Holiday Book Roundup for Young Readers:: Newborn to Middle School

Children’s literacy is a passion of mine. My children know I’m hard-pressed to say no to a book purchase. I don’t possess a $5-a-day habit, so I’ve justified books as my vice and am okay with that. Shopping at one of our local bookstores, like The Bookworm, is one of my favorite things to do. Strolling down the aisle, surrounded by beautiful books, knowing each possesses an entire world inside just waiting for the reader to dive into, the smell of book glue filling your nostrils, the feel of pages under your fingertips; ahh, heaven.

Every holiday we gift books, either to ourselves (don’t judge, I LOVE books), to each other, and others. Here are some perennial favorites and a few newcomers to help guide your holiday book-buying needs for children of all ages.

Picture Books:

For the longest time, I had a love/hate relationship with picture books. Mostly, when my children were young and broke, and the price of a single picture book seemed incredibly outrageous. Thank goodness for public libraries. That said, we have a collection of favorites that were well worth the buy.

picture books

  • Goodnight Moon is a timeless favorite. My youngest loved through two board books of it.
  • Where the Wild Things Are is also a perennial that many adults will remember reading as children.
  • Anything by Mo Willems (Elephant & Piggie series or Pigeon books.) Willems’s line art is clean, his characters are unforgettable, and his themes get children. Plus, they’re a nice step into early independent reading.
  • Sofia Valdez, Future Prez is the newest release from the STEM-themed Innovator series by Andrea Beaty. It joins Ada Twist, ScientistIggy Peck, Architect; and Rosie Revere, Engineer. The rhyming text and cartoon-like illustrations make STEM themes appealing to a younger audience while instilling a bit of history and education into the mix.
  • Check out The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood for the quirky and unique while incorporating space, mechanics, and delightful rhymes to classic tales.
  • The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak will leave your child laughing out loud—at the reader’s expense.
  • Rot, The Bravest in the World by Ben Clanton (author/illustrator of the Jelly and Narwhal series) will please those children looking for an unlikely protagonist; a potato who loves mud.

Early Chapter Books

Shifting to your early independent readers and elementary-aged children, book choices begin to broaden, and pricing improves. Once children’s reading abilities gain traction, they will plow through chapter books like candy on Halloween. Finding a good series helps to know which book to get next. It’s best to encourage those reluctant readers to figure out what interests them and gift books accordingly.

Chapter books

Middle Grade

For your more advanced readers, that 8-12 age range provides a plethora of options. This age group’s key is to find books of interest or authors whose work they really enjoy.

  • Alan Gratz writes for historical fiction fans: Allies is a recent favorite or preorder Ground Zero coming February 2021.
  • Stuart Gibbs has several mystery series that keep readers engaged and guessing. Spy School Revolution – book 8 released in October.
  • The Wild Robot (duology), The One and Only Ivan (duology), and The Penderwicks (4-book series) are wholesome books that will appeal to readers of all ages and work great as read-alouds for younger siblings.
  • If you’re looking for books on awareness, check out Roll With It by Jamie Sumner or Free Lunch by Rex Ogle.

Graphic Novels

I’m putting these in their own category because my youngest has sought these out since before she could read, and my oldest (almost teenager) still reaches for them. Graphic novels blend the illustrations of picture books and the shorter word counts of chapter books with the full narrative arcs of middle-grade books. In other words, graphic novel appeal ranges from threenagers to teenagers.

Graphic Novels for Middle School literacy

  • Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee is the perfect hybrid of a picture book, early reader, and almost-graphic novel. Each book (there are three) have three humorous and interconnected stories about two precocious, odd-couple friends.
  • Bird & Squirrel by James Burks was our first real dive into graphic novels. Burks understands the need for quirky humor, ironic and endearing character interactions, and the ever-pleasing ending that leaves readers anxiously waiting for the next installment—book six released earlier this year.
  • AstroNuts Mission 2: The Water Planet released in August, appeals to 4th and 5th graders for its extremely quirky characters and subtle attention to climate change.
  • Wings of Fire #4: The Dark Secret is my children’s most anticipated book. We have the other three graphic novels in the series, and my children pass them back and forth and reread them incessantly.

Whether you’re shopping for a newborn or middle-schooler, promoting children’s literacy can be as easy as finding and providing the next favorite read.

Jennie is a native Nebraskan and aspiring writer. She’s a stay-at-home mom to three kids, two cats, a bearded dragon, and a handful of fish. When she’s not playing chauffeur, maid, cook, housekeeper, tutor, laundress, or answering to “Mom” a million times over; she hides in her writing nook and lives vicariously through her fiction characters. Jennie likes to read, take long walks, go on crazy road-trip vacations her wonderful husband plans, or simply sit on the deck with friends.