Most parents like to give their little sweetheart something for Valentine's Day, just to show how much they're loved. This year, forget the candy and toys and give the gift of reading.
Reading is not just about knowledge or academics. The act of reading to a young child creates a bond of closeness and shared interests. It also shows them that learning can be fun and engaging. However, choosing a book for a child is not as straightforward as it seems. Getting and keeping kids interested in reading can require some trial and error, but it all starts with a great book. Here are a few picks for children of all ages that may become so popular your kids will be reading them -- or gifting them -- to their kids.
Baby to 2-years-old: According to Zero to Three, infants prefer high contrast books with simple pictures and bright colors. They also like to mouth everything; so vinyl, cloth or a sturdy board book are a must. A very young infant will love the contrasting, black and white images in Baby Animals Black and White. A slightly older baby/toddler will thrill to the fun of finding Where is Baby's Belly Button? And every baby should have a copy of Eric Carle's classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. One helpful tip: choose a book you like too, because at this age they want to "read" the same books read over and over.
Ages 3 to 5: This age group is still attached to favorite books, but Scholastic says this is also a period of rapid language development, which makes it a great time to introduce new books and to start tailoring choices to your child's interests. Toddlers and young children love picture books that tell a story, especially a silly one as in Dragons Love Tacos. They can relate to stories that speak to their own day-to-day lives, such as Llama, Llama Time to Share, something 3 and 4-year-olds may just be learning to do. As they move to the upper end of this age group, they become interested in learning more about the real world and may enjoy National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why.
Ages 6 to 8: This is the age when children move from being read to, to being able to read. Scholastic divides this age group into three stages, Read Alouds, Read-Withs and Read-Alones. A good read aloud series is anything by Roald Dahl because his books transcend gender. The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library books are wonderful read-withs for curious kids. As for read-alones, that will depend upon where the child's interests and abilities fall in this age range. This is when visiting a book store, or browsing book-selling sites with your child can help solidify their interests and show that respect their opinions and preferences.
Ages 9 to 12: By this age, kids are reading more like adults, says Education.com. Model leisure reading and discuss what you're reading with your preteen -- and what they're reading as well. This is an age when boys and girls begin to diverge in their reading preferences, but Harry Potter is popular with everyone. Non-fiction books appeal to kids at this age, who are becoming curious about the world. Introduce girls to an early feminine adventurer with Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, while boys will get a goofy kick out of How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.
Teens: This can be a tough category, because some parents may feel that teen books, or young adult books, are a little too adult for their kids. ReadWriteThink.org has suggestions for educating yourself on finding appropriate books for teens, including talking to librarians and checking out blogs where teens discuss books. The Fault in Our Stars and Jepp, Who Defied the Stars are two recent and critically acclaimed books aimed at teens that mom and dad can enjoy, and discuss, as well. The Hunger Games trilogy and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are wildly popular young adult books that went on to become hit movies in 2012.