The Gift of a Better Brain: Share Books with Your Child

Dr Navsaria reading to a baby

Dr Navsaria reading to a babyBooks Build Better Brains.  Even better, those same books, when shared together with a child, become even more important to their development.  This is because social connections and relationships matter deeply.

For young children, being aware of books and familiar with their conventions is key — despite not being able to “read” yet, the positive associations of being read to regularly, of understanding that books contain delightful stories, and of the critical idea that print conveys information, all together leads to their brains wiring in the best possible way for school readiness.  The research is clear: children who are read to on a daily basis have improved language scores and will enter kindergarten with higher letter recognition.

You might think your child is “too old” to be read to.  As Alice Ozma recounted in her delightful memoir, The Reading Promise, a child is never “too old” — her father read to her for 3,218 nights, ending only when she went to college.  Even children with solid reading skills can enjoy the togetherness of reading aloud with a parent, grandparent, relative, guardian, or even a sibling.

There are many lovely, high-quality books for children of all ages which make an excellent, enjoyable, brain-building gift for the children in your lives this holiday season.  For suggestions, let me suggest asking the youth services librarian at your local public library or visiting UW-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center “Books” page at  Another great source is the annual Guide Book to Gift Books from the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science, my alma mater.

Some of my favorites for this year are:

Picture Books

  • Waiting for the Biblioburro, by Monica Brown (Tricycle, 2011)
  • How to Hug, by Maryann MacDonald, ill. by Jana Christy (Cavendish, 2011)
  • The Snow Day, by Komako Sakai (Levine/Scholastic, 2009)


Early Elementary School (Grades 1-3)

  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca (Jackson/Atheneum, 2009)
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger (Amulet, 2010)
  • Nikki & Deja: Birthday Blues, by Karen English (Clarion, 2009)


Late Elementary School (Grades 4-6)

  • Powerless by Matthew Cody (Knopf, 2009)
  • Human Footprint: Everything You Will Eat, Use, Wear, Buy, and Throw Out in Your Lifetime by Ellen Kirk (National Geographic, 2011)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, 2009)



  • The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (Candlewick, 2010)
  • Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay (Delacorte, 2011)
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (2004)