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Factors to Consider When Choosing Preschool Books
By Carolyn R. Tomlin

Stories and books help people make sense of the world, and children are no different. Youngsters love to cuddle up with parents or grandparents, look at picture books or listen to a favorite tale. Literature provides an avenue for families and teachers to share feelings, emotions and concerns about the child’s world.

Children who love books and enjoy listening to them grow into youths and adults who make literature a part of their lives.

As a teacher of young children, you will often be asked to recommend some good books that are developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. Are there set rules for choosing books? No, but it's always a good idea to choose what the child likes. However, to broaden the child’s awareness, use the following suggestions as a guideline.

Picture Books Stories
Before children learn to read, they “read” pictures. Therefore, the choices of books help children develop their own stories based on previous experiences. As the child’s first introduction to art, use a variety of illustrations and see which ones have the greatest appeal. Consider these factors:
• Does the book contain large, simple pictures free of distraction? Too many details confuse youngsters.
• Are the pages easy to turn? Board books, for toddlers or children who have a physical handicap allow children who have not developed fine motor skills to successfully turn pages.
• Is the text written in a fast moving plot with a positive closing? Children’s books often have a happy-ever-after ending.
• Will an adult enjoy reading the book? Keep in mind that your attitude toward reading will influence the child.
• Does the book help a child think about good values? Books for children should not preach or teach, but a message that embraces good values can be woven throughout in a subtle approach.
• Is the book free of all bias--including age, gender, and race?
• What is the repetitive quality of the book? That is, is this one the child will request being read to several times?
• Does the language contain rhyming words, funny characters, an interesting plot and a surprise or predictable closing?

Non-Fiction Picture Books
Covering a wide range of topics, some non-fiction books for young children provide help with solving problems, such as starting school, a divorce, death in the family, a new sibling, etc. Others provide basic information on hobbies, preschool curriculum, and additional topics. One great rule of thumb: Does the book provide an exciting journey into the world of discovery?

Consider these factors:
• Is the author knowledgeable about the subject?
• Does the text keep your child’s interest by being clear and simple?
• Do the illustrations support the text?
• Does the subject matter hold interest for your child?

Keep in Mind…
Check with librarians and bookstore owners. Ask: Why do you recommend this book? Compare the answer with some of the topics covered in this article.

Don’t overlook award-winning books. The Caldecott Award is given each year for the best picture book in the United States. The Newbery Medal is given to the best books in Children's Literature. Some of these selections are appropriate for preschoolers.

With so many books to choose from, you can add to a home or school collection with picture books, activity books, and bedtime books that introduce new words and cater to a child’s interest.

Carolyn R. Tomlin, M. Ed., has a professional career in teaching kindergarten and early childhood education at Union University, Jackson, TN. She contributes to numerous educational publications.