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BUYING BOOKS AS GIFTS

Q:I like providing books as gifts for my grandchildren; but how do I choose books that they would like to read?

A: First of all, thank you for the question as well as for providing books to your grandchildren! Your question is an important one although it is challenging to provide a brief answer.

As you might expect, many factors influence reading preferences in children, and those preferences shift as time goes on; however, individual preferences that do not change and provide the most reliable guide. The data cited below is from a study done in 2014 by Scholastic, Inc. entitled Kids and Family Reading Report, 5th edition.

1. Choice – 91% of children ages 6-17 say that their favorite books are the ones that they pick out themselves. Please do not let that discourage you from purchasing books or other reading material, but, rather, look for opportunities to shop with them instead of for them. Gift cards would seem to be a perfect option; however, if you want to help a child grow as a reader then it is important to capitalize on the opportunity to spend time talking about books and making the experience a positive one for both of you.

2. Topics - Another interesting fact is that when reading for fun, 70% want books that make them laugh. 54% choose books that allow them to use their imagination and 48% prefer books that tell a made-up story. Other preferences include books that teach something new, have characters they wish they could be like, or have a mystery or problem to solve.

3. Girls vs. Boys – It has widely known that generally speaking, boys are more likely to choose nonfiction books and books based on their interests. Girls prefer fiction but are influenced by the choices of their peers, parents, and teacher(s).

4. Pre-readers – For children who require help navigating text, reading often is more of a social than literary experience, as well it should be. That is not to say that they do not have preferences, but they are more likely to need help in choosing books.

5. Libraries and Librarians – Before walking into a bookstore, perhaps the best place to start is at your local library. Librarians are your best resource for knowing what an eight-year-old boy or a 13-year-old girl might like. Libraries often have used books for sale at terrifically low prices. They are also a great place to donate books that children have outgrown or already read.

Every child is unique, and special and the better we know him or her, the better we will be able to customize our time with them. That is one of the things that make teaching so challenging as teachers have a room full of unique and special children.

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