Finding Great Books for Kids

There is a right book out there for every kid. It may seem challenging to find just the right book, but don’t worry – this blog post will not only give you tools on finding great books for your child, you will also find ideas on taking that spark of curiosity inspired by a book and building it into a flame.

Bikan Tan of Virginia reads to his children on the expo floor at the National Book Festival, August 31, 2019. Photo by David Rice/Library of Congress.

Finding titles

The Library of Congress hosts a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for two-year terms. The position of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people. Explore their books and work here:

The American Library Association also creates general reading list, which can be found here, including lists of award-winners and honorees.

Experiment with format

Explore various formats if “regular” books don’t work for child, or if you’d just like to try something new:

  • Audio books are excellent resources for children who have trouble focusing on a book. They can do something else while listening or get to experience stories above their reading level.
  • Graphic novels and comic books help children slow down while they read, become immersed in the stories, and even experience classics in a more accessible way. Make sure to check out award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang at this year’s virtual National Book Festival, running September 25-27, 2020.
  • Try both fiction and nonfiction. If your child is interested in sports, read a real story about a baseball player and a made up story about a baseball team. Read together and give them choices if they’re not sure about exploring a book outside of their comfort zone.
  • Read picture books with older children – they have even more appreciation for the beautiful artwork, brevity and effectiveness of the story, and they might even be inspired to create their own picture book!

Evaluating books and reading together

When choosing quality titles for and with your child, listen to their interests. Do they like ballet, monster trucks, nursing, or map-making? There’s a book for that! Search for titles that connect with your child. There is no judgement – as long as they are reading, their brains are developing and their lifelong love of books is growing.

Encourage your child to read stories about people who look like them, and people who don’t; people who reflect their own backgrounds, and people who come from a diversity of experiences. Books by Own Voices authors are written members of marginalized or under-represented groups from their own experiences and points of view. We Need Diverse Books reading lists offer suggestions. Discuss these voices and diversity of life experiences with your child, and celebrate the differences that make us unique.

Read together! There are numerous benefits to reading to your child even after they outgrow bedtime stories, including improved comprehension, and the time spending reading out loud is also the time for discussions, building empathy, and connecting through shared stories. These memories last a lifetime.

Curiosity sparked! What’s next?

So you read a book together, and your child loved learning something new. You are at a very exciting moment where you can keep exploring together! Have fun on the Library of Congress website at LOC.gov: find interesting pictures in the Prints and Photographs catalog, travel through history via the digital Geography and Maps collections, or listen to folk music in the Alan Lomax collection. Explore, talk, and wonder together.

What will you discover as a familly, and where will this journey lead you next? Share your interests and findings with us!