SCHOOL DAZE!!!! It is that wonderful time of year when we school shop, make hair and barbershop appointments, and take dozens of 1st day of school photos. As we get wrapped up in all the the tears and homemade breakfasts, let’s all use some of that excitement and Super Mom, Aunt or Sister power into cultivating a lasting bookworm!
Let’s see what the world of books and reading have to offer for this school year.
Age 2 to 6
- If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!, by Elise Parsley, is a delightfully offbeat cautionary tale narrated by main character Magnolia, who warns readers not to make the mistake she did — because it landed her in the principal’s office. The art is hilarious and captures the resulting mayhem when Magnolia brings an alligator in for show-and-tell.
- Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten, by Marc Brown, soothes preschoolers’ worries about starting kindergarten. Monkey isn’t sure he’ll make new friends, like the snacks, or find the bathroom, but one by one his fears are assuaged as he realizes he’s perfectly ready to transition to the experience.
- Dory and the Real True Friend, by Abby Hanlon, is the sequel to Dory Fantasmagory and stars a wildly imaginative 6-year-old. Dory is starting first grade and and has to leave her imaginary friend Mary behind. At school, she meets equally imaginative Rosabelle, and the two have exciting adventures, many featuring the imaginary friends and foes from Book 1.
Age 7 to 12
- Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, is a captivating mystery involving puzzles and codes that’s set in San Francisco, where 12-year-old Emily has just moved. The city is home to Garrison Griswold, the creator of Book Scavenger, a game that involves hiding books, finding clues, and tracking them down for points and bragging rights. When Griswold is shot and a rare book in his possession is lost, Emily gets it back but must crack the code before the thieves who attacked Griswold do.
- From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, by Meg Cabot, is a middle-grade intro to the author’s popular Princess Diaries series, starring Olivia, an “average” sixth-grader who learns she’s a princess: She’s the biracial half-sister of Mia (star of The Princess Diaries), who was equally surprised when she found out she’s related to the royal family of Moldavia.
- Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani, is an absorbing mystery with a strong, smart, 17-year-old heroine, Claire, who uncovers secrets about her parents’ past and suspects her father may have had ties to the yakuza (the Japanese mafia). As she digs, she starts receiving threats that only someone who knows Japanese culture would understand.
Age 13 to 17
- Deadly Design, by Debra Dockter, is a suspenseful science-fiction medical thriller about genetic manipulation. After his twin brother dies suddenly of heart failure, 16-year-old Kyle worries he might be in danger. His sleuthing leads to a medical conspiracy, and he learns the genetic time bomb that claimed his twin’s life is ticking down his own life expectancy.
- Emmy & Oliver, by Robin Benway, is a contemporary realistic novel about teens who resume a friendship — and then a relationship — 10 years after an unexpected separation. This poignant exploration of first love between two teens still coping from a traumatic childhood event explores some tough issues (parental kidnapping, overprotective parents, coming out), but Benway keeps the language and story line accessible for young-adult readers.
- Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen (The Moon and More), is a teen romance about a relatable girl finding her way with family and friends after having been the victim of a sexual assault. Dessen can always be counted on for nuanced characters and naturally unfolding plots, and she’s at her best here.
Here are some of Common Sense Media‘s best tips for nurturing a love of reading:
Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. When reading to babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it’s wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. You may have to read your kid’s favorite a hundred times, but just go with it. Your kid will remember the closeness as well as the story. And try nonfiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, whatever. For second through fifth graders, read those rich and meaty books that might be missed otherwise, maybe classics like Treasure Island or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Many parents think that as soon as their kids learn to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. But kids still love it and benefit from it as they hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and just take it all in. Kids will get the idea that there’s something worthwhile in books and that there’s something special about time spent with a parent.
Savor the series: It’s common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment. Some reliable prospects: Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody for beginning readers; Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Percy Jackson series for middle graders; and Hunger Games,Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Twilight (unless you think vampires are too creepy) for older kids.
Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they’re passionate about, from girl detectives to science fiction and fantasy. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s considered great literature (although some genre books are). Be happy that your kid is devouring books one after the other.
Feed the favorite-author addiction: Once your kids finds a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books — a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona). Middle grade: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book). Tweens and teens: Judy Blume (Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret) and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen).
Count on the Classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. There are no guarantees, but you could try introducing your kids to books you loved as a kid and see which ones click. Some good ones to try are the Dr. Seuss andNarnia books, Charlotte’s Web, and The Secret Garden. Check out our Classic Books for Kidslist to find more.
Find Books About the Things Your Kid Loves: If your kid adores horses, try Black Beauty or any of the titles on our list of best Horse Books. If he’s wild about cars, trucks and trains, check out our list of Vehicle Books. Librarians, booksellers, and Internet searches will help you find books on any favorite topic.