Everything is big balancing act; from the food in our kitchens to watching television and getting sleep. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that choosing books is right up there. It doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated, I mean it’s just children’s literature right? How hard can it be it’s not like there’s a lot out there in the children’s section that is questionable. Right?
Now, I’m not going sit here and tell you that your precious angel child should only read crumbling tomes of time-tested literature – the crumblier the better. I’m not going to guilt anyone for having a popular book series or a collection of “Disney” stories. Like anything it’s a balancing act – a little bit here and a little bit there to make a whole balanced picture.
|The “My Book House” series was such a good investment –
classic lit that grows with the child. “Enchanted Isles” is another collection
of children’s lit from my husband’s collection.
I really appreciate the Charlotte Mason definition of “twaddle”, that is books that are silly and insignificant among other things. It does help to have a frame work when trying to pick out books that are worth spending your hard earned money on, but I can’t say my home is 100% twaddle free.
To pick out quality children’s literature I look for a number of details.
- The book must have good storytelling; it must have a point. Not just “Here’s a character being silly and achieving nothing”. It’s not necessary that characters go through a complete change in their natures, but let’s just say I really don’t see the point of children’s books about pigeons begging to drive a bus.
- The characters should act in a way I would like my children to copy; this can be tricky to find perfectly, but good children’s lit. should not encourage my kids to talk back, have bad manners, or use language I don’t want to encourage. This doesn’t mean the characters are perfect, but that bad behavior isn’t rewarded. The more a book inspires a child to imagine worlds of their own, have adventures and, best of all, go outside the better.
- The book should have quality illustrations. I’m stickler for good illustration – a child should be able to get lost in both the story and pictures of a good children’s picture book.
- The books should be a quality physical material. I’m a fan of investing, when I find a worthwhile book, in a quality hardback edition. While there maybe be some bumps in the road, and exceptions (you know your child best of course) I do believe children can learn to be respectful of books at an early age and quality reading materials do help. I keep a running mental list of library favorites of paperback copies that have gotten the step of approval when I’m at thrift and consignment stores – quality does not have to equal lots of money if you can keep an open eye out.
- The language must suit the age, but not be dumbed down or over simplified. Children expand their vocabulary by hearing a wide vocabulary. Don’t underestimate your children. It might be a appropriate to stick to three sentence pages for younger children, but don’t limit them to the same 100 words over and over again.
|Big words for small kids. This is “The Mice Who Loved Words” by Daniel Weiss|
|Should be titled “The basket of books mommy refuses to read at bedtime”|
That is how we do balance in our house. How about you?