TCMB Post: Finding the Gems Among the Rubbish, Part I

I'm over at Twin Cities Mom's Blog today sharing a few things I've learned about selecting books for your kiddos. As of a little bit ago, I had never given much thought to the books I read to Eli, but after sitting through a talk at a mom group I'm in, I've started to be a whole lot more discerning, and I think everyone should be as well. Here's a quick taste, but click through below to read the full post - there are lots more tips you won't want to miss!

I've always been a big reader, and growing up, I could often be found staying up way past my bedtime with a flashlight under the covers just to finish a book. But I'm not sure I'm a very discerning reader. I like everything from Great Expectations to Twilight, so I'll just let you draw your own conclusions.

Recently, I  became involved in a MOMS group through my church, and in our last meeting the discussion was on selecting good books for children. The speaker was the brilliant local blogger behind Orange Marmalade, Jill Swanson, and she spoke about how children's literature is like a thrift store - a lot of rubbish to pick through to find the gems. Through the talk, she shared four qualities to look for in children's books to find the "gems" among the thousands of books churned out to make money on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. To be honest, I thought most children's books were created equal, but after this talk, I've started thinking twice about what children's books I share with my son - and even what books I spend time reading.

Here are a few of her tips:

Good literature helps us to see or better understand true things without spelling it out. 

Swanson began by discussing didactic literature - which is incredibly common on bookshelves across the country. Didactic literature are those books contrived solely to teach a moral lesson: to accept others as they are, not to bully, to be generous. This type of literature can feel like nagging or manipulation to the reader, and often has a teachy tone. Instead, good authors seek to begin with the story, and allow the elements of truth to emerge on their own.

For example, a weak children's story states bluntly, "Children should be kind to their neighbors." A strong piece of literature shows the good behind kindness by telling a story of a woman and her daughter who lose everything in a fire, but are then overwhelmed by the generosity of their neighbors. The truths push themselves out on their own - children are able to dig out the lessons of kindness, generosity and neighborliness, without having it spelled out for them. Great books help children see something fresh and new from within the story.

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