Lately I’ve been talking to lots of parents about choosing books for their children. Many say, ” I don’t know how to pick, so I just go with whatever is propped up on the front table at Barnes and Noble.”
While looking at the displays and highly promoted books in a bookstore is one way to find your next great read, may I suggest something very simple instead?
Take a book your child already likes. Look at the author’s name. And go find another book by that author.
I know, sounds simple. But do you do it? Aside from series, where you know how to find the next book based on the look of the cover and the number on the spine, how often do you and/or your kids choose a book based on the author?
Just last week at our local library’s preschool story time, I suggested to a mom of a precocious 3-year-old that she try some of Tomie DePaolo’s books. Her son likes to pick up books and tell the story to Mommy – which tells me he is getting some great reading time modelling all the right things! Mom was concerned though. If he can’t read the words, is it OK for him to just make up a story?
YES! And let me show you a great, wordless, book for him to start with!
Tomie DePaolo‘s Pancakes For Breakfast is as delicious as the name. It is absolutely MADE for pre-readers and early readers to pick up, look at the pictures, and tell you the story in their very own words.
Next, I’d pick up Mr. DePaolo’s beautifully illustrated The Hunter and The Animals. This book teaches a lovely lesson about treating nature kindly – and kids will love making up their own words to the wordless story.
My 4 year old can now recognize a number of sight words and reason out more given context and initial letter sounds. Rhymes make that even easier. Her current favorite book to read by herself? Arnold Shapiro and Tomie DePaolo’s Mice Squeak, We Speak.
With great visual cues, rhymes, humor, and only a few words per page, this book is a big winner with the preschool crowd.
But Tomie DePaolo’s appeal does not end at preschool. He has written and/or illustrated well over 200 children’s books, some of which I’m sure you know (even if you had forgotten his name).
How about Strega Nona?
I remember my 1st grade teacher reading this to me many years ago, and kids love it still. This Caldecott Honor book tells the tale of a magical Italian grandmother, her pasta-making pot, and her naughty grandson who tries to work her magic while she’s away. Too bad he doesn’t remember how to stop the pot! Strega Nona’s adventures continue in many sequels that delight kids of all ages.
By just looking for this author’s name at your local library, bookstore, or on his Amazon page, you will find books of stories from the Bible, Irish legends, and Native American folklore, Tomie DePaolo has published books about many of the common tough growing-up moments, like moving to a new house, performing on stage, and being frightened. He has gorgeously illustrated fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and Christmas carols.
So take a bit of simple advice. Next time you read a great children’s book, remember the author’s name. Take a picture of the cover with your phone, write yourself a quick note, or add it to your Goodreads list! It will make your next selection so much easier and more enjoyable.
And it’s going to make an author’s day.
Thanks for reading – and for #raisingreaders !
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