• Malcolm Fernandes

WHAT ARE THE BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDREN?

Updated: Mar 26

A Layman's Guide to Understanding What Books A Child Is Most Likely To Love


The best books for children are the ones that keep them Entertained, Engaged, Inspired and Informed


… and in that order. (You can use the mnemonic En2 & In2 to remember this (Entertained, Engaged & Inspired, Informed)


It’s vital that reading experiences are always fun. If it’s fun, the rest will usually follow.


There are two perspectives to answer this question more directly:

  1. From the point-of-view (POV) of a specific child

  2. From point-of-view (POV) of what books are available out there


Let’s look at the first POV...


POV #1: The Child



From this perspective, it really depends on the age and more importantly the interests of the child in question (this works best if you live with or know the child).


So, what books are best for children? Or what type of books is a child most likely to love?


The simple answer: Let the child decide and discover this for themselves!


Spending time around books, AND people who love to read, and discuss books is by itself a great way to help children discover their reading interests. In addition, reading a book can be a very personal experience and is like one of those “you’ll never know what you like until you try it” type of things. Therefore, it only makes sense to play the role of a facilitator and help the child discover their favorite books on their own.


Here’s what you can do to help speed this process along:


  1. Spend time with the child at physical bookstores, libraries, book fairs and book festivals

  2. Give them a budget and allow them to pick out their own books

  3. Become a reader yourself: There’s a fair amount of evidence that shows that children living with family members who read tend to take up the habit themselves. Let them see you reading, browsing through the library, selecting and bringing home books

  4. Conduct read-aloud sessions at home and invite your child’s friends (it helps to encourage (and reward) your child’s friends to read too).

  5. Bring home (or download) new books and reading material reasonably often: Besides purchasing them (brand new or used), books and reading material can be borrowed from the library as well as from friends and family (this is where the presence and physicality of printed books trump eBooks. A book on the table or shelf is there, it’s visible and it cannot be forgotten)

  6. Pay attention to the child’s general hobbies, interests, and even the movies and shows that they enjoy (this is a very good indicator of the type of topics they are already interested in)

  7. Ask and Listen: Yes, ask directly about their interests, likes and dislikes. Then, be open-minded and listen to their response


Get 121 Awesome Children’s Book Recommendations for the Beginner Reader


POV #2: The Books That Are Out There (and available)

(Book Recommendations Listed Below)


Children's books are usually categorized by age and genre



Before we dive into this one, here are some basic things to keep in mind while trying to understand what books are best for a child, or what books are they most likely to love?


  1. It has to be Fun! To reiterate, the best books for children are the ones that keep them En2 & In2: Entertained, Engaged & Inspired, Informed … and in that order

  2. What is the age of the reader? Like most adults, children tend to gravitate towards books that match their age group. It is the very reason that authors and publishers make books knowing the specific age bracket they are targeting. From colours, fonts, and pictures to word count, language and style, there are several factors that come into play when putting a book together. And it’s all done with a specific type of reader in mind.

  3. What is the age of the protagonist in the particular book/story? A protagonist who is a couple of years older is ideal

  4. Does the child identify with the setting/plot of the story? Think about what movies/ shows/cartoons they like for clues here

  5. What is the reading level of the particular book? This should ideally match the academic grade/standard the child is in

  6. Variety is Key! Variety is what makes a reader well read. Children should have access to different types of books — fiction and non-fiction, different authors and different genres. In today’s world, it wouldn’t hurt to have access to a variety of book formats as well




Book Recommendations


That said; let us jump to a list of recommended books for children:


Note:

  1. The below list has been compiled based on target reader age and genre

  2. There are thousands of books published through the years, decades and centuries and it would be quite impossible to recommend (and read) them all. It is for this reason that you should use the below list of recommended books as a starting point when searching for good reading material

  3. This holds true for book genres/ categories as well. The below list of categories is a simplified list with some key genres clubbed

  4. The below list is compiled based on reader review’s (all have generally received 4 stars and above out of a rating of 5 stars) and current popularity

  5. The most famous books/ classic books have been largely left out as those can be easily found




Target Age: Early Readers — 1 to 5 years

Book Type: Board Books, Concept Books, Picture Books


Features:

  • Short length

  • Simple language

  • Simple themes with a focus on color and mood

  • Large pictures with a lot of colours and shapes

  • Very little text


Books Recommended For this age group (1-5 years)


  1. Mary Engelbreit's Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection by Mary Engelbreit

  2. Five-minute Stories: Over 50 Tales and Fables by Cottage Door Press

  3. 365 Bedtime Stories and Rhymes by Cottage Door Press

  4. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle

  5. The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

  6. Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

  7. The Serious Goose by Jimmy Kimmel

  8. Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang

  9. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

  10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak



Target Age: Early Readers — 6 to 8 years

Book Type: Picture Books & Beginner Chapter Books


Features:

  • Longer books (up to 3500- 4000) words heavily balanced with almost an equal amount of pictures and illustrations

  • Vocabulary is grade reading-level appropriate

  • Illustrations may be in black and white as well as color

  • Also features themes and plots that focus on fun and interesting characters and concepts

  • Designed to introduce the child to the world around them in a light-hearted/ non-harsh manner

  • Many book creators focus on slightly stronger themes, concepts, and the ‘moral’ of the story


Books Recommended For this age group (6–8 years)


  1. The Never Girls by Kiki Thorpe and RH Disney

  2. Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm / Margaret Hunt

  3. Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

  4. The Wonders of Nature by Ben Hoare

  5. Trapped in a Video Game n by Dustin Brady

  6. The Boxcar Children Gertrude Chandler Warner

  7. Pony Mysteries: Penny & Pepper by Jeanne Betancourt

  8. Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy by Jane O'Connor

  9. Unicorn Academy by Julie Sykes

  10. Story Keeping: The Night I Became a Hero by A. R. Marshall PhD



Target Age: Middle Grade Readers — 9 to 12 years

Book Type: Middle Grade Novels/ Chapter Books/ Comic Books


Features:

  • 5,000 to 45,000 words

  • Age appropriate themes and language with a strong focus on action and dialogue

  • Themes usually include those about relationships, overcoming obstacles, topics about the world, growing up and social awareness

  • Main characters are usually 2 to 4 years older than the youngest intended readers of this group

  • Stories are more complex with more intricate characters themes and plots

  • There’s also a clear distinctions in protagonist/ antagonist characters (good guy vs. bad guy)

  • Violence and action still kept moderate and below


Books Recommended For this age group (9–12 years)


  1. Percy Jackson Rick Riordan

  2. Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest

  3. Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland by W. B. Yeats

  4. Guts by Raina Telgemeier

  5. Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic by Chronicle Books, Kotaro Chiba

  6. The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate

  7. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

  8. The Hardy Boys by Frankiln W Dixon

  9. The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

  10. DOTTY and the Calendar House Key by Emma Warner-Reed



Target Age: Teens — 13 years and up

Book Type: Younger Adults Novels/ Comic Books / Graphic Novels


Features:

  • Elaborate plots and age friendly characters

  • More focus on the complexities of relationships and society including: friendships, family and romance, world events, literature and history

  • Can also include “reality-of-life” topics such as: love, hearth-break, sex, discrimination, equality, human rights etc.No vocabulary limits except in the use of profanity

  • Violence and action usually kept moderate


Books Recommended For this age group (13+ years)

  1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

  2. Harley Merlin and the Broken Spell: Harley Merlin by Bella Forrest

  3. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

  4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

  5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

  6. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

  7. Asbury High and the Thief's Gamble by Kelly Brady Channick

  8. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

  9. Finch Merlin and the Djinn’s Curse by Bella Forrest, Amanda Ronconi, et al.

  10. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi


For a more detailed list of children’s book recommendations that covers all ages brackets, key genre categories, jump to 121 Awesome Children’s Book Recommendations for the Beginner Reader



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What do you think of our recommendations? Should we have included more? What are your favorite books? Feel free to comment down below OR send in your thoughts to malcolmfernandesbooks@gmail.com





Further Reading/ Viewing



Why we should be reading aloud to children? Rebecca Bellingham

Rebecca Bellingham is an Instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Columbia University Teachers College. She draws upon her experience and love of theater to help teachers and graduate students connect with their "inner artist" and teach in more effective, powerful, and joyful ways. In this video on the TEDx Talks YouTube Channel, Rebecca talks about reading aloud to children...




Why I Read- Kids Tell Us Why


In this video on the Scholastic YouTube Channel, kids tell us why they like to read...








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