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Selecting the right books for young children

As parents and educators, we play a major role in fostering our child's love for reading and learning. By selecting the best books for our children, we promote the development of early literacy skills in a number of ways. The right books build vocabulary, spark wonder and curiosity about the world, and create passion and memories.

Child reading book in front of bookshelf

When choosing books for children, I suggest asking yourself the following 4 questions:

  • Is this book age appropriate?

  • What will my child learn from this book?

  • Is the subject matter relevant to my child?

  • Are the texts and illustrations in this book appealing (and representative) to my child?


Think of selecting books as a match-making process. Not all children like the same books so choosing books simply because of the age level on the cover is not always going to work.


Here are some guidelines that will help you select the right books for your children/students:


Babies (0-12 months)

  • durable books your baby can explore by chewing, tossing, dragging, pulling or even in the bathtub

  • chunky cardboard or soft cloth books your baby can grasp

  • books with large and simple pictures of familiar objects, places, and people

  • books with contrasting colors such as bright colors or black and white

Because a baby's eyesight is not fully developed at birth, holding the book about 12 inches from their face and incorporating contrasting colors can help capture their gaze and attention.


Young Toddlers (12-24 months)

  • books about greetings and familiar objects/routines

  • books about animals and other interests

  • books with engaging pictures

  • books with only a few words on each page

  • touch and feel and pop-up books

  • predictable texts with effective word repetition and rhythm

Young toddlers are quickly developing oral language so reading books with a single word to picture helps children learn vocabulary and understand that both words and pictures have meaning. This age group thrives on listening to rhythmic and rhyming texts.


Older Toddlers (2-3 years)

  • books about toddler interests: animals, vehicles, routines and playtime

  • learning books: letters, numbers, counting, shapes and sizes

  • books that tell simple stories sequentially

  • predictable texts with effective word repetition and rhythm

  • pop up, pull the tab and touch-and-feel books

Because toddlers have short attention spans and are constantly on the move, they find books that are packed with action engaging. Books about familiar and daily routines help toddlers explore and understand the world around them.


Preschoolers (3-5 years)

  • books about children that look like them and about children that look different

  • books that promote imagination, problem-solving and social skills

  • books about challenges such as going to the doctor, staying with a babysitter or moving

  • books about special interests such as vehicles or cooking

  • predictable texts with effective word repetition and rhythm

  • simple 'science' books about how things work

  • books about math concepts: size, time

  • books about a growing family/siblings

  • books that can be easily memorized

  • books that encourage expanding vocabulary

  • books that encourage independent reading with simple words

Preschool years are a great time to introduce children to simple stories that include basic plots and characters. Because of their limited attention spans, these books should consist of fun stories, engaging illustrations and have a rapidly moving storyline.


Early School Years (5-8 years)

  • books with storylines and character development

  • books about resolving conflicts and expressing emotions

  • books with more complexity with familiar and unfamiliar vocabulary

  • books that encourage independent reading - simple stories with familiar words and pictures

  • nonfiction books about child's interests that creates or satisfies curiosity


Since books have the potential to open up the mind and foster a passion for reading and learning, selecting the right books deserves attentiveness and thoughtfulness. The books we select for our children should be a balance of fun, educational and challenging. While many publishers choose to indicate an age level on the cover, I find that all children are different in not only their interests but also in their reading comprehension levels. Therefore, your child's interest is always the most important factor in selecting books in every age group.


For some of my book recommendations by age group, be sure to check out my Amazon list!


***If you need additional support building a home or classroom library, you can book a one-on-one session. I hope this was helpful and I can't wait to connect with you!

Love, Samreen
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