It’s true … the New Year brings new books. Plenty of them! New books release for kids each year in the thousands. The great thing about new releases is that they often reflect on current cultural themes and affairs. And, finally, we are seeing the slow and steady inclusion of books with characters of diversity—for proof, just check out this list of middle grade picks that released in January: Best New Books For Tweens And Preteens | January 2018.
There are so many new books worthy of being read. But … how about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too? And, how do we help our kids select books they are likely to enjoy? Let’s explore these questions!
How about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too?
A classic book reaches this prestigious status usually because the story has been bound by a timeless truth that resonates, through the ages, with our hearts and minds—humor, love, growing-up, loss, friendship, and more. And when a story truth continues to resonate years after a book’s publication, there is only one answer to the question: Should we keep reading these classics? If the topic interests you, absolutely!
While a book doesn’t have to be too many moons old to be considered a “classic,” a little bit of story aging needs to take place to harness that true nostalgic feeling that is automatically attached to the word classic. Classic books can be like a magical time traveling device that takes readers back to times past— just like new books, they can also reflect on cultural themes and affairs from the time of publication and still feel very relevant. They often give a glimpse into how things were and can also provoke discussions on how far we’ve come, and then inspire young minds to imagine how far we could possibly go.
How do we help kids select books they are likely to enjoy?
When reading for pleasure (which numerous studies say influences a love of learning and improves social and empathy skills, among many other amazing benefits), I recommend starting with a book that is based on a theme or story line that interests the individual. When you go to the library or bookstore, find the librarian or bookseller and have your child share their age, some interests, and, if possible, share the title of a book they have previously enjoyed. This will very easily assist a knowledgeable librarian/bookseller in helping to identify a book that could be of possible interest. The next step: read the book synopsis. Sound good? Try it! Doesn’t sound quite right? That’s ok! Let the librarian/bookseller know what isn’t working and keep going until you find that book of interest that sparks some excitement. Raising kids who read for pleasure can take a village—find your village, work together and you’ll get there.
By finding a book of interest, a child is more likely to enjoy the reading experience and happily go for the next book (and the next, and the next, and the next). Libraries are great, because you can check out a few books (or lots) at a time. If a book is not making a connection with your reader and they’ve given it a chapter or two, in my opinion, there doesn’t need to be pressure to finish it—move onto the next one. The goal is to find books they love. Finding books they love can definitely lead to reading for pleasure, which, as mentioned above, can lead to kinder human beings and improvement in academic areas. So … remove the pressure and surround your child with as many options as possible. Something will take!
If you want to get started on this “finding the right book” quest pronto, I have put together a list of books, 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), sorted by age and genre that can be used as a literary journal to discover books of interest, to keep track of favorites, and it also provides “what-to-read next recommendations” for when a favorite is discovered. The journal can be taken to the library/bookstore to help the librarian/bookseller make even more recommendations based on likes, dislikes, and notes can be recorded by readers on the pages. When selecting the books to be included in 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), I chose a combination of classic and contemporary picture books, beginning chapter books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels represented. With plenty of options, there is a starting point for which all readers can find a book style of interest, and then also expand on their preferred style of book and discover new reading pleasures.
I chose each of the books for their powers to entice kids to wonder, laugh, cry, and they will almost always close the book with a smile. Readers can discover both new and classic books that incite kindness, courage, and making good choices. Books that remember the struggles of those that came before us, and books that encourage us to always dream of the fantastical future ahead of us and those that will come after us. So go ahead and grab a copy from your favorite bookstore, head to the library and get those kiddos reading for pleasure!
Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review, a resource devoted to children’s literature and recognized by the American Library Association as a ‘Great Website for Kids.’ She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s bookseller, Bianca’s goal is to share her passion to help grow readers.
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.
Would you like a copy of Bianca’s new Book? Leave a comment and the promise that you will write a review of the book and your name will be entered in the random drawing. The winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday 2-21-18.