Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quality Children's Books

Certain events have transpired in the last week that have turned my thoughts towards books: the death of a favorite author, a recent post on the decline of reading at AT:Nursery, and, most notably, the process of packing up our entire book collection so they could replace our carpet and then painstakingly sorting and organizing and replacing them on the shelves over the last 8 days. I've been attempting to weed out our ever-growing collection with a series of questions to help me decide which books I should keep. Like beachfront property, our shelf space is valuable and I want to make sure that only the best books reside there.

  • Do I want to read it? (If I already own it, usually, yes, so that one doesn't help much, though I have found a few "free" books I could do without...)

  • Will I read it again? (probably, if it's fiction, although I'm itching to try out paperbackswap with a few titles)

  • Is is a classic and/or will I ever want to teach it in a literature class?

  • Will I want to reference something in it and either wouldn't want to take the time to go to the library (dictionary) or wouldn't be able to find it at my local branch (ex: The Quotable Lewis)?

  • Will I want to read it to Jacob or let Jacob read it when he is older?

  • That last question is the most important, I think, and has helped me when deciding what makes a quality book -- classic, children's or otherwise. Obviously, we all have childhood favorites, but who can remember them all without wandering bookstore and library shelves for days at a time? And I don't think anyone wants to wade through the drivel found on most chain bookstore shelves. There ARE some great children's books out there, which I found out from a professor in our Master's program who loved using picture books with ESOL students in the middle grades; however, weeding out the wheat from the chaff is a time-consuming and overwhelming process. Where to begin? So, for other parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or anyone wishing to buy a present for a particular little boy (or girl, as may be in your case), here are a few time-tested lists.

  • Jerram Barr's Booklist for Children

  • This is a monster list of titles by a professor at Covenant College. You will probably have read or at least recognize many of these titles, and I count it joy that we have copies of a number of these gems. There is always room on our shelves for these titles...

  • Caldecott Medal Winners and Honor Books

  • These are judged based on the illustrations, but also tell good stories. A place to start for younger kids (like J!) who can't read yet and don't understand the words but love looking at pictures.

  • Newbery Medal Winners and Honor Books

  • Awarded annually to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children," many of these titles I fondly remember from grade-school, including From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Twenty-One Balloons, and, of course, A Ring of Endless Light.

  • Charlotte Mason's Early Years Read-Alouds

  • A list of books for 3, 4 and 5 year-olds that are time-tested.

  • Kristen's Best Children's Story Bibles

  • How could I neglect to mention this?

  • 1000 Good Books by the Classical Christian Education Support Group

  • A ginormous list of books, categorized by age. Overwhelming, but a good resource nonetheless.

    Additionally, here are some short lists of well-designed, eye-catching simple books for infants.
  • Rachel Jones' Board Books

  • AT Nursery's 10 Classic Books for Babies and Toddlers

  • And, for those of you just itching to write and create something for your little one:
    How to Make Your Own Board Book

    P.S. For those wanting to buy gifts for baby J, and you want to know what we already have, check our our Library Thing catalog -- our attempt to keep track of every single book we own. It's constantly being updated, and I'm woefully behind (about halfway), but I promise to update it completely in time for Christmas shopping!

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