Books make great gifts for kids, but it's not always easy to
find reading material that fits a child's interests, maturity,
or reading level. Before you set off to the bookstore or library,
here are some guidelines.
Babies and Toddlers
Until kids are about 2 years old, think tactile and short. Thick
board books with bright colors; bold, simple pictures; and few
words are ideal. These books may include interactive elements, such
as parts that move, items that invite touching, and mirrors. Books
with different textures, fold-out books, or vinyl or cloth books
also are appropriate for babies and toddlers. Books that can be
propped up or wiped clean are excellent choices. Look for books
about bedtime, baths, or mealtime or about saying hello or goodbye,
especially if they're illustrated with photos of children. And
if peek-a-boo is your little one's favorite game, books with
flaps are a perfect choice.
Many older toddlers (2- and 3-year-olds) start to understand how
reading works and will love repetitive or rhyming books that let
them finish sentences or "read" to themselves. From
colors to numbers to how to get dressed, older toddlers love books
that reinforce what they are learning every day. And if you have a
budding ballerina or animal enthusiast on your hands, look for
books about these (or other) passions.
Around the time kids are 3 or 4, they start to enjoy books that
tell stories. Their increasing attention spans and ability to
understand more words make picture books with more complicated
plots a good choice. Stories with an element of fantasy, from
talking animals to fairies, will spark their imagination, as will
books about distant times and places.
Try nonfiction books about a single topic of interest that the
child likes. Since many kids this age are learning the alphabet and
numbers, books with letters and counting are ideal. Those dealing
with emotions, manners, or going to school can help kids navigate
some of the tricky transitions that happen during this time.
For kids entering school and starting to read, look for
easy-to-read books with vocabularies they know so that they can
read them independently. Many book publishers indicate the reading
level of books on the cover and may include a key to help you
understand those different levels. You can also choose books that
are above a child's reading level that you can read to him or
Look for books that relate to the child's interests but also
encourage exploration of new interests through reading about
unfamiliar subjects. For example, if a child is interested in
cowboys, look for books that talk about the days of the old west,
what cowboys are like today, or historical fiction set in the
Kids of All Ages
All kids love to giggle, so books of silly poems, jokes, or
songs are sure to be a hit. Collections of fairy tales,
children's stories, poetry, or nursery rhymes offer a wide
variety within a single book. Wordless books with imaginative
illustrations can be fun even for kids who know how to read.
Looking at pictures and creating a story develops imagination and
And don't forget the books and stories you loved as a child.
Chances are, you had good reasons to love them - and your child
Gail S. Diederich, MS
Date reviewed: August 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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