Popular Books For School-Age Kids

With recent news stories about the Harry Potter books or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, here are a few guidelines for selecting quality children's books.

Most parents want their children to read quality literature, not just comic book fluff. Yet what constitutes a good book these days? The following guidelines may help parents choose effective stories for their children.

1. Fantasy and science fiction. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and even films adapted from popular films like Star Wars or Spider Man offer tempting reading for kids age ten and up. Some younger children might be able to enjoy works like these, but theme, vocabulary, and style are geared more toward adolescent children. Decide how you feel about fantasy elements such as witchcraft in the Potter books or magic in Tolkien before getting your kids hooked. Since some of the more popular works are published in series, your children may continue reading for weeks or even months to satisfy curiosity aroused from the first book.

2. Spiritual and religious themes. The Left Behind series in Christian literature was written for adults originally, but there is now a teen version that many adolescents are reading. Written from an evangelistic perspective of the end times prophesized in the Bible, the books offer adventure, excitement, and thrills as heroes and villains continue the battle of good versus evil through several volumes. Like other popular kids' books, there is a film and its sequel that many teens have viewed. Wholesome and family friendly, the scary parts have to do with demonic forces threatening humankind.

3. American classics. For younger school children of elementary age, the Little House on the Prairie series offers a warm, friendly look at early life on the prairie as described by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the late 1800s. Made into a popular television series in the 1970s and '80s that still can be viewed in reruns, the wholesome topics center on family life and humor during a key period of American history. Other children's classics include Charlotte's Web and the Charlie Brown stories that were adapted from the original cartoon strip begun by Charles Schultz in 1950.

4. Multicultural themes. Books about French children, Iranian girls' novels about growing up during the Islamic revolution, and long-popular favorites such as Black Like Me offer insight to other cultures and peoples who live both in and out of the United States.

5. Poetry and rhyme. Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein are two of America's best loved children's authors who specialize in rhyming verse to tell interesting stories or recite poems. Some kids still read American authors Emily Dickinson's "The Swing" or Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" along with folk lyrics that tell stories of American-based scenes and events, such as "Tom Dooley" and "Hiawatha."

Whatever your child's taste in books, there are many popular authors and titles from which to choose. The main thing is to start early by introducing your kids to books and poems while they are young, perhaps even before starting school. As they grow and change, so will their reading tastes. Parents who initiate reading habits in their children will be pleasantly surprised to find that the kids' academic scores tend to be higher than those who don't read, especially in language skills. So don't wait. Go buy or borrow a book for your kids today!

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