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Children's literature: what are its key characteristics? – Natural Beauty with Baby

“Children’s literature: what are its key characteristics?” is a collaborative post.


Children’s literature holds a magical allure that captivates young minds and nurtures their imagination, curiosity, and emotional growth. This unique genre of literature, specifically tailored for young readers, is crafted with utmost care and consideration to engage, inspire, and educate children.

Within the pages of children’s literature, a world of enchanting stories, colourful illustrations, and valuable life lessons awaits, making it an indispensable aspect of a child’s formative years. In this article, we will explore the key characteristics that define children’s literature and its profound impact on shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation.

Why is it important to know what makes good children’s literature?

Understanding what makes good children’s literature is of utmost importance due to its profound impact on young readers’ intellectual, emotional, and social development.

Firstly, good children’s literature nurtures a love for reading from an early age. When children are exposed to well-crafted and engaging stories, they develop a positive attitude toward books and reading, setting the foundation for a lifelong love of literature and learning. This love for reading enriches their lives and enhances their academic performance and critical thinking skills.

Secondly, good children’s literature is pivotal in cognitive and language development. Children reading or listening to stories encounter new vocabulary, sentence structures, and ideas. This exposure to language expands their vocabulary and improves their comprehension abilities. It helps them articulate their thoughts effectively, enhancing communication skills essential for success in academic and social settings.

Furthermore, when well-written, children’s literature delves into characters’ emotional experiences, allowing young readers to empathise with the feelings and struggles of others.

What are the characteristics of children’s literature?

Children’s literature is special in the literary world, enchanting young minds with its captivating stories, vibrant illustrations, and valuable life lessons.

This unique genre caters to children’s developmental needs and interests, shaping their imagination, fostering a love for reading, and instilling important values.

Below we explore the key characteristics that define children’s literature and its profound impact on the growth and development of young readers.

Age-appropriate content and themes

One of the fundamental characteristics of children’s literature is its age-appropriate content and themes. The stories and messages conveyed in these books resonate with young readers’ cognitive and emotional capabilities.

Whether the simplicity of board books for toddlers or the depth of young adult novels for teenagers, children’s literature carefully tailors its narratives to engage and inspire readers within their respective age groups.

In fact, many websites offer kid’s books online, and they are really good. Before buying one for your kid, search for the right online and offline book.

Engaging storytelling

Children’s literature is known for its engaging and imaginative storytelling. Whether through fairy tales, adventure stories, or tales of friendship, these books transport young readers to magical worlds and exciting adventures.

The power of storytelling in children’s literature lies in capturing children’s imagination, making reading a joyful and immersive experience.

Colourful and expressive illustrations

Illustrations are a hallmark of children’s literature. Colourful and expressive artwork complements the text, adding depth to the storytelling and bringing characters and settings to life. For younger readers, picture books with vivid illustrations play a crucial role in conveying the story visually, aiding comprehension and sparking creativity.

Valuable Life Lessons

Children’s literature often imparts valuable life lessons and moral values in subtle and relatable ways. Through the trials and triumphs of the characters, young readers learn about empathy, kindness, honesty, perseverance, and the importance of making good choices. These stories offer children guidance and encourage them to develop a strong moral compass.

Diverse representation

Children’s literature has made significant strides in representing diverse perspectives, cultures, and identities in recent years.

By featuring characters from different backgrounds and experiences, these books promote inclusivity and help young readers develop an appreciation for diversity.

Such representation fosters empathy and understanding, preparing children to be open-minded global citizens.

Language and reading level

Children’s literature is crafted with attention to language and reading level, making it accessible to the intended audience.

For early readers, simple and repetitive language helps build their vocabulary and reading skills. As children progress, the language gradually becomes more complex, challenging them to expand their literary horizons.

Encouragement of imagination and creativity

Children’s literature stimulates imagination and creativity, inviting young readers to explore new worlds and ideas. Fantasy tales with magical creatures, science fiction adventures, and stories of talking animals contribute to nurturing a child’s imagination.

Such engagement with imagination is crucial for cognitive development and the cultivation of creativity.

Emotional resonance

Great children’s literature connects with young readers emotionally, creating characters and stories that resonate deeply with their experiences and feelings.

Whether it’s overcoming fears, dealing with friendship challenges, or discovering one’s identity, emotionally resonant narratives help children process their emotions and gain a sense of comfort and understanding.

Adults can also enjoy good children’s literature


Adults can derive immense enjoyment and benefit from reading good children’s literature. While these books are primarily targeted at young readers, they often contain timeless themes, universal messages, and well-crafted storytelling that appeals to all ages.

One of the reasons why adults can appreciate children’s literature is its simplicity and purity. The straightforward narratives and clear moral lessons can serve as a refreshing break from the complexities of adult literature.

Children’s literature often addresses fundamental human values and emotions like love, friendship, courage, and perseverance. These themes resonate with adults, offering insights and reminders of the essential aspects of life.

In conclusion, adults can indeed enjoy good children’s literature. These books’ simplicity, purity, universal themes, and imaginative storytelling have a wide appeal that transcends age boundaries.

Reading children’s literature can evoke nostalgia, offer comfort and inspiration, stimulate creativity, and provide shared experiences with young readers. Embracing the enchanting world of children’s books can be a delightful and enriching experience for readers of all ages.

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What makes a good childrens book

Isabel Baker


There were more than 5,000 children’s books published last year, twice as many as in 1975, but how is a teacher to choose the right books? Who would have thought that saying goodnight to the moon, to mush, and to nobody, would make Goodnight Moon a timeless bestseller and just the right choice for a young child? Selecting good books is more important than ever because there is so much competition for the quality time you spend with the children in your care. Every minute spent reading a mediocre book is time taken away from reading a good one. So, how does one know what makes a good children’s book? What follows are some guidelines to keep in mind at the library or bookstore.


Is it familiar, clear, and authentic? Most young children have never planted vegetables before, but city kids and country kids alike identify with the setting in The Carrot Seed because they can see the determined little boy in themselves.

Character development

Do the characters grow, change, and touch our hearts? Are they consistent, believable and whole, as opposed to flat and one-dimensional? Children relate to both the monkeys and the peddler in Caps for Sale. The monkeys have fun taking the peddler’s caps, and the peddler becomes frustrated with the monkey business.


Is there tension? Is there a goal? Corduroy wants a home and the Three Billy Goats need to cross the bridge. It is often through plot-driven obstacles like these that good stories develop.


Is there a central theme that holds it together? Will the reader become involved in the story or sit passively while being lectured to? There is a wide variety of books published today, but children are still attracted to books with a strong core and universal themes such as good vs. evil, hard work will be rewarded, or cleverness is more important than power.


Children’s books are difficult to write because they must convey an entire story using very few words. Does the language show respect for the reader? Children love the security of predictable books with rhythm and repetition. The language can be simple as in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? or more complex as in Madeline.


Are the illustrations bold and in good taste, or overly detailed and busy? More is not better. Does your eye know where to go when you first look at the page? Color does not automatically equal quality and beautiful illustrations do not automatically mean a good story. Make Way for Ducklings, Millions of Cats, and The Story of Ferdinand have been favorites for decades yet they all have two color illustrations, black and white.


Like a piece of art, a good children’s book is greater than the sum of its parts. It is honest, has a sense of wonder, and shows respect for the young child. The text and illustrations are integrated to raise the quality of the book. Goodnight Moon and More More More, Said the Baby are two examples that have that sense of wonder and respect that is hard to quantify.

Tips by age group

In general, the younger the child, the more the teacher is in charge of choosing books. What a teacher chooses for a young child is “required” reading so it should be the best of the best. Why waste time reading something mediocre? As a child gets older, the sense of freedom and confidence she gains from choosing her own books at school or the library is enormous and valuable. A year four child who is hooked on a book series, even if the series is not particularly literary, will only benefit and be encouraged to read more more more.


  • Safe, child-safe, and sturdy board books. Introduce to hardcovers.
  • Rhyme, rhythm, Mother Goose, song, chant books, “pointing” and identification books.
  • Bold, simple illustrations that are not busy or messy. One Mother Goose rhyme per page is more inviting than a busy spread that is chock-full.
  • Reading aloud is relationship based and often initiated by the adult. Frequently a book is not read cover-to-cover; there is a lot of back-and-forth of page turning and pointing. When a young child is eating finger food in the high chair, this is a good time to read a whole book aloud, introducing and reinforcing the beginning-to-end sequence.


  • Illustrated hardcovers and paperbacks.
  • Wide variety of books – Mother Goose, poetry, ABC, stories, traditional tales, informational books.
  • Bold illustrations, not overly detailed. Messy or abstract art is not appropriate.
  • Reading aloud to preschool children is relationship based. The books need to be kept on a low shelf, accessible to children so they can also hold and read the books on their own.


  • Hardcovers and paperbacks.
  • Fiction, poetry, traditional tales, fantasy, historical fiction, biography, nonfiction, series.
  • Anything in good taste is appropriate. Kindergarten children need freedom to choose books on their own without judgment from the teacher.
  • The listening vocabulary at this age is much larger than the reading vocabulary so it is important to continually read aloud good, more complex books.

Selecting good books is one of the best ways to nurture young children. Reading aloud shows affection, caring and a desire to connect and have fun. It is a teacher’s chance to be completely present and attuned to each child. Selecting books mindfully gives the message that only the best will do, emphasizing the dignity of childhood.
The Basic Library from The Book Vine contains essential books for every centre.

Big Red Barn


Blueberries for Sal


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?


Caps for Sale


The Carrot Seed


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom




Curious George


Freight Train


The Gingerbread Boy


Goodnight Moon


Harold and the Purple Crayon


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie


Make Way for Ducklings


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel


Millions of Cats


More More More, Said the Baby


My Very First Mother Goose


The Runaway Bunny


The Snowy Day


The Story of Ferdinand


Ten, Nine, Eight


The Three Billy Goats Gruff


The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Where the Wild Things Are


Printed with permission ©2005 The Book Vine. A version of this article previously appeared in Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine.

Children's literature: what are its key characteristics? – Natural Beauty with Baby

What makes a good childrens book


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