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Helping your child to choose which books to read




Are you fed up with your child bringing home unsuitable books from the school library and asking you to read them?

There are thousands of books your child could borrow from school, buy in a bookshop or borrow from your local library, so how do you help your child to select a book to read?

Helping your child to choose the right book for them is an important task, and one that's more easily done by a parent who can concentrate on just one child than a teacher who has to supervise up to 30. 

You need to show your child how to choose the books that suit them, and you. Readers are selective: they choose particular books for different reasons.

Different books for different purposes

One thing your child will learn very early on is that the same book isn't right for every occasion. A book with glorious photos of dinosaurs and lots of dense text may make an excellent choice for a child who wants to sit and pore over the pictures, but the same book may not be such a good choice if they want someone to read aloud to them.

By the time they have been at school for a term or two, younger children are generally given a reading book. The words in these books are carefully selected to match your child's reading progress, but these books are often not ideal books for bedtime reading since the stories are generally simpler than stories in other picture books.

Show your child the kind of book that you enjoy reading to them. Talk explicitly about the words and the pictures.

Children looking at pictures in a bookLooking at pictures

The best children's picture books are books in which the pictures and words tell the same story through different eyes.

So there is information in the words that isn't in the pictures, and vice versa.

Talk to your child about what kinds of pictures they like.

  • Do they like big bold shapes or pastel pinks?
  • Collage or detailed, small-scale pictures?
  • Books with glittery, textured pages, or white backgrounds and line drawings?
  • Cartoons or photorealism?

The answers will partly be dictated by your child's age and gender, but it's also personal preference. Even small children can begin to express their own likes and dislikes of illustration styles and what books look like. Help them to talk about their preference.


Show children pages in their favourite books. Where is the writing on the page? How big is the print? How black is it? How much print is there compared to the picture?

Again, this is partly determined by the age of your child, but will also be influenced by the kinds of books your child enjoys sharing with you. Some children enjoy listening to longer stories with fewer illustrations, whereas others like more illustration.

Being readers

Reassure your child that they don't have to like all kinds of books, but that it's a good idea to try a wide range.

If your child loses interest in a book you're sharing, ask them whether they would like to try a different one and help them to understand what it was about the book that wasn't right for them at that moment.

Once children start looking for this kind of information, they're in a better position to make the kinds of choices that more mature readers make.

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Last updated: 7 months ago