If you’re reading this, you probably love books! Deciding which ones are worth your time and which ones should stay on the shelf can be daunting. The choices seem endless but our time is definitely not. I’m going to offer you some strategies for creating a book list that’s quality, balanced and feasible. Whether you are a homeschooler or a parent invested in bringing the beauty of books to your children, there are some great ideas here to inspire you and make the job of choosing books a little easier.
- Choose from a variety of genres and perspectives. No matter what the topic, there are ways to bring various types of books to your children. Fictional stories can be supported with non-fiction texts and vice-versa. Finding a poem to complement your reading list is typically pretty easy. Biography, historical fiction, and folk tales, myths, etc. With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless. Choosing a variety of genres broadens our view of the topic and encourages us to discuss how ideas are connected.
For example, my family has been learning about the solar system lately. It all began with a telescope for Christmas and A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky. From there, I searched our library catalog and amazon to see what other books I could find. Of course, there were many, many non-fiction books and I selected several. But I was looking for more than that. I wanted stories too. Nothing makes the facts come alive more than a story. So, I chose Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, A Child’s Introduction to Greek Mythology, Look to the Stars, and Katie and the Starry Night. With these four books, we got a glimpse of history, Greek mythology and how the night sky inspired a famous piece of art. Each of these books deepened our understanding of the solar system by engaging our hearts and imaginations beyond the facts. (By the way, the whole list, with links, is toward the end of this post.)
2. Be clear about your goals. When you have an idea of what information you want to share with your children, it becomes much easier to decide which books to include on your list. For example, my main goal for learning about the solar system was for my children to get a basic introduction to the planets, our moon, and the night sky, and to spark an interest in the history of space exploration.
So when I was choosing books, I kept these things in mind. Because I wanted an introduction to the moon, I chose only two books about it, The Moon Book and If You Decide to Go to The Moon. The first offers just what we needed; facts, diagrams, and folklore. The second still offers facts but did so in more of a story format. Both were engaging enough to read several times. Definitely the sign of a good book!
3. Keep it simple. I have found that if I choose too many books on any give topic, we become overwhelmed. I try to keep my list to about 10 books so that we can read and re-read without feeling rushed.
Our whole solar system book list is listed below. As you can see, there are only 10 and a poem books on my list. But these selections are rich, engaging texts. Some are perfect for bedtime reading, some offer more in-depth information that we tackled in our morning read aloud time. Some spurred the kids on to create a map of the solar system or paint the phases of the moon. Others inspired them to look closely at the night sky and keep a moon journal. For this study, I didn’t plan out any specific activities for my children to complete. Giving them space to meet the ideas and connect with them on a personal level is more important to me than making sure they learn certain facts. As a result, the projects they created for themselves were meaningful and engaging. This isn’t to say that I didn’t give them a few ideas or offer up some activities, like painting the phases of the moon, but I did give them plenty of room to choose (or not choose) to participate.
Our Solar System Book List
The Moon was but a chin of gold, Poem by Emily Dickinson
Give yourself lots of time to enjoy the books on your list. It would be easy to try to speed through all 10 books in 10 days, but taking our time shows our children that books are not just to be consumed but savored.
What topic is your family learning about? Do you have a great book list to share? Let's chat in the comments.