Attributes of Good Illustrated Books to Read to Young Children

Busy parents of children aged three to six often do not have time to research and evaluate the best books to read to their young child. Whether they buy books at a bookstore or borrow books from a library, they often may not have much more time than just to glance at the title and the cover illustration to make a decision.

Among the pool of published books for children from which to choose, there are great books but many more mediocre ones, and it’s not easy to, well, judge a book by its cover.

Regardless of which method the parent uses to identify the best books for his or her child, here are some general guidelines about what constitutes an excellent book to read to a young child:

- The text should be interesting and engaging but not overly complex and lengthy (and a nice plus is if the text is also sized and contrasted appropriately for the weary parent’s ease in reading).

- There certainly can be elements of mystery, intrigue, drama, and surprise, but the story and pictures should not be too scary or upsetting.

- Kids innately can relate to various emotions, so tales and illustrations that evoke different types of feelings and reactions are potentially engaging to a child, as well as educational in terms of learning social behavior.

- Stories for children just like tales for people of all ages, should go somewhere and be meaningful. A story in which nothing interesting, significant, or consequential happens is not much of a story.

- Like any excellent book, a good kids’ book has coherency. The characters, the illustrations, and the story should all fit together and complement each other like the instruments in an orchestra.

- Inclusion of stimulating new vocabulary that the child can learn is a big plus.

- Imaginative and whimsical stories are always of high potential appeal to the young child’s imagination.

- Uniqueness usually is also an important attribute of a good children’s book, since stories, characters, techniques, and illustration styles that are overly familiar are likely to be less interesting than something fresh, new, and innovative.

Reading to a child the best books possible not only provides the most enjoyment and educational value but also contributes to the long-term goal of instilling a love of reading in a child.  Steer away from uninteresting books that could convey the undesirable message to a child that reading is boring!