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What's The Right Book For My Child?

Excerpted from Sylvan Learning's Successful Student Magazine

By Barbara Spivey

Perhaps you can't judge a book by its cover, but helping your child select a book does not have to be such a challenge either. Knowing your child's needs and personality will help you choose excellent books.

Publishers supply valuable information right on the cover, the jacket, the title page and the back of the title page. On paperback books, look for the genre heading on the spine or the back cover. Most likely, you also will find the reading level by age or grade. For instance, “Young Adult” means the book is suitable for sixth through ninth-graders. Many books that are labeled “Adult” can be enjoyed by 10th- through 12th-graders.

Hardback books usually have even more information. On the back of the title page, the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data (CIP) lists the author, title and publisher. More importantly, it may include a concise summary, the reading level and the library subject heading. On both hardback and paperback books, look for a summary and brief, signed reviews. These will give you an idea about the book’s subject, scope and slant.

Next, there are several questions you can ask as you analyze your child’s needs in a new book:

Does the book offer some challenge in vocabulary, style and complexity?
Tip: Children should read slightly above their level but not so far that they find it discouraging or formidable.

Does your child need pictures or other illustrations such as photographs, maps, charts or graphs?
Tip: Graphic or artistic elements often help children comprehend their reading, especially if they are visual learners.

How long are the chapters or sections?
Tip: Length should be appropriate for the maturity of the reader. New readers who have trouble reading fluently need shorter chapters they can review until they understand.

What topics interest your child?
Tip: Readers become engaged—and encouraged—when they can explore their current interests while reading.

What authors does your child like to read?
Find out who writes in the style of those authors and broaden your child’s pool of favorite writers.

What genres does your child prefer?
Tip: Explore new genres to expand your child’s interests.

Is your child struggling with a problem or experiencing a new situation in life?
Books often take on universal themes that help children understand and put in perspective their own experiences.

Does your child want something stimulating or relaxing?
Tip: Even within genres, books vary in pace. There are books readers can appreciate for their literary style and others they’ll love for plot twists and turns.

Does this book add depth and dimension to your present home library?
Tip: When buying a new book, consider something distinguishable from the others in your child’s collection.

Armed with these questions and tips, talk with your child’s teacher or a librarian for suggestions.