What books should I get a little girl?
April 18, 2012 6:11 AM   Subscribe

What books would you recommend for an almost 6-year-old girl who reads at a second grade level?

I have a friend with an almost 6-year-old girl who loves girly stuff (My Little Pony, Barbies, drawing, clothing, fashion shows, etc.) and who's reading at a second-grade level. What books would you recommend I get for her?

I'd prefer educational books, if possible, but fun ones to read. Any suggestions?
posted by lea724 to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I love Dealing With Dragons - but the Amazon review says ages 10 and up. I don't think there's objectionable content, but the reading level might still be a little bit advanced. It's a wonderful story though - fun, easy to read, and a the message is that women can do anything they want (so I think it fits the educational criteria).
posted by insectosaurus at 6:20 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

They're not strictly "educational," but Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series is a good blend of adventure, culture and history. My now-7-year-old stepdaughter devoured these when she was 6, and she also reads at a second or third-grade level. Here's a link to the first 40 titles in the series. My stepdaughter will often surprise us with random facts about the Titanic or the Civil War that she learned from Magic Tree House!
posted by little mouth at 6:25 AM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Clarice Bean trilogy. My daughter loves all three novels, and she is 7 (been reading them - or, should I say, had them read to her, since she was about 5-and-a-half).

You'll find them under Clarice Bean: The Utterly Complete Collection. Individually, they are: Clarice Bean Utterly Me, Clarice Bean Spells Trouble, Clarice Bean Don't Look Now.

Thoroughly brilliant stuff...and educational, too. You mark my words.
posted by roryks at 6:29 AM on April 18, 2012

Anne of Green Gables. Might be a bit of a stretch for her but these books are fabulous.
posted by eleslie at 6:30 AM on April 18, 2012

Matilda, by Roald Dahl.

There's no better gift for a small girl who reads far above her grade level than a book where the heroine is a small girl who reads far above her grade level.
posted by the latin mouse at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2012 [10 favorites]

When my girls were reading at second-grade level, they were all about the Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio (or Lucy Daniels, if you're in the UK--same author). A nice thing about those, too, is that if you find that your girl isn't quite up to the regular series yet (although I suspect she will be), there's a "junior" series--Little Animal Ark--so she can work her way up. Baglio also wrote the Dolphin Diaries series, which were a hit with my older girl, who loved dolphins.

When they went through the horse-crazy stage they were into the Pony Pals books by Jeanne M. Betancourt.

And, of course, you still can't beat the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. (I liked Henry too but they may be a bit more dated.)

I'll second the recommendation of Clarice Bean.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:41 AM on April 18, 2012

I'm seconding Matilda, though most of his books would be fine. I think that was when I read/was read The Wind in the Willows. Also Anne of Green Gables.
posted by jeather at 6:47 AM on April 18, 2012

I don't know any explicitly educational ones at that level, though American Girl has a series of books aimed at manners and skills for school-aged girls she might like.

I figure school will create the association between reading and learning for my kids. What I set out to do is create the association between reading and fun for them as well. Junie B. Jones Series, Fashion Kitty, Captain Underpants, Bad Kitty, Skippy John Jones, Dragonbreath, Bone (a comic, actually), Squish (Super Amoeba), Goddess Girls, BabyMouse... these series are all a lot of fun and great for instilling a love of reading. Some of these will, um, not exactly be a tutorial on proper manners (esp. Captain Underpants) and might slightly induce silly kid humor and the occasional underwear joke. But my young readers love this stuff as a gateway drug to harder stuff later on...

Also great for new readers, poetry by Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. I also like kid's joke books. These provide short bursts of fun reading and also make them more interesting at parties. :)
posted by cross_impact at 6:52 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Second grade reading level is perfect to start the Little House books. Little House in the Big Woods is set when Laura Ingalls is about 5 (although the real Laura Ingalls was younger during the Big Woods years). The reading level of LHitBW is right for second grade, and there are more illustrations than in the following books. The reading level of the series increases as the story progresses, so little ones are able to "grow up" with Laura. I'd say they're pretty educational as well as obviously being American classics.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:07 AM on April 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker are hilarious - kind of a modern version of Ramona. There are five in the series. Education value = human relationships, not much else, but fun.

There's a series of chapter books about Disney fairies that I thought were terrible, but my girl loved them at 6-7 years old. Obviously, no educational value at all.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:19 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Fairy Realm books might be good. I like them because they're a little less formulaic than other series of that ilk, and the writing & sentence structure is more rich and varied than, say the Magic Tree House series.
posted by gubenuj at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2012

Seconding the Little House books. Also look into the All-of-a-Kind Family, which are sort of the urban equivalent of Little House books. James Howe's Bunnicula books are good, and very funny. I'd also recommend Edgar Eager (Half-Magic, and the sequels) and Michael Bond's Paddington Bear and Olga Da Polga books (which are out of print, but worth getting used).

She's also right at the cusp of being old enough to read either the Baby-sitters club or Baby-sitters Little Sisters. They're of dubious educational value, but an eight-year-old I know loves them, and I did too, at her age.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:25 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by brujita at 8:04 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't read the Little House books in years, but I do remember being a little taken aback at how racist they were. I'd recommend a read-through before you give them to your daughter.
posted by Tamanna at 8:13 AM on April 18, 2012

Any store or bookstore has an easy reader selection. They have a guide on the back of each book that will show you the reading level and what they mean, so you can get a book that will be at her level. They usually have a wide variety of Barbie books and my little pony stories!
posted by Sweetmag at 8:21 AM on April 18, 2012

Yeah, the Little House books do have a lot of racism, especially towards Native Americans. So if she reads them, then be sure to have a conversation about that.

Also consider the Chronicles of Narnia books by CS Lewis. If Christianity isn't your thing, it's pretty easy to ignore (although I remember feeling pretty proud of myself when I realized that the climax of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was allegory at a young age). These books can be pretty anti-woman at times, so you may want to talk to her about that as well.
posted by smirkette at 8:33 AM on April 18, 2012

I'm not a huge fan of Mary Pope Osborne's writing (having been through one too many MTH books) so I was skeptical about her version of Tales from the Odyssey, but it's actually great. My 6.5yo loves it and is reading it to himself and with us. As someone with a classics/humanities background, I think it builds a wonderful early exposure and familiarity with all sorts of modern-day expressions and references.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:42 AM on April 18, 2012

The Mysterious Benedict Society is pretty awesome. If she's reading at a second grade reading level, then she should be able to read this now, if not in about 8 months or so. It's not strictly educational, but the premise does revolve around the wonders of learning, friendship, and adventure!
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:43 AM on April 18, 2012

I always like to recommend Don't Bet On The Prince.
posted by Citrus at 8:44 AM on April 18, 2012

Oh, another old writer to consider is Carolyn Haywood. She wrote the Betsy books. They're like the most whitebread vision of '50s America ever (though generally completely inoffensive), but they're kind of like delicious cotton candy for little girls. You know, cupcake dresses and flowers and puppies and things.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on April 18, 2012

These might be more third-grade level, but she can grow into them:
• E.B. White.
• Lemony Snicket.
• Judy Blume.
• Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree stories.
• The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden.
• Mary Norton.
• Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr.
• Astrid Lindgren.
• Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce.
• Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews.
• Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld.
• Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers.
• By Otfried Preußler, both The Little Water Sprite and The Little Witch.
• Arnold Lobel.
• Linnea in Monet's Garden, by Cristina Bjork.
• Tove Jansson.
• A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (I adored this in 3rd grade.)
• Erich Kästner: Emil and the Detectives, Anna Louise and Anton, The Flying Classroom, Lottie and Lisa.
• Chris van Allsburg.
• The Wizard of Oz books.
• The Curious Clubhouse, by Christine Govan.
• Esterhazy, by Irene Dische.
• Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey.
• The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.

Here's a handful of extra resources you might find useful:
Favorite Books for Second-Graders
A Summer Reading List from the Weber County Library in Utah
Second Grade Summer Reading List from the Bridgewater-Raritan School District in New Jersey
posted by jann at 9:01 AM on April 18, 2012

My daughter who is about that age really likes the Boxcar Children books and the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:01 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also adored the D'Aulaire's books of mythology at that age. The illustrations are fabulous, and I reread the Greek myths books so often that we had to get it rebound.
posted by jeather at 9:04 AM on April 18, 2012

I was reading Nancy Drew books and anything by Enid Blyton when I was that age. Like the Little House on the Prarie books, Enid Blyton's books would probably need a conversation afterwards.
posted by aniola at 9:37 AM on April 18, 2012

Seconding the Clementine books. Also, the Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows are great fun. She might also enjoy All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor.

We recently discovered the Basher series of science books, and my daughter loves them. She took the Astronomy one to school last week and it was a big hit with the other first graders. The illustrations are cute and it's fun to read. Some of them also come with posters.
posted by mogget at 9:44 AM on April 18, 2012

My favourites from around that age and a little older:

-black beauty
-the velveteen rabbit
-black stallion series (maybe on the advanced side)
-the littles series (read in class in grade 1-2)
-little house on the prairie
-narnia series (maybe on the advanced side)
-many of bruce coville's books, especially into the land of the unicorns (he does mostly sci fi and fantasy, around grade 2-3 level).
-a wrinkle in time (maybe on the advanced side)
-charlotte's web, although she's likely to read that one in class anyway
posted by randomnity at 10:16 AM on April 18, 2012

Oh yes, the Basher science books are all excellent and age-appropriate. The biology book does talk about sperm and egg, but I don't think it mentions sex and the drawings that include genitalia are really too small to make out much - just in case that's a concern.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2012

Well, at that age I wasn't interested in "educational" books for reading, but I did have The New Golden Treasury of Natural History. It's probably sadly out of date now, but it jump-started a life-long interest in the natural world. I also could beat almost everyone in the Science category of Trivial Pursuit, even as a kid. I still have it. So look for colorful reference books for "educational" stuff. I'm putting that in quotes because I think all books, even stories, are educational.

I liked:

The Borrowers Series

Frog and Toad books

The Francis books by Maurice Sendak

The Little House books

The Narnia books

Anything by EB White

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (I can't even count the number of times I have read these. At one point I knew all the poems by heart just by re-reading them).

all Marguerite Henry's horse books.

E Nesbit books, like the Railway Children and The Story of the Treasure Seekers.

A lot of these books were read by my parents and grandparents when they were kids. I probably ended up being interested in history as much as I am because of reading books like Little House on the Prairie and The Railway Children. I think they're educational in that way.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for your suggestions! I really appreciate the help. :)
posted by lea724 at 2:12 PM on April 18, 2012

Monica Hughes was an amazing writer, she almost always had dynamic, strong, and assertive young woman in the leading role. Perhaps the crystal drop, which is about a young woman guiding her little brother across Canada for water, after climate change has made it a desert dust bowl. Or crisis on conshelf ten, or invitation to the game.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:09 PM on April 19, 2012

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