Early reading experiences play an important role in brain development.
- Recent studies have shown that children who grow up with books at home have increased literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology skills in adulthood.
- Bookstores and libraries are great, but according to researchers, early exposure at the parental home matters because "books are an integral part of routines and practices that enhance lifelong cognitive competencies."
- While age doesn't necessarily dictate reading level, here are titles suitable for children from a few months old up to 17 years.
When you're making small talk with friends old and new, they typically ask questions that involve your reading habits. People are often curious about the last book you read, what you're currently reading, and what titles are waiting in a neat little stack in your living room. Rarely does anyone ask what the first book you remember loving was, or what books from your childhood had the biggest impact on you, but it turns out that those early reading experiences are just as (if not more) important when it comes to your brain's development.
According to a 2018 study that involved 160,000 people, growing up with a home library of 80-350 books (the average in the U.S. is 114) results in adults with significantly higher levels of literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology (ICT) skills. Studies have also shown that reading increases white matter in the brain (boosting system-wide communication), and children who are read to regularly are less likely to be hyperactive and disruptive.
Libraries and publishers often give the option to sort books by age range, but not everyone progresses at the same pace. Those guidelines, and the distinctions made in this article, are generalizations and are meant to be flexible. That being said, here are some popular, best-selling, and well-reviewed books for the young reader on your shopping list.
Written and illustrated by John Stepsoe, this board book tells the story of a baby who wants nothing more than to play with his big brother.
"This is Baby" is Jimmy Fallon's third children's book. With illustrations of diverse babies by Miguel Ordóñez, it helps teach your little one how to find various body parts from their head to their toes.
The earlier children are exposed to a new language, the better. This bilingual board book, written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow, is a story of positive self-esteem that the Amazon synopsis says is "high on energy and imagination." Fatherly.com recently listed it among their top 16 books for two-year-olds.
A timeless classic by Maurice Sendak that most of us read growing up. If you don't own this one, now may be the time to add it to the collection.
The book that inspired an Oscar-winning animated short, "Hair Love" is written by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. It tells the story of a father who has to learn a difficult new skill: how to style his young daughter's long and curly hair.
Dr. Seuss books are great for their re-readability, rhyme schemes, and unique art style. Children are looking for books that they can grab and read alone or with a parent at this age, so having this collection of five will give them some variety.
We would absolutely recommend the cartoon if we could, but "The Magic School Bus" as a book series is also really fun for children. This particular book touches on a subject that we especially love: space exploration.
The number one best seller in Amazon's "Children's Mystery and Detective Comics & Graphic Novels" section, this Dan Pilkey book is the fourth in the series, which you should consider collecting so that your 3rd grader can experience it all.
Another classic novel that most readers are probably familiar with (and one that comes with various adaptations), "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was written by Roald Dahl and first published in 1964. A cool bonus exercise could be reading the book then watching the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder to see how they compare and contrast.
The beauty of buying the full Harry Potter set is that your child can grow along with the characters. The books get progressively longer and there are some pretty mature themes in the later installments, but your pre-teen will have time to build up to those.
Learning about history and politics is a lot more fun and engaging for children when it's in the form of graphic nonfiction. This biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Whitney Gardner.
Written by Kelly Barnhill, this fantasy story focuses on a girl named Luna who is raised by a witch and accidentally given magic powers, which she must learn to control. In a review for The New York Times, Diana Wagman wrote that the book "educates about oppression, blind allegiance and challenging the status quo while immersing the reader in an exhilarating story full of magical creatures and derring-do."
The subject matter in Mildred D. Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" is by no means light and whimsical, so you'll want to consider whether or not your 7th grader is ready for it. Set in Mississippi in the 1930s, the book deals with racism, social injustice, and violence, but also family, love, and perseverance.
Katharine McGee's novel tells the story of an alternate America where there is a wealthy, drama-filled royal family. If your teenager is into celebrity culture and all that comes with it, then they should give this a read.
This YA fantasy novel is the first in a trilogy written by Shelby Mahurin. There are witches, witch hunters, forbidden love, and humor to be had in the 528 pages of the book, which debuted at number two on the NY Times bestseller list and was chosen as Barnes and Noble's YA Book Club selection in 2019.
Described as a disturbing tale of a dystopian world where men rule and women have no civil rights, this 1985 book has gained popularity in recent years thanks to the hit television show of the same name. Author Margaret Atwood served as a consulting producer on the show, which means a lot of this multiple award-winning book's power has been translated onto the screen.
Emily M. Danforth's coming-of-age novel from 2012 is about a young girl in Montana who, upon discovering her homosexuality, is sent to a conversion camp by her conservative guardians. While the character in the book is younger (12 years old), parents and kids seem to agree that the mature themes are best appreciated by slightly older readers.
The most popular books of the past 125 years, and where to get them.
- New York Public library is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2020. With over 90 locations across New York City's boroughs, it is the nation's largest public library system.
- Based on circulation data, popularity, trends, and other criteria dating back to 1895, these books are considered the library's most checked-out titles of all time.
- "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats was checked out 485,583 times and takes the top spot, but one librarian's hatred of another book may have robbed it of the crown.
This year marks the 125th birthday of the New York Public Library. Millions of books have been borrowed from the library's numerous branches around the city since 1895, but some timeless classics have been thumbed through and enjoyed more than others. For its quasquicentennial celebration, the library has shared a list of the ten books that card holders just couldn't get enough of.
"The books on this list have transcended generations and, much like the Library itself, are as relevant today as they were when they first arrived," said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx in a statement. "This list tells us something about New Yorkers over the last 125 years — what moves them, what excites them, what stands the test of time."
Determining which books were the most popular wasn't as simple as checking a computer file. A team of experts reviewed checkout and circulation data, reading trends, the length of the books, the length of time they have been in print and in the catalog, school lists, and the awards and special recognitions that the books have received.
You should find as many ways as you can to support your local library. Add these books to your borrow list now, or if you can't stand the wait, buy a copy of your own.
Published in 1962, this Caldecott Award-winning children's book tells the story of a Black boy named Peter exploring his city after the first snowfall of the season. Keats' book has since been translated into 10 different languages, has appeared on postage stamps, and has been adapted into an animated Christmas special. It tops the list with 485,583 checkouts.
Limited edition NYPL library cards featuring Keats' cover illustration are now available for eligible residents.
In the number two spot with 469,650 checkouts is Dr. Seuss's iconic book about a tall feline who talks and visits two children on a rainy day while their mother is away. Originally published in 1957, the book has spawned animated and live-action film adaptations, games, theme park rides, and lots of merchandise and licensed apparel. You can now read about Thing One and Thing Two in 17 languages.
Published in 1949, this novel (set in the imagined 1984 of the future) has become synonymous with the idea of a dystopian society. Checked out 441,770 times from New York Public Library, Orwell's book is a staple in classrooms and widely considered one of the most influential books of all time.
This picture book from 1963 was written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. After misbehaving and being sent to bed without dinner, Max is transported to a jungle with other "wild things." He becomes their king but eventually misses his family and returns home. There are only 388 words in the book, but the great story and even greater artwork inspired parents and young readers to check the book out 436,016 times in New York.
Another staple on reading lists around the country, this Pulitzer Prize winning book by Harper Lee has been seen as both a masterpiece and as a text worth banning. Dealing with themes of racial injustice and classism, the book is set in a small town in Alabama where a Black man has been falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. NYPL patrons have read the story of Scout, Atticus, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley 422,912 times since it was published in 1960.
An artistic spider and an exceptional pig navigate the harsh realities of farm life and of mortality in this 1952 novel by E.B. White. If you haven't read the book, chances are you've seen the animated film that was released 21 years later in 1973. Around 337,948 readers have picked this one up so far, so maybe it's time for you to join them in the adventure.
Burning books is bad, but reading a classic novel about burning books is good. This highly awarded title was first published in 1953 and has stood the test of time, as more young readers discover it in school and older readers revisit its McCarthy era themes of censorship and freedom of thought. "Fahrenheit 451" has been checked out 316,404 times, according to NYPL.
One of the best-selling self-help titles of all time, this book by Dale Carnegie was published way back in 1936. Friend seekers are apparently still finding wisdom in its pages, because it has been borrowed from the library system over 284,524 times. What advice does Carnegie give? You'll have to grab a copy to find out.
The first of seven books in the wildly successful series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (née Philosopher's Stone) is still J.K. Rowling's best-selling work, so the fact that it has been checked out 231,022 times is not surprising. Overall, the series has sold over 500 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 80 languages.
At only 22 pages long, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is the shortest book on the list but perhaps the most vibrant. Eric Carle's illustrations of a caterpillar and its delicious environment have crawled out of the library at least 189,550 times in New York and millions more at other libraries and bookstores around the world. If you don't already own it, grab a copy now.
There was one really interested asterisk to the NYPL list that is worth sharing. It turns out, the personal tastes of one librarian kept the 1947 book "Goodnight Moon" from appearing on library shelves for nearly three decades, which undoubtedly skewed its circulation numbers. The library explains:
By all measures, this book should be a top checkout (in fact, it might be the top checkout) if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore hated "Goodnight Moon" when it first came out. As a result, the Library didn't carry it until 1972.
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