Since becoming a mum, I’m often asked what kind of things I look for when choosing books for my own child, Ellis, and which books are currently on our bookshelf. Most people assume that having access to so many books would mean that our personal bookshelf is huge, but that’s really not the case! I’m quite picky with books, and we only have a few out on rotation at any one time.
When it comes down to it, for me it’s all about quality, characters, and artwork!
Quality over quantity
One of the most important things for me is finding “forever books” that will stand the test of time. For board books, this means strong, sturdy pages, and well-made interactive elements. There’s nothing more frustrating than when your child has had a new book all of five minutes and it is missing all the flaps, or they’ve taken a bite out of the cover! A high-quality board book doesn’t just need to be for babies either – they are a great option for fostering independent exploration of books and can be used to prompt recognition and reading of familiar words.
For picture books, I typically gravitate towards hardcover over paperback (yes, they are more expensive, but worth it!!), and always check the spine to make sure the pages are sewn in securely. Ellis is now 13 months old, and I do let him explore picture books – but as part of shared reading time, rather than on his own. We’ve had to send a picture book to “book hospital” to get fixed when a page was accidentally ripped!
I love any book by Xavier Deneux. They are more expensive, but the quality is so evident. Opposite Things is a great example of a lift-the-flap that is more sturdy. The felt flap books are a good option too.
Strong, realistic characters
When purchasing books for Ellis, I like to choose stories with strong, realistic characters. For me, realistic doesn’t necessarily mean human – we have lots of stories with talking animals, unicorns, and aliens. Realistic means that the character’s actions or responses to a situation make sense, and could be discussed as Ellis gets older. I’m a huge fan of using stories as a way to support a conversation about different topics and situations, so I personally don’t add stories to our collection that have flat, one-dimensional characters.
I Can Catch a Monster is a great example of a book with a strong character!
Engaging illustrations and artwork
Finally, the last thing that I really look at when purchasing books (and often the thing that determines whether I buy a book or not) is the artwork! I think illustrations are SO important in young children’s books, as they not only help to capture your child’s attention, they also assist a child to understand a story quickly, and to link words with meaning.
Having read so many children’s books, I’ve definitely seen some where the pictures really add nothing to the story, or feel like they were added as an afterthought. These aren’t books I would add to our bookshelf.
I just love the artwork in Gustavo, the Shy Ghost! It not only complements the story, it also adds information that isn’t revealed in the text.
Here’s our top tips for choosing a great book
- Check the quality of the book! Does it appear to be well-made and sturdy? Are the pages sewn in securely?
- If possible, read through the story before introducing it to your child. Do the characters have realistic responses to situations? Could you talk about the choices they made, or link the story to your own child’s lived experience?
- Look at the artwork! What is your first gut reaction? Do you like what you see, and do you find the illustrations engaging? Do they add to the story or distract from it?
Remember that it’s ultimately up to you and your child to determine the books you love and want to add to your bookshelf! If you are looking for book recommendations or other bookish content, head over to my Instagram account @bookieboobox , or check out www.bookieboo.com.au if you’re on the hunt for some great new books.