What Makes a Good Children's Book and Why Purchase Second Hand Books?
There were over 5,000 kids/children's books published last year, which is more than double the number published in 1975, but how does a teacher choose the right books? Who would have guessed that saying goodnight to the moon, mush, and nobody would turn Goodnight Moon into a timeless bestseller and the ideal choice for a young child? Because there is so much competition for the quality time you spend with the children in your care, choosing good children’s books is more important than ever. Every minute spent reading a mediocre book is time not spent reading a good one. So, how does one determine what constitutes a good children's book? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when visiting a library or bookstore.
Characteristics of an Excellent Children's Book
A Fascinating and Relatable Children’s book Story
A good children's book will have an engaging and captivating story. Whether it's a realistic story about a family pet or a surreal story about a castle on Mars, children will usually find some aspect of the story or character relatable. Even on Mars, the protagonist could be a child or a slimy monster who learns the importance of sharing. When children can relate to a story, they are more likely to connect with it and remember it more vividly. According to Professor Tim Morris in You're Only Young Twice: Children's Literature and Film, "a book that children will like typically has a central character who is a believable child, and shows that child confronting the world with energy and imagination." Children’s books that take on universally relatable topics like fear, love, and adventure tend to be timeless. According to Education.com, "books stand the test of time because their authors write about important topics."
The Setting of a Good Children’s Book
Is the setting of the children’s book familiar, clear, and genuine? Most young children have never planted vegetables before, but both city and country kids can identify with the setting in The Carrot Seed because they see themselves in the determined little boy.
Children’s Book Language That Is Interesting
A good children's book will almost always contain interesting language. The language's rhythm will be pleasing, and the words in the story will flow naturally from page to page. Rhyming is a popular and effective way to engage children in developing active listening skills, phonemic awareness, and early phonics skills when they are learning to read. The vocabulary in the good children’s book should be relatable but, at times, challenging to the age group of readers for whom it is intended. Reading a book that teaches you a few new words makes it a more valuable learning experience.
If the student audience is bilingual, as is becoming more common in the United States, it is preferable that the book be bilingual as well.
Personality development in Children’s Books
Do the characters in the children’s book change, grow, and touch our hearts? Are they consistent, credible, and complete, as opposed to flat and one-dimensional? In Caps for Sale, children identify with both the monkeys and the peddler. The monkeys have a good time stealing the peddler's caps, and the peddler grows tired of the monkey business.
Good Multicultural Children’s Book
Many good children's books are inclusive and informative about our world's many cultures. They may contain a variety of characters, stories, songs, and traditions from around the world, or they may be written in a bilingual format. Good children's books that honor various cultures can affirm students' identities, teach them about their classmates and community members, and start to increase cultural understanding at a young age.
A good children's book also draws children into the story, asks questions, and encourages discussion. A good children's book is one that children genuinely enjoy reading while learning about the world. According to the Children's Book Council, "it is critical that they enjoy their reading experiences in order to nurture those skills for the rest of their lives." When a child wants to hear or read a book more than once, and when they remember and even retell the story to you, you know they've found a good one. High-quality children's books encourage children to think and wonder about their surroundings and themselves.
Plot in a Children’s Book
Is there any conflict? Is there a goal in mind? Corduroy is looking for a place to live, and the Three Billy Goats must cross the bridge. Good children’s stories are often developed through plot-driven obstacles like these.
Children’s Books with Emotions.
This may sound strange, but we know a book is good when we can 'feel' its messages, in our opinion. What we mean is that children will have an emotional connection to the story, the characters, and/or the illustrations. For example, whenever we read 'Little Women,' we immediately think of Jo. We first read this novel at an early age, and even now, after all these years, we still feel a little like Jo. Emotional connection is the key in a good children’s book!
Theme of a Good Children’s Book
Is there a recurring theme that ties everything together? Will the reader become involved in the story or sit passively as he or she is lectured? Today's books cover a wide range of topics, but children are still drawn to books that have a strong core and universal themes, such as good vs. evil, hard work will be rewarded, or cleverness is more important than power. This, thus, is part of a good kids/children’s book.
Laughter-inducing situations in good children’s books
What else have we left out so far so good? Oh, yes, one of the most important components of many children's books: humor! Funny stories, such as 'Captain Underpants,' are extremely popular due to their high level of entertainment. What's more, there's nothing wrong with that. It is perfectly acceptable when a story is merely amusing and has little educational value. Looking at our own bookshelf, we can honestly say that we enjoy the occasional ‘summer read' that is lighthearted, fun, and simply entertaining. Despite the fact that Virginia Wolf's "To the Lighthouse" is one of our favorites, we don't want to read it every day.
So, what we’re trying to say is that there's nothing wrong with enjoying a good children’s book for its entertainment value! Sometimes that's exactly what a child requires, and other times it's exactly what we want to read.
From the perspective of the author, Art in good children’s books
Are the illustrations bold and tasteful, or are they overly detailed and busy? More is not always better. When you first look at the page, does your eye know where to go? Color does not always imply quality, and beautiful illustrations do not always imply a good story. Make Way for Ducklings, Millions of Cats, and The Story of Ferdinand have all been classics for decades, but they all have black and white illustrations.
Magic in good children’s books
One factor that is undeniably important is that the story and the characters are distinct and relatable. Consider two of the most popular good children's book characters, Peter Pan and Paddington Bear. Both stories feature strong main characters who grow and change. These characters can also do unusual things, have unusual ideas, and go on magical adventures. In some ways, individuality equals magic. So, colorful characters and magic are required for a good children's book!
Age-appropriate advice for Buying Good Children’s books
In general, the teacher is more in charge of selecting books for the younger children. What a teacher selects as "required" reading for a young child should be the best of the best. Why squander your time reading something mediocre? As a child grows older, the sense of independence and confidence she gains from selecting her own books at school or the library grows enormously and is extremely valuable. A year four child who becomes engrossed in a book series, even if it is not particularly literary, will only benefit and be encouraged to read more and more.
- Sturdy, safe, and child-safe board books. Introduce yourself to hardcovers.
- Rhyme, rhythm, Mother Goose, song, and chant books, as well as "pointing" and identification books.
- Bold, simple illustrations that are not cluttered or cluttered. A single Mother Goose rhyme per page is more appealing than a crowded spread.
- Reading aloud is a relationship-based activity that is frequently initiated by an adult. A book is rarely read from cover to cover; instead, there is a lot of page turning and pointing. When a young child is eating finger foods in a high chair, read a whole book aloud, introducing and reinforcing the beginning-to-end sequence.
- Illustrated hardcovers and paperbacks.
- A wide range of books – Mother Goose, poetry, ABC, stories, traditional tales, informational books.
- Bold, but not overly detailed illustrations. Art that is sloppy or abstract is not appropriate.
- Reading aloud to preschool children is a relationship-building activity. The books should be kept on a low shelf that is easily accessible to children so that they can hold and read the books on their own.
- Hardcovers and paperbacks
- Fiction, poetry, folklore, fantasy, historical fiction, biography, nonfiction, and series
- Anything in good taste is acceptable. Kindergarten students require the freedom to select books on their own without being judged by the teacher.
- Because the listening vocabulary at this age is much larger than the reading vocabulary, it is critical to read aloud good, more complex books on a regular basis.
One of the most effective ways to nurture young children is to choose good books. Reading aloud demonstrates affection, caring, and a desire to connect with others and have fun. It is a teacher's opportunity to be fully present and tuned in to each child. Choosing books with care sends the message that only the best will do, emphasizing the value of childhood.
Second Hand Books
Second hand books, oh my. They have the scent of childhood and are good for the environment. What could possibly be better?
Of course, we salute ardent library patrons. However, if you know a book will be a keeper, or at the very least one conducive to a lot of margin-writing, we recommend purchasing the half-priced, beat-up second hand book version.
There are, of course, exceptions: Second hand copies of Stephen King's sequel to "The Shining" or the final installment of Margaret Atwood's "MaddAddam" trilogy aren't going to be easy to come by right now. However, in our opinion, a previously owned book should be chosen whenever possible. This is why:
Reasons to buy second hand children's books
Second hand books are reasonably priced.
$29.99 is a hefty sum to pay. That's three matinée screenings! Six Starbucks beverages! You get the idea. If you can afford to spend that much money every time a new release catches your eye, feel free to do so. However, your financial situation should never deter you from reading, which is why you should purchase second hand books instead.
The margin notes can be amusing in second hand books
Sure, the Kindle has a lending library, but physical second hand books frequently have margin notes, which provide small glimpses into the minds of their previous owners. Some may provide new perspectives on the themes, while others provide intimate glimpses into another person's reading experiences. Margin notes in old second hand books have a whimsical quality to them; they're a way to literally leave your mark.
Buying Second Hand Books Benefits the Environment
At the end of the day, books are still just collections of paper—paper that was created by depleting a large number of trees. Tossing used second hand books is a waste of both the book and the paper that was used to make it. By keeping these gently used second hand books out of the trash and on a bookshelf, you can play a small part in helping the environment. Resist the temptation to buy a new edition of an old second hand book with a cool new cover when there are many editions of those books still available in stores all over the place. This enables us to circulate information and stories while also protecting the environment.
You have the option to exercise your first-sale rights with buying second hand books!
We (and you) can sell second hand books, music, or any other copyrighted product because of the first-sale legal doctrine. With the rise of eBooks and other digital works of art, many troubling interpretations of first-sale rights have emerged. Buying gently used old second hand books is an excellent way to take advantage of your long-established, money-saving first-sale rights!
That musty old second hand book smell.
Fresh off the press, all new books smell the same. Second hand books, gently used, on the other hand, have spent years, decades, and even centuries developing their own distinct aroma. There's that smell of This-Spent-200-Years-In-A-British-Library... This-Was-Well-Loved-By-A-Parisian-Aristocrat smell, and the less pleasant, but still charming, This-May-Have-Suffered-Water-Damage-At-Some-Point-In-the-Recent-Past smell.
The point is that second hand books are similar to us. They have character. They're a little worn here and there. They have histories. So, when it comes time to buy your next book, you have at least nine compelling reasons to do so. You have a choice!