Some of our kids are really picky when it comes to books — not too long, not too short, with just the right plot points and character types. Then there are the ones who go through books so quickly that we can barely keep up with suggestions for what they should read next.
The first place I go for book recommendations is other parents, to see what their kids are actually reading (as opposed to the books we just buy for them that sit on their bedside tables untouched). But if those run dry, I’ve found some great websites full of recommendations for books for kids that you should check out too.
For creative and unusual lists of books to read, we’re loving the new site Brightly. They have parenting tips related to reading, alongside so many thematic lists — like 8 Books that Show Kids How to Treat Animals or 10 Books for Budding Entrepreneurs. So if your kids are specific about their tastes, they should find some good suggestions here. I’m also liking the helpful adult recommendations, like middle grade books you should read with or without your kid. This site is a Penguin Random House company, but they are serious about making great suggestions from all publishers so you and your kids benefit. Thank you Penguin!
Blogger Pragmatic Mom offers book recommendations with a decidedly brainy spin to them. California mom and founder Mia Wenjen has your back with an intersection of parenting, education, culture and diversity reflected in thoughtful and very useful lists like 17 Books for Kids and Tweens on the Arab World, the Top 10 Multicultural Chapter Books Like Percy Jackson, and for younger children Top 10 Bilingual Spanish Picture Books. And of course we love her list of 19 Graphic Novels for Mighty Girls. Rest assured though that regardless of topic, her choices are always fun, upbeat, and interesting.
The great thing about longtime CMP favorite Zoobean is that the will custom-select books they think your child will like based on the information you give them about interests and reading level. They are really dedicated to providing kids with options that break the stereotypes, so they have categories like Girls Who Don’t Love Pink or Non-Traditional Families. The one (big) downside: You can’t access any of these lists unless you register. However when you do subscribe, they’ll mail you a new book each month, and you get access to their great themed guides, which also provide activities and questions you can ask your kids about the book. I’ve tried out Zoobean myself, and we’ve found some of our favorite books this way.
No list of book recommendations of any kind would be complete without GoodReads, which now has an impressive 40 million members. The site uses a super-special predictive algorithm to figure out books you’ll love, based on ratings you give other books. It does take time to get your profile going and find recommendations that really work for you, but then again, you can also just browse their recommendation lists at any time. Just know the lists are fairly broad relatively to the other sites here, if with topics like Best Picture Books or Books for 12 Year-Old Children but it’s still a wildly helpful resource and the sheer number of reviews may make recommendations more helpful than some other options.
One feature I like is their private groups, where you can connect only with people you choose. It’s a great way to connect your kids with classmates in a virtual book club — and a smart way to know that if they do go on, they won’t be getting comments from strangers on their reviews, which can get decidedly…feisty.
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media, which we’ve discussed a lot lately, makes life so much easier for me as a parent. I’ve mostly used it to remind myself what’s actually in those 80s movies I remember so fondly, before I let my kids watch them. (Good call.) But lately I’ve been relying on them more and more to okay books for my kids too, because it’s just not possible for me to vet every book personally that they want to read. There’s a very thorough search function, with the ability to pare down reviews by author, a specific book, or your child’s age, favorite genres, or topics they are interested in from magic to sports to dinosaurs.
We really rely on the combo of editor reviews coupled with crowdsourced reader reviews gives you a little more info so you can make the best decision for your kids. Just know this site is a big rabbit hole! Search one book which leads you to recommendations for similar books which takes to you to some awesome list about topics your kids might also like. Prepare to spend time — and come away with some great kids book recommendations.