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Books: Selecting Books for Your Child


Books are valuable because they:

  • Spark creativity and imagination.
  • Introduce new people, places, and ideas.
  • Build vocabulary and how to use language.
  • Help children understand situations and troublesome feelings.

Books help children reach out to the world. Books also help parent and child grow closer. One way to help your child learn to love reading is to show that you enjoy reading.

Infants (0 - 18 months)

Your newborn will enjoy just hearing your voice. You can read aloud your favorite mystery or spy novel while feeding or cuddling with the baby. The time you spend reading to your infant is far more important than the book itself.

As the baby gets older, read to her every day. Choose books that are durable (cloth or boardbooks). Pick books with bright colors and large simple pictures. Books that encourage sounds (such as animal sounds, trucks, or trains) are fun to read. Reading the same books over and over will help your baby to recognize and name familiar objects. She will enjoy feeling the rough and smooth textures found in "touching" books and listening to the sounds of nonsense verse and nursery rhymes. You'll be surprised at how quickly she will learn to join in the rhymes and songs.

If you continue to make reading time fun, your baby will develop a lifelong love for reading and books.

Toddler Literature (18 months to 3 years)

During this period, children begin to take a definite interest in words and wordplay. They begin to know some words to favorite nursery rhymes by heart, and love to hear their favorite stories over and over again. Children at this age may ask to read the same book over and over. This repetition is a natural part of learning. Encourage your children to pick new books but save time for their favorites. So, read "Goodnight Moon" for the hundredth time and know that each time you do, it reinforces their love of reading.

Children of this age enjoy naming things. They also like bright colors, shapes, and rhyming words. Books and stories should highlight people and objects familiar to your toddler.

Toddlers have short attention spans, so stories should always be short, simple, and have lots of pictures. The best choices are large-format books that develop one main character through action and activity. Make sure the books have happy, clear-cut endings.

Preschool (3 to 6 years)

Children learn reading skills while watching you read. They start to figure out that printed symbols have certain meanings.

Young children love to participate directly with you and the book. They like to open flaps, ask questions, and make comments.

Books are a good way to teach about size, shape, and color. Preschoolers love to ask "why". They are often interested in books and stories about the weather, nature, animals, children in other cultures, and transportation. Books can also help children with fears or feelings. Stories with a light, humorous, touch may help children learn how to deal with problems or feelings.

Younger School-Age (6 to 9 years)

At this age children begin to get more serious. They learn new words and new concepts every day.

Children in this stage are starting to read for themselves. They need books that fit their reading level. Overestimating a child's reading ability leads to frustration and disappointment. Young readers need books with simple words and strong, simple storylines.

As children grow a little older, they begin to enjoy reading longer, more involved tales. They also enjoy realistic stories about family, friends, and school. Their interest is held by stories about children from other countries, simple biographies, fiction series, and collections of jokes, riddles, and tongue-twisters. They will probably want to read books where they are the same gender as the main character. They still love to listen to stories read by others.

Older School-Age (9 to 12 years)

At this age, it is not unusual for a child to spend hours pouring over books about things they are interested in, such as magic, model making, or animals. Do not be surprised or concerned, however, if your child's interests appear to change from day to day.

They can get bored with simple characters or predictable stories. They are capable of more complex thought and are able to put themselves in another's place. They can appreciate books that highlight different points of view.

Adventure and fantasy books are popular, as are more realistic historical or contemporary stories about interpersonal relationships. Children of this age like biographies about explorers and adventurers, artists and composers, scientists and inventors, sports figures, presidents, and ethnic heroes.

Ask the librarian at your public library to help you select books for your child.


Written by Kate Capage and Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-04
Last reviewed: 2010-05-27

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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