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How can I Tell if a Book is Appropriate for my Child?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Deciding on appropriate books for children is a highly individualized process. A fourth grader might read a book like Where the Red Fern Grows and not be disturbed by the death of the dogs at the end. On the other hand, a seventh grader might read the same book and be deeply troubled by its ending. Knowing how to choose appropriate books for children is really about knowing your child.

Often it is not enough to simply read reviews of what are considered appropriate books for children as they don’t give enough information to decide their fitness. Ideally, the best way to determine appropriate books for children is to read them first. This way, one knows exactly what the book contains and whether one deems the subject matter as appropriate.

One can also get some hints on appropriate books for children by paying attention to recommendations from other parents who have similar parenting ideals to one’s own. One won’t get the best advice from a person who lets their kids watch R rated movies, for example, if your household is strictly PG rated. If you know another family well, however, and their children share similar sensibilities to your own, they may suggest appropriate books for children you have not already discovered.

If one comes from a particularly religious background, it can also help to read publications like magazines and newspapers that address and review children’s literature. This can help one decide on appropriate books for children based on one’s moral convictions. Favorably reviewed books are often quite excellent.

Alternately, if your parenting style is a little looser in regard to content, choosing appropriate books for children can be as easy as looking up books with a high number of awards. For example Caldecott and Newbery Medal nominated or winning books are often excellent works of literature.

As a child’s reading level advances, they can suddenly read a lot of books that one might not wish them to. One thing that many parents find helpful is to steer children toward classics instead of modern novels, which may not be appropriate books for children. For example, an avid reader can easily gobble down classics like Little Women, The Three Musketeers or Great Expectations. These books are free from the profanity and graphic sex or violence that may plague modern books, but are still highly entertaining and excellent examples of literature.

Another way of evaluating appropriate books for children is to examine not the content but the reading level. A first grader might be desperate to read a Harry Potter book for example but may simply lack the reading skills to do so. In this case, you could either read the book with your child, or find similar material that is more appropriate to an early reading level.

Most Harry Potter books fall between 4th and 7th grade reading level, but other books dealing in similar topics may be geared toward a younger child. It is important that a child’s early reading experiences meet with success, as this will improve their reading skills. Successfully reading a book can also encourage children to view reading as pleasurable and make reading a lifelong habit. Soon enough, they’ll be ready for Harry Potter, and anything else you find appropriate in more challenging reading levels.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Jolecter — On Jan 27, 2014

I bet that librarians would also have great ideas for what good books for kids might be. They can tell you what is popular, and help identify age appropriate books for your children.

By sdailey — On Jan 26, 2014

Often, kids story books will also list a recommended age or grade level on them, to help a person pick out a book that may be appropriate for a child. I worked at a book store for a number of years, and they often organized books based on this grade level recommendation. But it really is all about knowing your child, or the child for whom the book is intended. While my son is still too little to read books on his own, I know that books about animals, for example, are a lot more likely to capture his attention (and get him to sit still for a moment) than books about other topics.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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