So many of us can say "Yes! - we agree with Walt Disney because we have experienced the thrill of a good story and the excitement of learning something new thanks to the books we have read." And now we want to share that experience with the children in our lives. With the holidays approaching, now is a great time to start shopping for those special gift books - but where to begin?
Walking into a bookstore children's department, especially at the holidays, can be overwhelming. Here are some suggested strategies and titles that might help you find those special books for those very special children.
First - gather a few facts, either from the child or the child's parents: age, sex and approximate grade reading level. What types of books has the child read and really enjoyed? What are the special interests of the child - favorite subjects in school, sports, animals, travel, nature, science, history ... And lastly, have in mind a dollar amount you would like to spend.
Second - narrow your selection using these age groups and categories, keeping in mind that there can be some overlapping: Babies and toddlers - board books are made to stand up to "curious fingers": Eric Carle, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," and "1,2,3: A Child's Counting Book" by Alison Jay, "Time for Bed" by Mem Fox and "My First Fairy Tales" by Tomie dePaola are a good place to start, as are these interactive books (sounds, touch and feel, and shaped books): Sandra Boynton's "Snuggle Puppy" and the classic, "Pat the Bunny."
If you are shopping for a preschooler, you have the whole world of picture books to share with your child. The story and illustrations of "Where the Wild Things" are by Maurice Sendak and "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats excite the imagination of kids of all ages. For some humor, try "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" and other titles by Laura Numeroff - and "A Very Marley Christmas" by Grogan and Cowdry. And let's not forget "Little Red Riding Hood," "Goldilocks" and other illustrated fairy tales, plus Curious George and Dr. Seuss. Caldecott and Newberry Award books are other winners.
Kindergarten and early elementary age children are eager to read "chapter books." "The Magic Tree House" series ("Dinosaurs Before Dark," etc.) transport kids back to exciting times in history. The "Star Wars" series and the "Captain Underpants" series are all popular with kids learning to read. Introduce your beginning readers to the world around them with "The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane" and others in this series as well as Walter Wick's "I Spy" series.
Older elementary grade children (grades 3-5) are ready for some of those classic chapter book you may remember: "Nancy Drew" and "Little House on the Prairie" series and the American Girl series are loved by girls, as well as "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little" by E.B. White. For boys try the "Goosebumps" series, the "Time Warp" series, the "Matt Christopher Sports" series and the "Warriors and Seekers" series by Erin Hunter. Series loved by both are "The Boxcar Children," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events." Dave Barry has put a new twist on the Peter Pan story - "Peter and the Starcatchers" is the first in the series.
Encourage your young readers' hobbies and interests with some of the many titles available on cooking, sharks, horses, dogs and cats, insects, how to draw books, knitting, wild animals and more! Try "accessorizing" by adding cookie cutters with a baking book or art supplies with "How to Draw" books.
And let's not forget joke and riddle books - for all ages! You can also shop for the "family library" - books in this category might be a world atlas, Guinness Book of World Records, anthologies of mythology, fairy tales, short stories, holiday stories and poetry collections. Two poetry collections not to be missed are: Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "Poetry Speaks to Children." And lastly, don't stop with just giving that special child in your life a book, sit down and read with them - a priceless gift.
Still need help? Ask your local public librarian, children's school librarian or local book store children's book buyer - they work with kids and books every day.
Suzanne Reed and Pat Taylor
are members of the Summit County Library Board of Trustees.