Seek variety to hold attention span

Board books are for babies and toddlers. Picture books are for preschoolers. Easy readers, or beginning chapter books, are for early elementary school kids. Fiction books are for older kids. Graphic novels aren’t real books.

Now that I have your attention, let’s break some stereotypes.

I really hope you read the above paragraph and got mad at me. Unfortunately, a lot of kids and parents think they have to read specific books based on how old they are. Second-graders sometimes think they are too old for picture books. People also hear the word “picture” and assume there are little to no words. On the other hand, parents might think their child is too young for an easy reader since the child isn’t reading.

The Bartholomew County Public Library has never really followed the accelerated reader program. That is a school thing. They have the tests, find the levels for the students and keep track of it all. For a long time, we stayed out of it.

But we are to the point where we can’t stay out of it anymore.

If you come down to the children’s department, you will notice a number written in the back pocket of almost all of our books. This is the AR level. We aren’t doing this to limit certain books to certain kids, but to help kids who seek a book in their level. It has also helped us recommend books to kids.

For example, if a parent comes in and wants to find very simple books for their beginning reader, we can point out books that are an early kindergarten AR level.

Picture books aren’t just for preschoolers. They are often written with that age in mind, but they also are written with the thought that an adult will be reading to the child. They introduce new vocabulary, words that are often rather long. For this reason, the AR level can be higher. I have seen a few that are actually at a sixth-grade level. In other words, don’t discount picture books just because your child is older.

Our easy readers might be for kindergarten through second grade reading levels, but that doesn’t mean preschoolers can’t be introduced to them. There are often familiar characters in the books, and that makes the child more attentive to hearing the story. Easy readers normally contain shorter stories and are smaller in size. The easier stories might give way to the child picking up simple words and reading on his own as well.

Chapter books make great read-together stories or bedtime stories. From classics such as “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White to newer books like the “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osborne, preschoolers to elementary-aged children and beyond can hear stories that interest them but might be too difficult to read on their own. Even if the book is too simple academically, it might be what the child wants to read.

Ah, now to the touchy subject of graphic novels, written in a comic book style. Some parents think reading graphic novels is not really reading. I actually have heard parents tell their children they can’t get a graphic novel; they have to get a real book. Funny thing, these are real books. They have words, a plot and often even an AR level. For struggling readers that are reading below their grade level, graphic novels give them something in the right level.

Some young readers like how quickly they can read graphic novels. This could help them with reading retention as well. At the same time, some readers just like the style of graphic novels. If this is the type of book that a child wants to read, they should definitely be allowed to do so. It is good to try to help them expand out of one type, but not allowing them to read them at all could likely hurt their love of reading.

If the children in your life are stuck in a reading rut or don’t seem to want to read anything given to them, I suggest you come down to the library. Think outside of their section. Look at some types of books they haven’t explored before. You never know what gem they might leave with.

Valerie Baute is a library assistant in the children’s department of the Bartholomew County Public Library.