A Librarian’s Guide To Buying Children’s Books – When It’s Someone Else’s Kid

MT Childrens Book Not Your Kid

We’ve all heard parents moan and groan over annoying presents their children have received. This has prompted lists of items not to buy for other people’s children. A great gift idea that comes up again and again is a children’s book.  As a librarian, I’m frequently asked to help with book recommendations for kids. I believe that the library can provide for most of a family’s reading needs. It’s a great way to try out books risk-free and many families simply borrow favourite books repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with this approach and it may be best from an ecological perspective and gentlest on a family’s budget.

There are some books that are better to buy, and these are the ones I recommend purchasing as gifts.

The Hottest New Book

These books may have waiting lists and short lending periods at their local library. The newest book in a series the child already loves is a great gift idea.

Fabric Books/Bath Books

These can be the perfect first books/first gift for a little one. Libraries almost never own these books because they’re impossible to shelve and keep clean.

Books That Involve Food

There are great toddler books that include spots to put raisins or Cheerios. These are way too gross to share.

Interactive Books

These include colouring books, sticker books, and game books (word search, connect the dots, etc..)

MT Cloth Book

Touch and Feel Books

Multimedia books with fur, flannel, and other fabrics included are great for babies and toddlers, but they quickly become soiled when used in libraries.

Animated Books

Pop-up books or books with moving parts make a great gift.

Longer Novels

Sometimes it can be tough for kids to finish a novel within a three week lending period. You want them to enjoy the book without having to worry about a deadline.

Collectors Editions

Some of these are great and include some bonus or tie-in material.

MT Girl Reading Book

As with any gift for the child, run your idea by the parent first if you have any doubts. This will avoid duplication and ensure that the book matches the child’s developmental needs.

Remember, the parents will probably be reading these books too or monitoring what their kids are reading. Try to get something you wouldn’t mind reading yourself. You don’t want to drive the parents nuts with your book selections, invite conversations they may not be ready for, or push beliefs on the child that the parents do not share.

Finally, when you’re confident in your book selection, consider writing a brief inscription about your love for the child the book is for. My friend’s daughter loves this so much, that the inscription has become part of her reading experience. It’s just another way to remind the child that they are loved and children should be reminded as often as possible.


Author: Kate Reynolds

Kate Reynolds is a working librarian with a passion for information literacy, great books, and children's programming. Her varied background includes work as an indexer, educator, and opera singer. She currently lives in Ontario and sits on the board for Abridged Opera.