Criteria for Evaluating Children's Literature

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson supports teacher candidates who are learning how to choose children's literature for an elementary classroom. The value of the content and needs of students will be examined.

Evaluating Children's Literature

Selecting quality children's literature for a robust reading program requires thoughtful consideration of the diversity, interests, and abilities of the student population, as well as a critical view of the content of the books. In this lesson, we will consider the criteria for evaluating children's literature.


The quality of the content of a book encompasses the skills of the author to weave an interesting story with relatable characters and thought-provoking themes. In addition, great children's literature will include vibrant language that stretches the students' vocabulary development. The illustrations should also be reviewed for high value. The following questions should be asked when reviewing literary content:

  • How is the story structured?
  • Will students find the storyline interesting?
  • Which gender, ethnicity, and culture are represented and how are they depicted?
  • What lessons are learned by the characters? Are these lessons universal?
  • What are the settings of the story? Are these settings accurately and respectfully depicted?
  • Do the illustrations provide context to the text?
  • How is diversity represented in the illustrations?

Matching Texts to Students

Students will respond differently to literature based on their reading level, interests, and background knowledge. Part of the process of evaluating children's literature is strategically matching stories to the students who will be reading them.

There are multiple scales that can be used to measure the readability of a text. Readability formulas provide a statistical analysis that measures the syllables, words, and sentences in a sample of a text to determine its difficulty. Many booksellers provide this information to consumers, but there are several free readability calculators that are available online or within word processing applications that can be used to determine the readability of a text. Some examples of readability scales include Flesch-Kincaid, Fry, and Lexile scores. Running records, benchmark passages, or other screeners may be used to determine the student's independent reading level. Teachers will choose slightly more difficult texts for instruction.

To meet the interest needs of your students, it is important to provide students access to materials from a variety of genres. The classroom library should include science fiction, biographies, poetry, fairytales, historical fiction, informational texts, and other types of literature.

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