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How To Choose Books For Your Children
 

How To Choose Books For Your Children

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A presentation from Through the Magic Door outlining some parental considerations when choosing books for your children.

A presentation from Through the Magic Door outlining some parental considerations when choosing books for your children.

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    How To Choose Books For Your Children How To Choose Books For Your Children Presentation Transcript

    • How to Choose Books for Your Children
    • The Challenge • Everyone defines “best books” differently – Easiest to read – Most awards – Most sales – Most cited and talked about – Closest in values to those of the family – Most traditional • Even what is identified as a child’s book is subject to question – Many “children’s” classics such as Gulliver’s Travels or Robinson Crusoe, started out as books for adults. – Many books that are considered adult (ex. Kon-Tiki) are happily read by older children. © Through the Magic Door 2
    • The Challenge Oh! It is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read. The Importance of Being Ernest (1895) Oscar Wilde Tis the good reader that makes the good book. Society and Solitude (1870) Sir Arthur Eddington One rainy Sunday when I was in the third grade, I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered that even though I did not want to, I was reading. I have been a reader ever since. Beverly Cleary Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable. Louisa May Alcott © Through the Magic Door 3
    • The best book for your child is the book that has them wanting to read more.
    • The Experience and Reputation of a Book is a Function of Many Elements • The Author and their skill, intent, knowledge, experience, role, and personal context. • The Reader and their motivation, reading capability, and personal context. • The Book and its format, condition, availability, etc. • The Critics and their domain specialties, agendas, self- interest, and critical capabilities. • The interplay of these four elements is difficult to forecast with any precision which is what makes recommending a book a challenge. © Through the Magic Door 5
    • Author (35%) Book (5%) Reader (50%) Motivation • Condition Muse • Legibility Commerce • Presentation Audience • Access/Availability Reading Motivation Prestige/Influence Artifact Functional Voluntary or Involuntary Functional vs. Aesthetic Role Receptive or Skeptical Ambassador Accuracy Didact Reading Capability Entertainer Technical competency Conjuror Context Experience Maturity Creativity and Imagination Personal Inclinations and Sympathy circumstances Integrity Technical Proficiency Facts, Opinions, Imagination Vocabulary Book Genre Experience Personal Context Writing Style Ethnicity Story Structure Political/Ideological Subject Economic Status Country Culture Personal Context Caste/Class Ethnicity Reputation Religion Political/Ideological Life Experience Economic Status Country Culture Religion Clarity Problem Solving Life Experience Destructionist Normative Empirical Caste/Class Isolationist Accomodationist Problem Solving Critics (10%) Integrationist Destructionist Ideologues, Domain Specialists, Parents, Educators, Isolationist Authors, Literary Critics, General Readers Accomodationist Integrationist
    • Suggested Rules of Thumb • To the extent possible, let the child’s interests and abilities drive the choice • Always have some variability – Things that they might be interested in but haven’t said so – Reading that is above (and below) their capability • Keep the doors as wide open as you are comfortable with in terms of subject, vocabulary, values, etc. • Happy reading is usually a function of unexpected coincidences, serendipitous circumstances and unplanned connections. – While careful planning of what books to expose a child to is important and necessary (what values to reinforce, what knowledge to impart, what life’s lessons to prepare for, etc.) this should usually be done in as light handed a fashion as possible. • Involve your child in the choosing. © Through the Magic Door 7
    • Book Choosing Prime Directive They are your child, your values, and you know them best. You are the best and ultimate judge of limits and choices.
    • Considerations • Values compatibility • Reading capability – It is not a race • Interests • Difference between the skill of reading and the maturity of reading • Life circumstances • Self-Identity – Ethnicity – Religion • Gendered reading • Nature of critics and criticisms • Past and present • “Relevance” • Accuracy • Awards • Author versus Work • Format • Social Anachronisms • “Quality” vs. Popularity © Through the Magic Door 9
    • “Virtue makes us aim at the right end, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means.” - Aristotle
    • Resources (Practical Wisdom) • Librarian (public and school) • Teachers in general and English teachers in particular • Enthusiastic readers within your family • Through the Magic Door – Book lists – Database – Through the Magic Door® Master List of Best Regarded Children’s Books – Personal coaching and consultations – Community forums – Structured Reviews – Wish lists © Through the Magic Door 11
    • Extra Material
    • Considerations Values Compatibility Reading Capability • Do the values explicitly or implicitly • Reading is not a race and there is espoused by a book supplement and huge variability regarding when reinforce those that you are seeking to children pick up the ability and the establish? habit of reading. Some have it even • Less than perfect alignment is not before kindergarten, some not till third necessarily a bad thing, particularly or fourth grade. No matter what your given the age of your child, as it can desires, creating an encouraging create good discussions. Diametric environment is usually the best way to opposition is more of an issue. see progress. • In picking books, you usually want most of the books to be around the technical reading level of your child with a handful above (for challenge and interest) and a handful below (for reassurance and familiarity). © Through the Magic Door 13
    • Considerations Interests Skill vs. Maturity • Try and match the type of book to the • A child’s technical capacity for reading child’s interests whether it is topics or can often out-strip the maturity of their genres: Sports stories for the sporting reading. Just because they can read a type, animal stories for caring book doesn’t mean they should. As children, adventure stories for active my mother-in-law and retired librarian children, etc. is fond of saying: “They haven’t lived • Don’t worry too much about how long enough.” Only you can be the arcane the text might be if it matches judge as to when they are ready. the interest of the child. • I am very guilty of misjudging • Younger children/early readers often capability of reading versus readiness like to read series books. They read for reading. Approach with care one they like and then they want to because there is the risk of turning read all the rest. them off to a perfectly good book. © Through the Magic Door 14
    • Considerations Life Circumstances Self-Identity • What is happening in the child’s life (or • Is it important that white children read what will be happening) and to what about white children and black children degree do you want what they are about black children? How about reading to reflect that? Catholics about Catholics and – Our recommendation is that this can be Protestants about Protestants? done with great effect selectively and Racial, religious, and ethnic self- infrequently. When done frequently identity can be very important. Again, and in many circumstances, it can turn the question becomes one of children against reading. frequency and concentration. One of the beauties of great stories is that it builds the muscles of imagination, allowing children to experience the lives of others in different circumstances. © Through the Magic Door 15
    • Considerations Gendered Reading Critics and Criticisms • Do girls and boys gravitate to different • The value of a critic is very much types of stories and is that important? dependent upon your knowing and • Sure they do and it is important to the understanding the framework from extent that their interest in something within which the critic is approaching a drives them to read more. work. Some read a book with an eye • Horses for courses to its political agenda, others towards some pre-existing world-view. Others critique a book against literary standards and models. Yet others are tied to the commercial success of a book. Know thy critic. © Through the Magic Door 16
    • Considerations Past and Present Relevance • For younger children and picture • Relevance is in the mind of the books this is usually not much of an purveyor. Many publishers or authors issue. It is usually more of a churn out material predicated on ever consideration for independent readers greater levels of social dysfunction and and young adults. Sometimes older personal trauma all under the rubric of books have more archaic language or “relevance.” unfamiliar idioms. Sometimes there – I am skeptical as to how many of these are anachronistic opinions no longer tales are relevant and I think it is worth considered acceptable. Whatever the asking whether reinforcing negative issues, my experience is that there is a trends is a valuable goal. rich balance that can be struck by wonderfully written books from decades and even centuries ago that fit hand in glove with contemporary books. © Through the Magic Door 17
    • Considerations Accuracy Awards • Some critics will attack a book for its • There are many major awards related accuracy. This is usually treacherous to children’s books, among them ground. Where does authorial license Newberry, Caldecott, Horn Book leave off and sloppy error or deliberate Fanfare, etc. They are all a pretty misleading take over? My good initial filter to winnow through the recommendation is for wide tolerance 25-35,000 new books published each of issues related to “accuracy” outside year. of the scope of deliberate deception. • They are also just as fallible as every Interpretation of events and history other human activity. Author’s best and facts is the foundation for great works get overlooked until once they conversation. have established themselves. Later books get awards more on the basis of earlier books. Publisher’s marketing and “buzz” affect nominations. © Through the Magic Door 18
    • Considerations Objectionable Author vs. Format Desired Work • Electronic vs. Audio vs. Hardback vs. • This has to be an individual call. Paperback vs. Boardbook Populist and academic critics can be • I think the jury is very much out on the exceptionally intolerant of authors from consequences and experience of the past who had different views than electronic reading. No data. I suspect those popular in refined circles today. it will have its niche but never supplant Example of Enid Blyton. physical reading. • Hardly any children’s authors are • Audio books can be a great directly inappropriate, it is usually a supplement to reading but it is a matter of inference. different (and usually additive) • A hardline on racism (which is very experience. rare in children’s • There is some indication that small books), classism, ethnicism, religious children prefer paperback over bigotry, political view, etc. would gut hardback books. virtually all the classics as well as • Boardbooks are great for the under contemporary books. four crew • The goal of habitual reading needs to • Family size considerations – Hardback be set against the refinement of when multiple siblings. message. My inclination is always to err on the side of inclusion. © Through the Magic Door 19
    • Considerations Social Anachronisms Quality vs. Popularity • Words, phrases, and opinions about • Exceptionally slippery slope. what is appropriate morph over time. • Everyone has their favorites; it is hard What is acceptable in one age to define quality. becomes frowned upon in another. • Many popular books end up being • Example of Doctor Dolittle. inconsequential and ephemeral. • Relates to issues of gendered reading, • Many sleepers end up being perennial author vs. work, accuracy, etc. favorites. • Again recommendation is to be as • Reading is fed by more reading – inclusive as possible and where whether it is books, newspapers, historical terms or opinions are magazines, comic books, manga, etc. objectionable, to discuss what has The habit of sustained, imaginative, changed. creative and focused effort is one that is facilitated by just about any genre. Typically, enthusiastic readers will go through phases but just about show a long term evolution towards what would be regarded as quality reading. © Through the Magic Door 20
    • Contact Information Should you have any questions about this presentation, please contact us. Charles Bayless Through the Magic Door® 1579 Monroe Drive Suite F150 Atlanta, Georgia 30324 E-mail: charles.bayless@ttmd.com Office: (404) 898-9096 © Through the Magic Door 21