In a conversation about picture books, I was asked how you know if a picture book is of good quality. I didn’t quite know how to respond to this question. In my mind I thought, “Well, you just know if a book is a great book or not,” but I couldn’t say that. Instead, I said that you should look for books that grab your attention, that make you want to read them again and again, and that have words or illustrations that are enticing. However, that answer didn’t really satisfy me. I felt the person didn’t have enough information to understand how to find a great book or know when they had found one. Although this question may seem trivial, it is a valid one. We as educators are choosing daily what we read to children. So, I went on a quest to find the answer to this very question. I discovered the book Young Children and Picture Books by Mary Renck Jalongo.
Below are a few tips that Jalongo offers when selecting and determining the quality of a picture book:
Are the story and illustrations well integrated?
Is there flow from one page to the next?
Are characters memorable and well-portrayed?
Is the language of the book concrete and vivid?
Does the book read smoothly?
Does the story evoke images of action?
Do you think the book will capture children’s interest?
Do the illustrations enhance the meaning and mood of the story?
There are other considerations to factor in such as how gender and race or the diversity of topics and cultures are portrayed. Often classic books, books with awards, or even books that stand the test of time are considered quality literature. While there are many aspects to ponder when choosing a book, always keep in mind children’s interest.
In addition to the tips for choosing books that I have already mentioned, I am including a list of resources to help in your search for quality literature. A few of my favorites are This is Not my Hat by Jon Klassen, Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, and Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer. For older children I recommend Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Now you can revisit some of your favorite books with a more critical eye!
The Association for Library Service to Children (ALC)
The Children’s Committee at Bank Street College of Education
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Jalongo, M.R. (2004). Young children and Picture Books. Washington, DC. NAEYC.
Washington,V editor. (2017). Essentials for Working with Young Children. US. Council for Professional Recognition.