For Parents and Authors: "What makes a good book 'good' for kids?"

Questions for parents and authors to ask themselves about children's books

How to choose good books for children.

The reader might not be aware of it on a conscious level, but a good read is the result of the arduous, devoted labor of a hopeful author. The person whose name is on the front cover may have spent years at their keyboard working out the setting, characters, and plot twists that readers enjoy for a few hours.

Writing is not just a craft, however, but a responsibility, especially for the authors of children's or young adult books.

We as parents want to be assured of the quality of the writing in the books our kids read. We hope our children will learn to appreciate the beauty and flow of language. We know if the story is not compelling, our kids will put it down after just a few pages.

But we are also concerned about objectionable content or sensitive topics. When discussing 'objectionable' content, the issue goes deeper than if there are naughty words or lots of kissing. We wonder about the kind of moral and ethical values being conveyed in the story; the underlying themes woven throughout the narrative. 

The resulting choices in reading are the responsibility of the parent, but also of those writers who aim their prose at impressionable young people.

If you are a parent, ask these questions about your child's reading readiness:

  • Is my child going to struggle to read this book on their own, or should I read it with them?
  • Will this book help them learn to love reading, or discourage them from trying to read on their own?
  • Are they mature enough to deal with the events that take place in the story?
  • How are moral/ethical quandaries handled by the hero?
  • Are the underlying messages and themes appropriate?
  • What effect might this book have on my child's spiritual affections?
  • Is the humor witty, sharp, and relatable, or crude and shallow?
  • Are the romantic interests based solely on attraction, or is there a deep and meaningful affection, as well as healthy relationship development?

If you are an author writing books for children, think about these things:

  • The books we read as children imprint ideas on us that we carry the rest of our lives - what ideas in my books will help children realize their potential?
  • Will my story help them learn about virtues such as compassion, courage, endurance, generosity, integrity?
  • If children come to love my characters, will they serve as positive role models?
  • When a character in my story, especially my protagonist, acts in ways that are immoral or unethical, am I portraying the consequences of these actions realistically?
  • Did I go for the jump scare or crude humor, or am I digging deeper for more meaningful emotional reactions?
  • Am I following the current market, or being true to my core values?

It can be challenging to find good quality books for ourselves and our children, whether it's for educational purposes, or pleasure reading. By spending a little more time asking the right questions, we can help our kids find books that will teach and inspire them.

Let's not forget that if we support authors who write good quality books for young people, we can encourage them to keep producing books our children will enjoy for more than just a good story.

Do you have questions about reading or writing for children?
Submit them in the comments below.