Today I’ve teamed up with my eldest daughter, Sylvia , because it’s her 11th birthday. And anyone who knows me knows if it’s your birthday (or any holiday) you’re getting a book from me.
In her earlier days, Sylvia was an easy girl to buy books for. She loved whatever I picked out. Now…. Well, it’s much more difficult. I seriously think it’s easier to buy her clothes than it is to pick out a book that she’ll actually read.
Sylvia nods her head vigorously here.
So, I’ve decided to interview her and find out what she looks for in a book and how she decides what to read. And because we did this interview at home, one of her sisters, Surjee (9), joined in the conversation.
I’ll give her a chance to describe the books I’ve selected for her in her own words:
Surjee jumping in straight away: Boring.
Sylvia: Boooring! I don’t care. I just act like, “oh wow”, but I never read it. Then when you say, “I read this when I was your age,” I’m like “Yeah right, I’m not reading it now.”
How do you choose a book at the library or bookstore?
Surjee: I judge a book by its cover.
Sylvia: Yes, the cover is important, but it’s mostly the colors I look at.
Surjee: Like Falling In, boring. I mean come on—it’s boots. I never read past the 1st page.
Sylvia: Be glad you didn’t. It didn’t get any better. I read 3 pages.
So what makes you want to read a book?
Sylvia: If a lot of people have read it.
Surjee: If my friends like it.
Sylvia: The size of the words—if it’s too big it looks like a baby book, if it’s too little it just looks like you have to read the whole thing and it’ll take forever.
Surjee: I’ll only read it if it’s medium-sized words AND thickness.
Sylvia: And the last 3 pages better be interesting or I don’t read them. I’m just like, “Oh, I finished reading this.”
But if you’re in the bookstore or the library, how do you know you want to get that book?
Sylvia: I read the 1st page.
Surjee: Sometimes the 1st chapter.
Sylvia: It has to be funny. That’s most important. But also colorful, but not like pink. Not many kids like pink. And it should have an interesting title. Something cool like Dork Diaries because it sounds funny.
What about KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE? Is that a good title? (that’s my book btw…)
Sylvia: It sounds okaaaay…. Mustaches are getting old. People will be like that’s so two years ago. Maybe Karma Khullar’s Instagram Account might be better.
Would you read a book your:
Teacher suggested: NO! (both girls in unison)
Mom suggested: NO! (both girls in unison)
Sylvia: The only thing you suggested that was good was Wonder.
Surjee: Harry Potter is the only book I liked you told me to read.
Yia yia suggested: Depends
Sylvia: Might be weird because our cousins like some weird books… I would just look at the cover and decide. Usually if I don’t like it I just read while they’re there and then hide it on bookshelf like I did when Auntie Erica gave me Anne of Green Gables.
I’m going to email this blog post to the family I hope you know…
What’s your advice to adults buying books for a kid?
Sylvia: -The cover should match the personality of the kids.
-Read the 1st page- shouldn’t sound too formal. Diaries are more interesting.
-What’s going to happen must not be like these fairies are on a mission to find something.
-It can be outrageous or real, as long as it’s funny and interesting.
Surjee: Stick to graphic novels only.
You girls have definitely given me a lot to think about. I’m not sure you’ve really made my shopping any easier, but my take aways from this are:
- Before you buy a “classic” (Sylvia deems this any book you read as a kid and are trying to get your own child to read), ask yourself: Have I reread the book in the last 2 years? (you might be surprised how much of the book you didn’t really remember or even like any more.)
- The best sellers list is an excellent benchmark, but not the books with awards—those are liken to teacher/parent chosen books. Yes, New York Times Bestseller is MUCH more meaningful to your reader than a Caldecott Medal or Printz Award or a Newbery.
- Get the child in your life a gift card from the bookstore and save yourself the stress!
Kristi, their mom, endures the tireless mission of putting good books into their hands.