How to Help Kids Pick the Best Books at the Library or Bookstore

Stepping into a library or bookstore can be daunting, so we sat down with Stevie Lemons, the librarian at Momentous School, to help give us some insight on how to help kids pick the best books.

By Momentous Institute | Jul 07, 2022
Picking Best Book

It’s our summer of reading here at Momentous Institute, and we’re here to share tips and tools for helping kids spend their summer diving into books. But the process can be overwhelming! Stepping into a library or bookstore and seeing rows and rows of books staring back can be daunting for kids and adults alike. So we sat down with Stevie Lemons, the librarian at Momentous School, to help give us some insight on how to help kids pick the best books.

When kids walk into a library, how should they even start looking at books?

If it’s their first time in that library, I always encourage them to ask a librarian to show them around. All libraries are organized differently, and there will be sections for different ages and interests. So it helps to get the lay of the land from the expert.

How do kids make sense of all the books available to them? Where should they start?

I encourage people to start with the books we know are high quality. These are the award-winners and ‘best-of’ book that groups have designated as the best of the best. Here are a few to look for:

The American Library Association and the Texas Library Association (or the library association for your state). Librarians (like me, I’m on one of the committees) read through hundreds of books a year and narrow it down to 20 or 25.

National awards such as Caldecott (for picture books) and Newbery (for chapter books).

In Texas, we have the Bluebonnet award, which are kids’ choice awards for students in grades 3 - 6. If a child reads at least 5 of the 20 books on the list, he or she gets to vote, which is an added incentive for reading! Public and school libraries often host voting, so this is another great thing to ask a librarian about.

Finally, in Texas, we have something called the 2x2 list, which are books for kids from two years old to grade two. Other states will likely have book lists put out by their state library association, so you can always look those up. Of course, you can look at book lists for a state you don’t live in!

Now I often hear people say that the current books are hard to find, either they’re out of stock or checked out of the library with long holds. No problem. I suggest people just go back a year or two and check out the books that were on last year’s list. These books are still going to be great, and they probably won’t have the flurry of attention from the latest list.

How do you suggest helping a child who is stuck and can’t find a book they are interested in?

I think summer reading challenges are perfect for this. The idea is just to try reading every day. The more a child reads, the more they are exposed to different types of books and the more that can expand their interests.

I also encourage parents to entice children with what they love. Kids are often shocked to discover that people have written books about WWE or monster trucks. They just don’t often realize that there are books about pretty much everything imaginable! So if you can find a book that taps into one of their interests, they’re more likely to read it.

Lastly, I will say, free choice leads to a love of reading. So let children pick what they want to read and allow their love of reading to flourish.