How To Find Books Your Kids Will Read

Lined up at midnight for the  Harry Potter  release. He finished it the next day.

Lined up at midnight for the Harry Potter release. He finished it the next day.

There is nothing that gets me into my minivan and pulling out of the driveway faster than a refrigerator without eggs or a kid who has "nothing to read".

All four of my kids are readers, but my twelve-year-old son is an avid reader. He's exactly like me and one of his uncles at the same age: buried inside a book whenever possible. When he gets desperate (after he's already re-read his own collection for the billionth time and can't take it anymore) he'll wander into his sisters' rooms in search of anything that has a cover and some words.

He reads the newspaper on the weekends and the back of cereal boxes and yogurt containers in the morning. And as much as I'd like to keep adding to his humongous collection, I haven't been able to find a money or book tree anywhere (we do buy series that all the kids will read and everyone in the family gets books for birthdays and Christmas). So whenever there's a plea for more books, I go from library to library hoping they've ordered new ones.

Today, I stopped in on my lunch hour and it was quiet. There's a humour series a friend of mine had mentioned, and I asked the librarian at the information desk if it was available. I do my best to stay current about what kids are reading, and I also rely on word-of-mouth from other parents. But there is so much out there, and I often wonder if I'm missing out on books that would really appeal to their individual interests. Of course, each of the kids has a preference for book style and it's hard to keep tabs on all those genres.

The librarian looked at me, took in the fact I was there on my own and then asked if I had a few moments to spare. She proceeded to teach me the best way to find books my kids would read. My tried-and-true method has always been to set the kids loose with a basket, so they can choose their own books.

This time, I sat down at the computer with a very skilled librarian and learned about databases and Read Alike lists. GAME CHANGER. See also: RABBIT HOLE.

I'm always skimming articles about best book series and I read the book review section of the weekend paper looking for suggestions, but it all ends up cluttered in my to-do list. Read alike lists are so easy to use and something the kids can do themselves.

I also learned about the hidden resources on our library's web page. Did you know many communities purchase access to specialized databases?

Go over to your library's homepage and look for digital resources. And then look for databases and/or research. Scroll through and look for links related to kids. For example, our library has provided the community with access to the Novelist K8 database, which can be searched by age group, genres, sub-types and (this is the best) categories like "funny & gross". To access the database, you do need to enter through a library or school.

Before I left the library yesterday, I was handed a pile of new books to bring home (already knowing they would appeal to the kind of humour he appreciates) and some lists of other books to explore when he's ready. The librarian also put a hold on the humour series I had originally come in to find, and I'll be receiving a call when they're ready to be picked up.

If you have a reader in your home (or if you are looking for books for yourself), go introduce yourself to a librarian.

Seriously, they are wizards in disguise.



How I Was Surprised by The Fault In Our Stars


My twelve-year-old has always been a bookworm, like me.

I never end a day without spending some time in the pages of a book, and she is the same.

She happily sat on our laps while we read book after book to her as a baby—her chubby, dimpled hands unable to turn the pages quickly enough.

In grade three, she plowed through the entire Harry Potter series (she has since read it again 27 times). She is the kind of reader who gets so excited about a good book that she absolutely has to find a friend to pass it on to—so she can enjoy it all over again.

This Christmas, she received The Fault In Our Stars from a family member. I had seen it in the teen section of the bookstore and heard some favourable reviews, but I didn't know much about the details of the story. I knew she could manage the reading level, but otherwise forgot about it with the busyness of the holiday season. 

I didn't know she had started reading it without asking me. I found out when she left it on my bedside table, because she thought I should read it, too.

I remember seeing it there and feeling a bit lost. Our roles had been reversed. I wasn't the one leaving books like Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables beside her bed.

It felt too grown up and too soon.

This week, the book finally made it to the top of my reading pile. A few late nights brought me to its end last night. 

My thoughts felt so jumbled, while reading this book, that I felt desperate to air them. And I realized the only person I could do that with was her.

I actually wanted to barge into her room somewhere between chapters one and two, but held off until the end.

This morning I found her eyes and held them while the preparation for a school day bustled around us. 

I finished the book last night. 

She waited.

We have a lot to talk about.

She nodded.

But, Mommy, wasn't the writing beautiful?

I held my tears.

When she read Harry Potter, there was a twinge of concern it was too mature for her at eight years old. But she assured us that she understood the fantasy aspect of the storytelling and was not scared by its content. 

The Fault In Our Stars is fiction, but it is not fantasy. There are children and families that face the realities of this story every day.

She would have known that when she read it, and she would have felt the weight of that understanding.

Her heart has always been in tune with the sorrows of others. It was hard to imagine how battered she must have felt reading those words or how much courage she had to summon to keep reading.

There are big emotions in this story. There are complex dynamics between the characters and concepts like love and sexuality, which we haven't talked about yet.

There is death, and grief, and loss.

There is a lot of pain.

As I reached the final pages of the book, I felt all of that wash over me and I thought of her doing the same. If I had read this book first, like I had planned to, I think I would have held onto it for awhile. 

And I would have missed this beautiful moment.

This book must have changed her.  

And I felt a hitch in my heart knowing it happened without me. 


{paperlovespen on etsy

I'm waiting for her to get home from school, and I don't know what I'll say or where our conversation will go—we have a lot of topics to touch on. I know she shared this with me, because she wants to talk about it.

And I can hardly gather my thoughts around the swell in my chest, knowing she chose me instead of a friend.

In 313 pages, she stepped outside of the place I've tried to keep her: where I turn down the radio, change the television channel, hide the section of the newspaper with the bad news.

And though she didn't need my help to stand there, she does need it to stay there. 

She has shown me once again that some of the most exquisite moments in parenthood reveal themselves after I've stumbled and while I'm searching for my footing. 

This book tells a story that makes people cry.

I cried, too.

But my tears didn't fall for the characters found on its pages.

I cried for the girl who lay awake in the room next to mine and turned them. 



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