Access to good books is the first step to discovering the joy of reading
There was a time not too long ago (just over a couple of decades ago), when the choice of books available was limited, especially for children. There were the ubiquitous Amar Chitra Katha books, and books by Enid Blyton, that any reader worth their salt just had to read. There were the Indian authors like R.K.Narayan, C. Rajagopalachari, and Ruskin Bond, whose writing had the flavour of the subcontinent, and were much sought after by the rare relative who did give books as gifts. And then there were the poorly produced editions of the classics that were still better than having no books at all.
Circa the present. We now have a glut of books available for children, both by Indian and foreign authors. Even with the dwindling stocks at actual stores, there is still plenty to choose from, not all of stellar. And then there are the online stores, where pretty much everything is available. So,
How to Choose the BEST Books for your child
How does one pick out the stellar ones? The ones your children are sure to enjoy, and have happy memories of? There are some rules of the thumb that I follow, which lead me unerringly to the gems.
Be part of a group or follow a website
Firstly, be part of a group or follow a website that will give you plenty of great suggestions. For example, Reading Raccoons, Saffron Tree, Goodbooks, Young India Books, etc. There will be many online. Check these out with fellow moms who may know their books.
Ask librarians or Indie bookshop owners.
Ask any book readers you know for suggestions – we book lovers are more than happy to inundate you with lists. Be sure to check out our awesome recommendations from our reading corner
Know your Publishers.
Certain publishers publish quality material. Puffin, Scholastic, Yearling, Random House, Duckbill, Tulika, Tara, Katha, Pratham Books, Ekalavya, Young Zubaan, Tamarind Books, Inked, Red Turtle, HarperCollins, Hachette, Ladybird Books, Walker Books, Candlewick Press, Orchard Books, Barefoot Books, Bloomsbury, Miles Kelly Publishing, Usborne Books, Mapin, Dorley Kindersley (DK) books, Simon & Schuster, Faber, Lee & Low – these are some of the good publishers around.
Know your authors.
Ask your source for good authors, or ones similar to those you and your children have enjoyed reading. Here’s our list of 9 board book authors your baby will absolutely love
Quality over price.
While browsing in shops/libraries, pick up in your hand a book that seems interesting. Look for paper quality, attention to a good font, spacing, etc. These matter to publishers of quality material.
Avoid books that have pictures that look computer generated – good books usually have illustrations done by hand, in any medium.
Read the blurb
Blurb is the short write-up at the back of the book, or on the inside of a book jacket if there is. See if it is something you are looking for, if it resonates with you. Trust your gut feeling on this – you’ll get better at it over time. The same criteria listed above can certainly be applied to buying online. Read the blurb describing the book. Use the Look Inside or Read Sample option to check out the feel of the layout, the font, the illustrations, the flow of the text, whether it engages you, etc., just like you would with a physical copy. Check out the book details at the bottom of the page – the size, page count, author, illustrator, publisher, etc.
Choose original books
Check to see if it is an original edition – please do not buy pirated books. This hurts the publishing industry, and as a result, the quality of books published. Do pick up books on the whopping discounts that online shopping gives, but do go to independent book shops and browse and buy too!
Read the reviews
It might not always be possible to check out the books and buy them from actual bookstores, more so, as not many stores stock good books anymore – if there is one in your neighbourhood, make the most of it and become a valued patron. Don’t forget to look for positive book reviews on reader driven sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, Librarything, etc, and make your choice.
Ask your kids’ friends
Your child’s friends will often share many of the same interests, and may possibly enjoy many of the same books. Get your kids to ask their friends what they’re reading and enjoying, not only for some great recommendations, but it could also stir up some great conversations about their books.
Choose books that mimic events in your child’s life.
Children love reading books they can relate to. For example, if a new sibling is on the way, check out a book or two about welcoming home a baby. There are books that will help you broach a sensitive topic like Sexual Abuse and some that will tickle your funny bone .
All these factors usually do not fail you in picking up good books whether its for your child or for yourself. Happy book shopping!
Suggested reading –
- Selecting Books for Your Child: Finding ‘Just Right’ Books by Reading rockets
- Choosing Good Books for Children of All Ages
- Tips for Choosing Books for Kids by National Education Association
- How to Choose Books for Kids by Library Journal
- Take the Mystery Out of Choosing Good Books by rif.org
Do you have more tips for us? What works for you? What didn’t? Don’t forget to leave your comments below.