In honor of National Book Lover’s Day, I did some “research” (read: read books – shocker, I know) to find what children’s books to read with your kid to foster a love of reading. Some I pulled from my own childhood to see if they withstood the test of time, but I also picked up some newer books to see what was out there.
As a reader from a very young age (I taught myself at three years old, and was well into chapter books by five!), I think it’s so important to encourage reading early and constantly. However, with so many books out there, it’s hard to choose, and a bad book can set your kid back in wanting to pick up another one. Try my recommendations to ensure good chances of success!
If you have a horse-lover in your house, this series will catch their interest. Instead of covering the world of horse-racing like Joanne Campbell’s Thoroughbred series (which I would put on this list, but it’s ridiculously hard to find), the books follow first one girl, then another, as they attend a private boarding school with an excellent equestrian program. The books are cute, and while there’s some consistency and logic issues, overall, kids will be interested. Plus, the author does cover some deeper topics – like bullying, relationships, and responsibility.
In the same vein, the Saddle Club books do stand the test of time. You may remember these from the early ’90s, featuring three friends in Virginia brought together by a love of horses and a habit of getting into trouble. I was surprised by how much of the series is timeless – I expected the rise of cell phones and the internet to make the books come off as really outdated, but instead I didn’t particularly notice the lack of technology.
This book is for older kids – probably at least 10 years old – because it does cover a difficult topic – domestic abuse. One thing I really loved, though, is that despite the presence of a love story, the protagonist doesn’t prop herself up with a relationship, but instead puts the work into healing herself before committing to the guy. Beyond domestic abuse, there’s also bullying and depression, so this book is definitely one both you and your kid should read, and then TALK about.
This was my favorite book growing up, so it was great to read it again – and it absolutely holds up. The main character is a Native American girl who gets stranded on an island and is forced to learn how to survive on her own for years. Despite the survivalist plot, there’s a lot of feelings and thoughts in the book that any child can relate to, and the girl’s rescue can lead to a discussion on societal expectations versus staying true to oneself. I really think this is a must-read for everyone.
Ok, this series is still iconic. Kids should absolutely read this – the seven members of the club allow every kid to find someone like them, and the characters face a lot of important issues – racism, domestic abuse, divorce, and bullying, to name a few – as well as less important but still impactful issues, like romantic relationships, fights with friends, and moving. Plus, the books are short, so they’re easy reads for kids who haven’t yet fallen in love with books. They’re a little outdated – no cell phones or internet and that will be noticeable – but overall, they’re still worth picking up.
I imagine your child has already read this book, but if they haven’t, buy it immediately. This trilogy absolutely makes top five for dystopian novels. It’s gory, sad, and hard to read at times, but so important. One thing in particular that I love about it is that the heroine doesn’t dream of being a heroine, she’s not some perfect person who was waiting for a chance to shine, and at no point does she actually want to lead a revolution – she just wants to survive and keep her sister alive. The movies are great too, of course, but it’s definitely worth reading the books – and for dystopian novels, this is a better option for children than The Handmaid’s Tale which is hitting a bit too close to home right now.
Ok, I remembered liking this series as a kid, but I forgot or didn’t realize how good it really was. A group of five teens (and later, one alien) take on a parasitic alien empire, and along the way, struggle with their own sense of self. It’s a little surprising that these books are written for kids, but they are definitely worth the read. The books start off a bit lighter with funny moments, but before you know it, you’re in the heart of the war, and it’s dark and depressing. I loved how the author weaves signs of PTSD into the story, and acknowledges that these kids aren’t going to just bounce back and re-enter their normal lives. Definitely worth the read, but make sure you take the time to discuss these books with your child.
So that’s my list – all in all, it’s over 300 books (there are a LOT of books in the Babysitters Club series!). One of the reasons I listed so many series is because shorter books are easier for kids, but the series element allows for some excellent character development, and kids will want to continue reading. Let me know what you would add to this list!