Monday, April 23, 2012

Four Ways to Build Your Child's Library



By Kathryn Margaret Evans Ombam

Imagine an enormously pregnant woman with a huge smile on her very swollen face; that was me when I realized could register for books. I registered for a dozen for me and another dozen for my baby. And so began our library of children’s books.

But staring at seemingly endless shelves at a bookstore or library can be intimidating. Do you go for the classics? Try something new? Buy all-Elmo, all-the-time?

Here are some tips for navigating the shelves of your local book shop.


First Rule: Try to read the books from beginning to end right there in the store.

If you are buying books online, try reading reviews and following recommendations, and don’t be afraid to return a book that you don’t like after a read-through.

If that imperfect rhyme or slightly boring plot annoys you now, imagine after you’ve read the book 200 times in a single month. Now imagine three months later when you have unwillingly committed the book to memory.

Be kind to yourself; choose books that you also find at least vaguely interesting.

Second Rule: Ask for books as presents.

I know this seems to run contrary to the first rule, but trust your friends and family to buy you books that will serve a purpose. I cannot think of a single book that we have received as a present that has caused even minor annoyance. Quite the opposite, I cherish those books and think of those beloved people as I read them.

And I’ll take a well-chosen phrase over a tinny-tuned piece of plastic any day.

Third Rule: Give books away.

Think of it as a karmic action, if you give books (either new or used) to your loved ones, they will associate you with that book and with books in general.

The book love will surely flow in your direction at some point. If you receive a windfall of great used books from a friend, be sure to do the same pay-it-forward action in the future.

Does my daughter care that some of her books say “Property of Joey Jaspers” – No! Neither does she miss the baby books that are starting to disappear from her shelves.

Fourth Rule: Forgive and forget.

Maybe you were burned by a recent bargain bin purchase. A book so annoying entered your world that you cringe every time your darling offspring even looks at the bookshelf.

Hide that book!

Not-so-accidentally leave it at your sister-in-law’s house!

Then maybe take a list of authors with you to the bookstore. Does your baby love Sandra Boynton’s silly songs? Go to the Bs and peruse some new options.

Does your older toddler love Dinosaurs? Try Byron Barton or Bob Shea’s masterful books on the subject.

Need more specific advice? Looking for the best dozen books to add to your registry? Have a toddler that cannot sit still through even a simple board book?

Leave your question here in the comments or on our Facebook page. When it comes to books and literacy, I am always happy to help.


Kathryn Ombam is a writer, editor, and career counselor whose specialty is in business and academic writing. She has most extensively worked with artists and designers.


Her bibliophile status and her editing work were her primary writing outlet until inspiration hit in the form of a writing contest in 2006. Her current efforts can be attributed to a fiction writing group, her blogs, and her ongoing desire to comment on her life.


Ms. Ombam’s first published work of fiction will be published in an upcoming short story anthology. She also writes a children’s book review blog: http://readingbaby.blogspot.com

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! We love going to used book sales and perusing the children's books, many of which are out of print but were classics from previous generations.

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  2. Love this post - especially as books for presents! One of my most treasured memories from my baby shower was when my best friend surprised me with a basket of books that all the guests had brought with them (unbeknownst to me). The greatest part was most had signed a message to my twins in it and said why it was their favorite book. So now everytime we pick a book off the shelf, I am reminded of that person who gave the book - so special! And there was hardly an annoying one in the bunch since they had thoughfully selected ones they or their children personally loved. Bonus for me :) Good thing I still smile at "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom"!

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