Criteria for Book Selection: Developmental Value in Children’s Literature

This article is the seventh in a series on selection criteria for children’s books.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click on “How to Choose Children’s Books.”  In this article, I will explain the concept of “developmental value,” and its importance as a selection criterion for children’s books.  I will also give a brief roadmap for the next several articles in this series, which will focus on the particular considerations that give children’s books developmental value.

Criteria for Book Selection: Children’s Literature

As I see it, there are two main criteria that should govern the selection of kids’ books.  First, adults should choose children’s books that have what I call “subjective appeal”. In other words, adults should choose books with qualities that make them attractive to children. The subjective appeal of a children’s book might consist in any number of considerations, such as an interesting theme, attractive illustrations, a good story, or humor. To this point in my series on how to choose children’s books, I have focused on this criterion of subjective appeal, and I have written articles on each of the considerations just noted.

However, there is a second general criterion that should guide adults in choosing kids’ books, which I call “developmental value.”  A children’s book has developmental value if it has qualities that allow the book to contribute to a child’s cognitive, emotional, moral, or even spiritual development. Continue reading

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How to Choose Funny Children’s Books

how to choose children's books for your students: frog and toad togetherThis post is part 6 in a series on how to choose children’s books. How to Choose Children’s Books is the first in the series if you would like to read from the beginning. Last time, in Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Good Stories,” I discussed stories in children’s books, and how to choose stories that are attractive to kids of various ages. In this post I will discuss the role of humor in rendering kids’ books appealing, and I will give some suggestions for how to choose funny children’s books.

Funny Children’s Books

My eldest daughter, Isabella, loves funny children’s books.  In particular, she thinks the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip is hilarious. In second grade her teacher had a small classroom library of books that the kids could take home for a few days at a time. The definitive three-volume collection of Calvin and Hobbes, The Complete Calvin and HobbesThe Complete Calvin and Hobbes, was Isabella’s favorite item in that library. Continue reading

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Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Good Stories

This is the fifth in a series of posts on how to choose children’s booksHow to Choose Children’s Books is the first in the series if you would like to read from the beginning.  Last time, in Illustrations in Children’s Books,” I discussed how to choose books with illustrations that are attractive to kids of various ages.  In this post I will discuss the place of a story in rendering children’s books appealing to kids, and what to look for in a good kids’ story.

Now, it will soon be clear that I am a big fan of good stories in children’s books.  However, it is important to emphasize that not every subjectively appealing children’s book must have a story.  For example, a good ABC book might simply march through the ABCs without a story at all.  However, if a children’s book does not have a story, parents need to make sure the book is appealing to the child in other ways (e.g., via themes, illustrations, humor, etc.). Continue reading

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Illustrations in Children’s Books

This is the fourth in a series of posts on how to choose children’s books.  If you want to read from the beginning, Click here for the first article in the series, “How to Choose Children’s Books”Last time, in “Choosing Children’s Books with Age Appropriate Themes”, I talked about how to choose children’s books with appealing themes.

In this post I will discuss how illustrations in children’s books make books appealing to children, and I will try to give some guidance on what to look for with respect to illustrations in children’s books.  However, I should say up front that there is a lot of room for difference of opinion over what makes for attractive illustrations in children’s books, so take my guidance as applying only “for the most part”; there will be many exceptions to it, due to a certain amount of subjectivity inherent in any aesthetic judgments.

Illustrations in Children’s Books: Very Important!

My central point: The illustrations of a children’s book are perhaps the largest part of what makes the book attractive to kids, especially for children younger than eight years old. Continue reading

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Choosing Children’s Books with Age Appropriate Themes

This is the third in a series of posts on how to choose children’s books.  The series starts here with “How to Choose Children’s Books” if you want to read from the beginning.  Last time, in “Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal”, I argued for the crucial importance of choosing children’s books with subjective appeal, i.e., books that a child will like, and not books that are merely good for a child in some way.

Themes in Children’s Books

In this post I will begin discussing the considerations that make up the subjective appeal of children’s books.  Specifically, I will discuss the role of a book’s themes in rendering it appealing to a child, and I will try to give some specific guidance on what to look for in the themes of children’s books.  In particular, I will try to give some guidance on choosing age appropriate children’s books.

What do I mean by the “themes” of a children’s book?  By “themes” I mean the specific content of the book, or what the children’s book is about.  For example, in a science book about snakes, the theme might simply be snakes.  Or, in a book like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the themes might include coping with loss, or finding one’s purpose in the world (click here for our review, “Juvenile Fiction: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick”).  In a children’s book like Martin’s Big Words, the themes might include justice, equality, and love (click here for our review “Children’s Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Martin’s Big Words).

The key to choosing a book with themes that will make the book appealing to a child is Continue reading

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Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

This post is the second in a series outlining selection criteria for children’s books.  The series starts here with “How to Choose Children’s Books,” if you want to read from the beginning.  Last time, in laying out the road map for this series, I introduced the notion of a book’s subjective appeal, i.e., the considerations that might make a book appealing to a child.  In this post I will begin discussing subjective appeal in more depth, and in particular I will argue for the importance of considering subjective appeal among the selection criteria for children’s books.

Selection Criteria for Children’s Books: Subjective Appeal

So, here is the central—and what I take to be very important—point: choosing a kids’ book with subjective appeal is not optional.  Rather, it is a crucial, non-negotiable part of the selection.  Now, this might go without saying for most of us: of course we aim to choose children’s books that kids will like!  However, this is not obvious to everyone.  I have in mind here a certain kind of parent or caretaker that Continue reading

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