I've set a guideline for my kids picking books at the library. The message is to pick at least four books. Beyond that the limit is what "YOU can carry." After all, I have my own books to carry!
The first, among the four books they need to bring home, is a non-fiction book. It pays to know more about the way of the world. To read a biography introduces one to the fact that your life has great potential or that your life is not that bad after all. A book about a different place in the world expands your horizons. A book about a country can show you how geography, culture, foods, family traditions make a place unique. Often, this kind of book can also show a young reader how much we have in common, no matter where we live in the world. A good read on invention, development, or technology helps a child at least appreciate, if not understand, how things function. This may foster a lifelong appreciation for how good we have it. After all, who among us, cares to lug water from the creek; dig a latrine; give up television?
Two of the books need to be books that I would approve of. This means books they can READ and books that also challenge them. If they read at a third grade level a first grade book will not do. I've shown them how to recognize an award nominated or award winning book. They have favorite authors. We talk about finding another author that writes like one they like. They work to find other books that have themes, or are in a genre, that they like. I love our grade school librarian, Mrs Slaker, for a variety of reasons. The top reason is that she made G- E- N- R -E a fun word, an everyday word, a word that means something to a reader.
The final book I have my kids select is one that they think we would enjoy reading together. In making this selection they have to think of others. Because we talk about genre and authors they have learned to listen. Everyone in the family has an appreciation of the likes, and dislikes, of the others. Think how valuable that was one day when I asked them to "get me a book, please." This selected book gives us reading time together. When they were young, we read this selection aloud, as a big huddle of listeners, on the couch. As the kids have grown older we've lost our reading together time. I miss it, and they miss it, too. Now we take turns reading a book and then discuss it. It works, but it is hollow. I relish the times when one of us will say, "You've got to hear this" and we pile on the couch. It it big, loud, and brash, but oh, so enjoyable.