Libraries are big places—the choices of books can almost be overwhelming. But not all books are worth reading. And if you truly want to experience the benefits of read-alouds that I discussed in a previous post, you need to choose your read-aloud books wisely. Here are some tips as well as downloadable reading lists for creating a good diet of books for your children.
1. Choose from a variety of different genres.
My daughters love a good mystery, but I don’t read mysteries to them every day, just like I don’t feed them the same foods for every meal. In order to become healthy, well-educated readers, they need variety in their reading diet. Below are some favorite books for several different genres. You can also download our reading lists for more suggestions.
- Mystery. Mysteries are usually plot-driven, exciting for all ages, and can help develop thinking skills. My daughters enjoy books from the Boxcar Children series as well as The Mystery of the Dognapped Cat.
- Biography. Reading biographies has helped my children gain an appreciation for people in the past who have had an impact on our world today. We especially enjoy reading biographies about people who have advanced God’s kingdom. Some of our favorites include These Are My People and George Mueller: A Father to the Fatherless.
- Historical fiction. My oldest daughter’s love for historical fiction has fueled her love for history. She particularly enjoys the American Adventure series (unfortunately out-of-print) and stand-alone books such as A Father’s Promise and False Coin, True Coin.
- Fantasy. A good fantasy will teach truth in a way that a realistic story often cannot. We have learned much from the classic Chronicles of Narnia series as well as a relatively-new fantasy series, The Green Ember. We have also enjoyed reading Brill of Exitorn, The Lost Prince, and The Princess and the Goblin.
- Realistic fiction. Realistic fiction helps my children learn about places, cultures, and situations they have never experienced. Within this genre, we have enjoyed the Grandma’s Attic series as well as The Railway Children.
- Poetry. I recenly wrote a post about the benefits of studying poetry. Although you probably don’t want to read an extensive book of sonnets during storytime, you may occasionally want to include some poems in your read-aloud diet. The poetry anthology Where the Sidewalk Ends is an excellent source for finding kid-friendly poems to introduce your children to the genre.
- Nonfiction. Much of your children’s education will come from reading nonfiction books, so it’s good to include them occasionally in your read-aloud time as well. Choose some on topics that interest your child.
2. Choose a book that is the right level for your child.
Because of the differences in their ages, abilities, and even personalities, my daughters need different types of books to motivate and engage them. My toddler will pay attention to a story as long as it contains a lot of pictures and simple, easy-to-follow text. She prefers books that have a rhythmic, rhyming text with repeated phrases. Some of her favorites include The Cow Loves Cookies, Farmer Dillo Counts His Chickens, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
My older daughters (first and third grade) can handle listening to books without illustrations, but the vocabulary needs to be mostly familiar and the sentence structures need to be fairly simple. I also try to choose books with short chapters because I know that they can only comprehend so much at one sitting.
3. Be prepared to deal with objectionable elements.
Very few books are completely free from objectionable elements, so you might want to consider using the GEM approach to help you evaluate the books that you bring into your home. But be ready to talk about any objectionable elements that surface in your reading. It can be a great teaching opportunity.
BJU Press and I have put together suggested reading lists filled with some of our favorite books and are offering them as free downloads. Of course, these lists aren’t perfect, so please use discretion when you choose what books to expose your children to. If you have any books to add to our lists, please let us know in a comment below.
- Reading List for Ages 4-8 (printable)
- Reading List for Ages 9-12 (printable)
- Reading List for Ages 13-17 (printable)