Help me find books to read with my young children
December 15, 2018 3:06 AM   Subscribe

I have two young children, voracious readers both, and am struggling with the persistent challenge of finding things to read. Please help with recommendations.

My kids are three and six. Reading is a huge activity in our house and we constantly seem to be on the verge of running out of things to read. It doesn't help that our local library is pretty crap so browsing to find things doesn't seem to work: I need to know what to look for. I'm hoping I can list things that have gone over well with the kids and you will have ideas for similar items.

In general, I have found that series and box sets are awesome for both of them. They (and I) really like immersing themselves in a world with characters for weeks or months. Please don't limit yourselves to recommending series, but definitely those are favourites.

For the three year old:
God, I don't know, this kid is baffling. We have read most of the Peppa Pig books and all of the Curious George ones, but he's also been a huge fan of the Junie B. Jones chapter books (which we only read because of his older brother; I never would have guessed he'd like them so much). He seems to like things with "real world" stuff and little-kid drama and emotions, and less so things with trains or fantasy or whatever. Has a very large vocabulary and is highly verbal and very socially sensitive, so anything with relatively rich emotional range and interesting characters would probably work.

For us to read to the six year old:
Right now he is loving Harry Potter but at some point we're going to be at the end of the books that I think he's emotionally mature enough to handle, so looking for more in that vein. He loves fantasy and sci-fi and big adventures. Before Harry Potter, we went through long phases of enjoying Captain Underpants and all of the Magic Treehouse books. Read some of the Droon books and those were okay but I think the characters and writing was a bit too flat to grab either of us.

For the six year old to read to himself:
He has raced through all of the "Bad Guy" books (by Aaron Blabey) and I'm kind of at sea looking for something else to recommend. Lacking anything better he will read the Junie B. Jones ones to himself, but although he finds them funny I don't think they scratch the "sci fi" itch very well, and we've already read the Magic Treehouse to him so he doesn't feel very inclined to read them again to himself unless he's bored. I think the Ahn Do "Weirdo" books and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", although about his reading level, are not very appealing because they feature older-primary kids in social situations that he doesn't usually care about, and they aren't really fantasy-type things. He is really all about adventures and worlds and magical/scientific systems and things like that.
posted by forza to Shopping (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
For the 6-year-old to read to himself: Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree series, starting with The Enchanted Wood. Review and less positive review.

For you to read to the 6-year-old: Diana Wynne Jones, maybe Charmed Life (the start of the loosely-linked Chrestomanci series) or A Tale of Time City.

For the 3-year-old: maybe Russell Hoban's Frances picture books, which are good on feelings, or Dorothy Edwards's chapter books, the My Naughty Little Sister series? Review.
posted by paduasoy at 3:25 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, and for the 3-year-old - the Ramona chapter books by Beverly Cleary are the definition of little-kid drama.
posted by paduasoy at 3:27 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Would the 3 year old like Little Bear? I remember it having themes of family and friendship. (And birthday soup!)

How about Redwall for the 6-year-old, as a read-to-him until he's at that level? When my brothers and I were a little older we also tremendously enjoyed Artemis Fowl for the less-obviously-good protagonist and the sense of humor.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 4:00 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

edward eager's books and the oz books for the 6 year old

susan meddaugh''s martha books, rosemary wells and mo willems for the 3 year old.
posted by brujita at 4:02 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Try Dog Man (by the underpants dude) for the six year old. My daughter is loving a series called Dragon Masters. They are reading a series called "tashi" at school which is relatively popular. She loved a book called The Beast, by Michaela Morgan.

We've not read Zak Power but they are very popular.

For the three year old I will always love and recommend Meg and mog. The Nick Bland books are generally popular (I get annoyed that all of his characters are male but that's kids books for you goddamn it. There is a picture book called The Star Of The Zoo which is a nice antidote to this). My favourite bland book is The Wrong Book. Your youngest might like another book called Waiting Out The Storm as well.

Reading together, Nthing the Chrestomanci series.
posted by smoke at 4:04 AM on December 15, 2018

The Swallows and Amazons books to read to the six-year-old? Lloyd Alexander — the Chronicles of Prydain but also everything else: some of his other books are aimed a little younger.

Stellaluna, (a picture book with a lot of words about a fruitbat) for the three-year-old.
posted by LizardBreath at 5:24 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

We've loved everything by Kate DiCamillo. The Mercy Watson books are a funny series about a pig who has adventures. My kids really enjoyed this series at about 4-8 years old.

Your older kid might like the Geronimo Stilton books. There are several spin-off series available, including Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy.

For a read-aloud, we enjoyed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
posted by belladonna at 7:18 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Cricket in Times Square is a good one; the original Oz books are way better than the movies. In modern kidlit, we liked the Ellray Jakes series for low-stakes little-kid hijinks.
posted by nkknkk at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2018

Geronimo Stilton is great. Zita Spacegirl is a good fantasy graphic novel that’s relatively light. Also Catwings, while much more straight fantasy than sci-fi, is beloved by all children and a pretty easy read.
posted by mai at 7:40 AM on December 15, 2018

Also he may or may not be ready for them on his own, but my students love the Wild Robot series.
posted by mai at 7:43 AM on December 15, 2018

My four year old is pretty into Aesop's fables. We got a book that riffed on the fables and made them longer - it has nice pictures too. It's animal drama, but kind of sassy. George and Martha might also be good for the three year old - you can buy the full collection which has maybe 50 short stories in it? In both cases these are animals living out simple human dramas.

We are a giant reader family - we probably easily have 200 kids books in our house - and we've liked Literati that sends age-appropriate books each month. They've sent a lot that I'd never thought to look for before or heard of, and they help add to the mix.
posted by Toddles at 7:48 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

To read to the 3-year-old:
The Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald. There are also books about her and her younger brother, Stink.
The Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker.
The Ivy and Bean books by Annie Barrows

To read to the 6-year-old, there's a bunch of good recommendations in this post.
posted by mogget at 7:50 AM on December 15, 2018

Cricket in Times Square is a good one

I loved that growing up, but just as a heads up, it’s kind of racist these days. The book isn’t hostile or mean about it, but there’s a Chinatown sequence that is wildly stereotypical — if you were reading it out loud you might want to read ahead and edit those parts some.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:07 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books might work for the younger one (they are a bit dated but still might work).
posted by gudrun at 8:43 AM on December 15, 2018

Thirding the Oz books. Seconding Minrarik's Little Bear books, though I shouldn't, because they are ideal books for children to read themselves. I shouldn't recommend her No Fighting, No Biting either.

Andrew Lang's fairy tale books. The original stories were told aloud to audiences of varying ages, and so are good for read-alouds.

Thomas Mayne's Hob Stories and Hob and the Goblins. Hob is older than he can remember and lives in your house fixing problems unless you should buy him clothes, whereupon he gets full of himself and wanders off.

James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks and The Wonderful O. These are very fine read-alouds, because Thurber was in love with the sound of words.

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. A Labrador retriever, a bull terrier, and a Siamese cat make their way home through Canadian wilderness. No animals die, though it is a close thing sometimes. The animals are anthropomorphized very little.

Russel Hoban's The Sorely Trying Day, and his The Mouse and His Child, and listen, just come back when you have gotten through all his books, OK?
posted by ckridge at 9:16 AM on December 15, 2018

Oh, and when you get to the end of the Harry Potter books that you think your child is ready for, buy the ones he isn't ready for, tell him that they are too grown-up for him, and then leave them around where he can get at them. That is how you get them reading on their own.
posted by ckridge at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2018

For reading aloud — George MacDonald? The Light Princess, The Princess and the Goblins, The Princess and Curdie? You need to not mind Narnia-level Christianity, but they’re strange and awesome.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:36 AM on December 15, 2018

Also Thurber’s The White Deer.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:36 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the six year old try Erin Hunter's Warriors series (there are many, many, many) and the How to Train Your Dragon series.
posted by Cuke at 10:34 AM on December 15, 2018

For the six-year-old: Morrigan Crow! These books deserve at least the same level of love and fame as Harry Potter. There are only two in the series so far, but the author has plans for more.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:49 AM on December 15, 2018

Kipling's Just So Stories, again because of the sound of them aloud, and because he dearly loved that little girl.
posted by ckridge at 10:53 AM on December 15, 2018

Perhaps check out the extensive listings in the Read Out Loud Handbook?
posted by Jaclyn at 11:02 AM on December 15, 2018

For the older kid, we've been aloud-reading our way through some classics lately - so Charlotte's Web; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH; The Book of Three; Island of the Blue Dolphins; Stuart Little; The Mouse and the Motorcycle; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We didn't make it to the end of The Hobbit, but got through a surprising amount. Also, try The Phantom Tollbooth and circle back to it in a year if he's not ready for it yet.

For read-to-self for the older kid, seconding the Dragon Masters series. In general, the Branches imprint by Scholastic has a lot of easy-chapter-book series so find one you like and motor through it. Tales of Sasha is a similar-level series from another publisher.

Both of your kids should read or listen to the Urgency Emergency series; it is side-splittingly funny.
posted by telepanda at 5:32 PM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

For your little guy (well, both if they're interested) a stretch recommendation might be the Jasmine Toguchi chapter books by Debbie Michiko Florence? Started reading them to Nanopanda at 4 and she loved them. We were reading them for cultural reasons but it has interesting characters, little-kid emotional drama, and your younger dude might appreciate some of the younger-sibling woes.
posted by telepanda at 5:36 PM on December 15, 2018

For the 6 year old, how to train your Dragon, Redwall, Geronimo Stilton, the Ramona books (for both kids really), Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, Warrior Cats (there are a million of these). For the 3 year old, sounds like Ivy and Bean might be a win, also seconding Clementine. Maybe the Littles too? And Beverly Cleary has a couple other books about animals that might be a hit, one is called Socks.
posted by DTMFA at 5:54 PM on December 15, 2018

Response by poster: You all are awesome! So many ideas. Am googling madly in an attempt to prioritise amongst all of these. Thank you!
posted by forza at 7:20 PM on December 15, 2018

My three year old is really into Corduroy right now - it seems to really resonate all of a sudden. He also loves the Professor Astro Cat series of books about space and rockets. He also likes the Curious Garden.
posted by chuke at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2018

A great slice-of-life book to read to your three-year-old is Meet Yasmin!, by Saadia Faruqi. It's sweet and charming, and very much about little kid emotions.
posted by yankeefog at 1:00 PM on December 16, 2018

The Narnia books are great to read aloud.
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2018

Gordon Korman has written some great books for kids - the Bruno and Boots series, and the My Teacher is an Alien series, for starters. Louis Sachar is wonderful, too.
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:07 PM on December 16, 2018

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