Not so long ago, I was sitting on the floor in Foyles, London (one of my favourite haunts), thoroughly enjoying Aaron Becker’s wordless trilogy, when a grandfather came up to me. He asked me if I could recommend a book for his five-year-old granddaughter.
After getting a little more information, I selected a few, and he happily trotted off with the first one I selected. I was touched that he trusted me sufficiently to make that choice. It made me think about the best ways of choosing books for children.
Recently a new bookstore said they were going to introduce recommended Age Ranges for their books. This irritated me as I feel it won’t help parents make the best decisions about books for their children. I don’t like having age ranges for books because I believe they are extremely limiting. There are so many fabulous picture books out there. And I would be really saddened if I thought no child over the age of six was going to enjoy them. So here are my reasons why age ranges are unhelpful.
1. Children learn at different rates
No five year old is the same. A few are reading independently, most are able to sound out simple words and know some High Frequency Words. While some are not reading at all. They can also have hugely different attention spans. A few can’t sit still, most can sit still for five to ten minutes and some can sit still and concentrate on books for hours.
2. Your child can still learn from them
No matter the ability, children can still learn from these books. If your 5 year old hasn’t yet grasped High Frequency words like “and” and “the” then reading picture books will be great, as children can learn words from these books more easily. If they can read slightly more they’ll be able to link some of the words to the pictures. This will help build confidence as they’ll feel excited when they get it right.
In some books, like This Is Not My Hat the story is more complex. While some children will just enjoy the pictures, others you can talk about what’s going on. As such you can use the story as a means to talk about certain issues. Some picture books have some very interesting and complex issues like Green Lizards vs Red Rectangle and Dinsosaurs and All That Rubbish.
3. Different things interest each child
Children have completely different interests too. So I recommend parents encourage their children to choose books that interest them. This way they are far more likely to engage with it. By all means show them other books as well but please give them the opportunity, whatever their age, to look at picture books. If you’ve read any of our other articles, you’ll quickly see that picture books are fantastic platforms for all sorts of learning.
4. Children can gain confidence from them
Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment by reading “easy” books, or books that they already know. Getting through the book all by themselves can be great for their confidence, and can give them the motivation to keep on reading. Some children can get discouraged if they find a book too challenging. So by giving them a book they can read themselves, you will help them feel more comfortable reading.
5. Your child may still love it
One of the key factors in helping children to read is having them choose books they love. Just because the words in picture books are not as complex doesn’t mean there is no value in the book. As long as your child enjoys reading they will continue to read. So reading their favourite book over and over again, whether it is one they fully understand or one where they don’t, will be beneficial. No matter what the book is.
If you want to have a look at books we think are great for lower reading ages, have a look at the Read With Me category.
Happy Reading! 🙂