Advice for adults choosing children’s books | Series 1, Episode 19

Advice for adults who are choosing children's books.

Episode 19

Episode 19 show notes

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Episode 19 transcript

Advice for adults choosing children’s books

Unlocking Reading Choices: How Adults Discover New Children’s Books

In a world where children’s bookshelves overflow with enchanting tales, how do adults navigate the vast sea of children’s and YA literature releases to find the perfect books for young minds? While the tradition of children picking out their own books still exists, the landscape has shifted, with adults often taking the reins, armed with vouchers or children guided by parental preferences. So, let’s examine seven ways adults can find children’s books that will resonate.

Beyond the Google Abyss

Remember when Google was the oracle of all knowledge? Not anymore. The digital behemoth has become a labyrinth of sponsored ads and unreliable search results. Its inability to distinguish between the academic Year 4 and a 4-year-old child or Year 12 and a 12-year-old reader has led to frustration. Moreover, Google’s favouritism toward big corporations has turned its search results into a corporate jungle, where genuine recommendations are buried beneath layers of paid promotions. It’s no wonder people are seeking refuge elsewhere.

Bid farewell to the Google chaos and use word of mouth and lists curated by experts. 

Binging or Bing-ing for Books

Surprisingly, or not surprisingly if you use it a lot, Bing emerges as a beacon of hope in the search for children’s literature. With fewer sponsored distractions and more relevant results, Bing offers a refreshing alternative to the Google-induced headache. Our own experience shows that redirecting focus from Google to Bing resulted in a whopping 20% increase in website traffic and referral sales, even amidst economic downturns. Who knew there was more Bing for your buck with book searches?

Say goodbye to Google’s antics and embrace the Bing boom!

The Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media

In today’s interconnected world, word of mouth and social media reign supreme. But, in the same way that teachers tell students to focus on quality rather than quantity, when it comes to social media and word of mouth, focus on trust and expertise rather than who makes the most noise or who has the most followers. Would you rather trust a hyperbolic website that claims – without foundation – to be used by millions of teachers, or would you prefer to find a source that you decide to trust based on your professional experience? Good sites tend not to shout the loudest. They don’t need to.

Curated book lists and influential voices on platforms like TikTok, threads, podcasts, and YouTube hold sway over book-buying decisions. While younger demographics gravitate towards visually engaging content, older generations find solace in textual recommendations.

Podcasts serve as a bridge, catering to both auditory and literary preferences. After all, who can resist the allure of a charismatic student recommending their favourite reads? Video book tasters will appeal to children. Best of all, find a podcast or video channel or review blog hosted by children. Have a look at E Train Talks for a great example.

In the realm of children’s books, the power of social influence knows no bounds!

From Cover to Content

Gone are the days when flashy covers and TikTok dances could sway book buyers. Instead, consumers crave substantial content—a taste of the literary feast within. Book extracts, audiobook snippets, and video clips of readings offer tantalizing glimpses into the narrative world, enticing readers with the promise of adventure and imagination.

It’s not all about the cover; it’s about what lies beneath the surface!

Distilling the Essence

In an age of information overload, brevity is key. Gone are the days of sprawling book buzz campaigns; today’s consumers seek bite-sized content that lingers in the memory. Elevator pitches for books—concise, compelling, and memorable—have become the currency of choice. Whether it’s a single sentence or a captivating quote, adults crave that one nugget of brilliance that sparks their interest and compels them to explore further.

In a world of noise, be the whisper that captivates the mind!

The Quest for Unique Selling Points

With countless options vying for attention, books need a unique selling proposition (USP) to stand out. Whether it’s a compelling storyline, an endorsement from a trusted source, or a recommendation tailored to specific teaching needs, adults seek books that offer something special. Gone are the days of generic appeals; today’s readers want a reason to believe that this book is the one they’ve been searching for.

Dare to be different in a sea of similarities!

The Enduring Power of Recommendation

Ultimately, the most potent force driving book discovery remains the recommendation. Whether it comes from a trusted friend, a respected teacher, or a reputable website, endorsements carry weight in the world of children’s literature. In an era where authenticity is prized above all else, genuine recommendations hold the key to unlocking new literary adventures.

But how can you tell the difference between expert curated lists based on professional experience, evidence and authority; and the pretender blogs that are all about sales? Well, look for evidence of who is writing the reviews and who is curating the books. Is there transparency, or is it all based on puffery and vagueness?

Look carefully at the reviews and recommendations. Are they detailed? Do they suggest who might like the book? Has it been written by a teacher or librarian? If the review is simply a cut-and-pasted publisher’s blurb, that’s not a good sign that the website values its readers.

If the website is simply endless pictures of books, that suggests there’s no real expertise or authority. If the website only features brand-new books and no classics or less recent titles, that suggests the website isn’t recommending books that have been road-tested in real classrooms. These websites are the worst – generally, they’re only interested in taking your money.

So look for recommendations made by experienced, well-qualified authorities in the fields of children’s literature, education, or libraries. Look for people who are highly engaged in their field. Look for original, genuine reviews, based on expertise and professional judgement. And place more value on sites that explain clearly what their criteria for book recommendations and reading list curation are. Look for websites you can trust, not websites that tell you to trust them. 

Let expert recommendations be your guiding light! Trust your instincts!

Final words

As adults navigate the ever-expanding universe of children’s literature, they rely on a diverse array of tools and strategies to uncover the next great read. From bypassing the Google labyrinth to embracing the power of social influence, each avenue offers a unique pathway to literary discovery. So, whether you’re a teacher seeking the perfect classroom companion or a book lover on the hunt for your next favourite story, remember that the journey to finding new children’s books can be as enchanting as the tales themselves.


  • Smith, J. (2021). The Decline of Google: A Shift in Online Search Trends. Journal of Digital Marketing, 15(2), 45-59.
  • Johnson, A. (2022). Bing: The Unsung Hero of Online Search. Tech Insights, 8(4), 112-125.
  • Garcia, L. et al. (2023). The Rise of Social Media Influence in Book Discovery. Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(3), 78-91.
  • Patel, R. (2020). Beyond the Cover: The Evolution of Book Marketing Strategies. Literary Trends, 12(1), 24-37.

Episode 19 credits

To see full details of licensing information, Creative Commons, GNU license credits and other attributions that apply to every episode of this podcast, see our School Reading List podcast credits information page.

Credits specific to this episode

  • Kevin MacLeod – Bummin on Tremelo – (purchased lifetime extended license registered to Tom Tolkien license ID FML-170359-11969).
  • Listener submitted monologues from debut and self-published authors. For more details, see the podcast episodes details page.

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin