How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, Lisk Feng, Vera Brosgol and Monica Garwood, 216 pp, RL: ALL AGES

 

How to Raise a Reader 
by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo,
Editors, The New York Times Book Review
Review Copy from Workman Publishing


I have spent the last two and a half decades working to help parents raise readers and share my passion for reading, always trying to translate the joy, connection, expansion, and satisfaction that can be found in a good book with the goal of creating lifelong readers. While I always approach a bookshelf, be it in a bookstore, library, classroom, or living room, with a curious, if discerning, eye, I frequently have to remind myself that most adults don't. When my kids started school, I remember being shocked to learn that their teachers, regardless of the grade, did not read children's books outside of the classroom. I learned this again working as an elementary school librarian where many of my colleagues did not read children's books outside of work. My initial outrage gradually mellowed into the realization that not every person raising and/or educating children HAS to read children's books and love children's books as much as I do, especially because there are people who do this professionally. Pamela Paul, author and former children's editor, now editor of The New York Times Book Review, and Maria Russo, current children's editor for The New York Times Book Review, both parents of three children each, are precisely the professionals to read, recommend, and recommend how to read, children's books. With the rise of screens and the fact that there is a device in every child's hands now, at home and at school, I have been forced to recognize that raising a reader, specifically getting a child to choose a book over a device, is an increasingly profound challenge. How to Raise a Reader will give you the tools to ensure that, not only do the readers you are raising always have a book at hand, but that it is an engaging book that will further nurture their growing love of reading.
How to Raise a Reader is divided into sections, each with a different illustrator, that correspond to developmental stages: Born to Read (Dan Yaccarino), Growing a Reader (Lisk Feng), Your Middle-Grade Reader (Vera Brosgol), A Reader for Life: Teenagers (Monica Garwood) and More Books to Love: By Theme and Reading Level. Each part describes the developmental stages of children, how to best meet their needs and how to spark their interest while also suggesting books for each stage. As someone who has worked with children and children's books (and adults) in a variety of ways for a long time, the part of Paul and Russo's book that I find invaluable - the part that is worth every cent of the cost of this book - comes in each section before they list their picks : WHAT TO LOOK FOR and BE WARY OF. Reading this advice, I found myself shouting, "YES! YES! YES!" over and over. Standing in front of a wall of children's books in a bookstore or library can be overwhelming. The same goes for reading book reviews, which the authors suggest gatekeepers seek out when the blurb on the dust jacket just isn't enough. While we will all, most likely, ultimately, judge a book by it's cover, it helps to have an organizational framework and tools of discernment to turn to when picking a book for a child or helping children make their own, best choices - and even when judging the cover. This is exactly what Paul and Russo offer. 

Here are a few examples that stuck me as something probably only people who work with children's books might be aware of:

READING WITH TODDLERS / BE WARY OF : Bogus Medals, "When you see the shiny stickers on a picture book's cover indicating an award it has won, do read the fine print. Some 'awards' are simply marketing schemes or paid industry endorsements that have not been vetted by outside experts. You can always ask a librarian or experienced children's bookseller if you're wondering about an award."

As a longtime children's book seller, this is some excellent insider advice. Also in this BE WARY section that elicited a huge YES!YES!YES! - Didacticism, When the Moral Is the Story and Books Starring TV Characters.

As a children's librarian working with kindergarten through sixth graders, less than 40% of them able to read at grade level, this is something I was very aware of and it guided my book purchases -

YOUR EMERGING READER / BE WARY OF : Books That Look "Babyish," "Especially if your emerging reader is on the older side, beware of early readers that seem geared toward a younger child's sensibility, whether in the look of the illustration or the topic. These may make him feel awkward and embarrassed about where he is with his reading skills. Does he feel he has outgrown talking vehicles or barnyard-animal shenanigans? Be sensitive to that. A better choice might be an early reader with a strong comic-book look and sensibility, or a book of non-fiction facts."

How to Raise a Reader, as the title suggests, is so much more than a go-to for book recommendations. In a world where there are so many distractions at our fingertips, picking up a book isn't always easy. It is essential now, more than ever, that we, the gatekeepers, make the most of the books that are there to be picked up by our young readers. Paul and Russo's book will ensure that you have the skills needed to select these books long after you have exhausted their excellent suggestions.


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