With 40,000 titles to choose from, lists can help; How to find and select books for children
''When do I start to read to my new daughter?'' ''How do I know which books to begin with?'' ''How can I encourage my little boy to love books and to read well?''Skip to next paragraph
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With the current ''boom'' in babies, these are questions teachers, librarians , and bookstore managers are hearing more often today than a few years ago.
At the same time educators are placing greater emphasis on teaching very young children, and publishers are abetting this trend with a corresponding increase in new books written especially for infants and toddlers.
Add to these the thousands of older books still in print but seldom advertised or stocked in local bookstores, and the problem of selection can overwhelm parents who want to do the utmost to help develop the skill and joy of reading in their young sons and daughters.
To help such parents, there are a number of booklists available, including one compiled especially for the Monitor and published in this section. More concise than most, it offers 50 recommended books for children from infancy up to third grade. It is hoped that readers can use it as a starting point for selecting from the more than 40,000 children's books currently in print, and from the even larger number on the shelves of public libraries.
In addition to the Monitor list, readers may find several other lists useful. They range from one page to several hundred in length and are usually compiled by organizations devoted to education or to the study of children's literature.
Among the scores that appear each year, a good example is Children's Books of the Year (New York: The Child Study Children's Book Committee, Bank Street College of Education, 610 West 112th Street, New York, N.Y., 10025, 40 pp., $3 postpaid).
Like most lists, it is compiled by a committee that meets regularly to review the crop of 2,500 to 3,000 new children's books annually. In this case, the committee is made up of parents, teachers, librarians, writers, illustrators, and specialists in related fields, who meet every Thursday throughout the year. Each book is read by three of the committee members. Then the entire group discusses the book and makes its recommendation for or against listing it.
The criteria for selection, stated at the beginning of most lists, are very explicit in the case of the Bank Street committee. These include: ''the author's sincerity and respect for the young audience; credibility of characterization and plot; the authenticity of background, time and place; the treatment of minority characters and religious differences, where these appear; and suitability of text and illustrations for the age to which the book may appeal.''
And in addition, Bank Street considers ''the possible impact of the book on the young reader or listener; emotional, intellectual, or motivational,'' in its search for books that reflect ''positive values in life -- along with its griefs and difficulties, its triumphs and its hopes.''
A different method of selection is used by the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council to compile the Children's Choices ( 23 pp., reprints available free by sending a stamped, self-addressed, 61/2-by-9 -inch envelope to Children's Choices, 67 Irving Place, New York, N.Y., 10003).
For this list, a group of some 500 titles on a variety of subjects is sent to each of five teams of teachers, who test them in the classroom. Each team presents the books in question to at least 2,000 children. Pupils' votes are then tabulated to determine the annual list, published in the October issue of The Reading Teacher magazine.