Maybe your little ones have a bookshelf of their own, or maybe you've just got what I like to call "a home library." Either way, your child is influenced by the books on the shelf at home. What needs to be there?
You need both quality and quantity. I recently read a great Pacific Standard article about this (Thanks Rachel!) In many cases, quantity leads to diversity. We need diverse books. We need them so much that there is a whole internet movement about it going on right now. (More about that here, and if you search the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.)
I did see a home library once that was large (yay, quantity!) but homogeneous. (Quality? Diversity?) It was strikingly odd, to me. Three or four whole shelves of little boxed sets of books with beloved characters on them, made to teach readers their numbers, shapes and colors. I was like, "Hey, this looks cute!" But when I looked closer I got bored just reading the spines of the books. I opened them up and—yep! They were all alike inside.
Anyway, I wanted to write for you a list of 15 books you must have. But as I explored this idea I couldn't get on board. There aren't 15 specific children's books that your children really have to have, in order to be healthy, functional members of society. But I did come up with 15 types of books that ought to be on the shelf. Because the young learner needs quality, quantity, and diversity. We need diverse books.
15 must-have books for your child's home library
2. A book you never get tired of reading: Personally, I could read The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry out loud to my kids every day for the rest of my life.
3. A book your child loves, but you hate: Buttercup Petal Pixies—this was a castoff from a friend and I was sorting through the box and totally going to donate this one, but then Benjamin wanted to read it (and read it again and again) and Levi did too, eventually. Maybe it's the glitter. Maybe it's something else? For me, the story limps along. The pictures are uninspiring. But the book is not pernicious in any way. For now, it stays.
4. A book that is fantasy: Don't stress, pretty much all of Dr. Seuss qualifies, here.
5. A book that is realistic fiction: I love Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes.
6. A graphic novel: Nursery Rhyme Comics is like, the best pick ever. A graphic novel-style picture book my boys have been loving lately is Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke.
7. A book about the human body: Go check out the whole section at the library and pick the one you like best. Then buy it. I'd like to buy Who Has What? by Robie Harris which I read for the Cybils last year.
8. A book about your family or your child: A journal, a photo album, or something of the like.
9. A book with a protagonist of a different race: No, animals don't count as a different race from you. I love Alvin Ho, who is Chinese-American. He also has an anxiety disorder.
10. A book that makes you laugh: Petite Rouge Riding Hood always does it for me!
11. A book that is especially fun to read out loud: I made a list of 10 good ones, here.
12. A book popular culture loves: Part of reading is making cultural connections and the well-read kid is one who has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and more. Right now Pete the Cat is really big.
13. A book that's poetry: Poetry just deepens the soul, man. Try My Dog is a Carrot by John Hegley.
14. A book written in another time period: Because the time in which an author lives puts an indelible stamp on the book, and lends a new perspective. How about Betsy-Tacy?
15. A book published in the last two years: You'd only have to buy a new book once every two years to keep up with this requirement! You can handle that. Here are seven great places to buy books.
Do you know what book I need? A dictionary! I have realized this gap in my library for some years, but—let's be honest—I just look things up on my phone. That works great for me personally, but now I have a reader! And he doesn't have a phone (and at age 6 I'm not going to give him one). Right now he's dependent on me for definitions of words, and sometimes, we're both dependent on my phone. I think he would love a good children's dictionary. Do you have a recommendation?
What are some of the must-have books in your own library?
What type of book would you put at #16?
What has worked for you with your home library and what do you struggle with?
Let's talk in the comments, below. I'll meet you there.
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