Choosing Books for your Children to Read


For about 7 years, I have taken my preschool child(ren) to story time at the public library. As I do not do any formal pre-school for my kids, it has allowed them an opportunity to listen to another adult besides mom and dad. It helps them with attention span and sitting still-ish.

Today was no exception to this rule. I usually pick out books for all 4 of the big kids who are in school, then some for the pre-schooler and then we play. This is the first year that during the 30 minute story time, I am not responsible for another child! It is lovely to chat with friends, browse the adult section alone (!) or, like today, get in some sweet, tiny baby snuggles with a friend’s precious son.

As I was looking for books for the big kids, I ran into a friend. She had her recommended reading list in hand from her child’s teacher and was becoming frustrated with finding a book for her choosy fourth grade daughter. As my oldest daughter is in 5th grade, I showed my friend some of the books she enjoyed last year. I was browsing myself and showed her the publisher’s page in the front of some fiction books. She did not know about this page, so I thought I’d share it with you. This wonderful page has a very short summary and a list of themes. I use this, among other things, to determine which books I will and will not check out for my kids.

Here is an example from a book my daughter just got at the book store. I am using the picture and publisher’s page as an example, I am not necessarily recommending the book because I have not personally read it. I believe she is enjoying it though.

When you open the book, you find the front matter (the parts before the story actually begins). The copyright page, title page, dedication page, preface, etc. If a book has the summary and list of themes/literary elements, it is usually found on the page with the publisher and copyright information. In this book, it is opposite the dedication page.


What we are looking for is just below half way down the page:


Here we find the summary: “Several students…” and the list of themes: “1. Classrooms—Juvenile fiction. 2. Moving, Household…” Nothing too alarming here. Often you will find themes like: orphans, single-parent home, death, funeral, stealing, mystery and detective stories, the age of the main character and more. After each, it says “Fiction” so you know there aren’t any elements of non-fiction in the book.

When choosing books, I start with the title and go from there. Using the inside cover, the back cover and this copyright page helps me determine if it is something I will check out/buy for my child. Many, many times, I have put a book back on the shelf without even reading a page, both for reasons of interests and questionable content.

I would encourage you to discuss and develop your family’s standards for reading with your kids. My kids know that if they run across an element or theme that we have determined questionable, they are to talk through it with my husband or myself and determine whether or not they will finish the book. It has gone both ways, but I have to trust them to come to us.

I used to try to read everything they were reading, but I can not keep up with my voracious readers. Often, when a class assignment is to read a book, I try to read it also. In fact, I just bought a book on amazon that my son needed a signed permission slip in order to read it and do a related research project. It is a nonfiction book about the Holocaust. I also bought the first novel read as a class during fifth grade and read it before they finished in order to be able to discuss it with my son (and daughter this year), help guide the research project, and, frankly, to help determine if I trust the teacher(s) in the book selection. So far, I have not had much of a problem with what is being read or recommended in class.

Did you know about this information?