School of Education News

Librarians from UW-Madison's CCBC offer tips for ‘Gifts from fact to fiction’

December 12, 2014

Struggling to come up with a good gift idea for that special child in your life this holiday season?

How about a book?

CCBC suggested books for 2014
A sampling of books CCBC librarians Megan
Schliesman and Emily Townsend talked about
during their UW Roundtable discussion titled,
"Gifts from fact to fiction: Great new books for
children and teens."
Librarians Megan Schliesman and Emily Townsend from the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) delivered a University Roundtable Series presentation earlier this week titled, “Gifts from fact to fiction: Great new books for children and teens.”

To be clear, the CCBC isn’t a place to shop for kids’ books -- it’s a book examination and research center within UW-Madison's School of Education that serves pre-service and practicing teachers and librarians across Wisconsin.

In addition, Schliesman and Townsend emphasize that their talk focused on new books -– because that’s what they’re immersed in.

“We talked about books published in 2014 -– which is not to say there aren’t great gifts to be found among books published in earlier years,” says Schliesman.  “But there are always many great new books coming out every year, and if you’re shopping for an avid reader, a new book is sometimes the safest bet that they won’t have already read it.”

Keeping those caveats in mind, these CCBC librarians were willing to share a few words of wisdom for helping one find an appropriate book.

First and foremost, they stress that it’s important to know as much as possible about the person you are buying for.

“Anytime we get a question, maybe it’s from a teacher saying they need help with a reluctant or struggling reader, we always start with the same thing -- what is that child interested in?” says Schliesman. “Or if they are an avid reader, what do they like to read?”

In this regard, the librarians and CCBC have a few outstanding resources.

More CCBC books
Some additional examples of books that the CCBC
librarians talked about during their recent
University Roundtable presentation.
For their University Roundtable presentation, Schliesman and Townsend distributed this list, which includes more than 50 books published in 2014. These books are broken down by topic area, and include information about the age range each publication is appropriate for.

And on the CCBC website is a web page titled, “Books for Children and Young Adults,” that includes a wealth of useful information. In particular, we suggest checking out the CCBC’s many bibliographies and booklists of recommended texts that are broken down by themes, topics and age group. (This web page hosts that valuable information.)

For additional help in finding good books worth purchasing, Townsend suggests first visiting your local public library to ask a librarian what the hot books currently are for particular age groups.

“At the CCBC, we are helping librarians pick books to put on their shelves but they are the ones who are out there in the field every day and really know what kids are interested in and reading,” says Townsend. “I have ideas of what I think are really great books for a fourth grader, but I’ll still ask a librarian or a fourth grade teacher, ‘What are kids really excited about?’ So make use of those local resources.”

Schliesman adds, “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”

“Graphic novels are less outside the box than they were five or 10 years ago, but that may be a way to go for some,” she says. “Comic books are another option. Or you could give a child a gift certificate so they have the freedom to pick out their own book.”

But if you want to give them a book to open and still aren’t sure what to do, Schliesman suggests looking for something that you appreciate, and include a note saying why.

“Sometimes there are circumstances where you might not know a lot about a particular child you are buying for, or at least a lot about what or whether they like to read,” she says. “But what you do know is that you love poetry or humor or history. Maybe the art in a particular picture book is something you find beautiful or striking. Find a children’s or young adult book that can make a connection between your interests and the child or teen reader, and include a message explaining why you chose it. Then what you are sharing is not only a book, but something of yourself.”

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