Ask the Librarians: What Should I Be Asking My Librarian?

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Reader Question:
I know my librarian is a great resource for books, but I am not really sure what questions I should be asking or what information I should be providing to get the best recommendations for my child.


What the Librarians Say:

Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street:
When a parent comes to me looking for book recommendations for their child, I always want the following information:

  • How old is the child?
  • Boy or girl?
  • Are they reading at grade level? Above? Below?
  • Are they big readers or more reluctant?
  • Do you want to try something challenging?
  • What kind of books do they like? Funny? Scary? Adventure? Fantasy? Realistic?
  • What books have they enjoyed?

Some questions the parents might want to ask:

  • If this is a series, are there many volumes out or will my child have to wait a year for the next book?
  • If my child is reading above level, does the book have any content I should be worried about?
  • What are some authors that always have good books?
  • Are there any new titles just coming out that I should be on the lookout for?

The more specific answers we get the better we can meet the reading needs of your child.

Rebecca Gueorguiev, Great Kills:
I second what Anne has said about helping parents find good reads for their children. I just want to add that sometimes when a parent has indicated they have a reluctant reader on their hands I mention that maybe their child is just not a fan of fiction. Too often we associate reading with chapter books, and most of the book report assignments I see take that as a given, but what about all the great nonfiction out there?  Some children (and adults for that matter) are just not fiction readers, but give them a nonfiction piece and they are in seventh heaven. So in addition to all of Anne’s great suggestions, don’t forget the nonfiction.

Ditto for graphic novels, which have been getting more and more sophisticated. Quite often it is up to us to sell those graphic novels to the parents, as many of them seem averse to them — stuck in that “comic book” mentality.

Andrea Lipinski, Kingsbridge:
First, I’ll recommend that you try to give us the “big picture” of what your child does and doesn’t like to read. Favorite authors and titles are helpful, but so are genres and moods. And if your child has fixed dislikes, we should know those too.  Does she only want to read books with female protagonists?  Does he like fantasy but hate wizards?

And second, I will always recommend that you bring your child with you to the library if possible. Kids will usually have a more vested interest in the book if they felt like they had a hand in choosing it. If you can give us an idea of what kinds of books they’re looking for, we’ll pull a bunch of books off the shelves (or point them to the right shelf) so that they can make the final decision.


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