October 2, 2004

How I find good books

Perhaps some of the most asked questions I get are: "How do you find your books?" and "How do you find time to research good books?" and "How do you get your children to listen to so many non-fiction books at their ages?"

Well how do I find the books?

My main method of book selection is to spend about an hour a week at the library. I put Sirah in the backpack and set Rhiannon and Ciaran up at the computers in the children's section and I run around and select books for the following week. I leave the library with about 50 books on average - a mix of non-fiction and fiction. We usually also pick out a few DVD's/videos and books on tape that will correspond to our letter of the week.

I begin in the non-fiction section - I know the layout of our library well now. I choose "whole books" on various single subjects or topics that will correspond with our next letter. I generally have one theme we plan on and then just about all the rest of our curriculm is decided by what happens to be on the shelf at the time.

I try to always get atleast one book that starts with our next letter for each of the following subjects/topics: animals, artists, composers, science/tech concept, body/health, historic figure, inventor/famous individual, sports/hobbies, musicians, country, state, historic event, landmarks/parks/locations. There are usually several other subjects I will cover and often there are multiple books within one area (especially in animals, biographies and countries). There are certain series of books or authors that I especially like and try to stick to those books. I look for books with nice or a lot of pictures and a level of print and length my children can tolerate or I can easily adapt. Generally my non-fiction books are between 30-50 pages depending on the subject. I highly recommend anything by Gail Gibbons for younger children and anything in the "true book" series (these are household favorites on nearly every topic). I try to have equal story and non-fiction books.

After I exhuaste my non-fiction section then I go through all the fiction bins and round out our reading by getting books on the subjects we are covering in non-fiction and some good quality children's books that relate to our letter in one way or another (I guess I have developed an eye for these as I learn what I consider twaddle and what I consider quality) and each child gets to pick three books themselves, I try to encourage letter specefic books but really let them choose whatever they want here.

I also keep a spreadsheet listing all the books we have read, which child I have read it to, whether we liked it and whether or not I want to read and recommend it. My spreadsheet has around 700 entries in it to date. My spreadsheet allows me to organize the books in a variety of ways and it is easy for me to tell which books correspond with which letters. I filter my list and then use my online library service to reserve whatever books I did not find at the library or already own that I want to read for the following week.

I also have several lists that I consult from time to time and I have printed them out and keep them in a binder that I use when making online reserves or at the library. Honey for a Child's Heart is a good book to start with and there are excellent resources online for must read books for children. But really I highly recommend just going to the library and flipping through them yourself - after a few weeks you learn what is good quality and can spot them easily - you also grown to appreciate certain authors (Charlotte Zolotow, Eric Carle, Barabara Cooney, Robert McKloskey, Virginia Lee Burton, Sarah Stewart, and Chris Van Allsburg to name a few of our favorites).

I'll answer the other questions in another post.


  1. i wish I could get up whatever it takes to do all that stuff with my kids.

    And by the way i have closed out D*shpan Dr*bble due to trolls. I can now be found at Home Fires. I noticed you had me linked and thought I'd let you know. I also have you linked at my sight. I think you're the longest linked weblogon my site. I found you when I first started blogging and have you kept you on ever since. :)

  2. I'm just letting you know D*shpa*n Dr*bble is closed due to trolls. I can now be found at Home Fires by clicking on my name of course! :)

  3. Uh sorry. It didn't appear to have posted the first time. Guess i was wrong!