How to Find Great Books to Read to Your Kids

By Sheila Seifert
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Learn how to find books to read to your kids and get a list to start today!

I was always searching for what books to read to my kids. I liked to read to them, and they liked to listen, even after they learned to read books on their own. But this time, I hadn’t carefully screened a book before I started reading it to them, and I realized too late that the main character solved his problem by lying, without facing any consequences for his decision. When the book ended, we had a good conversation about how the ends don’t justify the means, and I began to consider how I could be more proactive in choosing quality books for my kids.

What books to read to my children

To start a list of books to read to my children, I wrote down titles that made an impact on me, along with the age I was when I read them. To that, I added recommendations from family members, trusted friends and my children’s teachers. Then I verified age and content appropriateness through book review websites such as PluggedIn.com/book-reviews. Here are a few other ideas:

• Challenges. When children go through changes, such as a move to a new school, it’s wise to find books that focus on similar situations. Otherwise, look for books to read to children with realistic characters who appear to use reason or logic to overcome challenges. These character-driven stories can help kids learn to solve their own challenges.

• Worldviews. Research the publisher and author to uncover a book’s worldview. A publisher’s mission statement or an author’s biography gives clues. (Even lesser-known authors have brief biographies or links to achievements.) This helps to better understand why Philip Pullman (The Amber Spyglass) depicts Christianity poorly and George MacDonald (The Princess and the Goblin) represents it well; or why Frances Hodgson Burnett’s earlier books (Sara Crewe) did not have the same Christian Science subtleties as her later work (The Secret Garden). You shouldn’t necessarily avoid all books that have a different worldview from yours, but it is important to discuss the books’ worldview with your kids if there is one. Unfortunately, a book written by someone with a biblical worldview doesn’t guarantee that a book is written well. So use your common sense as you find books to read to your kids.

• Book reviews. Read a book review from a trusted source, and then consider the appropriateness of the genre and plot for your children (age, developmental stage, current life challenges). Once you decide on a book that will work with your children’s personalities, interests and developmental stage — physically and spiritually — read it to them. When done, discuss the book through free tools such as the parent-child discussion questions at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Reading to 4- to 7-year-olds

Book titles listed below have been reviewed by Focus on the Family, though not all books published by Focus on the Family have reviews because they are wholly approved by Focus on the Family. Those that don’t have reviews are linked to an online bookstore where you can read descriptions about the books. The titles below are intended to help parents create their own list of books to read to their children. There is some overlap of book titles between the age groups because of the wide variety of differences in children at each age and stage. Remember that PluggedIn.com book reviews are not endorsements and cover only the content and theme of a book, not its literary merit.

Adventure

  • Bible Kidventures: Stories of Danger and Courage*
    Kids remain engaged as you read them four Bible stories in this choose-your-own Kidventure. Spiritual topics include trusting God and the power of worship. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions — under “S” for Stories of Danger and Courage — read a review or buy it.
  • The Princess and the Goblin
    This 1872 classic fairy tale is ideal to be read to younger children. Spiritual topics include living by faith and how to treat nonbelievers. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions for this book — under “P” for The Princess and the Goblin — or read a review.
  • Stone Fox
    The excitement is gripping in this story that places a boy and his dog against an impossible task — getting the money to pay the taxes to save his family’s farm. Character quality: perseverance. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions — under “S” for Stone Fox — or read a review.
  • By the Great Horn Spoon!
    Loaded with adventure, 12-year-old Jack and his aunt’s butler head to the California gold fields to get enough money to save Aunt Arabella’s home. Character quality: resilience and zeal for life. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions — under “B” for By the Great Horn Spoon — or read a review.

Classic stories

  • Little House in the Big Woods
    Take a step back in time to learn about the adventures of the Ingalls family as they work on their 1871 homestead in Wisconsin. Theme: family life of pioneers. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions — under “L” for Little House in the Big Woods — or read a review.
  • Little House on the Prairie
    The Ingalls family moves to the Kansas prairie, and readers can follow their adventures living in a log house in 1868. Character quality: resilience. Sign in to get parent-child discussion questions — under “L” for Little House on the Prairie — or read a review.

Contemporary

  • Frindle
    Nick Allen causes all sorts of problems with one simple word: frindle. How much can one word change an entire town? Sign in and click on “F” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.
  • Jones & Parker Case Files*
    There’s something mysterious going on in everyone’s favorite town . . . Odyssey, of course No mystery is too big or too small for Emily Jones and Matthew Parker.
  • Mudsharks
    Mudshark is smart, but is he smarter than a parrot? Sign in and click on “M” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.

Fantasy

  • The BFG
    Eight-year-old Sophie is snatched by a BFG. She must learn to survive in a kingdom of giants. Then one night, she comes up with a plan to destroy all mean giants. Sign in and click on “B” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    Four siblings are sent to the countryside during World War II. Once there, they find their way into a magical land, but this unknown kingdom is in need of deliverance from evil.. Sign in and click on “L” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.
  • Nurk
    A small shrew is on a quest to answer a mysterious plea for help. Sign in and click on “N” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.
  • The Whipping Boy
    Prince Brat kidnaps Jemmy, but the kingdom looks for Jemmy, who is blamed for the prince’s disappearance!. Sign in and click on “W” to get parent-child discussion questions for this story — or go to PluggedIn.com to read a book review for this title.

Historical fiction

Copyright © 2016 by Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

Sheila Seifert photo
Sheila Seifert

Sheila Seifert is the editorial director of parenting content for Focus on the Family magazine, the author of over 20 books and the founder of Simple Literature.

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