As I mentioned yesterday in 5 Favorite Kids books for 2-6 year olds, I'm often asked what's a good book for certain ages. I still have quite a collection of chapter books from my years as an elementary teacher, but I'm enjoying reading newly published books with my son as he's become an avid reader. Here are some of my family's favorites:
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is a fabulous read-aloud for ages 4-7 or an independent reader for kids 6-9 (it's a chapter book). It was originally published in the 1940's, but the adventure is fresh and fun for today's children. I've long wondered if it was an inspiration for Dora & Diego, since the little boy in the story carries a backpack with “treasures” that help him through obstacles on his journey. I love the problem-solving skills, humor, and bravery in this story. This is usually the first thing I recommend when someone says their child is ready to hear chapter books read aloud.
I loved Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren when I was a girl, and now my daughters are in love as well. Pippi is quite the wild spirit, with lots of genuine “girl power” and independent thinking. We've read the originals (from the 40's) and prefer this version from 2007. They've modernized a little of the wording and taken out a couple of offensive stereotypes of worldly cultures. There are a few sequels to Pippi as well.
Speaking of girl power, an amazing story to share with kids ages 8+ (because of the obvious ending) is Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming. This is a biography of Amelia Earhart aimed for young readers, and it intersperses her harrowing last flight with the story of her childhood. It's fascinating to hear how she was such a strong passionate young woman with a dream, to fly in a “man's world,” and all she did to accomplish her goals. Followed avidly by the press, her admirers ranged from young girls to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm reading this with my son right now (these positive messages aren't just for girls!).
If your kids are into comic books or graphic novels at all, you might want to give the Bone series by Jeff Smith a try. My son prefers the full-color versions published by Scholastic to the original black & white books; both are aimed for reading level 5th grade+. If your child is already reading Harry Potter and similar books at a younger age, this reading level is fine.
I've mentioned the Choose Your Own Adventure–Dragonlarks series before, but they were a HUGE hit with my son this summer so I wanted to share them again. These are a younger (and easier to navigate) version of the Choose Your Own Adventure chapter books we had as kids. Meant for reading level 2nd grade+, these are fully illustrated and so much fun! As you go through each page, you're given a choice of which path to take, so you get a different story each time you read it. There are about 20 books in the series, with all kinds of adventures to choose from.