A guide for you to print and give to children to help them find great books by themselves.

by Stephanie Loer

Share these guidelines with the kids in your life to help them find the right book to fit their own interests and abilities. Please feel free to download the guidelines, make copies, and distribute to the children in your life. We suggest that you read the guidelines out loud with your kids – in class, at an activity meeting, a library event, and/or a sports practice. After reading the guidelines you may want to ask the kids if they all have library cards and take the opportunity to promote library visits.

1. Ask your friends – Find out what books your friends are reading. They will have some interesting recommendations. After you’ve read the book talk about it with your friends. Share your favorite parts of the book.

2. Ask your neighborhood librarian, camp counselor, or your favorite teacher – Librarians, teachers, and some young adults, like college students, know a lot about books. Don’t worry about being shy or asking what you think might be a stupid question. Most grown-ups love to recommend things to kids, especially good books.

3. Talk with your parents – They know you. They know your interests. They were also kids once themselves. And, don’t hesitate to ask them to go with you to the library or bookstore. Even older kids in high school can feel intimidated when they go into a library or bookstore.

4. Look a book over before you borrow it from a library or purchase it – Examine the book. Flip through it front to back, back to front. Look at the cover, examine the book jacket. Look at the photos and illustrations on the cover and see if there are any visuals inside the book. Read the “blurb,” a short description of the book written inside the front flap on the book jacket, to get some idea of what the book is about.

5. Try the “five finger” test – If you think the book may be too hard for you, try the five-finger test. Read the first page of chapter one in the book. Put one finger on every word you don’t know. Keep your fingers on those words. If you use all five fingers of one hand on one page of the book, you may want to choose another book to read.

6. Find other books by your favorite authors – Many authors have written more than one book. If you enjoyed one book by an author, you will probably like another book by the same author. Usually, you can find a list of an author’s publications in the book before the title page. Librarians can also help you find other books by your favorite authors.

7. Enjoy picture books – You are never too old for books illustrated with drawings, paintings, and photographs. Many picture books are written for everyone, kids, teens, and grown-ups to enjoy. And you’re never too old for books on poetry, fairy tales, and folktales.

8. Don’t worry about the length of a book – Don’t worry about how short or long a book is. The length of the book has nothing to do with how good the book is. The most important thing is that you like the book.

9. Think about the book after you have read it – After you’ve read the book, and before you read another, take a few moments and think about the book you’ve just read. Did you like the story? Did you like the characters in the book? Was it funny? Did it make you feel happy or sad?

10. Finally: if you like the book, tell your friends about it!

Stephanie Loer has written about children’s books, their creators, and reading for the Boston Globe and other periodicals for over twenty years. A member of the NCBLA’s Honorary Board, Loer also works as a consultant for children’s literature to many educational establishments and frequently lectures on children’s books.

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance