Just because a book is on the ‘Top Selling’ list, does it automatically mean that it is good for our kids? It can be tricky picking the right books for our pre-schoolers and primary-school-going children. There are many things to consider: their interests, their ability to read, not to mention the aesthetics of the book.
How can we ensure that on the occasional times that we bring our kids to the library, we borrow titles that our kids will love and finish reading?
The founders of @2mamas4kids, Sylvia and Tiffany, have been sharing useful tips and updated information about good learning materials on their Instagram platform for mothers. Encouraged by requests from their followers, they recently started to share more about good titles to check out for children.
We ask them to share five considerations before you decide whether a book is good enough to bring home for your kids:
Will my kid be interested?
This seems like a simple question, but it’s frequently overlooked. We often think we know what is best for our kids — but what we think is good for them may not be what they like.
Recall experiences that your kids have gone through. Observe the things that they enjoy.
Avoid stereotyping, and don’t limit choices based on typical gender preferences. Girls may enjoy books on dinosaurs as much as boys do! And who says fairy tales aren’t for boys?
Sylvia emphasises that the key to finding the right book is your kid’s interest. They should be given the autonomy to read materials that they enjoy and not feel forced to read — just like us adults!
Are we comfortable with the topics covered in the book?
Quickly flip through the pages to see if the topic or theme in the book is something your kid would understand. Would you be ready to discuss the topic with your kids if they ask you about it?
“A family’s beliefs and sensitivities to controversial issues can be a deciding factor,” says Sylvia. Examples include stories with non-traditional family structures.
Even everyday issues like death or adoption can be triggering for some kids. It helps to keep in mind your kid’s readiness or maturity level when reading such content. Families may have different opinions on when is the right time for their kids to be exposed to such issues.
Otherwise, creating awareness of a variety of issues among our kids is good. Books on cultural practices from around the world, caring for the environment and anecdotes based on real-life experiences encourage our kids to think critically.
Do I want my kid to pick up the language used in the book?
Look out for the words used by the writer. If there is dialogue involved, are there unpleasant words used by the characters to one another? Are there derogatory words used that discriminate against others?
The use of strong or coarse language is a big no-no. Inevitably, kids may pick up such words quite easily due to their interesting or seemingly ‘cool’ associations. If parents are not careful, they may see their kids using the words in their everyday speech.
Stories are mirrors of real life, and yes, we cannot always shield our kids from mean or spiteful content at times. However, it definitely does not hurt to choose the books that bring the most value to our family.
Will this book motivate my kid to read on their own?
This is especially relevant to parents of kids who may still be learning to read well. Sylvia refers to this as a “sensitive stage” where they are still learning their way around books and deciding whether they like reading.
For emergent readers, these are some features to look out for: eye-friendly fonts, attractive and relevant pictures, and pages that are not too wordy. Even the size of the book itself matters — something that is easy for the kids to fit in their school bags and light enough for them to carry around is ideal.
As many primary schools hold silent reading periods at the start of the day, kids need books that can retain their attention and interest well. Books with chapters that do not run too long can motivate them to complete a chapter when they only have 20 minutes for their silent reading.
Can my kid relate to the experiences in the book?
The norm is to read titles that are by authors overseas, like in the United Kingdom and United States. How about giving your kids a taste of local literature instead?
More often than not, such books are written based on experiences familiar to Singaporeans. These may include scenes of well-known places, food cultures, school experiences and everyday characters we see in our communities.
Not only will the kids be fascinated by the familiar images, but they can also imagine being in the shoes of the characters in the book. Nothing beats reading a book that hits so close to home!
So in your quest to turn your kids into bibliophiles, keep these five questions in mind — and let’s be wiser about making the right book choices that can turn our children into lifelong readers.