Since I began telling friends and family that I’m writing children’s fiction, I have been inundated with questions. The one I totally didn’t expect was, “What books would you recommend for my child?”
Now, I do love kids’ books, and I am an avid reader of anything-I-can-get-my-hands-on. So often, I have good suggestions. But sometimes, I am up a creek. No paddle. What would I recommend for your 5th grade son who is really into marsupials and cheese sculptures? Umm, new hobbies?
When your librarian or independent children’s bookseller (what, you don’t have one on speed dial?) just won’t do, here are some easy-to-use resources for finding that just-right read.
For the youngest “readers” (picture books and more)
Perfect Picture books created by children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill lists only wonderful books, organized by theme, and with links to Pinterest boards.
55 Science Picture books for kids is my favorite of many curated lists on the What Do We Do All Day? page. Everything from Dinosaurs to Engineering made it on this list. Great ideas for curious minds.
University of Miami recently introduced a fantastic database of children’s picture books for preschool to grade 3, organized by theme, searchable by keyword, and super-easy to use.
At first look, The Picture Book Review is a little overwhelming. So many covers! But content is well organized and they give thorough reviews that let you judge if your child would really like the book.
So many great ideas from mom and children’s book expert Alex Hinrichs in this post.
For new readers (K-2)
For readers of every age, The Children’s Book Review is well organized and easy to search by age, gender or topic. Try the “Ages 4-8” tab for great recommendations at this level.
Best Fiction Books gives a nice listing of early readers by grade/level here. The books are not reviewed individually, but only time-tested, quality books are included on the list.
Scholastic is always a great source for book ideas – from their website to the flyer your kids bring home from school. I especially like this list – which includes lots of my favorites! Great Books for Beginning Readers.
For stronger readers (1st-4th graders), look for “Chapter Books.”
In the book world, chapter books are distinguished from “Middle Grade” and “Young Adult” books – even though they all, of course, have chapters. These chapters are shorter, word counts are lower, there is lots of white space on the page and there are often illustrations. Many are part of a series – which makes choosing your child’s next book that much easier!
Not sure if your child is ready to transition to chapter books? Check out expert advice in a previous post here.
A Book For Every Type is one of my favorite lists on Scholastic’s page. Whether your kid is sporty or scientific, loves fairies or zombies, they’ve got you covered.
Check my ever-growing Pinterest board of Chapter Book Collections here.
For excellent, in depth reviews of chapter books, read Marty Mokler Banks’ Chapter Book Chat.
Middle Grade books (age ranges vary, broadly 3-8th grade)
This is a time when your kids will have their own ideas of what they should be reading. And a time when you, as a parent, need to watch it most carefully. Books in this category can have a VERY wide range of subject matter and language. Your quick-witted 9 year-old may be able to keep up with the vocabulary and word count, but the subject matter may be well beyond his years!
Common Sense Media is my go-to guide for age-appropriateness. They review books, movies, apps, TV and more. There are excellent, easy-to-navigate tools to search by age or interest. The reviews then let you know in a clear format “what parents need to know” about content: like sex, bullying, consumerism, drinking/drugs, violence, and more.
Some great reviews and ideas can be found at The Well Read Child.
A short list of middle grade books reviewed by an 11-year-old and an adult middle-grade expert can be found at Novel Novice.
GoodReads lists middle grade novels, though I think some of the books it considers MG should really be listed as Young Adult. You can check out reviews even if you aren’t a member. Kids may get a kick out of searching this way.
Young Adult (12 and up)
Again, be wary of content/subject matter and language at this age. Not all children are ready for all topics!
This may be a great time for your child to start a GoodReads account (with your supervision) so he/she can search, rate and review books. It will give both of you increased insight into what he/she is reading!
The ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association maintains list of great books and award winners in YA fiction at their website.
This list at The Compulsive Reader gives suggestions of the best YA books for those new to the genre, and of authors to watch for.
I really hope this helps you find your child’s next great read! Are there other sites and resources you like to use? Please, add them in the comments below!
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