How to Choose Age Appropriate Books
Choosing age appropriate reading material is a major concern for many parents. Of course, the best way to decide if a book is suitable for your child is to preread it yourself. When your children are little and reading short picture books, this isn’t too hard to accomplish. But as they get older and begin reading chapter books and novels, it will likely become time-prohibitive to preread every book. It’s especially challenging if you have multiple children. So, what’s a busy parent to do? The resources below will help you find age appropriate books. There are resources to help you decide if the book is a fit for your child’s reading level, as well as ones to help you avoid books with inappropriate content.
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Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media reviews books and movies. If they’ve reviewed the book you’re researching, they will give a recommended age, a star rating, and list everything parents need to know about the book. Below is an example of the information provided in each of their book reviews. You can click on each category to get the specifics, including what language was used, descriptions of violent passages, etc. Common Sense Media allows users to read three reviews per month for free. Users with a paid membership can read unlimited reviews.
Plugged In, a division of Focus on the Family, reviews books, movies, TV shows, and video games from a Christian perspective. Their free book reviews are organized by genre. Each review includes a readability age range, a plot summary, information about any Christian beliefs or other belief systems found in the book, and discussion questions. The reviews also offer warnings about any violence, profanity, or sexual content in the book.
Most books on Amazon for children and teens have a detailed description, including a recommended grade level or age. Many parents will also post reviews on the books they buy. I always like to take a look at the one-star reviews. Of course, almost every book will have a few negative reviews. But, if you find that 20 different parents express similar concerns over inappropriate content in the book, it’s a red flag that you probably want to avoid the book.
Goodreads is another great place to read book reviews. Like with Amazon, sort out the one-star reviews to find common complaints or concerns from other parents.
Accelerated Reader Bookfinder
Accelerated Reader’s Bookfinder page is a useful resource parents can use to determine the reading level of a book. For example, if a book’s reading level is 3.5, that means that it could be read independently by a typical 3rd grader in the fifth month of the school year. Children’s reading levels vary, so you may want to consider books above or below their actual grade. Also, just because a book is recommended for your child’s grade, doesn’t mean that it won’t have content that your family finds inappropriate. This website provides a quick way to get an idea of the book’s reading level. However, you’ll still want to use other sources to determine if its content is acceptable.
The Good and The Beautiful Book List
Jenny Phillips, at The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB), created this free downloadable list of recommended books for 1st through 12th grade. Each book on the list includes a review and is rated based on moral merit, literary merit, and educational value. Mrs. Philips excludes any books that have profanity, encourage poor values, or have other inappropriate content. To get the list, you’ll need to sign up for TGTB’s emails. A list of books that didn’t make the recommended list is also included in the download, along with an explanation about why the books didn’t make the cut. It’s helpful to know why Mrs. Philips chose not to recommend these books. You may find that some of the reasons aren’t much of a concern for your family, but there will be other books you’ll definitely want to avoid. If you need help determining your child’s reading level, TGTB also provides a free reading level assessment.
The Read-Aloud Family
If you’d like to read aloud to your kids more often, but need a bit of inspiration, check out Sarah Mackenzie’s book, The Read-Aloud Family. In the book, you’ll find booklists for all ages, as well as information about the benefits of reading aloud and guidance on how to connect to your children through books. Mrs. Mackenzie also has a website, The Read-Aloud Revival, where you’ll find book lists, podcasts, and blog posts about reading.
NWT Literacy Council Book List
Do you have a teenager who struggles with reading but finds most books written at an elementary reading level to be too childish? If so, NWT Literacy Council’s free book list for youth and adults can help you choose books that are high interest, low vocabulary. Please be aware that the content in some of the books may not be appropriate for every family, so you’ll still want to check other sources to make sure any book you are considering meets your standards.
When you aren’t able to preread, what resources does your family use to determine if a book is age appropriate for your children? Comment below.
Note: This post was originally published on February 16, 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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