Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking for change – going out on a wire to find a new favourite book

I get a bit frustrated sometimes at the fact that the same books, or authors, always seem to crop up on lists of recommended books. Of course we all love Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell) and The Gruffalo(Julia Dondaldson). The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle) is a staple in the homes of young children and many children can’t imagine going to bed without Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown). Similarly, you’re hard pressed to find a child who can’t relate to Max in Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak).

These are all great picture books – of course we want to recommend them. They are books that you want to share with parents, to ensure that all children have a chance to experience them. They have delighted children for many years and families can’t help but pass them down through the generations. They’re well loved and well known, which make them perfect for gifting. But if parents, friends, experts and librarians are always recommending these same books, it does beg the question -what are we missing out on?

I once read an article that said parents should read children three books a day and aim for variation. The article recommended that these three books included one of the child’s favourites; a classic fairy tale and something new to help the child and parent) discover new books. Of course, involving the child in the selection processes will help encourage success. If we stick to this three book rule, then we get the best of all worlds – classics, favourites and the chance to discover something new.

Finding new books is actually quite a fun task. Follow blogs and read book reviews to get an idea of newly published books. Talk to friends and family to find out what books they love and most importantly take time to browse your local library. Ask librarians to point out new titles and recommend books. Visit bookshops and ask the book sellers to recommend something new. Pick up books you haven’t looked at before and try reading them aloud.

It’s all about diversifying reading habits and giving children the chance to explore something new.You can have fun exploring books along the way. There is nothing wrong with sticking to the favourites. Of course, those books have stood the test of time and are favourites for a reason. They were once newly published and someone had to recommend them to others. If we support new authors and new titles then maybe in 40 years time these books will join the classics on all the lists of recommended books.

Tracy Lowe is the Early Years Training Manager at Scottish Book Trust.
She runs training programmes on a wide range of topics linked to early literacy, including brain and language development and use of songs,rhymes and book sharing with children under five. Check out her blog at

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