Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Favorite Children's Books - A Harm or Help?

When I was little - even before I could read - one of my favorite books was Curious George. There were other books that I liked, but there was something about that curious monkey and the book’s illustrations that really appealed to me. When my mom took me to our public library, I’d head straight to the children’s section and grab some Curious George books. I might have checked out other books too, but I don’t remember them. I remember wanting Curious George. That’s what made me want to go to the library. That’s what helped fuel my love of books.

That memory raises certain questions in my mind.

  • How important is it for young children to discover their own favorite book or books?
  • Is it harmful or helpful for parents, teachers, and librarians to discourage children to fixate on a specific book?
  • Does focusing on a favorite book limit a child’s reading world in the long-run or just short term, or does it help create an early love for reading that will ultimately open the child to a much broader world of books?

Personally, I think having a favorite book can be a good thing for a child. Is it essential? No, but I think when a child finds a favorite book or favorite books, it definitely fuels their love for reading. I think the same can be said when a child discovers a favorite genre. When they find books they love, they’ll love to read.

While I think it’s fine for parents, teachers and librarians to encourage children to read a wide variety of books and genres, it can be harmful if too much pressure is put on a child not to stick with a favorite book or genre. Children need to be empowered with choice in reading. Over time their tastes will vary and change, and they will naturally branch out into other books. The important thing is to get them reading and to help them find books that will inspire them to read and learn more.


  1. I'm a Language Arts education major, so I took a lot of college classes on reading. What I was taught was that you want kids to find a book that they love. Our first goal is to get kids to love reading. Then when they're readywe can help them find books that compliment what they love to read about. You always want to encourage any type of reading and never discourage it.

  2. Elizabeth, thanks for chiming in. I agree completely with you. Just about anything we can do to encourage a child to read is a good thing.

  3. How can having a favorite book be harmful? As adults, aren't these some of our best memories?

  4. Denise, I agree. And I hope parents, teachers, librarians and care givers always realized that. I fear that sometimes adults might give a little too much encouragement or pressure for children to move on to other books besides a child's favorite.

    I also know that some adults don't want their children reading certain children's books or genre for some reason or other. For example, some don't like Junie B. Jones because of the improper grammar. Others don't like Captain Underpants. Some might not like that their child reads so much fantasy. What happens when these books become a child's favorite, but they're discouraged from reading them based on an adult's attitude toward those particular books. It saddens me when that happens.

  5. If I remember correctly (this caveat gives me an "out" in case I don't) one "finding" of old research on children who learn to read before they come to school is that they typically have a favorite book that they first asked their parents to read to them over and over and then having memorized the book, they used it as a laboratory for trying out and refining their generalizations on how books and print work.
    So, yeah! I'd hope they have a dozen favorites!

  6. Mark, I hadn't heard that before, but it makes perfect sense to me.

  7. Your books look fabulous, Ken. My boys are teens now and they both have favorite stories/books from when they were young. They also LOVE me to read them occasionally. It's a great way to continue bonding with your teens. By the way, I found you through Parenting 2.0. cheers!

    Wendy Wolff

    1. Wendy, thanks. It's amazing how when you create that reading bond when they're young, that it can still be there when they're much older

  8. A love of books comes from a love of a first book. Children who have a favorite book are just beginning their journey of a lifetime. I don't think it's wise to derail them.

  9. Faith, and it can be a great journey. Thanks for sharing.

  10. At our library we encourage parents to discuss with their children what books they are checking out. (Of course in Real Life the family may be in a hurry to get "library" checked off the long list of the day's errands, and a mom with three kids and three stacks of books may not have time to review all of them!) The point is that the discussion can stave off what a parent feels is objectionable. (We had a Request for Reconsideration for a version of Disney's Little Mermaid. The parent said that the front cover illustration of Ariel showed an inappropriate amount of cleavage.)

    I suppose that being fixated on a particular book is like being fixated on an article of clothing -- a child stubbornly insists on wearing THAT t-shirt every single day. Child psychologists likely have a good explanation for the phenomenon -- the comfort of the familiar, plus learning how to make choices. Even if it is maddening to the parents!

  11. As a youth services paraprofessional and a MLIS student I can understand why parents might want to encourage children to broaden their reading right away, but I feel we need to first encourage them to read then worry about what they are reading after they have learned to love it.

  12. One of my favorite books was "Make Way for Ducklings" by Robert McCloskey. I received this book on my 3rd birthday and knew the story by heart. When I visited Boston for a conference, a friend took me to the Public Garden and I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't speak. There were the real Swan Boats!! It was a dream come true. All my life I knew about the Swan Boats and I took 2 rides because 1 wasn't enough. It's was a tremendous thrill for me to see the Swan Boats. My trip to Boston was over 25 years ago and Mr & Mrs Mallard are still with me. As I recovered from a recent surgery I completed a Boston Public Garden 1000 piece puzzle. The book resonates with me to this day.

    It's wonderful to have a favorite book and it's just fine not to have a favorite book. Kids want to read books they like and I'm so very happy when I see a child read or look at the pages of a book. That's the bottom line, to enjoy what you're doing and then reading becomes a joy rather than a burden.

  13. Ken, I'm a librarian and writer, and I think all children who become good or passionate readers have favorite books and genres. Certainly that's true of every passionate teen reader I work with! I do sometimes try to broaden their range, but I'm also on the lookout for books in the genres they love. There is nothing like handing a book to a young teen and seeing them light up!

    A related question, and something that bothers me a bit - we who work with kids and want them to love reading ought to allow, or even encourage, re-reading. Good readers will go back to their favorites, sometimes more than once or twice, and they will find new things in them as they re-read.

    Anyway, great post, and i like your website, too!

  14. Wow. So many great responses and so many great insights on the benefits of favorite books. More importantly, so many great insights on how to help children develop a love for reading. Thank you all of you.