07 May 2008

Let young readers choose their own books

Cris's tip for helping encourage a lifelong love of books:

I was given a tip that kids need the opportunity to choose their own books, rather than always reading what we think they would like. For some reason, my daughter doesn't like borrowing books from the library, but she loves buying books when we go to the thrift shop. I let her buy one or two books, and she has to make up her mind and count the right amount of money. She is often more interested in the books she has chosen. If the books get ignored, then I simply recycle them back to the shop. It's a great treat for my daughter on those days I get to spend time with her by myself (on dawdle days).

I love this hack because it lets kids know that it's okay (good!) for them to explore their own interests -- and it gives them the skills to do so.

Related: Get children's books cheaply at library sales

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Barnes & Noble is offering a free autographed copy of an Andrew Clements book to students who read 8 books this summer:

This is SOOO hard for me, as my daughter is drawn to all things merchandise-related (Barbie, Disney Princesses, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, the list goes on and on...). This week is the Scholastic Bookfair at our daycare, and of course they display all of those licensed books on the lowest shelves, easiest for the kids to see. I really had to bite my tongue when it was time to let her pick out books yesterday, but I was really pleased to find that when she opened up some of those books for herself she realized that they weren't all that interesting inside and chose some others. I'm not against all licensed products, I should add, but I've been so bored by and disappointed with some of the ones that we've tried that I desperately want to steer her away from any more. But that's my taste, and I need to let her develop her own.

RE: the My Little Pony, etc. books we just won't let our daughter have them. She deals with it because she does get Angelina, Fancy Nancy and other books that are just as pretty but aren't just marketing opportunities (though I am starting to worry about Fancy Nancy).

As for the picking her own books, we've always allowed our soon to be four year old to pick her own bedtime story from her shelves of books (many of mine from childhood plus new ones). After we finish the story, she puts it under her pillow. The next night she puts that book on the side of her bed (her "library") and gets a new one. At the end of the week she has a ton, and then we start over on Sunday with five books in the "library" and her first story. It helps, of course, that she has a full sized bed!

The added bonus to this is that she has things to occupy herself until she falls asleep. We start bedtime every night at the same early time -- 7:30 -- and she's not always sleepy. Having 6+ books in bed gives her something to occupy her time. We often find her lying on her side with an open book half-"read".

Different practice, same title: Since my baby came home from the hospital, we have almost always held up 2 books and let her choose which one she wants. First she would look at one more, and now (11 mos) she swats or grabs. She's much more engaged in reading time. Plus I've had a chance to learn more about her preferences. I know a lot of people think they just got a kid who isn't that into books, but I think this sort of thing helps. Anything she doesn't choose after being offered a bunch of times gets put in the "later" basket or donated.

Once in a while I will take out a couple of books from the bookcase and stand them on the same bookshelf so the kids can see the cover (much like magazines in a mag stand). More often than not, this will catch their eye, without me saying anything and they will pick it up and read it. This way forgotten books get read and get rotated with the more popular ones.

I have had huge success at buying books at garage sales! It is perfect, because I give my daughters a budget and they can go through books and pick the ones they want and at such a cheap price!

I have even been able to find children's books that I want to get. Some of the more popular ones, we have been able to have 2 copies. One we leave on the kids bookshelf (those get well used) and the other copy we keep on the "bedtime book," bookshelf. That way we can have a nice well kept copy for bedtime reading.

If you'd like to get away from the Scholastic Book Fairs, I'd suggest checking out the "Guide to Commercial-Free Book Fairs" from the CCFC. http://www.commercialexploitation.org/bookfairs/home.htm

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