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Tips For Choosing Good Children’s Books For Your Home Library

Even though it’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of picking out children’s books for my kids, it’s a subject I have a genuine fondness for! books….any kind of books, are one of my favorite things! Ever since I was a little girl and my Mom would take us to story time at our local library, I have been enchanted with the stories I find inside the covers of a good book. My absolute favorite childhood book was “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I must have read that book a hundred times! That book was what “Harry Potter” was to my children when they were young (to me too for that matter! I’ve read all seven books in the series myself.)

Reading books is something I believe everyone can come to love if they are introduced to the right kind of books. I remember my Mom introducing me to “The Secret Garden” and to “The Boxcar Children” books at a young age, and from that grew a life-long love affair with the printed page.

If you want to raise readers and are overwhelmed at all the choices out there, here are few tips from “Reading Is Fundamental” (RIF), the largest children’s literacy advocate in the US.



Access to good books is the first step to discovering the joy of reading. The more trips you make to the library together, the more likely your child will want to choose a book from the stacks. The more Books you have in your home, the more likely your child will pick one up and read it.


A book doesn’t have to win an award to be considered “good.” It doesn’t have to be a best seller or on a recommended booklist, either. A good book is simply one a child enjoys reading.


Libraries, bookstores, and yard sales are filled with books. But how do you know which ones are good? Trust your instincts. Keep your child’s interests and reading level in mind.


Ask your kids! Kids can tell you what they like and don’t like, what they want to learn, who they would like to meet, and what they want to do when they grow up. All of these are the subjects of great books.


Since children’s reading interests and needs change as they grow, here are some basic things to look for as you help kids at any age choose good books.

toddler reading

For INFANTS AND TODDLERS (Birth to age 2) look for:

  • Books with big, bright, colorful pictures of familiar objects.
  • Stories told in short, simple sentences with pictures that explain the text.
  • Poems and rhymes that are fun for parents to read aloud.

preschooler reading 2

For PRESCHOOLERS (Ages 3 to 5) look for:

  • Illustrations and photos that are clear, colorful, and engaging.
  • Simple, fun plots. The action should move quickly, so each book can be read in one sitting.
  • Lively rhymes and repetition that children can repeat and remember.
  • Stories about everyday life and events.
  • Main characters who are your child’s age or slightly older.

young readers

For YOUNG READERS (Ages 6 to 11) look for:

  • Colorful, attractive illustrations and photos that bring the text to life and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Books that appeal to your child’s interests.
  • Books with your child’s favorite characters.
  • Chapter books that can be read over several days instead of in one sitting.

adolescent reading

For ADOLESCENTS (Ages 12 and up) look for:

  • Novels that might help your child cope with daily challenges of growing up by featuring characters dealing with similar experiences.
  • Books that introduce new experiences and opportunities.
  • Biographies, classics, folk tales, historical fiction, and mythology.

Knowing how to choose good books is a skill your children will keep for the rest of their lives. Take time to show them how!

baby on smartphone

No matter how “digital” we become (I get a kick out of watching my grand nieces and nephews that are little more than babies handle their parents’ smartphones with ease!) I don’t think we’ll ever be able to replace the sheer joy of holding a book in our hands and slowing turning the beautiful pages as the story unfolds before our eyes and in our minds.

Samantha Hollister - Writer/Illustrator
Samantha Hollister – Writer/Illustrator

With that in mind I was beyond thrilled when my nephew and business partner, Scott, introduced me to the talented illustrator Samantha Hollister with the idea that we should collaborate on a children’s book! Samantha is a third-generation Disney artist who has illustrated countless storybooks, including Disney’s “Brother Bear” Little Golden Book.

This was basically a dream come true for me! As we brainstormed ideas for it, the nickname my Daddy gave me as a little girl came up…Jillee Bean…and we were off!

The result is one of the most beautiful and charming children’s books I’ve ever seen (let alone been involved in the creation of!) OK, I might be a tiny bit prejudiced on this, but I’m pretty confident you will agree when you see it!

The story revolves around a Dad teaching his daughter (Jillee Bean) all about serving others through one “good thing” at a time.

Here are a few excerpts from the book to whet your appetite! :-)

Jillee Bean book

It’s wonderful, right?!? I knew you’d think so. :-)

Here’s the exciting news….as of today you can buy “Jillee Bean and the One Good Thing” online!

Jillee Bean Full Cover 2

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • Dear Ms Nystul,

    I wrote you twice, now thrice, in the past two days only now realizing that I had your last name all wrong. I got confused after looking at book I guess. Facebook corrected my poor head. Sorry. Best to You, In Christ, Dorien

  • Dear Ms Bean.

    Here is a P.S. from yesterday. I just returned to pre-order your book. I will read it, my wife will read it and then on to one of my nieces. We will likely order again later for other friends / relatives. I pray all is well with you and yours. In Christ, Dorien de Lusignan

  • Dear Ms Bean,
    16 Mar ’14

    You make many good points regarding parents, children and choosing good books. I also find your points valuable in that you include ideas that will enhance children’s interest in reading, especially the idea of having books around the house available to kids. As a one time teacher, now retired, I was surprised to find that today there are families here in America that do not have any, not one, book in the house, or at least none that interest the kids that live there or that are appropriate for them. I know this from my home visits as a Special Ed. teacher.
    Reading to kids and being seen as an adult reader is extremely valuable too. This is also a declining activity in many homes of children. Consequently these kids have no interest in reading.
    Please read and review the following book. As a History major and amateur historian I became interested in “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans” by Rush Limbaugh. This is an amazing book that I heard about partly and most convincingly from kids. It may be the book that saves a generation from losing its historical roots. It is absolutely accurate in what it portrays and the youthful readers love it. Check it out. By the way, the book and author have been nominated for at least one prestigious Children’s Book and Author award.
    Thank you for your site, I just came from recipes and DIY.
    If your mind can conceive it you can achieve it. Carry on in your healing. God Bless, Yours Sincerely and In Christ, Dorien de Lusignan

  • other ways to assure good book selections:
    caldecott and other award winners – over the years
    anything included in The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
    anything recommended by your local librarian

    also, remember to include nonfiction books in your child(ren)’s reading list. science, art, music, biography and autobiography are all good ways to assure a well rounded reading selection.

    from a former English teacher!
    jd in st louis

  • Just ordered for my niece – it looks great. Are you My Mother was one of my absolute favorite books as a child. I still enjoying reading the books I read when I was young – Anne of Green Gables, Winnie the Pooh, One Fish Two Fish, Hop of Pop (I learned to read with these books), all the Dr. Suess. I love how these books are timeless. I, too, loved The Secret Garden and read it again a few years ago. Congrats on your book.

  • This is a great post! So glad RIF is still around.
    Keeping kids reading over breaks & summers keeps them forgetting their reading skills. One thing our PTA did twice a year was hold book fairs. The first, (right before the winter holiday) was to fund raise to increase the PTA book gifts at the end of the year. The second, at the end of the year was a “Buy One Get One Free” book fair. At the second fair the PTA used all money from the first fair to give each child a coupon for 1 book (coupon 1, get 1 free). This way every child started off summer break with at least 2 books and anyone who purchased books doubled their buying power. A true WIN?WIN.

  • I pre-ordered mine too! I’m a FTM and so enjoying reading with my 2 year old everyday. She has already memorized a lot of the books we read herself and insists on “reading” them to me first. I can’t wait to read this book with her as well. It looks like a cute story!

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