7 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Choosing Picture Books for Their Kids (and Ways to Fix Them)

Written by Pat O’Neill

Mistake #1: Sticking with the classics

Let’s face it: a lot has changed since you were a kid. Children’s books have too. No one can deny the lasting power of classics like Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. (And love or loathe his work, none of us make it through childhood without a heavy dose of Dr. Seuss.) 

It’s also fair to say that many of the classics, whether written years or decades ago, are products of their time. Beyond dated ideas and language, these books can be hard for kids to relate to. 

The best contemporary titles are inclusive, beautiful, and impart universal values like kindness and an appreciation for the natural world. With Literati, you won’t  have to worry about your child encountering hurtful or inappropriate content. We’re here to help you find tomorrow’s classics today. 

Mistake #2: Books that are connected to film and television franchises

It’s natural for kids and parents to reach for books that feature their favorite animated characters and movie superheroes.

While any story with a familiar fictional protagonist can be tempting to pull off the rack, these titles often reinforce the need for screen time rather than offering a satisfying alternative to it.

Original characters and stories, on the other hand, allow your child to enter and inhabit a fictional world of their own making. Look for books with a sense of play and characters that jump off the page.

Mistake #3: The beautifully illustrated, flatly written picture book

We’re all guilty of judging, and buying, children’s books based on their gorgeous covers, not to mention the equally gorgeous illustrations between those covers, only to find that the story leaves something to be desired.

As any children’s book author will tell you, crafting an engaging, timeless tale using just a few words per page is a task akin to writing poetry. Trying to assess the quality of a book’s prose in the busy children’s section of a bookstore or library can be difficult, too.

Literati lets you enjoy brand-new books at home for a week to give you time to decide which books your kiddo can’t live without, and which he’ll just as soon put down. Only keep the books you absolutely love. There’s only one surefire way to know if you kiddo will love a book, and that’s to read it with him.

Mistake #4: Only buying books based on your child’s interests

You don’t need to wait until your kid is in college to start her on the path to a liberal arts degree. Books are a wonderful way for children to explore topics far and wide, like outer space, deep sea diving, and the pyramids of Egypt. 

Now is the time to cultivate curiosity. Just because your daughter loves soccer doesn’t mean you should limit your book search to stories about soccer. Let your little one try out everything from zany joke books to mind-expanding activity books to early graphic novels.

Our goal at Literati is to meet your young reader wherever they’re at and make reading fun and welcoming with five great, totally returnable, books a month based on a theme like Animalia or Around the Campfire.

Each experience includes original artwork, bookplates with your child’s name, and a letter addressed just to him or her⁠⁠—all yours to keep regardless of whether or not you choose to keep any of the books.

Mistake #5: Only reading books with a protagonist that matches your child’s race or gender

Empathy is one of the many benefits of reading early and often with your child. Seek stories that soften the heart and expand the mind. Books are a superb chance for your little ones to ask questions and learn, safe in the knowledge that you are there to guide them.

Literati’s curation team has the time, resources and expertise to look beyond the bestseller lists and Amazon recommendations to find original and underrepresented stories by illustrators and authors from every walk of life. 

Mistake #6: Limiting yourself to the library

We love libraries. Who doesn’t? Each year, we partner with city and county libraries across the country to donate thousands of new and used books. Libraries are an invaluable resource for parents and teachers. Finding a great children’s book can be like sifting for gold.

The great thing about Literati is that we do some of that sifting for you. Literati lets your child explore popular new releases, heartfelt classics, and overlooked gems. We pour thousands of hours into researching the best age-appropriate books for kids so you don’t have to.

Mistake #7: Assuming Your Child Will Share Your Interests

You never know what’s going to spark a youngster’s curiosity, but a good rule of thumb is that it probably won’t be the same thing that sparks your curiosity as an adult.

To find great books for your children, you need to think like them. You’re not looking for a book your kiddo wants to read. You’re looking for a book he will want to reread again and again with you. Books about abstract concepts and nonfiction titles like biographies tend to have a shorter shelf life than books with lovable fictional characters and compelling stories. 

When it comes to books, let your child’s passion be your guide.

What is Literati? Only the greatest children’s book club on Earth. Each month, Literati sends 5 obsessively researched, age-appropriate books in a magical package personalized to your child. Explore the books for a week and keep only the ones you love. The monthly membership is $9.95 and Literati matches or beats the Amazon list price on books kept.

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