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How to choose books for your children.

Arm yourself with these pages next time you visit a bookstore, shop online or take a trip to the library and you'll end up making the best buying or borrowing decisions you've ever made.

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Ready, Set... Learn to Read! Books for Babies and Toddlers

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Long before children speak they are collecting words. Reading stories, singing lullabies and reciting nursery rhymes to babies can help build a rich foundation for language for the coming years. The illustrations in books help babies to recognize simple objects in their world. And the intimacy and warmth of shared reading is a joy for both baby and parent.

Look for these:

* Books with repetition of sounds and words.

* Books that say a lot with simple language.

* Books that illustrate the primary things in your child's life.

* Books that are just the right size for small hands.

* Books of nursery rhymes, lullabies and songs.

* Books that are sturdy and will stand up to being chewed, pounded or covered in mushed banana.

* Books with simple, uncluttered illustrations of familiar shapes.

* Books that have physical "tricks" such as finger holes, opening doors and peek holes to encourage interaction and involvement.

* Wordless books that stimulate babies and toddlers visually and mentally and encourage them to create their own stories.

* Books in various formats such as board books, cloth books, small chunky books and plastic "bath" books.

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Activities to Bring Books and Babies Together

* Visit your local public library regularly. Your child will soon learn that books are an important and fun part of life.

* Babies love the rhymes, repetition and rhythms of nursery rhymes. Make them a part of your daily life. While dressing recite "One, two, buckle my shoe," in the kitchen say "Mix and stir and pat in the pan," or when you go for a walk sing "Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall."

* Encourage family members and friends to buy books as presents for your baby or toddler and for all your children.

* Share books with your baby or toddler at a time when they are most alert and full of curiosity. And let them explore books in their own way--grabbing, patting, poking and literally eating them up!

* Have books visible in different places around the house, not just confined to bookshelves.

The Road to Reading: Books for Children Two to Six

In the years between two and six, children are ready for stories.

They are able to follow a simple narrative with characters, conflict and resolution. The development of language skills is rapid during these years, and children are gaining confidence about the world around them. It is a time when imagination and curiosity blossom. It is the perfect time for picture books and stories to be read aloud.

When choosing books for this age, you will be looking at slightly more complex texts with good rhythm and word repetition. Illustration plays a central role in a picture book, becoming an integral part of the storytelling process.

Look for these:

* Books that reflect the everyday world familiar to children, such as playing with friends, visiting family and going to sleep.

* Books that encourage children to play with words and phrases.

* Books that both you and your child can enjoy.

* Books with simple, repetitive text that encourages children to join in during read alouds.

* Books that present extraordinary as well as ordinary situations.

* Books that will stretch a child's attention span and build vocabulary.

* Books that confirm and expand a child's view of the world.

* Books of poetry and verse.

* Theme-related reading to enhance experiences and events.

* Large-format books for reading to groups of children.

At this stage, selecting books can be as much fun as reading them. And if you find your child returning to an old favourite again and again at the library, perhaps it's time for a trip to your local bookstore to make that special book part of your child's own library.

And remember, you're not just teaching your child how to read, but nurturing a love of books and reading. Right now your child is looking at the pictures, listening to your voice and enjoying your attention and closeness. A positive experience with books in these formative years will set the stage for strong reading skills in the future.

Activities

* Make regular visits to the library a part of your routine. Get library cards for your children and let them check out their own books. You can help your children choose books, but it is important to respect their choices, too.

* Combine a favourite book with an activity. After reading My New Shirt, by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dusan Petricic, go shopping for new clothes. Visit the park and look for the animals your children find in In My Backyard by Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by Ron Broda. Or make your own optical illusions after you share The Painted Circus: P.T. Vermin Presents a Mesmerizing Menagerie of Trickery and Illusion Guaranteed to Beguile and Bamboozle the Beholder by Wallace Edwards.

* You can introduce your children to authors and illustrators without ever leaving your home. After you read a book with your children, why not listen to the author read from their book on tape and sometimes even online! For example, listen to Robert Munsch read aloud a bunch of his best stories in the story time section of his website (www.robertmunsch.com)!

* Children love pictures and what better way to introduce your child to an appreciation of art than through the books they love? Why not read a picture book and then have your kids design their own cover for the book!

Flying on Their Own: Books for Children Five to Eight

While there are certain mechanics to the process of learning to read, the moment when individual letters morph into meaningful words is pure magic.

Suddenly a child holds the key that unlocks a whole world of adventures. Choosing appropriate books for the beginning reader will help to reinforce this excitement and sense of accomplishment.

Look for these:

* Repetition in language to help reinforce reading skills.

* Books and stories that appeal to the unique interests and personality of the child.

* Language appropriate to the reading ability of the child.

* Language that will stretch and challenge your child.

* A wide variety of books and reading materials, including fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, chapter books, graphic novels and comics, folk and fairy tales, and joke and riddle books.

* Simple stories with strong storylines. Too complex a narrative will slow down and frustrate the beginning reader.

* Material that is presented simply and clearly with a brief and succinct text.

* Engaging stories with enough illustration to ease a page full of text.

* Old favourites. Reading familiar, simpler stories helps to strengthen reading skills.

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The role of the adult now begins to shift from selecting books for a child to guiding a child to appropriate books. Let the interests of the child lead the way.

And as you watch your new reader take off with confidence, remember that, as well as being exhilarating, reading is hard work. Lots of help and encouragement are still needed. Enhance your shared reading time each night by reading novels a chapter at a time. This will help to build your child's vocabulary and comprehension.

It is also important to remember that children learn to read at different ages, so be patient, offer encouragement and let your child find his or her own way.

Activities

* Create a quiet reading space where a child can enjoy long periods of uninterrupted reading.

* Encourage children to make their own pictures for their favourite stories. Kids can draw pictures using chalk pastels just like illustrator Georgia Graham does in Wanda and the Frogs, written by Barbara Azore.

* Go to a museum after you read Breakout Dinosaurs: Canada's Coolest and Scariest Ancient Creatures Return! by Hugh Brewster and illustrated by Alan Barnard.

* Go to an open field at night after you've read Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Zodiac by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Lorna Bennett. Or take a trip to the candy shop after reading Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy by Ann Love and Jane Drake and illustrated by Claudia Davila.

* Let children share their own scary stories after reading Don't Open The Door! by Veronika Martenova Charles and illustrated by David Parkins, or learn how their bodies work in The Amazing Human Body by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone and illustrated by Steve Harpster.

* Encourage your own school, library or local community centre to host an author or illustrator visit during TD Canadian Children's Book Week (www.bookweek.ca). Young readers love to meet the creators behind their favourite books, and such events can inspire a child's own creativity.

The Confident Reader: Books for Children Seven to Ten

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As reading skills grow, children plunge into the world of books with new-found confidence.

They are now able to handle books with more complex storylines. They can comprehend narratives told from various points of view and can empathize with the characters.

With encouragement and direction, middle readers will grow into more sophisticated books that can provide a solid base from which to explore the world around them.

Look for these:

* A rich feast of fiction and non-fiction. Middle readers are exploring, tasting and testing everything, so try not to put limits on what they read.

* Books with short episodic chapters, scattered illustrations and an open friendly format.

* Books that are a part of a series. Readers often love to follow the same group of characters through many books and adventures.

* Stories that are a bit more demanding with longer chapters.

* Stories linked by theme or genre.

* Books that may be suggested for a slightly older age, which provide the reader with something to "grow into."

* Reading sports trivia, horror books and joke books makes a nice change of pace from a strict diet of fiction.

As children get older, their days are often packed with activities, but try to continue to set aside time for reading.

Activities

* Encourage young readers to keep a diary or journal just like Sally Cohen in Not a Nickel to Spare: The Great Depression Diary of Sally Cohen by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

* Children can have some great fun and learn more about the world around (and beyond!) them with Cynthia Pratt Nicolson and Paulette Bourgeois's The Jumbo Book of Space, illustrated by Bill Slavin. If you love the environment, take a look at The Eco-Diary of Kiran Singer written by Sue Ann Alderson and illustrated by Millie Balance.

* After you read Shoe Shakes by Loris Lesynski and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, or Lickety-Split by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Dusan Petricic, have your children write poems of their own.

* Want to find out more about your children's favourite Canadian authors and illustrators? You'll find interesting facts and lots of great tips for young creators on authors' and illustrators' websites. Visit www.bookcentre.ca for a list of links!

The Committed Reader: Books for Young People Ten and Up

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During these intense years of physical and emotional growth, books can provide a safe harbour: a quiet place from which to explore new ideas and feelings.

They can provide readers with the opportunity to meet characters who struggle with shared concerns and the chance to escape into worlds of fantasy and imagination. Books can guide the reader through struggles with self-identity and help to build self-confidence. And they can be fun!

Look for these:

* Writing of the highest standards. Look at lists of award-winning books for suggestions--See pages 58-59 of this guide for a list.

* Novels that tackle mature subjects at in-depth levels.

* Books that discuss issues and ideas that tell readers what is going on in their world.

* Books tailored to the reader's own experiences.

* Time-proven classics.

* Books that can provide insight into the reader's life, identity and relationships.

* Books that engage the reader on a range of subjects and at a deep emotional level.

Competent readers still need the help of adults to guide them to that next great book.

And don't stop reading aloud to teens. People of all ages love to be read to, and the years spent sharing and enjoying books together shouldn't end when your children reach adolescence.

Activities

* Read Snitch by Allison van Diepen, Into the Ravine by Richard Scrimger, The End of the World As We Know It by Lesley Choyce or In the Garage by Alma Fullerton and discuss the social and political issues that the authors deal with in these books.

* Your teens might want to try to put on a production of Silverwing: The Play by Kim Selody and illustrated by Denis Gougeon, based on the novel by Kenneth Oppel; Two Steps from the Stars by Jean Rock Gaudreault or one of Dennis Foon's plays--War or New Canadian Kid or Invisible Kids. Or have them adapt their favourite Canadian novel for stage or screen.

* Be sure to encourage the teens in your life to read books on a variety of topics. Some suggestions include the following: The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations by Alootook Ipellie and David MacDonald, The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How-to Guide for Young Artists by Hal Niedzviecki and Marc Ngui and SOS: Stories of Survival by Ed Butts.

* Take a trip through Canada's history with books like Sir Charles Tupper: The Bully Who Battled for Canada by Johanna Bertin and illustrated by Gabriel Morrissette and At Vimy Ridge: Canada's Greatest World War I Victory by Hugh Brewster.

Reading is the most important skill children can learn. It allows them to develop imagination and intelligence and empowers them with a knowledge that enriches their entire lives. A love of reading is one of the finest gifts parents, teachers and librarians can give children.

The recipe for creating a life-long reader is wonderfully simple.

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Read...

Make books and reading a part of your children's lives right from the start. And set aside regular time to read to your children from infancy to adolescence.

Lead the Way...

Make regular visits to your local library and bookstore to help your children find the best books available.

And Set an Example...

When children see adults enjoying a good book, they get a very important message--you never outgrow books!
COPYRIGHT 2008 Canadian Children's Book Centre
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Best Books for Kids & Teens
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Words:2397
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