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Reading Recommendations Age By Age

DSC_0086 Of course every parents aspires to raise a reader, a child who loves to read.  Do you have a favorite reading list you refer to? Do you use your favorite childhood books as a guide?  One urbanMama emails:

Does anyone know of a good resource for finding reading recommendations age-by-age? I don't remember when my parents started reading chapter books to me. Is my 4 year old ready for Charlotte's Web? Or, should I focus more on large print with simple words (Hop on Pop) as she's working on her letters?


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Your local library and librarian! Almost all libraries have at least a half time children specialist. Plus the library has tons of pamphlets that list age related and age appropriate book lists. The Multnomah County Web site (http://www.multcolib.org/) under Explore has activities and book lists for all ages.

I began reading "chapter books" to my son, who's now six-and-a-half, when he was about four. Though it's likely there are many resources to recommend books by age, I've found that it's far better to listen to your child (or the opposite -- watch your child listen to you?). Everett was ready for books like the "Oz" series and the Chronicles of Narnia when he had enough patience to listen to them. We've now read several books from the "Wrinkle in Time" series, one Oz book, two of the Narnia books, and we're half-way through the excellent "Mysterious Benedict Society" (and I bought him the sequel for Christmas so we'd better get cracking!). However, his little brother, three-and-a-half, complains loudly when I start reading Everett's books at bedtime.

Within reason, I just offer a wide variety of books and let the children pick which they want to read. I'm a very acquisitive book buyer and have bought piles of books from the Goodwill outlet and garage sales (a friend gave me a big box of used books left over from a garage sale once) so I have oodles of choices; but you could just try going to the library and sitting down with several choices. If she wanders off, she's too young :)

In any case, don't worry about enforcing her letters at this age. Simple *exposure* to books is enough, no matter if they're phonetic gems or chemistry texts (you know, if she's interested in that). In kindergarten entrance screenings you'll see teachers conducting exercises with the kids to do things like show the instructor what is the front of the book and where on the page they should start reading. The message here is that kids need only to be read to; as long as they're interested enough to listen, you're reading the right thing.

Our library is Beaverton is a great resource as well. The librarians are always helpful and will even select books for you if you ask.

I agree that the library is a great resource, both in terms of tapping the librarians suggestions, but also in terms of just letting your child browse. We go weekly and hang out to read a few books and take 5-6 home each time. Sometimes I'm organized enough to put some on hold ahead of time that I've been wanting to check out, and I pick those up while we're there but usually it's all on the fly. If there's a book we've really enjoyed, often times I'll search for more books by that author. Or, find the books that have won the Caldecott (spelling?) awards, those are often good too. My 4 year old does not yet seem to have the patience for chapter books yet, but I do know others his age who've been reading them for a while now.

A bit of a plug too...I have recently started representing an amazing line of children's books from Barefoot Books. www.mybarefootbooks.com/LeahNoreng Visit my website and you can search for books by age or email me offline and I'd be happy to make some suggestions too--a huge year end sale is starting tomorrow!

My husband and I are both book lovers and come from book loving families. I think it is good to read kids chapter books that are above their level if they show an interest. My dad started reading the Black Stallion series to me when I was 4 (I probably would have listened to anything about horses. Reading the books myself, 5 or 6 years latter I learned that he had modified the story a little. I try to read some pre-school books as well as poems my one year old, but I have to keep the paper out of reach because he loves ripping paper. He has many board books that he looks at as well as chewing on. I look forward to fostering a love of reading in him as he grows up. Some of my best childhood memories are of my mom reading my sister and I our bed time stories. (Although when my little sister wanted to hear Goldilocks and the 3 Bears every night for months on end that did get a bit old!).

I just love the Chinaberry catalog and website (www.chinaberry.com). I refer to them for new books for our little one and all of his older cousins. You can search for books by age. But what attracts me most to the catalog are the wonderfully thorough reviews of each book they sell. And of course, the library is great too!

I like Common Sense Media for age-appropriateness, which I struggle with sometimes, esp. re scary themes. It's here: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews

They do more than just books.

I agree with everyone on talking to the librarian, particularly the school librarian. They're trained teachers and can address your child's reading needs. I've found that librarians, though, are focused on reading level and not on social/emotional development. Typically the hero/heroine should be about your child's age, and sometimes I've had to read books myself to make sure they won't scare my kid.

I've been meaning to ask this same question for a while. My four year old is loving long chapter books (me reading to her) but it's really hard for me to find books at an appropriate level for her social/emotional level. Charlotte's Web we've done twice although it's pushing it for my daughter. We're loving the Ralph S. Mouse series (Ralph and the Motorcycle is the first). The Avi book The End of the Beginning was good. We do read the Junie B. Jones series but I'm not a big fan. Charlie and the Chocolate factory was not perfect - some words and snotty behaviors that my daughter didn't like so we just used it as an opportunity to talk about those things. We plan to try the Tale of Despereaux soon. The Cam Jansen books by David Adler are fine for us but we read them in one sitting. We are looking for longer books (3 or 4 hours worth of reading out loud) that are gentle and appropriate (no death, no violence or arguing, no language like "brat" and "butt"). For now we do a lot of Frog and Toad and things like that but we are not satisfied. We also have times where we read 20 shorter books in a sitting instead of a few chapters in a long on. I just keep a huge variety around and try to never say no to reading.

My daughter who is now 5 1/2 is reading chapter books on her own, but she has never really liked having them read to her. She really enjoys shorter stories that can be finished in one sitting (no more than 20 minitues or so) if they are being read to her. We did find that she loved to hear fables and short stories from other countries starting around 4 or so. Reading books of any type to your child is beneficial from birth on and it is most important to have books that they enjoy and are engaged in, no matter what that might be.

My son, 3 1/2, is really into chapter books. He will ask, "Is this a chapter book?" That being said, we have a pretty broad definition of chapter books. A number of Cynthia Rylant books are chapter books, like Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter and Tabby, but we have also read many of the Rainbow Fairies and some of the Magic Tree House books (1-4 so far). The longer books we just read a chapter or two at a time. I haven't worried about reading for letter recognition just for exposure, the love of reading, and the development of the visual imagination that comes with reading books with fewer pictures. We do have a couple of nice letter books, however, and they are: The Alphabet in Art (part of a series using fine art) and The Butterfly Alphabet (the letters are on all different types of butterflies, very cool).

The Jim Trelease book titled "Treasury of Read-Alouds" or something like that is a good resource. It also has tons of interesting information why reading aloud is so important.

I also agree that you have to let your child set their own level. When I did daycare I had a three year old who only paid attention as long as the 18 mo/2 year old s did and another 3 year old who would sit through longer, more complex tales. I would start our reading times with some basic, board books then work up to longer story/picture books with complex plots (mostly fairytales/folk stories). My 5 year old & I went through Charlotte's Web & Holly & Ivy last year but Black Beauty and The Little Princess were too slow for her. Since yours is 4 you might check out the PPS website & pick some off their Kindergarten recommended reading list. Some of our favorites are: Cendrillon, Sukey and the Mermaid, The Apple Pip Princess, (I hate them, but) my daughter loves The Berenstain Bears, Beatrix Potter, The Brothers Grimm (here we have run into some stories that are too gorey, and my daughter just tells me when it's too much for her & we talk about any fears it brings up for her, just like the first time we read Little Red Riding Hood).

We've been in much the same situation for years now, and I don't see it changing anytime soon. Luckily, the children's librarian at Hollywood (Andrea) has given us some great suggestions and we've learned a lot through hit or miss. My nine-year-old reads above eighth-grade level but he's definitely not ready for most high-school-targeted books (sex, drugs, divorce, violence, etc). My husband and I pre-read a lot of stuff, or at least flip through it. It's not that I'd prevent him from reading something he was interested in, but he doesn't enjoy nightmares any more than we do.

So . . . for your family's read-aloud, here are a few recs: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Laura Ingalls Wilder (with some explanations from you when you get to parts about Native Americans), most Beverly Cleary, Edward Eager, Patricia Wrede's Talking to Dragons series, the Warrior Cats series by Erin Hunter.

That's a mix of authors, titles, and series, but just post again if it's not clear which is which.

Nic, it's not terribly long, but at 4 my boy loved "Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie" about a girl in Maine who keeps the lighthouse going during a bad storm when her mother is sick and her father is away.

I was always looking for books with girl protagonists for my son, and he couldn't get enough of this one. And to tell the truth, it brings me to tears every time. My son loved KTLBA so much that the next year he went to Powells and used his own money to buy a copy for himself.

Echoing some other comments here, I'm very interested in exposing my daughter, almost 5, to lots of stories of all kinds, not in any way helping her learn to read. We've done Charlotte's Web, Ms Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, the first Harry Potter, Desperaux, The Hobbit, and Redwall. I like reading her books that I personally enjoy reading, so Hop on Pop is permanently retired, until she's reading on her own.

Nic -
I like Janice's list and would add the My Father's Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett (four books, I think). Sid Fleischman, Louis Sachar, Robert Newton Peck, and George Selden also have entertaining stories without too much heavy stuff.

Thanks to all and keep the great recommendations coming. I'm in the library today (working) and will definitely take a break to wander over to the kids section. Why didn't I think about that before?

We love Henry and Mudge. But, just curious here, is it ever mentioned where Annie's mother is?

Nic -- it just occurred to me that the "Betsy-Tacy-Tib" series would be great for your daughter, especially the early ones; they're written in the 1940s and would meet all your requirements. books by Eleanor Estes (the Moffats, Rufus M) are equally enjoyable. and how about Pippi Longstocking? It's been ages since I read it, but I can't imagine it has anything too objectionable.

I'm trying to remember the titles and author of another series of books I ate up when I was six and started reading on my own. ahh! I found them: 'B' is for Betsy, Betsy & Billy, etc. by Carolyn Haywood. my favorite was "Here's a Penny" (and I've just added a bunch of books to my wish list... maybe it's time for a trip to the Bins!)

Oh I loved those Betsy books too! My mom read them to me one chapter a night for years and then I remember reading them alone as well. I have B is for Betsy on my bookshelf now, and I remember when her little sister Star was born, I think she got to name her "Star"! Very cute and extremely wholesome if I remember correctly.

I'm loving the suggestions. I keep a running list and use the library web page to place holds so we always have something coming. Yes, Sarah we are just getting ready to try Pippi again. Our first attempt was unsuccessful due to Pippi's orphan status. (Dad was missing at sea, right?) Death of parents is a very common theme but it's a little much for my sensitive just turned 4 year old still. At 3, her imagination wasn't mature enough for those ideas but now I see her being able to process it more. Same with the way characters treat each other and the names that they call each other - she's no longer taking it quite as personally. She LOVES to sit and listen to stories. She has never once asked me to stop. I only stop at night because I'm falling asleep to the sound of my own voice. Even as a toddler we could sit for hours on end, stopping only to take care of other needs. She loves big books with big words but just hasn't been ready for the storylines involved in those books. I truly appreciate every suggestion from you, urbanmamas. I have my copies of the Little House books out but haven't thought she was quite ready for the hardships - I think it's coming soon. 4 year olds really are awesome aren't they? I can literally see her imagination grow. We will be checking out every suggestion here. I also recently found some ideas from the PPS TAG website.

All of these are great suggestions - 2 more things...
I use the Amazon Listmania and "If you like this, you might like this" services on their website. If we like one book, I plug it in and see what ideas other people have had. I have a draft file in my email and whenever I see a URL like this, I cut and paste it into there.

2nd is a plug for Library Elf. It is a free service that tracks all of your holds and books due and you can set up how often you want it to warn / remind you via email. You can set up all of your family library cards and get one email.


With the combination of those two tools, I put books on hold at the library with staggered request dates such that we get a fresh set handed to us everytime we go in. We go in and look around and my kids pick out whatever totally RANDOM book appeals to them and then as we check out, the nice person hands us good, quality, researched books for us to enjoy. I also reserve their 2 DVDs for the month so that we don't even go near that section and I don't have to deal with "ooh look mama, Barney - can we get that?" (How the HECK did they even find out who that creature was?? Not on my shift!).

So, once every month or two I log on to the library site and reserve a bunch of books. (It's also our version of Netflix.)

I am not good at a lot of this mom stuff, but I've got the library stuff DOWN.


Tons of Booklists...
I'm a parent and a children's librarian and we work constantly to keep the booklists updated. Try books to Read Aloud to find great hidden treasures.

My sons (3 1/2 and 2 1/2) both love the original (read: NOT Disney!!)Winnie the Pooh. It truly is a delightful read, and the illustrations are great. It is funny on two levels, mine and theirs! I remember my mom reading it to my sister and me and that she always laughed in what I considered the wrong places!

A Children's Place bookstore is close to my house (48th & Fremont), so I go there often and ask the advice of the women who work there. They seem to have read everything and have a fantastic sense of what's appropriate for every age child. They've recommended a few "chapter" books for my 3-year-old that have been just right. The have age-appropriate themes, short chapters, still have some pictures, but introduce the idea of longer books and more complicated stories.

Added bonus: Shopping there supports a small, local, child-friendly business.

A couple suggestions for chapter books that my mom read to me... Uncle Wiggly (very retro and very sweet!) and Paddington Bear.

I always loved the Little House on the Prairie books. I didn't read them until I was old enough to read them myself, and it's been years since I picked one up, but I think they are rather benign.

The Lighthouse Series by Cynthia Rylant is very sweet and longer then her other chapter books (Mr Putter/Henry/Poppleton). Other books my 4yo has loved which aren't specifically named above are Half Magic, The Cricket in Times Square, Mary Poppins (there are 4 of them which is a little too much), Alice in Wonderland, The BFG and Mr. Poppers Penguins.
Shorter chapter books that are sweet: the Zelda and Ivy Books and Houndsley and Catina as well as those already mentioned. We avoid Clemetine, Ivy and Bean, Junie B Jones: she doesn't like that they're mean at times.

Kids read at thier own pace, I got bored reading picture books early on and every night we read two books for Sean and one for Mom. My books are "chapter books" with pictures or a section out of a encylocpedia. I try to keep things to what my son likes (sharks, dinosaurs, and monkeys) he is pretty tolerant and I don't alwasy make him sit still and focas because that is not realistic! Reading should be fun and encouraged. My parents read alot to me and I am a book junkie, but my brothers not. Encourage it and lead by example and it will work out!

Teaching your kids the importance of protecting the environment is a very important investment for our Mother Earth! The book "Ecology From A to Z" by Jacob Angel is a fun to read rhyme about a boy named Bobo Darling and his new friend Irv the Turtle. The two take a magical walk through the alphabet learning important lessons on protecting the Earth's natural resources. It has 26 poems with a full color, full page illustration to go with each one. It is a fun, creative way to get kids thinking about ecology. The book is available at www.angelsfoodforthought.com and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.

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