Every summer our library hosts a big summer reading program, doling out prizes for reading stacks of library books. The kids love it! And I do too, especially since it helps us get in a routine of going to the library often. We’ve earned some free baseball tickets, free milkshake coupons, little toys, free bowling passes, and even a bit of candy for all the books we’ve read. If you’re a parent and you haven’t signed up for a library card, I’d recommend it as one of the best (totally free!) things you can do to help yourself and your little ones.
Beyond the prizes, I’m thrilled that all this reading means our daughter is starting to pick out some sight words and at the starting line of being a reader herself. It’s such an exciting milestone for her book-loving mama. But, if you’re new to the library game, or even if you’re not – browsing the children’s section for gems can be daunting. How do you walk out with a pile of great books that your kids will love and that you will love reading?
Here are my tried + true tips for picking out amazing kid books, along with a slew of books we’ve read and loved lately:
- Make a Holds List. When I’m in a hurry, or we really need winners (like for a road trip), I use my library’s webpage to login with my library card and request books online. These books are delivered to my library branch, placed on a shelf with my initials right next to the checkout counter. With little ones in tow, this is so much easier than taking time to browse the stacks. Plus, you’re guaranteed good books if you consult a blog’s recommendations (like mine), Reading Rainbow books, or Amazon’s Best Of categories.
- Track Down the Best Authors. When we read a book we like, I try to make note of the author’s name and then check out everything else he or she has written. For example: James Marshall, Britta Teckentrup, Jon Klassen, Eric Carle, Olivier Dunrea, Peter Brown, Oliver Jeffers, Molly Idle, Richard Scarry and Mo Willems.
- Avoid TV Version Books. If you are going to read Angelina Ballerina, Babar, Olivia, or Curious George, make sure to choose the original books and not the knock offs based on a tv series episode and written by different authors. The originals will always have the best story lines, better illustrations, and read more fluidly. For example: This, NOT this.
- Find the Rhyming Books. There are certain books that feel stunted when you read them aloud, like the words don’t flow together. My favorite books to read to my kids are the ones that have rhythm and rhyme. It makes the reading enjoyable. For example: The Snatchabook, Madeline, The Little Blue Truck, and A Terrible Plop.
- Scan, and Be Willing to Take a Gamble. When you have time and just want to browse the library for a good book, here’s my advice – pick a new book with illustrations or a title that look good to you, then open it up and scan to see if there are too many words for your kids’ ages and if the story has good vocabulary and flow. If so, add it to the pile. (That’s how we ended up with lots of the books below!) If you end up with a dud at home, don’t be afraid to explain to your kids why it isn’t a great book!
If you need a starting point, grab your library card and check out any (or all!) of these winners we’ve read this summer….
The Lonely Phone Booth, by Peter Ackerman.
It’s Only Stanley, by Jon Agee.
Come Back Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish.
The Baby in the Hat, by Allan Ahlberg.
The Snatchabook, by Helen and Thomas Docherty
A Library Book for Bear, by Bonny Becker. (And all the Bear & Mouse books.)
BOB books, Set 1. (For my “emerging reader”)
Adventures with Barefoot Critters, Teagan White.
Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter Brown.
The Night Gardener, by The Fan Brothers.
A Bear’s Year, by Kathy Duval.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears, by Valeri Gorbachev.
Clink, by Kelly Dipucchio.
Little Cub, by Olivier Dunrea.
The Piggy in the Puddle, by Charlotte Pomerantz.
Too Tall Houses, by Gianna Marino.
Creature abc, by Andrew Zuckerman.
The Pencil, by Allan Ahlberg.
Happy reading, friends!