There is an idea I’ve had for the past couple of years that I finally decided to make good on. You see, my favorite thing to read are children’s books (or picture books as they’re commonly known). I read them every chance I get, with or without my kids, I’ve interviewed authors and I stake out book signings. In fact, each summer my kids and I set a goal to read 100 new picture books in just 10 weeks! So, this idea that I have, spawned from the eternal struggle of ‘what do I get my kids’ teachers for Christmas that they’ll actually use?’ The answer? This year, I’m going to buy books for their classroom! (If you know who they are, do me a favor and keep this between us!)
Since I read picture books often, I had a vague idea of which book to buy for each teacher. but I really wanted to engage my children.
For our 8-year-old, who has moved past picture books, she was initially reluctant to the idea until I reminded her about an area that has been exploding in popularity lately … non-fiction. The non-fiction picture book market is in the middle of a beautiful renaissance. They are longer and more advanced than a fictional picture book and offer rich ‘back matter’ for further education. Often, they read like a story but are filled with incredible facts. For both her STEM and ELA teacher, we quickly settled on a non-fiction picture book that would fit into the curriculum.
For my first-grader, his teacher is new to the school and has a passion for encouraging acceptance, authenticity and creating an inclusive atmosphere in her classroom. This is another burgeoning topic in children’s literature, so we quickly narrowed it down for his teacher, too. Pre-K classrooms are a little harder, just because they aren’t reading on their own yet. So, all I did was ask our youngest for one of his recent favorites and there was an obvious choice. (I mean who doesn’t love books about monsters.) Not to exclude the librarian, we got our hands on a recent Caldecott Award winner and knew it would be a good fit for her library shelves.
I’m so excited about our Christmas gifts, they’ve already been ordered and delivered! (Thank you, 2-day free shipping!) In doing my research for this post, I came across a couple of places that offer great lists of popular books in case you want to ‘stock the shelves’ of your kids’ school too! (Same goes true for your own bookshelves or those of friends or family! Books are the gifts that keep on giving.)
Here are a couple of places to look if you want to find the perfect book …
1. Goodreads – it’s the end all and be all for many book lovers in the world – you can read reviews, leave your own and learn about the up & comers. To narrow down your search, they offer lists, aka Listopia, where you can find almost any category you’re looking for, with a list of hundreds of books and often thousands of reviews. A quick glance offers ‘Best Holiday Reads’ ‘Best Books for 6-year-olds’ and even ‘Best Children’s Books about Squirrels’ if that’s what you’re looking for. The lists aren’t limited to picture books either, you can find endless middle grade (3rd-7th grade) and young adult (8th-12th grade) lists as well.
2. Junior Library Guild – This is where public libraries go to get their information. Even without a login, if you click on ‘Shop’ you can filter your search by subject, age range, release date, AR or Lexile level and many other options. They also provide generous lists of award-winning titles so you know you’re getting a good one!
3. Amazon – Don’t ever overlook the power of the algorithm! You can search for anything and then follow the ‘Sponsored products related to this item’ or ‘Customers who bought this also bought’ rabbit holes for as long as you need to find the right fit.
4. Scholastic Book Orders – I don’t know about your kids, but my kids bring home Scholastic fliers weekly (okay maybe it’s monthly, but it feels more often). Next time, take note! Jot down some titles, look for popular series and engaging new releases. I’ve talked to teacher friends and Scholastic is where they often get their info from, so you know fishing out of the right pond!
Think about it this way: giving a book to your child’s teacher is like giving a gift to the entire class! Who knows what child will connect with the new addition in a way they hadn’t previously. Maybe a reluctant reader will find their niche, maybe the title will fit into a science lesson or help a student understand what it means to be a true friend.