How to Look for a Book


I’ll admit it. I’m a book lover. So I immersed my daughter in books from the day she was born. I am grateful that she shares this love, so I rarely felt at a loss when selecting books for her. But what about those kids who aren’t naturally drawn to books? Finding one that will engage their attention so you can develop critical fundamental literacy skills can be a struggle for young parents. So here’s an easy way to get your child into books.

Go to the Library

I know it might sound obvious, but a trip to the library is an event for a small child and the children’s section is bursting with interesting and interactive things for kids to do. They will have fun and while you’re there, they will discover the delights of books. This is step one in engaging your child in literacy. And while it takes a little planning, you’ll be happy with the results.

Every week my daughter, Anna, and I went to the library. We most often went to our local, neighborhood library, but occasionally we went to a “big” library for an adventure. We had a structure to our trips – a limit of 20 books to check out, ten were my choice and ten were her choice. But instead of whipping through the aisles, grabbing books I thought looked good, I put Anna in charge and let her wander.

This is a learning process for you. Where is your child going? What are her interests? Notice what kind of books your child is drawn to – if they are picture books with big print, make sure you get a selection of those. After you have a fairly good idea of what your child is interested in, you can start directing the visit a little more actively. I wanted to make sure Anna saw all the varieties of books, the extra-large books, picture books, interactive books, etc. These are often kept in separate bins or shelves. So I steered her towards different areas of the library, picking up books along the way.

But of course, Anna often found more than her ten book limit. I never turned her down, and we often left the library with stacks of books on a variety of topics (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, fairy tales) and formats (board books, pop-ups, picture books). While my focus was on the books, I learned a lot from these trips about young children and developing a love of reading. Following your child’s lead is key, but directing your child through this discovery process, challenging them a little and guiding them to “secret” treasures they would never find on their own is your role. And what a fun one! Below are some important things to remember as you ease into your role of literacy guide.

Studies recommend books with:

  • Large, bold print – 20 point font or greater
  • Five words or less on a page
  • Words that repeat through the book
  • Pictures that are large, appealing and engaging – words that are embedded in the illustration
  • Slot books, which allow a child to push a character into the story, then hide it away again
  • Lift-the-Tab books, which allow a child to lift a tab to reveal a picture or print
  • Predictable books, which have words and phrases that repeat so a child knows the next word

These features allow children to engage in the print and notice the differences in letters and words, a fundamental skill for reading. Many book recommendations are posted in our Literacy Center, but the librarian in the children’s section is an amazing resource!

**TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp 8-13. Copyright 2002 CEC

Author: Tammy

Tammy is a Director of Special Education, Autism Specialist, Behavior Specialist and parent. She is dedicated to helping families by sharing her expertise as it applies to everyday challenges. Read her full bio here.

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