“I don't care what he eats as long as he is eating.” Have you ever heard a parent say this about their child? A parent who would feed their children a steady diet of candy, pop, and other junk foods? No conscientious parent would say that, since they care about what their children take into their bodies.
I just don't understand why I often hear seemingly caring parents saying “I don't care what they read as long as they are reading.” Shouldn't parents care just as much about what is going into their children's minds? There are so many wonderful, uplifting books available, why would you want to waste your time reading “junk books” to your children?
Why do we read books to our children? We want to improve literacy skills and a love of reading, of course. But by choosing good books, we can take it to a higher level. Their imaginations develop by leaps and bounds when reading good books. Good books can instill core values in our children. Children learn to recognize good vs evil by reading stories.
Thomas S. Monson said, “Our Heavenly Father has counseled us to seek after ‘anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.' (Article of Faith 13). Whatever you read, listen to, or watch, makes an impression on you.” (The Lighthouse of the Lord Nov 1990 Ensign)
How do you know which books are good books? You do your research. You look for classics, books that have won awards, and books that have been recommended by others you trust to recommend a good book. You can even look at and read the ratings on Amazon, but you will have to remember that you don't know the people recommending the book. After a while, you'll be able to tell for yourself what makes a good book.
A good book is one that you can read again and again and neither one of you will get tired of it. (Well, you might…) A good book doesn't “dumb down” the words. Your child can understand a level of language higher than you think. A good book also has a good message, there's a point to reading it. Good picture books have wonderful pictures.
Many people recommend you go to the library and allow your child to choose the books they think are interesting, in order to encourage their love of books. I, quite frankly, think this is a terrible way to find good books. If you watch how your child picks books, they generally grab a few off the shelves closest to them. And sometimes they'll find a couple with cool pictures. Nope, that's not the way to find good books, sorry. If you're picking out good books and reading them aloud, that will encourage a love of books.
This is not to say you can't let your children pick out a couple of books. But do guide them in this activity. And be prepared with a list of good books before you go to the library. Instead of letting your child randomly pick out books, teach them to help you find the call numbers of the books. That will give them the useful skill of how to use the library, rather than the un-useful skill of grabbing books off the shelf.
Here are a few good books to get you started:
Pigs from 1 to 10 by Arthur Giesert – you will LOVE the pictures.
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson – get the Caldecott Honor medal version if you can
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina – a very funny story
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown – Creative way to make a tasty soup.
Do read aloud to your kids. President Gordon B. Hinckly said, “Begin early in exposing children to books. The mother who fails to read to her small children does a disservice to them and a disservice to herself.” (The Environment of our Homes June 1985 Ensign) And don't stop just because the kids start reading on their own. Keep reading out loud they'll love it and so will you. Even my 12 year old son will stop anything he's doing if I announce I'm going to read out loud.
Here are a few of our favorite read-alouds:
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – Very imaginative story, even preschoolers will like this one.
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater – A humorous and basically absurd story.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – Kids will love this book, and parents will too, at a deeper level.
You're a conscientious parent, I can tell. Choose only the best books for your children!