How to Choose Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Choosing the right books for young children is crucial, as illustrations and storylines greatly influence their development. Look for books with rich, appealing visuals and positive messages that resonate with family values.

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Choosing the right books for toddlers and preschoolers is essential. Books are living documents that can open up your child’s world to new ideas he has yet to discover. However, not all children’s books are created equal.

There are books that contain ideas that are counterproductive to the ideas we are trying to expose them to. When selecting books, make it a good habit to preview them before reading them to your child. Here are some tips for selecting books for 2 to 5-year-olds and why they are important.

Are the illustrations rich with details and provide more context beyond the text?

Good books for preschoolers contain art by illustrators that provide an additional layer of storytelling
Select books for preschoolers with compelling and detailed images to capture their attention and provide additional details to the story.

There were books I chose from the library I thought my child would love. Then he rejected it because he didn’t like how the pictures looked. The art was dark and monotone, and it did not appeal to him.

In hindsight, of course, the pictures matter. In my child’s mind, that’s the only thing that matters because he can’t read yet. The closest interaction he has with the book is the illustrations. My reading the story out loud is like reading a closed caption on a movie. The pictures are what brings the story to life.

Illustrations in books provide a natural transition to broader topics that you and your child can further explore. If your child has a favorite book, create extension activities around the book’s theme and characters to develop cognitive and social-emotional skills.

In short, select books for toddlers or preschoolers with bright illustrations you know your child loves. You will know the pictures are on point when your child asks you not to flip the page yet because they’re still analyzing the page! Click here for more detail on how to use pictures during a reading session.

Is the story written well using proper grammar and sentence structure?

Books for toddlers and preschoolers should be well written with complete sentences and proper grammar.
Choose books for preschoolers with well-structured sentences and proper grammar.

There are many benefits of reading aloud to young children. When selecting books for toddlers or preschoolers, one goal is to expose them to the English language and to plant new ideas in their minds. Unless your child is under 2 or has entered the emergent reader stage, avoid books that have short or incomplete sentences, misuse grammar, and/or contain “baby talk”.

Reading aloud is so important because you are exposing your child to your language to build fluency which is the foundation to early literacy skills.

Are the books for your preschooler sending the right message?

Look for books that send a good message when selecting good picture books for children. Books help shape children's view of themselves and the world around them.
Children’s picture books play an essential role in shaping their view of themselves and the outside world. Select books for preschoolers that promote positive self-concept and favorable views of their peers and others.

I think it’s worth mentioning again that our children’s minds are like sponges during the early childhood years. The brain is extremely busy and very good at taking in information, categorizing, and making sense of new ideas. This also means that they learn fast and can easily be influenced by new ideas.

Select books that have ideas that promote healthy habits and positive self-concepts you want your child to model. Books play such an essential role in shaping their view of themselves and the outside world. Books to children are similar to reality shows and sitcoms we watch on TV as grownups. They are meant to be a snapshot and a glimpse into our society and culture. We are influenced by what we watch and young children are influenced by the storylines we expose to them in picture books.

How to tell if it’s the wrong books for preschoolers.

Before my preschooler started soccer classes, we wanted to introduce him to the game and give him some background knowledge on what to expect. At the library, I found a picture book with fun illustrations. The pictures were bright, cheery, and fun. I made the mistake of not previewing the text and I began reading the story right at the library. I was one-third of the way through before I stopped reading.

My son asked me to continue reading and I had to make something up on the fly. I did this because there were several scenarios in the story where the main character would do something I did not want him to model. I was displeased the author didn’t end the story with the character righting the wrongs. Plus, it didn’t really teach anything about playing soccer, despite the soccer setting.

I know every child is different. Knowing my child, I knew if I kept going, I’d be planting mischievous ideas for my rambunctious preschooler to do when playing soccer. It’s like when you remind a child not to do something, all of a sudden, it’s something they have to do.

Overview: Selecting Good Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers

In summary, to select good books for toddlers and preschoolers, keep the following in mind while previewing books:

  1. Look for books with rich illustrations your child will enjoy looking at.
  2. Preview the book and look for a well written story with an exciting plot and rich in vocabluary with words new and known words.
  3. Notice stories with values and principles that align with your family’s and avoid those that do not.

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