. You can also ask the librarian for help in choosing books for every age.
Reading interests and needs change as children grow, so continually update their library. Keep your child’s interest and reading level in mind. Be sure to choose books that are easy to handle while they are small, and as they get older, choose books that capture their attention or interest. Kids can tell you what they like and don’t like and what they want to learn. Your children’s input will help you guide them to good books. Encourage them to select books independently as soon as they show preferences.
Here are some tips for choosing books for children
INFANTS AND TODDLERS 0 – 3 years
- Books with big, bright, colourful pictures
- Durable books that are a good size and shape and easy to handle
- Sensory books – touch/smell
- Short stories using simple sentences with pictures that explain the text
- Poems and rhyming books that are fun to listen to
- Make books by printing photographs and adding captions to the pages
PRESCHOOLERS 3 – 5 years
- Books that are colourful and engaging
- Books that are short and don’t take too long to read
- Books that are fun and move quickly
- Rhyming books with a repetitive theme so children can remember the words and read confidently
- Stories about everyday life and events. The stories should encourage children to ask questions and explore their world
- Concept books are also great – learning about letters, numbers, shapes and colours
- Character books or books about animals will also hold a child’s attention, especially if the theme is familiar to them, e.g. having a pet dog
YOUNG READERS 6 – 12 years
- Text should be clear and easy to read
- Choose books that your child can read confidently on their own. You can get an idea if it is appropriate for their reading level by getting them to read a page. If there are more than five words they can’t read, it might be a bit hard for them
- Keep storybooks your child enjoyed hearing when they were younger. These are great books for children to begin reading on their own
- Choose books with colourful, attractive illustrations and photos that bring the text to life and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words
- Choose books that appeal to your child’s interests, e.g. being a ballerina, craft books, cooking books, insect books, working on the farm, dinosaurs or whatever it is your child is interested in
- Your child might like specific authors or illustrators
- Your child might have a favourite character
- Have books that encourage discussion, e.g. Guinness Book of Records
- Chapter books that can be read over several days instead of in one sitting
- Poetry books, rhyming books and tongue twisters
- Joke books or brain teasers
ADOLESCENTS 13 years+
- Books about subjects that interest your child
- Novels that might help your child cope with the daily challenges of growing up by featuring characters dealing with similar experiences
- Books that introduce new experiences and opportunities
- They might like books that are from their favourite movies like Harry Potter
- Factbooks, such as world record books and trivia books
- Non-fiction books on something they are interested in, e.g. cars, fashion, animals, nature
- Biographies, classics, folk tales, historical fiction and mythology
- If they are reluctant readers, comic books or graphic novels can be great to encourage reading
- ANYTHING they are interested in!
Knowing how to choose good books is a skill your children will keep for the rest of their lives. Take time to show them how. Teach them to treat books gently and with respect. Encourage them to donate books they no longer want to friends, family, or local charities.
Remember, it’s okay to look through a book and then decide not to read the whole thing. Pick another one if your child doesn’t like a book after reading a chapter or a few pages. Reading is supposed to be fun, not a chore. Don’t let them get bored with the content.
For school-aged children, keep in mind that the school library is an excellent source for various subjects. The school librarian is knowledgeable about children’s literature and can be a tremendous help in selecting books. Encourage your kids to bring home books from their school library for pleasure and their studies. The local library is also a wonderful place to explore! From a very young age, we as parents should encourage a relationship with books and a lifelong love of reading.
The Begin Bright programmes help to support children’s learning. The Begin Bright programmes introduce letter sounds and reading through well-loved children’s books and fun activities in the early years. As they transition to school, the programmes support their learning and help them catch up or give them a learning boost. We have locations across Australia and New Zealand. If there’s no location near you, we also have online programmes and resources to help support your child’s learning at home.
If you’d like more information on supporting your child’s reading journey, register for our FREE Parents guide to the stages of reading here.