It is important that children in the second plane of development choose their own books and other reading materials. We can provide it, we can present it, but its up to them if they read it. It's during this period that my children start reading books that I don't really approve of, it's when they start reading silly, jokey books.
While I don't really approve of these silly, jokey books I appreciate them, I understand they appeal to the young child's sense of humour. I understand that reading is important, autonomy is important, sharing books with peers is important. We allow Otis (8 years) to choose his own reading material but we like to make lots of suggestions and make sure he has access to good literacy examples as well as other popular reading choices.
How do we find good books, that he will want to read, that are also age appropriate? For fiction I look around, make lists and take him frequently to the library and bookshop. I get lots of book ideas from:
Literacy experts and people I trust including:
- Child's School Teacher
- School Librarian
- Children's Librarian at our local Library - in Brisbane we had a fantastic Children's Librarian who got to know our children well and would often make suggestions for them based on their interest and what they had previously borrowed.
- friends with children of similar age/s
Book and literacy websites, blogs, including:
- Where The Wild Things Are Bookshop - Instagram
- Good Reading Magazine - Just for Kids section
- Children's Books Daily - this is the only book blog I subscribe to.
Books about books:
- How to Raise a Reader - I highly recommend this, it has good suggestions for all age groups including lots of classics.
- Raising Readers: How to Nurture a Child's Love of Books
- Environment Award for Children’s Literature (AU)
- Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (AU)
- The Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards (AU)
- Goodreads Choice Awards - Best Middle Grade & Children's
Bestseller lists including:
- New York Times - Middle Grade Paperback
- New York Times - Middle Grade Hard Cover
- New York Times - Children's Series (Otis has read many of these)
Literacy magazines, reading guides and bookshop handouts. Sometimes children's literacy festivals have good handouts. I'm currently looking at:
Most importantly I ask Otis. I ask him to make wish-lists. Often he knows if there is a new book coming out that he wants or sometimes he just want to read what his friends are reading. Generally I don't order fiction books without him, without his input. I will order a fiction book for him if it's a new release by one of his favourite authors or the latest in a series that he likes. I try to follow his favourite authors so I know what is current, sometimes I can surprise him with a new book before he has time to ask for it.
I will frequently order non-fiction books that I think he will like, and usually I get it right (he likes lots of space, lots of science and experiment type books).
A couple of things to note. Otis will choose and enjoy books that are below his reading ability. We accept these without question, they can build confidence and our aim is to build his love of learning. Reading can be relaxing and it's ok if he is reaching out for books that are easy to read. Children need books from a variety of all genres so we try to offer variety and also provide lots of opportunity for reading outside of books.
Some advice that I found useful:
"Don't deny your child a book, even if you think it's terribly written or immature or "beneath her level". Don't weigh in if you notice that the last five books he's read all seem extremely similar. Kids need to decided for themselves what' good and what isn't. And sometimes, a kid just wants to relax with an undemanding diversion."
"If your child is in a reading rut - choosing the same type of book over and over - and seems open to suggestion, try this "five book choice" system: Choose a couple that veer just slightly off the path - Egyptian myths if he's stuck on the Greeks, for example. Add a couple that bring in some of his nonreading interests, such a camping or baseball, and then one outlier that you're not sure about. Ask him to pick out out of the five that looks most interesting to him, and let him know that you're eager to hear what he things of it. But also, don't get hung up on the idea of a "rut". Children benefit from rereading, often gleaning more from the book each time." How to Raise a Reader.
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