WHAT ARE THE BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDREN?
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
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:
From the point-of-view (POV) of a specific child
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:
Spend time with the child at physical bookstores, libraries, book fairs and book festivals
Give them a budget and allow them to pick out their own books
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
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).
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)
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)
Ask and Listen: Yes, ask directly about their interests, likes and dislikes. Then, be open-minded and listen to their response
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?
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
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.
What is the age of the protagonist in the particular book/story? A protagonist who is a couple of years older is ideal
Does the child identify with the setting/plot of the story? Think about what movies/ shows/cartoons they like for clues here
What is the reading level of the particular book? This should ideally match the academic grade/standard the child is in
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
That said; let us jump to a list of recommended books for children:
The below list has been compiled based on target reader age and genre
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
This holds true for book genres/ categories as well. The below list of categories is a simplified list with some key genres clubbed
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
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
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)
Mary Engelbreit's Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection by Mary Engelbreit
Five-minute Stories: Over 50 Tales and Fables by Cottage Door Press
365 Bedtime Stories and Rhymes by Cottage Door Press
There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle
The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley
Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
The Serious Goose by Jimmy Kimmel
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Target Age: Early Readers — 6 to 8 years
Book Type: Picture Books & Beginner Chapter Books
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)
The Never Girls by Kiki Thorpe and RH Disney
Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm / Margaret Hunt
Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
The Wonders of Nature by Ben Hoare
Trapped in a Video Game n by Dustin Brady
The Boxcar Children Gertrude Chandler Warner
Pony Mysteries: Penny & Pepper by Jeanne Betancourt
Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy by Jane O'Connor
Unicorn Academy by Julie Sykes
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
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)
Percy Jackson Rick Riordan
Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest
Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland by W. B. Yeats
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic by Chronicle Books, Kotaro Chiba
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
The Hardy Boys by Frankiln W Dixon
The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis
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
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)
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Harley Merlin and the Broken Spell: Harley Merlin by Bella Forrest
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Asbury High and the Thief's Gamble by Kelly Brady Channick
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Finch Merlin and the Djinn’s Curse by Bella Forrest, Amanda Ronconi, et al.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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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