What to Read When

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read With Your Child and All the Best Times to Read ThemWhat to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read With Your Child and All the Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn, Published by Avery Trade, 2009. 336 pp.

Pam Allyn’s how to guide does prescribe books for certain times and ages in a child’s life but it goes deeper than just an annotated bibliography. I defy anyone to describe the unique and special bond of reading aloud to one’s child more eloquently than in Allyn’s introduction: “The good news, wondrously, is that the world is full of literature written by people who know you are longing to make connections and are striving to put a voice to them.” This is a book for parents and caregivers, first and foremost.

What to Read When begins with Allyn’s top ten reasons to read aloud. Of course, anyone reading this book will have already drunk the need-to-read Kool-Aid but it is useful to look at the impact of reading on a child and the subtle messages that your reading choices send. When it comes to the crux of the matter, Allyn not only looks at chronological age but also emotional age, helping you to select books that speak to your child where he or she is in both contexts.

As with any book of this kind, the selections are entirely subjective and while a parent may be astonished that a childhood favorite is not included, take this as an opportunity to discover potential future favorites as you are led by this thoughtful and wide-ranging guide. Allyn’s thematic approach enables the reader to zero in on what is most likely to interest a child. “Building, Making and Creating: The World of Mechanical Things” is a great jumping off point for young children who love their erector sets. On the other hand, if a child is trying to make sense of a world at war, “Building Peace, Confronting War, and Talking With Your Child About World Events” may be the section you need when those questions arise.

A straightforward list in the appendix presents the titles and themes in list form for easy reference.

– Reviewed by Ellen Myrick