April 30, 2013
- Does it inspire questions? Books should inspire little minds to wander, never following exactly the same path as the author. Despite some lessons that teach each chapter is about A, which leads to B and concludes with C, a good book should inspire a child to wonder what’s between A and B, and what would happen if C is skipped entirely?
- Rich and vibrant language is used. Forget reading levels similar to common newspaper articles. A good book should use whimsy language when entering fairy land, Dragnet language when investigating a crime, or poetic rhythm when portraying romance. The language isn’t too difficult, but it does require a few explanations from a more experience reader, or a trip or two to the dictionary. This not only builds vocabulary, but allows the reader a new understanding of description.
- There is a lesson or moral. Not every book should be about how Johnny shouldn’t steal cookies just because they were sitting on the countertop, but as children age, they should be faced with the scenarios or life and proper reactions to each scenario. That’s not to say all scenarios are black and white, but by giving many alternatives, children are able to relate possible answers to an assortment of life’s questions.
- Visuals. Have you ever picked up a book because of the beautifully illustrated cover? Imagine finding books littered with such images not only on the outside, but on the inside. Of course not all books have visuals, but colorful illustrations may grab the young reader who isn’t quite loving reading yet.
- Is it wholesome entertainment? Many books take advantage of children’s natural inclination to giggle at bodily fluids (i.e. runny noses, etc.) or embarrassing noises. While it’s true such things are a part of life, how respectful is it to laugh when someone else is experiencing those things? It may make the other person uncomfortable and fearful of future occurrences, so it’s best to teach that some things are better left unsaid.
- Does it portray strong, genuinely good traits? Normally the word “good” should be avoided, but this question leaves the door open to interpretation of what is good. Each parent should define “good” for him/herself and ensure characters demonstrate those good characteristics.
- Are stereotypes avoided, or inherent in the book? While minds continually like to group things together in order to make sense of the chaos surrounding them, people should do not usually fit into a set box of morals, values, and traits. Present your children with characters who don’t quite fit the mold, and teach them to find the “good” whenever possible.
- How quickly does the conflict end? Books that sum up all problems and provide instant solutions may teach children that all problems should have such simple endings. Discuss rising action, falling action, and the conclusion, and ask your child if s/he thinks that’s a realistic ending for the type(s) of problems encountered.