How to Intentionally Select the Best Books for Your Children

Today we have a guest post from Ashley at This is a woman after my own heart. Well, actually, God’s, but I really love this post (and her blog, oh my gosh, I love her blog). If you know me, then you know I adore books. My son has more books than most kids, and I follow all of Ashley’s suggestions. Enjoy!

How to Intentionally Select the Best Books for Children at the Library

Navigating the library with kids in strollers and kids in tow can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are hundreds of books from which to choose. Books are pulled off the shelves, perused excitedly, and then stuffed in our bag, full to the brim with this week’s reading.

But what are we actually bringing home? What diet of literature are our children feasting on? How can we ensure we are intentionally offering them the best?

Reading has always been a staple past time in our family. From the start, I determined that I would raise my kids to love books. I wasn’t an avid reader in my own childhood, so I really didn’t know where to start. With the advice of a mentor and a few book guides, I jumped in to accomplish over time the goal I’d set.

But I think the best teachers have been the books themselves. The best books are like chocolate. Once you’ve tasted the “real” thing, anything less just doesn’t compare.

Literature is a formative tool in our children’s lives. When we intentionally choose the best books, we invite our children into a life-changing journey.

Gladys Hunt says, “I cannot believe that children exposed to the best children’s literature will later choose that which is cheap and demeaning. That is why only the best is good enough for children, for we are shaping a future” (Honey for a Child’s Heart, p.40).

Criteria for Selecting Quality Children’s Books


From board books to chapter books, each stage has a rich storehouse of treasured books to be had. Set a high standard of what you allow on your bookshelves. Your standard becomes theirs.

The best books have “ingredients of human life…found in depth and leave a residue of mental and spiritual richness in the reader” (Honey for a Child’s Heart, p. 45). Offering them a wealth of the best literature will give them a love for books. You’ll be raising life-long readers!

Here are some of the criteria I use when selecting books for my children.

The book must…

  • Have Beautiful Illustrations

    This is a rather subjective criteria. However, the illustrations are another portal into the story through which our children enter. In fact, when they are pre-readers, they’ll spend hours pouring over pictures rather than words. My little ones call this “reading.” In my book selections, I must give equal weight to the writing and the illustrations.

  • Be Enjoyable for Grown-Ups Too

โ€œA children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.โ€ C.S. Lewis. If we dread reading to our children, then we are probably not reading them the best books!

There are times when I will be as engrossed in the story as my children. They’ll beg for another chapter. I gladly comply because I too can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • Have Stood the Test of TimeUse Criteria When Selecting the Best Books for Your Children

I’m not saying we won’t read books by current authors, but I tend to lean towards the classics. Many of today’s books seek to be politically correct and often focus on adult topics rather than on preserving the innocence of childhood.

A good rule of thumb: Look for books written before 1960. They are more likely to portray Judeo-Christian values.

  • Be Unabridged

There is a tendency to simplify great works of literature into water-downed versions for younger children. Although it is tempting to want to read my sons an abridged version of Peter Pan or Robin Hood in their early years, the real magic of the stories lie in the beauty of the original words. These greats are truly worth the wait!

Next time you visit the library, try going armed with this criteria. Just wait and see what treasures you and your children will uncover!

What is your criteria for selecting the best books for your children? Please share!

Ashley Brendle

She is the proud mama of 6 boys (including 1 set of twins). She and her husband live on a small sustainable farm in Oregon where they love to integrate homeschooling, faith in Jesus, family, and ministry into one big, happy life! She believes God wants mothers to thrive in their homes. She writes at and shares her journey via podcast at

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  1. I am a new subscriber to your blog and really enjoy it …
    This very subject has been on my heart lately … I found Sally Clarkson’s blog called “I Take Joy” and after browsing found a wonderful book her daughter wrote called Read for the Heart. I checked it out from the library and now want to own a copy. It is a wonderful book – about books – divided up into categories by genre. Hope you love it.

    1. Just peaked at “Read for the Heart” and it sounds wonderful! Very similar to the book I quote “Honey for a Child’s Heart.” A trustworthy book guide is a great way to start training your radar for the best books!

      1. I’m so excited – Honey for a Child’s Heart is at my library!! I have a copy coming :o) This was a wonderful post Ashley!!

    2. This post reminded me of the same book! It’s an incredible resource, one I need to look through again. I like these guidelines here, too. I always like to check out books that I enjoyed as a child and still remember. Right now, my son is on a Richard Scarry kick, which I remember so well from my childhood. I love passing on those memories ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. All my boys have loved Richard Scarry, especially “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go!”Even at a very young age, they love finding gold bug! Books do make good memories!

  2. Although my youngest child is 8, almost 9, I appreciated your blog post about books very much. I am struggling as the newest “popular” book has hit the 5th grade where my daughter attends. I would LOVE to know your take on the book but didn’t know if I should mention the name of it here. Thank you for sharing guidelines and I think they are awesome ones!

    1. I wasn’t sure if you were addressing me or Leigh Ann but I’d be happy to answer your question privately if you’d like. You can email me at We have faced similar issues with my 9, almost 10 year old. So I think I understand the delicacy of the issue! Hope to hear from you!

  3. I love all of these suggestions. After reading them I realized that I can get rid of the “twaddle” (I think that was was Ms Potter called the boring uneducational fluff) from our shelves. The same rule that applies to stuff in the rest of the house also applies to reading material – is it loved and useful and needed – then it stays to be loved and read and enjoyed. If not – well it can be released to find a new home where perhaps it will be the first one off the shelf.

    1. I love that word “twaddle.” It seems to fit its definition, doesn’t it? I do the same thing! I weed through our bookshelves a couple of times a year, seeking to keep only the best. I frequently pick up books at garage sales and used book stores. Better books in, less quality books out!