Students are familiar with having to read for a purpose, but it’s equally important to encourage them to read for pleasure too. The school holidays are the perfect time to go book hunting with your children, but if you’re wondering where to begin, use these resources to help narrow your search.
#1 Caldecott Medal & Honor Books
It’s a misconception that children outgrow picture books—don’t underestimate the power of picture books, as they can be rich sources of knowledge and inspiration, even for grown-ups. Picture book writers have a knack for distilling complex ideas into an accessible format for young minds, and you can use these books to introduce your children to a variety of topics. Look out for picture books with a Caldecott award on the cover. The Caldecott awards are given out for outstanding illustrations and this is one way to expose children to art; many of the books are beautifully written as well. Click here for a list of Caldecott medal winners and runners-up dating back to 1938.
#2 Newbery Medal & Honor Books
For children’s chapter books, you can look to the Newbery award winners as a starting point. The awards are presented by the American Library Association, and their purpose from the outset has been to “encourage original creative work in the field of books for children,” and to ensure that children’s literature receives “similar recognition” to poetry, plays, and novels. Click here for a list of Newbery winners and runners-up dating back to 1922.
#3 Library Recommendations
Our local librarians have compiled lists of suggested reads for Primary 1 to Primary 6 students, as well as for younger children. Recently, they’ve also added recommendations for Chinese, Malay, and Tamil books. Find them here.
#4 Picture This Book (Instagram)
For parents on Instagram, Picture This Book is one account you must add to your “follow” list. It’s run by a local mom, Eileen, who describes herself as a “book reviewer and collector, and mom to two very hungry book-caterpillars.” Eileen posts her book finds daily and she doesn’t merely provide a summary of each story, but manages to capture each book’s essence and meaning in a succinct review.
#5 The Home Library Online
Within the local homeschooling community, mom-of-four Angie was once well known for running a home-based book business and dishing out tried-and-tested tips for encouraging early literacy. Her family has since relocated to Montreal, and her children, naturally, have grown up to be book lovers. The Home Library Online is run by her children and features their candid views on the books they’ve read. They sign off on each review and list their age, so you can get a sense of whether the books will be age appropriate for your children. This is also a great site to show your children, so they can be inspired to write their own reviews too.
Popular culture blogger Maria Popova certainly knows books—she revealed in a 2012 interview that she reads 12 to 15 books a week! She describes her site Brainpickings as a “one-woman labour of love,” and her articles bring together fragments from her ever-growing mental inventory of consumed books, woven into a theme that is relevant to better living. It’s often been said that the best way to encourage our kids to read is by reading more ourselves, and you can follow Maria’s literary roadmap to nourish your mind and soul. Brainpickings also has a children’s section; you can read individual book reviews here or consult her “best of” lists, such as this list of “great children’s books celebrating science.”
This is a free homeschool curriculum built around books, and based on British educator Charlotte Mason’s principles of quality education. You can refer to AmblesideOnline’s reading lists from the time your child is a preschooler, all the way into their teenage years. The lists are ordered by grades, but you can browse each list and choose only books that are available locally, as well as most suitable for your children.
#8 A Mighty Girl
This is the place to be if you want to raise strong women, or strong men who respect women. The focus of this site is to empower girls to fight stereotypes and reach their fullest potential. The book section is useful because apart from being a large collection with themes geared towards promoting healthy attitudes in growing girls, it offers filtering options, such as by topic, age, and awards.
#9 Little Parachutes
This site fulfills an important function—it recommends picture books to help children cope with challenging issues and situations, such as death, divorce, illnesses, and other worries and fears. Even if your children are a little older, a picture book can still provide a comforting way of broaching a difficult topic, and they’re worth looking at.
#10 Facebook Groups
For a more interactive experience, try joining local Facebook groups such as Singapore NLB Readers and BOOKurator. Both groups are populated with book lovers, many of whom are parents who love sharing their latest book finds. These are useful networks to tap into when you need advice or quick recommendations.