Great Age Appropriate Book Lists

How parents can find the best age appropriate book lists for elementary age children.


With the popularity of the Harry Potter books many parents are buying them for children too young to understand the story. It is important to select the right books for the age and maturity of the child.

Buying books for children need not be a big problem. Common sense is more important than buying the book with the most promotion. A mother or father usually can tell what books are appropriate for their children by examining the book itself. Most children's books come with information concerning the appropriate age.

It is important to keep the child's age in mind when purchasing books. Sure, a particular child might read way above their age level, but the secret of fostering good reading is for the child to understand and enjoy the book. Even kids that can read above their grade level do not have the "life experience" to be able to grasp more complex subject matter in the books. We are so eager to get kids reading chapter books, we overlook the richness of the picture book which can be enjoyed by children even in the middle grades.

Another help for parents are the professionals who work in the children's departments of bookstores. Most are well schooled on their inventory, and can recommend books which are appropriate. The same is true of children's librarians. Most libraries have handout sheets of recommended books for particular ages but the Librarian is also a valuable resource for parents looking for age appropriate books.

Even if you make a mistake and pick up a book which is beyond the child's reading and maturity level the book can be read to the child, or put away until the child is older. Books for children are never wasted. The enjoyment of reading at a young age will lead to a lifetime pleasure and learning.

Tips on selecting age appropriate books:

1-Look at the book and see if an age is given. Books which state they are good for all ages are mainly for older teens and adults and are not right for younger children.

2-At a bookstore ask a clerk for help in selecting the best books for the age of the child or children you are buying for.

3-Ask a librarian for suggested books for the child's age. She may have a free list of recommended books.

4-Take the child with you and see what books are selected. Let the child read some of the books out loud and then ask for an explanation of what was read. Knowing the words is not the same as understanding the meaning.

5-If your child is in school ask the teacher for a suggested reading list. The school media person also can help you.

Here is my list of suggested books for children.

Starting with the youngest children from birth through three--the best books are short with lots of colorful pictures. This includes the ABC type of books, counting books, or simple rhyming stories. Children are not ready for complicated plots. Their attention span is very short.

A preschool child from 3 to 4 years old has a slightly longer attention span. They'll enjoy the early reader and read-to-me Dr. Seuss books, longer picture books, rhyming stories, and stories about people and places familiar to them. Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?; The Big Book of Machines; and Are You My Mother? are excellent choices.

Kindergarten age children will benefit from longer stories but still with a lot of pictures to hold their interest. Classics like Madeline; Goodnight Moon; Clifford the Big Red Dog; Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom; There's an Alligator Under My Bed; Trucks, Fire Engine; and Nursery Rhymes are all time favorites.

First graders may be able to read simple books themselves but they still enjoy being read to. Good choices are anything in the Barbar series; Kitten for a Day; I'm a Caterpillar; The Curious George Series; The Cat in the Hat; Have you Seen Crocodile? Another all time favorite is The Napping House. Children love these books so much they easily memorize them and can recite them back word for word.

By Grade two children should be able to read on their own. Some favorites are Frog & Toad; Arthur's Pen Pal; Arthur's Loose Tooth; Little Bear; Little Bear's Visit; A Kiss for Little Bear; Danny and the Dinosaur; and any of the I CAN READ books.

Children in grade three prefer longer books which take more than a day to read. They are ready for books with sparse illustrations and heavy in text written by authors such as Judy Blume, Beverely Cleary, Marc Brown. The Arthur Books are popular as is the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol.

Once children are in fourth grade they are reading at a pre-adult level. They can enjoy books by E.B.White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary, George Selden. The Wish Bone Series is very popular.

5th grade children have an enormous world of books available to them. This is the level at which they can truly enjoy the Harry Potter books. Another popular recommendation is Roald Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.

By 6th grade children should be reading more or less on an adult level. They are ready for the books by James Herriot, Madeline L'Engel, Scott O'Dell, and Gary Paulsen.

Reading is a lifetime activity but the habit starts in the crib with parents or relatives reading to infants and continues on as children learn to read by themselves.

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