Staff note: We are thrilled to welcome Jane Knight, Children’s Book Buyer for Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, VT and CLiF Advisor, as an occasional guest blogger. Jane’s focus is on finding the best kids’ books on the shelves via resources and reviews. This is part 1 of a 2-part blog post.


I’m hoping you’ve already read Nina’s recent post about the quest to entice kids to read for pleasure during the school year. If you haven’t yet… back up and start there.

My son is entering 8th grade and I’ve noticed that since entering middle school, he reads less each year for pleasure. However, if he discovers a series he falls for, like Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan, he’ll give me a warning when he is a chapter away from finishing one so that I can bring home the next one in a seamless manner.

Once you’ve got kids hooked, and once the habit is established, there’s always excitement for “the next great book.” This is the best thing you can capitalize upon when trying to keep your kids reading during the school year.

Finding “the next great book” is like a treasure hunt, though sometimes you have to wade through a lot of junk to discover it. As we all know, it takes patience to find that gem of a book. Most of the time it takes reading (or partially reading) several good or okay or even pretty bad books before you hit upon one that enervates your mind and your soul.

So what can we do to help kids find the books that will put a twinkle in their eye as they describe the plot to you, or make them want to stop, drop and read at any given moment? Here are a few shortcuts to narrowing down that field.

  • For a comprehensive website that helps parents and educators start children, including those with reading disabilities, on the road to literacy, take a look at Reading Rockets.
  • For reading lists that are written from a parents’ perspective, without any agenda (hallelujah) try Story Snoops. I find their website easy to use, up-to-date, and censorship-free.
  • Two other websites that give fabulous reviews, mostly by librarians and other veteran reviewers, are The Horn Book and Kirkus Reviews.
  • Another helpful resource is The Book Whisperer (book and blog) by Donalyn Miller, which tells the story of her journey to become a lifelong reader and how she encourages students in her 6th grade classroom to discover their own paths to a love of reading.

Part 2 will focus on reviews: an overview of some of my favorite books this fall.

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