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Selecting Children's Literature

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

One way to begin selecting children's literature is to look for award-winning books and authors. Two of the best-known awards are the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal, both presented annually by the American Library Association. The Caldecott Medal is given to the artist of the most distinguished picture book published in the United States. Several additional books may be cited as worthy of attention and named Caldecott Honor books. The Newbery Medal is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Newbery Honor books also are named. Newbery award-winning books often are most appropriate for older children. Caldecott and Newbery award-winning books are easy to locate, as lists are readily available at libraries and bookstores, and the books often are housed in specially marked sections or shelves.

Other less well known awards include the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which is presented by the American Library Association to an author or illustrator who has made a lasting contribution to children's literature. The Batchelder Award is presented by the American Library Association to the publisher of an outstanding book originally published outside the United States and subsequently translated and published in the United States. The Hans Christian Andersen Prize is an international children's book award and is selected biannually by the International Board on Books for Young People.

Some awards are targeted for children's books related to particular content or themes. For example, the Coretta Scott King Award is given to an African American author and an African American illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions to children's literature. The Association of Jewish Libraries awards are presented to books that have made outstanding contributions to the field of Jewish literature. The Catholic Book Award is given to books with Christian and psychological values. The Orbis Pictus Award is given to an outstanding work of nonfiction for children by the National Council of Teachers of English. Librarians can direct you to resources that provide information about the awards and the recipients of those awards.

Award-winning books have been selected carefully by committees made up of individuals with expertise in children's literature; however, the members of those committees are not experts on your child! Therefore, although we recommend that you seek out award-winning literature, we encourage you to keep the interests, attitudes, and experiences of your child in mind. You should select books that will capture and hold your child's attention. What topics will bring your child enjoyment? What books are likely to be asked for again and again by your child? What is important in your child's life?

We also suggest that you ask friends, teachers, and librarians for recommendations. And consider exploring magazines and other resources that review children's literature. Libraries house these resources in their children's section, and librarians can direct you to them.

Another source of information is the internet. A number of book sellers are on-line, and finding books is quite simple. Searches may be conducted by title, author, and topic, or in a variety of other ways, including award winners and recent best-sellers. Often, considerable information is provided on-line. Along with information such as publisher, date of publication, and cost of a book, you might find reviews of the book. Some reviews are written by authorities in children's literature, and some are written by members of the public who have read the book and wish to comment on it. If your child has been particularly interested in a book, search for others by the same author. If your child has had an experience you wish to address with books, conduct a topic search. You and your child may wish to browse on-line bookstores together!

Of course, another source of quality literature is this book. We have listed more than 400 works of excellent children's literature. Our selections should keep you busy for quite some time!

Whatever your source, you should consider the following questions when selecting books for your child:

Does the author avoid stereotyping based on gender, race, culture, and profession?

Do the illustrations complement the text?

If fiction, does the story have universal or personal appeal?

If nonfiction, is the information accurate and current?

Finally, in selecting books for your child, consider what you have learned in this book about reading development.

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