by Patricia Rudolph
Raising a reader can be tough work. There are so many activities competing for your child’s time and
attention-school, sports, friends, movies, and music. Even once you’ve gotten your child into reading,
you and your child are being bombarded by popular media and revolving trends, making it hard to
separate the wheat from the chaff. We know you want your kids to read quality, engaging books that
align with your family’s values, but you don’t have time to read every book yourself to make sure it’s
appropriate for your child. We have some advice and resources that can help you get started.
Some things to consider first are your child’s age and reading ability. You don’t want books that are
boring and too simple, or too intense, or too long. Accelerated Reader can be a helpful tool in
determining the level of vocabulary and reading comprehension that is required to read a certain book.
Accelerated Reader-AR-is a program that is used in each Coffey County school system as a tool for
tracking students’ independent reading practice and development. Books are given a Reading Level that
indicates the recommended grade a student needs to be to read that book. A book given a 2.5 Reading
Level would be recommended for the average student in the 2 nd grade. Most teachers will assign a range
for each student, for example 2.5-3.5. This will encompass books that will be easy/quick reads, as well as
more challenging to encourage growth. Not all books are included in the AR program, and many books
in the library are thus not given AR labels, but if you know your students AR range it can be helpful in
selecting books appropriate for your child’s reading comprehension and vocabulary.
Another point of consideration should be your child’s reading attention span. Not all children are
content to sit still with a big chapter book, or have the patience to finish a long read. With that said, you
should never judge a book by its size. Often when you open a children’s book, you’ll find that it’s
formatted to be more appealing for kids, with large font, big page breaks, wide margins. Some even
have pictures interspersed with the text. If you’re wondering if a book may be too long for your child to
finish, have a look inside and you may find it’s not as long as it first appears.
Now we have length and skill, but what about content? You’ll want to pick books in genres that your
child enjoys. Some kids like realistic fiction, some horror, and some sports dramas. Books can be
windows into new worlds and perspectives, so it’s important to encourage kids to read books that
include diverse characters and settings within their interests. Going farther, every parent also has a
preference for the amount of bad language, violence, emotional trauma, etc. they are willing to allow
their children experience through media. Every kid has their own preference as well: what is thrilling for
one kid may be too intense for another. You’ll need to look for content that is not only age appropriate
but also developmentally appropriate for your child.
How can you know what themes are presented in a book, without reading it yourself? It never hurts to
look at publisher’s recommendations. If a publisher recommends a book for teens, you may not want
your 4 th grader reading it. However, publisher’s recommendations are often more about marketing than
child development, so this isn’t the end of your search. You can use reader reviews on amazon or
https://www.goodreads.com/ to gage what other parents thought of a book. There are also some
online tools you can use to find more information.
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ is a website that allows you to search a title (and not just for
books, but music, TV shows, and apps/games as well) and find the recommended age according to
parents, kids, and the commonsensemedia experts. You’ll also find a list of common concerns rated by
how prevalent they are in that book, as well as written community reviews, and topics you may want to
discuss with your kids as they read.
https://thestorygraph.com/ is another helpful website. On TheStoryGraph you’ll find user reviews,
content warnings, and ratings about the vibe of a book: whether it is character or plot driven, the mood-
adventurous/sad/relaxing, the pacing, and so much more. As an example, users of TheStoryGraph rated
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 96% adventurous, 54% fast paced, and 95% of users said it had
lovable characters, with an average overall rating of 4.49 out of 5 stars.
As always, you could also ask library staff to help you pick something. Whatever your reading
preferences are, our knowledgeable staff can help you find your child’s next favorite book, and maybe
your next favorite book too! We always encourage you to read what your child is reading. Being
involved in your child’s interests is a great way to bond, and there is no perfect substitute for
experiencing a piece of media for yourself before deciding if your child should explore it. We just hope
that these resources will help you on your journey toward raising a kid who is enthusiastic about books.