Give the Gift of BooksLooking for holiday gifts for the kids on your list? Try a book! Susan Marx, parent educator and co-author of “Help Me Get Ready to Read: The Practical Guide for Reading Aloud to Children During Their First Five Years,” suggests that children’s picture books make great holiday gifts for little ones because unlike toys with recommended ages marked on the packaging, books will grow up along with their young receivers.

Marx explains that you can read and reread a favorite book during a child’s first five years using reading strategies that are appropriate for his or her age and stage of development. For example, you might begin by introducing a particular book to your 1-year-old by doing a “picture walk,” which means using the pictures to tell the story. While reading the same book to your now 2-year-old, you might encourage your little one to join in the repetitive text or pause so he or she can supply the rhyming word that finishes the line. Then, when your little one is between 3 and 5 years old, you might engage him or her in conversations about the same book. You can talk about the story characters, setting, story events or what happens at the end.

But if you’ve ever spent time in the children’s room at your local library or in a bookstore, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by the plethora of options and wondered which book would be suitable for your child. Since Marx and her co-author, Barbara Kasok, get that question frequently, she’s ready with a suggestion: “We respond by telling parents that good books entertain, encourage discussion, spark imagination and provide information. When you choose good books, you provide fun-filled reading experiences that are also learning opportunities.”

Here Marx and Kasok share their criteria for selecting picture books so you’ll be prepared next time you’re looking. They recommend choosing a variety of picture books that:

  • Introduce sounds of language with repetitive, rhyming or predictable text
  • Use engaging illustrations along with text
  • Contain content that relates to your child’s experiences and interests
  • Go beyond your child’s life experiences
  • Provide stories with problems and solutions
  • Reflect diversity in story characters, settings, authors and illustrators
  • Include a range of genres, such as fiction, nonfiction, folktales, rhymes, nursery rhymes, poems and songs
  • Represent well-known authors and illustrators, as well as new authors and illustrators

For information about workshops and to order “Help Me Get Ready to Read: The Practical Guide for Reading Aloud to Children During Their First Five Years” by Susan Marx and Barbara Kasok, please visit or email And to learn five tips for helping children become book lovers, please click here.