Finding Books Your Child Wants to Read

Just yesterday your child wanted to hear Goodnight Moon every night. Now she's nine. In addition to assigning what seems like hours of grueling homework, her teacher says she has to read at least twenty minutes herself every night.

"Sure, hon! I've been saving all my old favorite books for you in this silverfished box in the garage!"

Or just as ineffective: "Alex, your sister Sydnee loved these Amelia Bedelia books! I just know you will too!"

Not!!! You're a great parent. You want you child to succeed in school which means you want to encourage reading. Finding the right books for kids is the key...

Photo by TF Sherman

Offering Your Child A Book Menu

How to Find Good Readalikes! (But not in the garage.)

GalleyCat's poster says it all.It’s oh so reasonable that finding your children a good book to read is a toughie. You can’t ask your children, “What do you want to read?” and expect to get an answer, any more than you can ask them what they want for dinner and expect them to respond with anything besides “pizza” or “macaroni & cheese.” And when you try to pitch your old favorites like Judy Blume and The Little House on the Prairie to your kids, they give the battered copy you’re offering the old dead eye.

The world changed. You know how important reading is for your child to succeed in school. Time to check the new booklists.

I’m a children’s librarian and helping kids find books they’ll love is my job. Let me share 5 librarian secrets with you:

Poster credit: GalleyCat

Secret #1

Find a good series. If it's one your child loves, a welcome gift will be the most recent in the series.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, The Magic Tree House...

Seven-year-old Olivia just didn't seem to be transitioning from being read picture books until she glommed onto the Rainbow Magic fairy books with their appealing pastel covers. She's now readall 90 that I had in stock and can easily read more challenging books.

Finding the right series for Olivia turned her book selection from a chore to a joy.

Finding the Right Series

Choosing 30 books at once instead of 1

Look at that girl friendly pastel cover!Your child may already be reading a popular series, like The Magic Tree House series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. Your child may have already finished the series and is jonesing for more. How to help?

    This is so easy, it’s embarrassing:
  • Go to Amazon and enter in the name of the last author your child loved.
  • This should lead you to the author’s Amazon book page.
  • At the right you will find a Customers Also Bought Items By section. This a great source of readalikes.

These are the books that purchasers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid went to next, other great titles like The Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants – you get the idea. This doesn’t work for every writer, but it’s a great place to start.

THIS JUST IN: Eight year old Max stayed up past his bedtime for the first time to read. The book?Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty. And he doesn’t even have a cat! The combination of outrageous humor, funny cartoons, and dash of animal lore left him chuckling into the night.

Secret #2: Find the next favorite.

Finding a Book with the Power to Amaze, Excite, and Enthrall Your Child

Your child isn't reading a series. He's just finished reading Michael Chabon's great classic,Summerland, and he wants another book just like it. What to do? You know that Chabon is a Pulitzer prize winning adult novel but you think your ten year old is a little young to make the jump into Chabon's adult themes. Where to go?

AR BookFinder Site

for the accelerated reading program used in many public schools

Accelerated Reader Search Engine
To use this engine, simply put in your children's grade level, approximate reading level, and preferred genre. You'll get a nice list of recommendations.

Finding the Genre (entree!)

Fantasy, Realism, Historical, Nonfiction, anyone?

Ask your child what he liked about the book. The humor? The fantasy? The adventure? (Gee, a conversation about a book. That could be a good thing!)

Children in the middle grades are already forming their reading tastes. Hand the fairytale rewriteElla Enchanted to a child who likes Lauren Myracle’s breezy, realistic kidfic and you’ll be engineering a major turn off. Kids are just like adults in that their tastes for genre are beginning to form. You know adults who only read murder mysteries and others who aren’t happy out of funny chick lit.

Respect children’s taste, and help them to understand it. If your local librarian can’t help, or isn’t convenient, Barnes and Noble has an easy to use readalike engine.

Secret #3

"What was the last book you enjoyed reading?"

The Right Book IS the Motivation.

Worst case scenario: Nine-year-old Alex denies ever having read a book or ever planning to do so in the future.

Get to the Bottom of Reading Problems -- Gently!

Books as Junk Food

More like this!Genius Dav Pilkey, author of the great Captain Underpantsseries, revealed the guy appeal secret of his books in this way: Big margins, dark ink, and lots of pictures. Jeff Kinney raced to fame with the same successful formula with his Diary of A Wimpy Kid books. It would be nice if your son were reading The Hardy Boy books you’ve saved in the basement for him, but The Hardy Boys really weren’t great literature and maybe your kid needs a laugh. Go ahead, just read the first few pages of Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty. Kids will strain to get the words of something this funny, and before everyone knows it, they’re reading well enough to enjoy the process.

Secret #4

Finding the right reading level for your child.

The Goldilocks Rule for Choosing Books

Not too long, not too short, but juuuuust right

Even though a child might be happy reading books with a high lexile, he/she might not be willing to leap yet from the high lexiled Captain Underpants and Rainbow Magic books to much longer books, even with the same lexile score. (A lexile is a formula used by lexile magicians to determine how complex a book’s reading level is, based on word and sentence length. A James Patterson novel lexiles at about the same level as a Captain Underpants book, for example, or Olivia’s Rainbow Magic books.)

Open the book up and have your child read the first page, holding up a finger for each word that troubles her. If she stumbles on more than five of them, she might not enjoy reading the book.

Sometimes kids can be put off just by the thickness of the book. This shows their innate brilliance. A long book will of course have a more complex plot, and early readers might not be ready to go there.

Secret #5: Get Rid of the Box of Paperbacks in Your Garage -- and Don't Stash Them in Your Daughter's Closet!

Declutter the bookshelves!

Move the board books out BEFORE your child goes to college!

Media is streaming through our lives in a rushing river. If you want your child to be a reader, make sure the books he or she has to choose from are part of that stream. Maybe her room is crammed full of books she could be reading. But yours is too, isn’t it? And don’t you still buy new ones? Celebrate the end of the school year by helping your child go through the books in her personal library, decide which to keep, which to give away, and which to recycle into collage or crafts. Maybe the picture books that you loved as a child don’t belong in your third grader’s room. Maybe they belong in your own library. Give your third grader space for her own selections.

Even Clifford likes to share a good book.

Even Clifford likes to share a good book.

A Word about "Narrative Nonfiction for Children"

Common Core Standards

Boys sometimes prefer nonfiction over fiction. Help your child fight this battle with teachers who insist that they’re just looking at the pictures in those books about cars and sharks. It’s really a form of censorship. When your child realizes that you take his tastes in reading material seriously, he just might begin doing so himself.

Nonfiction is actually this year’s latest trend. According to the Common Core Standards adopted by every state except Alabama and Florida (just kidding, Alabama and Florida!) children will be reading a lot more “narrative nonfiction” — like a fifty-fifty split. Biographies are the best place to look for nonfiction that “reads like fiction”, but there’s great stuff in the ever popular animal books too.

This book is one in a series of about fifty, dealing with every topic from history from travels with Marco Polo to Victorian coal miners. The cover looks a lot like the old Mad Magazine, doesn’t it? The kids read them like Mad Magazine too, and when they’re finished, they know who Marco Polo was or what life in the Wild West was really like. They may not know a lot — but that’s what foundations are. Educators pitching out the textbooks — and they are pitching out the textbooks — may have to settle for narrative nonfiction that reads like comic books.

Narrative Nonfiction

It tastes just like chicken!

The Orbis Pictus Award and the Robert F Sibert Award are two awards given to outstanding nonfiction books each year. The thing is, most libraries don't mark these, so to find them you'll have to do your homework. Look for these and other award winners on the American Library Association home page at Robert Silbert Award There are great choices among the Orbis Pictus Award given out by the National Council of Teachers of English too.

Here are a few of my favorites series:

A Pink Book or a Blue Book?

A Word about Gender

Older reading lists used to be heavily loaded with girl-appeal-only books, but this is beginning to change. Books for guys are included more often, so there are more choices for them. For younger readers, it always seems to be the same story: dinosaurs and pirates for boys, princesses and fairies for girls. And that's fine.

Except when it's not fine, and the stereotype works against the child. Today a reading mentor was looking in my library for something for a new student. "She doesn't like to read," she said. "Although she can. She just won't sit down and do it. And she doesn't like the books my daughter likes, Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious," two guaranteed girl reads. I loaded her up with the kinds of books I pick out for my grandson, funny, goofy books.

If one flavor doesn't work, try another.

Find the Next-Great-Book Websites

Check these out.

Book Riot Reads 2015
Read Kiddo Read
James Patterson gets the spotlight on great writers for the most reluctant readers.
A Book and a Hug
Written by kids for kids.
Determines the reading level of most published books, and includes a search engine for finding books at that level, which is not always too use to use, unfortunately.
Reading Rockets
Helpful info on selecting a book with the right reading level.
Anita Silvey's Childrens Book-A-Day Almanac
Extremely well written, even inspiring website by a true booklover.
Guys Read
This is Jon Sciezska's (rhymes with "fresca") website recommending GUY books. He oughta know one when he sees one. He wrote the immortal "Stinky Cheese Man."
100 Best Childen's Chapter Books
I've read and loved 98 of these.
Narrative Nonfiction list
Nonfiction books as much fun to read as fiction.
Scholastic Books
Rich website with a nice readalike search engine.
How to choose books for young children.
More info on good book choice.
What Do We Do All Day: Read
Early chapter books for girls, plus links to early chapter books about animals.
American Library Assocation Summer Reads for 2013
Booklists for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8.

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