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Trends, Recommended Reads

Raising a reader: Books for every stage of literacy development


Oct 03, 2022

Parenting is, according to my 6-year-old’s quantitative math, about 1 bazillion + infinity times harder than I thought it would be. I swore I’d never yell (it happens). I vowed that she’d eat all the colors of the rainbow (does ketchup count as a vegetable?). I even pledged that we’d never sit her in front of the TV (lol, when else would I sit?). And while I’m expecting no trophies in the parenting arena (though a big hug will more than suffice), I always made sure we read aloud.

With an active child who looked like she was in training for American Ninja Warrior, we took to reading books while eating meals. Chicken nuggets may have been a staple on the menu most days, but so were books. We breezed through 1,000 books before kindergarten and didn’t stop there.

Mostly, we read picture books that we checked out from the library. Sometimes, I’d build on a new concept she learned in preschool that day and borrow an ebook in the Libby app. Other days, we just looked for Waldo in a sea of look-alikes. And while some days it’s not easy to fit into a busy schedule, reading with your kids will always pay off.

If you’re looking to build good reading habits at home, here are some book recommendations that caregivers can enjoy with their kids at every stage of reading development.

Books for babies

Books for babies

A board book and some pamphlets from the hospital are often the first gentle nudge that new parents receive to start reading to their child. While reading to babies is sometimes the last thing blurry-eyed parents are adding to their laundry list, the sound of your voice is soothing, not to mention there are advantages of early exposure to a broad vocabulary. One study showed that children who are read to in their first five years of life are exposed to 1 million more words than those who weren’t.

Everything is MAMA by Jimmy Fallon

Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch

You Are New by Lucy Knisley

I Love You Through and Through by Caroline Jayne Church

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni

Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli

Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

Beginning readers

Beginning readers

Once kids hit preschool, chances are they're already familiar with devices from playing games on the tablet or watching TV shows. Most tots can breeze through an iPad set-up screen faster than I can put on my reading glasses. That’s why they’ll relish the control they get with Read-Alongs in Libby. No adult supervision required, and it satisfies the “I can do it myself!” urges that take over around that age. After pressing play, the pages flip through on their own, and the words are highlighted as they're read. For kids on the cusp of reading, this can improve word recognition and helps to develop early literacy skills.

Books can also help young kids learn how to navigate the world. Heavier topics like death, moving, divorce, a new baby or even how to behave can be distilled down in an easy, digestible way for little minds. When our family cat passed away, books stepped in with the words I couldn’t find.

Hamsters on the Go by Kass Reich

Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party by James Dean

Moana Read-Along Storybook by Disney

Hands are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi

David Goes to School by David Shannon

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman

My Mom is Magical by Sabina Moyle

The Cool Bean by Jory John

The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak

Chapter books

Chapter books

As kids grow and start to move toward more complex stories, they’ll be introduced to more diverse life experiences and begin to find their reading niche. Some of the most popular reading genres for elementary-aged kids include fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, mystery and biography. Finding out what interests them is one of the first ways they learn about themselves, and it can pay off big time: Kids who love reading also love learning.

But just because they can read doesn’t mean it always has to be a solo activity. You can still read with your child and help them continue to build their language acquisition and bond with you in a special way. Still, one of my coziest memories is listening to my dad reading The BFG to me as I drifted off to sleep.

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

Bad Kitty School Daze by Nick Bruel

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Reluctant readers

Reluctant readers

Reading can be a tough skill to master. It can take practice and exposure to feel comfortable and get to the point where it becomes a joy. Graphic novels are one tool that can help more reluctant readers over that hump. With illustrations that take center stage, there is less pressure on text. Plus, if they already love playing Minecraft, they’ll be that much more motivated to pick up a book about it.

There are also high interest/low readability books, which can be categorized as intriguing to an older reader, but contain simpler vocabulary. Topics are often exciting, action-packed and grab the reader’s interest to motivate them to keep reading.

The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The Hero of Crow’s Crossing by Red Rhino

Fish Out of Water by Joanne Levy

Nine Doors by Vicki Grant

Finders Keepers by Melanie McFarlane

Sonic the Hedgehog by Ian Flynn

Minecraft: The Official Joke Book by Dan Morgan

Pizza and Taco: Super-Awesome Comic! by Stephen Shaskan



We’re talking about reading and, yes, listening is reading. An easy way to squeeze more in is with audiobooks in the car or around the house. Long family road trips are much more fun when the whole family can listen to a story together rather than stare endlessly at their phones. Or, put an audiobook on the Sonos speakers at home while everyone is doing chores on Saturday morning. Clean house plus smarter kids sounds like winning to me.

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Amelia Bedelia Audio Collection by Peggy Parish

Hi, Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs

The Clackity by Lora Senf

These are just a few recommendations, but check out more great titles for kids from your local library in the Libby app.


About the Author

Annie Suhy has been working in the book industry since 2006. When she’s not working, practicing yoga, or petting cats, she’s doing paint-by-numbers and buying more plants. An avid poetry fan, her favorite collection is "The Splinter Factory" by Jeffrey McDaniel.


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