Picking out the right books for kids is no easy task. If you're a teacher, it becomes even harder because of all the different matters you have to consider. What if a book you pick offends a parent? What if half the class hates it and refuses to finish it? If you choose a book with a girl main character, will the boys in the class fail to be interested? There are so many factors at play that picking out books can seem quite stressful, but it doesn't have to be. In many cases, you can optimize both learning and enjoyment for your kids by catering to their interests or to class commonalities in the books you choose.
How to Choose Children's Books for Your Students
How you choose books will depend on your teaching format. If you're stuck with assigning just one book for the entire class to read, you have a few considerations:
- Reading level. Odds are, not all of the kids that you teach read at the same level, so the best strategy may be to pick something that seems to strike a balance between the lowest and highest levels.
- Content. You'll likely want to stay away from any controversial subject matter, especially if you teach young children. Try going for a high-interest topic that you know will captivate the kids in your class.
- Purpose. Are the kids going to write a book report on the title or just talk about it in class? Will you read it aloud to them, or will they complete it independently? It's most beneficial for everyone involved to pick a title based on how you're using the book.
Different Kids, Different Books
A surefire way to have a successful reading unit is to have each kid choose his or her own book. That tactic works especially well if the kids will be using the books for independent work, such as book reports or short class presentations. if you want, you can nudge kids toward books that you know are suitable and educational by providing them with a suggested list of titles. You can also make sure that no one chooses anything completely inappropriate by requiring that they all clear their choices with you before proceeding.
A Short List
Another way to handle assigning books is to allow kids a limited choice of titles. For example, you could provide information about three titles and ask each kid to put them in order them by preference. Try to choose varied titles so that you'll have at least one book that could appeal to almost everyone. Try offering both fiction and nonfiction, including humorous as well as serious choices, or throwing a graphic novel into the mix.
After you get a chance to look at each slip of paper you receive, you can divide the class into three groups of approximately equal size based on individual preference. The kids will still be reading titles that are relevant to what you want to teach, but theoretically, they should also be reading books in which they have some personal interest.
Got a list of books to consider? Great, but the work isn't over yet! To increase the chances that your class will love what you pick, look up each book online and read its reviews. Pay particular attention to the negative or one-star reviews. You may not have much to worry about if they were left by disgruntled adults, but if you see a bunch of kid-written reviews expressing thoughts that a specific title is boring, you might be in trouble. In general, though, books with the most positive reviews have widespread likability, so they're safe choices.
Perhaps the most important tip to follow when you're thinking about which books to pick is to listen to what others have to say. If you're a new teacher, ask your kids to share their thoughts about the books you asked them to read, and jot down notes that you can use in the future when you have to do the same thing all over again. Talk with other teachers to see what has worked well with their students in the past, and make friends with children's librarians so that you'll be able to get excellent recommendations for your own classroom. Others have a lot of valuable information to share, so soak up their wisdom and don't be afraid to share your own point of view to help them out as well.