Reasons to Let Children Choose Their Own Books

Sadiq and his family checking out books at the library

Reasons to Let Children Choose Their Own Books

May 4, 2022

It’s well known that reading has many benefits, especially for children that are developing reading comprehension skills. Educators will always promote and encourage summer reading because it is the easiest way for children to maintain their reading skills they have picked up during the school year, and even improve those skills! 

The benefits of summer reading are (but not limited to):

  • Maintaining & improving reading comprehension
  • Increasing kids' interest in reading for fun
  • Improving overall language & reading skills
  • Providing mental stimulation

So how can you encourage summer reading and reading at home for students to reap these benefits? The short answer is: Let them choose what they read! 


The Power of Choice

sadiq and friends sharing bookssadiq and friends sharing books

For some, reading can be seen as a mundane task if positive associations have not been created. This is why it’s important to allow children to choose what they read, and to take advantage of every opportunity for self-selection, especially outside of the classroom! In fact, 

88% of kids say they’re more likely to finish a book they picked out themselves, and

89% of kids agree that their favorite books are the ones that they picked out for themselves


Parental Concerns About Self-Selection

An understandable concern when it comes to self-selection of books is, “Will this book be appropriate for my child?” Choosing their own books doesn’t mean having open access to anything and everything. Whether or not a book is age appropriate will come down to your child’s reading level. People feel differently about what topics are age appropriate for their child, so deciding whether or not your child is ready for a particular book will be in connection with your own personal value set, culture, upbringing, etc. If you are unsure if a book is appropriate for your child, here’s 3 tips to help you decide:

  1. Look up reviews. You’ll get an idea of what the book may consist of from people who have read it.
  2. Read the book. This way you’ll know exactly what content your child is consuming.
  3. Talk to your child with an open mind, and an open heart. Showing genuine interest in what your child is reading could lead to better conversation and a better understanding of their thoughts. 

One thing to keep in mind is that trust can go a long way. Kids are pretty great at self-selecting appropriate books by themselves based on what they know to be acceptable. Content that they don’t understand or are not interested in, will typically go unread. 

Now that we know that children are more likely to read and enjoy reading when they choose their own books, why else should we encourage and promote self-selection?


Validation & Emotional Intelligence 

sadiq and family setting tablesadiq and family setting table

Books can give kids insight to particular scenarios and feelings they may be dealing with socially, personally, or at home with family. When a child can relate to a storyline or a character in a book, it gives them a sense of validation that they may not be finding elsewhere. It’s similar to the feeling of talking to a good friend or a trusted adult about their feelings or thoughts. They are building personal and emotional connections.

The long term effects of feeling validated can help kids navigate difficult situations like bullying and peer pressure. In addition to validation, the more kids read about emotional situations, the more they are able to empathize with others and positively manage their own emotions.


Escapism & Reading for Joy

For some kids, reading is a form of escapism. When reading for school is so often seen as “work” and an assignment, reading for joy and interest becomes an experience where reading is then pursued rather than avoided. Diving into a great book gives children a much needed break from screen time and helps them focus on one thing in front of them, and as a result reduces stress levels. Self-selection of books plays a huge role in being able to unplug and disconnect from stressors. This can help increase self-awareness and self-management skills when it comes to managing emotions and learning to prioritize mental health.


Mental Health 

The positive effects that reading has on mental health alone is a good reason to encourage your child’s freedom to choose their own books. Most children are self-selecting content that brings them joy and satisfaction. Children are resilient, but they deal with a lot of things that can take a toll on their mental health. Reading different books that interest and inspire them will be a therapeutic experience while increasing their emotional literacy.

Now that you’ve read about the benefits of self-selected reading, what else can you do to make self-selection possible? 

  • Visit your public library! Allow children to seek out books on their own and help them find something if needed.
  • Be a positive example. Set aside independent reading time for yourself, and don’t hesitate to talk about what you’re reading too!
  • Check out book recommendations from trusted sources like Capstone's curated booklist collections with Fairy Tales, Scary Stories, or maybe Activism & Changemakers topics are more relatable! You can view even more booklists here

Self-selection and the ability to choose what they read is imperative to successful summer reading and developing a love of reading in general! Summer reading is also about access to books, so be sure to check out our blog Increase Access to Books in Your Community this Summer!