How to Beat Picture Book Roulette

The discussion about the price of picture books rages on. In response to my defense of current prices on a cost-per-use basis, one person replied,

Yes, books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar may get read over and over again to a child, providing hours of entertainment for a reasonable price. But a parent might just as easily spend the $20 on a book that their child has no interest in whatsoever. Perhaps they’ll sit through one read if you’re lucky, but still you’ve just spent that $20.

Yes, librarians and other knowledgeable advisers can steer a parent towards more likely contenders, but even in those cases the book may not appeal to your child. There are probably some kids out there in the world who won’t like that Caterpillar (though I find it hard to believe!) and thus each purchase becomes a riskier proposition for a parent.

Playing picture book roulette when buying for a kid is asking for heartache. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to that. Good children’s librarians know what to recommend because they actually read the books.

A grown-up who wants a book on spiders can just be directed to the spider book section to pick for himself, but a children’s librarian needs to conduct an interview. First we judge development; “What is the child reading right now?” Then, we probe a little further…

  • “Do you want a story about spiders?” (The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle, or Charlie and Lola, I’m Just Not Keen on Spiders, by Lauren Child).
  • “An Information book about spiders?” (Nic Bishop’s Spiders).
  • “How well can the child read, or will a grown-up be sharing the book with her?”  (Tarantula Scientist in the The Scientists in the Field series).

My go-to for recommendations that I trust (and that that parents and teachers can access) is The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, (CCBC). It offers well thought-out, current, diverse, developmentally appropriate recommendations. My favorite list is Ten Author’s Every Childcare Provider Should Know.

In addition, I also regularly refer to these resources:

What are your recommended children’s book lists or awards that I should be looking at?

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