| An Examination of Children's
Books and Picture Books
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Book Reviews for Children's books
"Sylvester and the Magic Pebble"
"No Jumping on the Bed"
Jon J Muth
Ezra Jack Keats
How to Evaluate Children's Literature
The evaluation of any literature is difficult, but the evaluation of literature for children is especially difficult becuase it requires an adult to evaluate something created for children. Granted that all adults where at one time children and so have a background bases for understanding children, still there is a time factor which adds levels of difficulty to the process.
One must begin the process of evaluation by determining the purpose of the evaluation, a books merits will very depending upon how the book is to be used. A teacher looking for a book to require the children in their fourth grade class to read has very different concerns from the parent who is trying to interest their preschool age child in reading. And all of these have different concerns from the researcher or critiqual review site such as this. One thing however that all of these have in common is that they believe that the purpose of a book is to provide a joy of reading and teach some form of lesson, whether that leason is social, or on how to read. Such leasons cannot of course be learned unless the child is entertained by the book. This means that a book who's sole value is entertainment can be more important then a preachy book which has good social leasons which no child would want to read. In otherwords it is important for the adult reviewing children's books to try to find a book that the child or which children in general are likely to enjoy or else the book will be rejected and so may be worse then meaningless as it could cause the child to develop a negative attitude towards certain or even all literature.
One can begin an evaluation of children's literature by compairing any book to other books. Such comperisons help to show what lessons have been learned by such children's books in the past as will as which stories children have tended to be drawn to. For this purpose then it is possable to make such comperisons in theme between children's books and movies, or literature which is intended for adults. Though with the latter another difficulty in judging the merits children's books comes to light. This is that children in general tend to have very different levels of comprehension, and so will be able to appriciate different books. For if a book is too simple it may be boring while a book that is too complex will be confusing and in general meaningless. There is another problems in this however, this is that children on occasion should read books slightly more complex then their current throught pattern in order to help them learn to read more complex books. As an adult you need to be able to work to determine the level of reading a child is at so that you can judge wherher they can handle a specific book. At the same time you should not be disapointed should a child turn out not to enjoy some book as much as you would like, learn from this and attempt to verry your future selections accordingly.
Remmember that part of the point of children's literature is to expand the interests of children. Children's literature is about helping a child achieve growth so it is important to choose both books that they will enjoy based on their interests as will as ones which will help them to discover new ideas and interests. One of the nice things about choosing children's books for a child is that one does not have to pick a single topic or idea, becuase one can pick multiple books to help direct the child in a specific direction. For those critiquing children's books for a larger audiance this means that a unique book with an important direction gains a certain amount of extra merit in that it gives the children a new oppertunity for added growth which may have been rare before, at least in the realm of children's literature.
What can be taken from this is that part of the value of children's literature is based on its cultural merit as compaired with the cultural merit of other books. The term cultural merit here is based on the idea that a book can have merits within one culture that may not exist in another. For example a book which teaches a child cultural pride or to speak a dieing language has great merit for those in the culture and so has value. The values of cultures can vary so it is important to remmember that the values of children's literature can vary. Whats important is that children's book have elements which can help a specific child or set of children to grow. Good children's books for this reason will have leasons, thoughts, and philosophies which are social important to the people the child will have to live grow and deal with throughout their lives. Children do in fact react to such things as some of the greatest and most poupular children's books of all time have these elements, from "Winnie the Pooh" to "Where the Wild Things Art" children's literature is given more power when there is something behind it.
Of course not all children's books need the merit of a social lesson, as any book which is enjoyable works to teach children linguistic abilities, reading skills, and or visual apprieciation. Such things have their value as too does happiness and enjoyment, for this reason a book that is nothing more then pure entertainment has value, but must be truely entertaining to be as worth while as an entertaining book with social value such as those by Keats.
Finally it is important in evaluating the merits of a children's book to insure that the book does not have negative social values. Some of the most common of these are negative gender roles and portrayls, and racial or social sterio types. Negative depictions in children's books are especially common in many older books and can make otherwise good books bad for your child's growth and understanding of the world.