When people used to ask me what they could get my kids for Christmas, my answer was always simple and straightforward: books. Books are a gift that never goes out of style. But after a few confusing choices, I realized that not everyone knows how to pick a book. Because, contrary to popular opinion, there are a great number of books that are inherently bad. Some of them will make your children stupider.
What NOT to buy:
Pay close attention, because I am going to save you a whole lot of headache. Don’t buy books based on movies (no matter how much the kid likes the movie). Don’t buy books based on television shows (no matter how much the kid likes the television show). Don’t buy books based on licensed characters (no matter how much the kid likes the licensed character). Easy, right? You’re wanting to buy something that can stand on its own wobbly legs. If it requires a previous understanding of the character/concept, it is not the book for you.
Don’t buy something for the wrong audience. This may seem difficult, but it isn’t. Books made of hard cardboard are for babies. Picture books are for children who can sit still without tearing the pages out. These books last until the child is reading proficiently. From there, it’s simple chapter books, which give way to children’s novels, which lead to teen novels.
Here’s a visualization that you can print out and keep in your wallet:
This is a rough guide. Some kids are slower and some are quicker. But unless you give them a literacy test before buying the gift, you’re going to have to make some sweeping generalizations. This is okay.
Make sure to avoid books that are over repetitious. They are boring to read and will be sure to find their way to the Goodwill donation pile. Also, oftentimes publishers recycle the same old stories in a new package. If the kid in question already has If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, he/she does not need the If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give Cat a Cupcake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, etc. It’s seriously like reading the same book over and over.
What to buy:
Here are some lists broken down by age level. All of these books are solid choices.
Beginning to read/chapter books:
There you have it. These lists are by no means exhaustive. Use your head. Just don’t pick something stupid.