My Quest for Best Books

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A love of reading is one of the most precious gifts that we can give children. It nurtures their imagination and creativity, lets them explore other worlds, and opens their minds to new truths and knowledge in appealing, inspiring ways.  (Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson)

When my daughter was little I had all the time in the world. I would go to the library, pull out books to see if they were worth checking out, put some back, walk over to another shelf—you get the picture. I have never been happy with just any book. I’ve always tried to surround my children with books that would capture their attention so they would learn to love reading better than watching TV.

But when she turned 5 and I also had my 3-year-old son in the tow, it was a different story. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the amount of books. How could I sort through thousands of children’s books to discover the really worthwhile ones without scanning and flipping through them? I didn’t grow up in America so I couldn’t draw from my knowledge of favorite children’s books from my childhood. I had to start from scratch.

That’s when I began to research books online. I’d look up different “Best Books” lists and read contributions about good reads from other parents on different discussion forums. Then I’d scan the reviews of those books on Amazon. If a book has a larger number of 5 start reviews, it is probably a good one. The next step was going on our library’s website, writing down the books’ locations, and of course, heading to the library with my list. It took me considerably less time at the library this way and I have discovered many nice books that I might have just overlooked if I had only scanned the shelves.

We are also lucky because we live in an area with a network of libraries, whose system allows us to request items from other locations if our home library doesn’t own the title. It basically means that we can get our hands on most of the books you find online.

By the way, did you ever ask what the limit is on your library card? Or if your kids can have their own card even if they are only 4? I figured it out pretty soon so with our 3 library cards combined, we’d often have over 100 items from the library at home. We have a shelf just for library books in the living room. Once when we came back from a longer vacation and there were only a few books from the library on the shelf, the first remark my son made after stepping into the house was: “We have no books to read!!” Both my kids feel their choices are pretty limited if there are only ten books on the shelf. While if you have a nice selection of forty at home, your kids won’t feel like you chose for them. They can still take their pick and read a variety of books, instead of reading the same ten books every day for a week. I remember we’d go through five to ten every night (mostly picture books, of course).

I thought hard about the books we’ve read and liked. My lists contain titles I was able to recall. As my children will grow and mature, I will add more titles and create new categories. I hope the links and lists posted here will help you sift out the exceptional books from the unremarkable.


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