How to Read a Book

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
How to Read a Book Book Poster Image
Dazzling look at the joy and discovery of reading.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the exciting experience of reading a book. 

Positive Messages

When you read a book, whole worlds unfurl before your eyes "piece by piece part by part page by rustling page." Reading is "a book party stacked with your favorite friends: A picnic of words + sounds in leaps + bounds."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Girls and boys, light-skinned and dark, are represented engaging in reading, including a girl wearing a head scarf. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Read a Book, by Newbery-winning author and poet Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet, is a dazzling, poetic take on what it's like to read a book and discover all the words and the unfolding story inside. Sweet's vibrant, sometimes neon collage art mixes well with Alexander's spare, passionate descriptions and metaphors ("A picnic of words + sounds in leaps and bounds") that capture the pure joy of reading. 

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What's the story?

HOW TO READ A BOOK both suggests a way to approach reading -- like, pick a comfy place to do it -- and describes what it's like once you peek inside a book. "Peel its gentle skin like you would a clementine. ... Watch a novel world unfurl right before your eyes." 

Is it any good?

This vibrant, dazzlingly illustrated picture book poetically captures the excitement that can come from reading a book. It shows kids digging into reading and discovering imagined worlds that transport them. Type merges onto faces, and books turn into metaphors, like one that looks like a toaster with words (instead of toast) popping out of it. 

How to Read a Book is wildly imaginative as it distills the soaring feeling of reading a story and hoping it will never end. It's brilliant, fun, energized, and passionate. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the collages in How to Read a Book. How do you like the mixture of drawings, colorful letters, and text passages? Why do you think the artist put text from a book on the boy's face? 

  • Why do you think the artist chose the story of Bambi to draw text and pictures from? 

  • Try making your own collage. Use a combination of your own drawings and some pictures or text from a magazine or newspaper that you have permission to rip up. 

  • The author writes about hoping you'll never reach the end when you're reading a book. Have you ever felt that way? What book made you feel that way? 

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