"Sizing Up Kids Books"
Gwynne Spencer

If you went shoe shopping with your kids and none of the shoes had sizes on
them, what would you do? That's how it is when you go book shopping. The
publishers steadfastly refuse to put ONE age on a book, for fear it will
scare off readers. The truth is, every book has an enormous age range, but
each one can be honestly pegged to one particular age, Unfortunately, we'll
never see that happen in our lifetime. So here is my foolproff way to tell
what to buy at what age for your kids.

Birth to 6 months   Slobberproof books with bright colors, photos

6 mo.-1 yr.         Books that broaden their world with photos, drawings and
concepts from a realistic point of view (no pigs in pants, please)

1 yr.-18months      Photographic dictionaries and word books to expand

18 months to 2 years    Goodnight Moon, Quick as a Cricket, stories with one
sentence to a page. Poetry, Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss

2-3 years           Stories with 32 pages, two or three sentences to a page,
lots of pictures. Try to read ten of these a week

3-4 years           Folktales like Three bears, Three Pigs, Three Billy Goats
Gruff and stories of animals that behave like people (NOT fairy tales yet)

4-5 years           Fairy tales (the old fashioned ones, not the movie
version), stories of heroes, mythology and the great wide world

5-6 years old     Beginning chapter books, books with enormous print (for
little readers), predictable books like Green Eggs and Ham and Brown Bear for
beginning readers. Read to them from chapter books like James and the Giant
Peach, Ramona the Brave

6 years old         Big print for little readers, predictable books with good
pictures. Read them chapter books, one chapter a day from Oz to My Father's
Dragon series (gentle stories without too much violence)

7 years old         Silly joke books, silly stories like Amelia Bedelia and
other easy readers,  and the works of Roald Dahl and Dav Pilkey, Read them
stories of talking animals like Charlotte's Web and more fairy tales

8 years old         Skinny chapter books (32-64 pages, slightly smaller than
the easy to reads that are 5"x 8") like Magic Tree House, Bailey School Kids,
Junie B Jones for them to read on their own (after you've read them out loud
to them) as well as funny read alouds like How to Eat Fried Worms and The

9 years old         They love "junk" reading at this age: Garfield and Far
Side and Calvin and Hobbes. Read "good" books to them to keep the octane
level high: Prydain, Narnia, Ramona, Superfudge, Captain Underpants

10 year olds       Series are what they choose: Babysitters, Animorphs,
Goosebumps (aargh), Betsy Tacy, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Prydain, Narnia, Xanth,

11 year olds       Books with 120+ pages, challenging titles that face the
transitions of life fictionally--Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern
Grows, Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963. Still a passion for Garfield, other
"comics". Try Tin Tin and Asterix as an alternative.

12 year olds       Start a list of all the books they've read, authors, what
they remember. When they hit 100, visit the bookstore. When they hit 1000 buy
them a BIG gift certificate and turn them loose. You've done your job and
created a lifelong reader. Now the problem is keeping them supplied with

If you like this brief outline and would like to know more about each
age-and-stage in a forthcoming book, drop a line to me.
Gwynne Spencer is the author of "What's Cooking in Children's Literature")
which connects kids' books with hundreds of snack recipes avialable soon 
from Linworth Publishing, (800/786-5017, www.linworthpublishing.com.) Gwynne
can be reached at pengwynnes@aol.com or 3060 Seminole Rd, Woodbridge VA 22192