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Education - Children's and young adult's literature

What's a good book?

"Notable books in the language arts share an exemplary use of language or the ability to stimulate thought and language use, wordplay, or imaginative response from children.  Good books are catalysts; they evoke a response.  They invite us to think; they agitate; they cause us to grow.  We applaud; we disagree.  We know we could do better when characters make poor choices.  A well-written book does not leave us alone; we are left with perplexing questions rather than neatly packaged answers."

from: Wordcrafting: what makes a book notable in the language arts by S. Lehr. In Books that invite talk, wonder and play edited by AA McClure & J.V. Kristo. 1997. pp. 1-17

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Selecting books for children can be a tricky business.  If you're looking for a literary masterpiece go with an award winner (Governor Generals, Newbery, Caldecott, etc.). If you're just trying to connect a kid who doesn't read (for whatever reason) go with whatever works even if it's something that drives you crazy. Get them reading and hopefully move them onto to something better.  There's your spectrum.

 Here are some things to ask yourself:

Does the book say something worthwhile to children and young adults?

Will the book support and compliment your teaching objectives?

Can you see connections between content areas of the curriculum?

Is the book appropriate to the grade level you are teaching?

Is the book appropriate to the ability level of the student?

What literary qualities does the book have?

Do the illustrations capture the content and literary elements of the text?

Are stereotypes avoided? Is diversity portrayed in a positive way?

Will the book appeal to the intended audience in terms of plot, characterization, etc.?

Will this book work as a choice for the whole class, select group, or an individual student?

Will the book work as a read aloud?

Are there alternative formats for this book? (eg. graphic novel versions, audiobooks, picture books, etc.)

Does the book resonant with me (the teacher) in some way?  Am I enthusiastic, stimulated, and excited by this book?

--(These have been culled from various resources found in the Doucette Library.)

Three criteria from the book Making the Match (Lesesne, p.56, 028.5 LeM 2003):

1. The book beats others at the common games: vocabulary, character, development, and moral concern.

2. The book has classroom usefulness.

3. The book reflects real life and has artistry in detail.

Three criteria from the book Making the Match (Lesesne, p.56, 028.5 LeM 2003):

1. The book beats others at the common games: vocabulary, character, development, and moral concern.

2. The book has classroom usefulness.

3. The book reflects real life and has artistry in detail.

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