How is it possible that a librarian, someone who loves recommending books, is wary of book lists?
Here’s the deal.
Book lists are tricky things, and while I will always love recommending books to people and encourage others to do the same, they need to be treated with a little bit of caution. And here’s why:
Sometimes book lists are outdated. People come to librarians all the time with all kinds of book lists.
~The Best Children’s Books Of All Time.
~Books That Help Teach Simile And Metaphor.
~Books That Will Make Kids Laugh.
~Books with Multicultural Families.
You get the idea. Hopefully, these lists have a date on them so you can have some frame of reference. You see, if you have a book list entitled “Best Halloween Books To Share With Your Child,” but it was created in 1998, you’re really missing out on some fantastic titles.
So, if you’re working off a list of “Books for Reluctant Readers” that was published in 2001, by all means, use it! But then, ask around, do a little research, get creative to see if there are others not on this list. Librarians read tons of reviews and visit tons of bookstores and attend tons of conferences; most of them would love to help you add to a list you’re using if it is a few years (or decades) old.
Sometimes lists aren’t specific enough or are way too broad. I see lists all the time that make the claim they’re the place to go for “4th Grade Boys” or “Best Books for 8-year olds.” Really? I’m not saying these lists aren’t well intended or that, if you have an 8 year old child for example, you won’t find some ideas. But I am saying, be careful. There are a lot of different types of 8-year-olds out there. To make the claim that you’ve got a list of the “best books” for this age is really quite something. Use your common sense. As I’d tell my students, put on your thinking cap before making any decisions.
It is easy to take lists too literally. Most book lists are really a compilation of ideas and suggestions. No matter the theme of the book list, the creator of it isn’t omniscient. Sometimes the books on the lists will be exactly what you (or your child) are looking for; other times, the book list might not satisfy. Use what is helpful, disregard the rest.
Isn’t this a lot of work?
Yes. But, have you ever been shopping for a very specific pair of shoes? Let’s say soccer cleats. Just because the first store you go to has two pair, will you limit yourself to just those? Especially if they don’t fit right or if the color isn’t your preference? Likely not. You might try some other stores or look online a little. You might call or email someone to ask, “hey, where do you shop for soccer cleats?” Same with the books we use and how we discover them.
Use book lists! Just use them wisely!
Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com