#TeachersTalkKidLit – Nancy Parcels

What makes a book a good book? This is something that I have been asked several times by other people and that I have even asked myself.  Having an 8 year old son we have done TONS of read-alouds.  We have had many successful read-alouds and many books that we could only read a few chapters and then we needed to abandon the book and move on.  Why? What made the books that we couldn’t put down a book that we wanted to keep reading?  For us it was a few things.  


First, the book was relatable in some way.  They were either books about a boy the same age as my son, they had similar interests or were of the same faith.  My son could connect to the character with their struggles, hobbies, or strengths.  This is why we LOVE books that give lots of background information about the main character.  The more my son knows about the character’s likes, dislikes, religious background, hobbies, dreams, or aspirations, the easier it is for my son to want to continue reading to find out more.  


The second concept that makes a book a good book for us is unusual or uncommon language.  The more the author uses rare language, the more my son gravitates towards that book.  What I mean by unusual or uncommon language is that it may use words that we don’t hear anymore, like Old English or slang words from different eras.  It produces images and discussions that usually surpass my imagination.  Even books that are Orthodox faith-based books that use vocabulary that may seem advanced for the target age cause wonderful discussions and learning opportunities. 


Another way to keep us enthralled with a book is imagery! The more descriptive words used to tell us what is going on with the scene, the better.  It gives my son the opportunity to feel like he is living the book.  Giving the reader the full scope of the scenes gives them the chance to feel like they are standing right next to the characters, seeing the scene play out right in front of them.  We have even read a few illustrated classical reads that don’t have pictures on each page, but the pictures it does have are so detailed that the questions, conversations, and thoughts that it provokes are amazing.  


Finally, we love books that have a lesson learned by the main character.  It can be about anything really.  We have read books on our Orthodox faith, friendships, trusting in God, believing in oneself, etc.  While we read the book, we can have great discussions about what we would do differently or what we think will happen to the main character.  Following the character in their journey helps feel like we are a part of them.  Also this helps tie in having something to relate to and imagery.  Having something that we need to follow along closely with means that we need background information. 

Parent choice vs. child choice

I wanted to touch base on books that I would pick out for my child compared to books he would pick for himself.  The books that I pick for him are usually books that I found to have the content that I am trying to teach.  It could be books that are for our history time period or religious teachings.  I also like to make sure that the books have good written language.  I prefer books that do not have new slang words or inappropriate grammar or language.  If I am using a book to teach or reinforce what we are learning, I also want to make sure that the book is giving accurate information.  Now, the books that my son wants to choose are the complete opposite of what I choose.  He likes books that have tons of pictures, slang, and little to no history.  My son loves graphic novels and what I like to call “silly” books.  That is why when I am reading aloud and picking books that he would normally not choose for himself, I try to find books that have something in there that he likes or I make each character have their own voice.  Just something to keep his attention and keep him interested.  I will also try to keep asking him questions throughout the book to keep his attention or go over something he didn’t understand.  

About Nancy

Hello! I am Nancy Athanasia Parcels.  I am an Orthodox home-educating mom.  I have been home-educating for 6 years.  I have also tutored in Math and Reading on and off for 20 years.  I have taught in a Montessori Homeschool Co-op for several years.  We have switched to a classical home education for the last 3 years.  I have taught for 2 years so far at our current co-op.  I have also worked in a library as a librarian assistant in the children’s section for several years.  I have been married to an amazing Chef husband for 11 years.  We have one 8-year-old son and another son to make his arrival in a few short weeks.  We live in South Carolina where we enjoy nature, family time, learning from each other and reading aloud.