How to Select a Book for Your Child!

By Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System

In our fast paced world, we often do not feel we devote enough time to the important things in life. Our children, grandchildren, and the children of others for which we care are important in our lives because we love them and want the best for them. At the Darlington County Library System, we know, as you do, their future success rests on their ability to read.

The challenge for all of us who have children or work with children and their parents is igniting a passion for reading in them. Modern day life and its seemingly endless diversions make selecting the right book for a child to read a challenge. So how do you select the right book for your child?

Recently, I stumbled upon a clever way to remember what is important when picking a book for a child. Amy Mascott, writing for Parent’s Magazine in July 2013, came up with P.I.C.K. It stands for Purpose, Interest, Comprehension, and Know the Words.

A child must have a “Purpose” or reason to read. It must be a good one to make the time spent doing it worth the effort! Reading should be an enjoyable experience (I am still scarred by my struggle to read the classic “Silas Marner” as a high school teen). Parents, librarians, and teachers know the best readers are those who discovered early in life reading can be fun and fulfilling.

Reading a book can only be fun and fulfilling for a child if it captures his or her “Interest.” With over 50,000 children’s books to be found between our four locations: Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, Society Hill, and our website (, plus the millions more in the world, there is something of interest for every child. The Library has something for every reading interest from manga to “the classics” and from wild flights of imagination to the nitty, gritty nuts and bolts of reality. For the Library, what a child reads is not as important as a child wanting to read and reading (I still much prefer “The Martian Chronicles” to “Wuthering Heights”).

When helping children select a book to read for pleasure or a school assignment, make sure it is at the right reading level for them to “Comprehend” what they are reading. Selecting an appropriate book for his or her level or ability is critical. There is no faster way to destroy a child’s excitement for reading than a book that is beyond the child’s reading ability (after getting my new adult library card as a very young teen, I checked out a book on orbital mechanics. After plowing through it, I afterward read less daunting books on spacecraft). At the Library, our children’s departments have their books grouped by reading level.

Enjoying a book requires a child “Know” most of the words on the page. Just like an adult, a child will quickly lose interest and a passion for reading if many of the words encountered while reading are new, strange, or difficult to pronounce (maybe this is why I never much liked biology books with all their scientific names). If you don’t reach for a dictionary or “google” a new word when you run across it, don’t expect your child to do so. The best way to determine if a book is too difficult for your child, and you, is to use the “Five Finger Rule.” If on any randomly selected page your child encounters:

· one unknown word, the book is too easy.

· two to three unknown words, the book is just right.

· four unknown words, the book is worth a try.

· five or more unknown words, the book is too hard.

Keep in mind, pleasure reading does not require your child, or you, to read something where on nearly every page you will encounter unknown words. I’ve enjoyed reading many tales where I have confronted only five unknown words in the entire book and am good with that. When lounging under a shade tree, on the beach, or in a comfortable chair at the end of a day, you do not want to read a challenging book.

Where is a good place to start your P.I.C.K. search? Let me recommend the South Carolina Children’s and Young Adult Book Award nominees and the Library.

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) sponsors a book awards program to “encourage students to read good quality contemporary literature and to honor the authors of the books.” Committees of school librarians, public librarians, teachers, parents, and students have prepared a list of 20 nominees for each reading level: Picture, Children’s, Junior, and Young Adult. The winning authors are honored at the SCASL annual conference in March 2017.

Every year, the Library checks the SC Book Award nominee lists to make sure we have at least one copy of every title within the system. We do this because the books are “good quality contemporary literature” and some local schools use it as a summer reading list. For the last two years, Lamar High School has used the Young Adult Book Award nominee list as its student’s summer reading list.

This year, we have placed annotated book award nominee lists on our website at indicating at which location you can find the books on that list. The lists are easy to download and print. We have also included at link to the SC Book Awards website so you can get more information.

The future success of our children rests on their ability to read. The Darlington County Library System is committed to helping children read, promoting the SC Book Awards, and working with you to assure our children’s future success.

Author: Duane Childers

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