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Find Age-Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

Some books for kids can be inappropriate. Find out what to do when your advanced reader makes a questionable selection.

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You've spent years nurturing your child's love of reading, starting with those delicious early days on your lap. These days, he's reading well above grade level, savoring the adventures of Harry Potter and The Hobbit. He's now able to read just about anything, and that's been a source of unqualified pride and delight for both of you.

How do you say "no" to books for kids after all those years of insisting that reading was the most valuable skill he'd ever acquire? How do you make “no” into a positive statement? How do you deflect the arguments of your very advanced reader — who also happens to be a very advanced debater?

Try these strategies:

  • Accentuate the positive. Redirect your child’s focus onto more appropriate books for kids. Say, “That's a good book, but knowing you, you'd like this other one better." This tactic raises your child's curiosity and also shows how much you care about him. 
  • Zero in on what he likes. Figuring that out is both easier and harder than it sounds. It's not always the author or the overall subject; it’s often the emotional content of a book that attracts kids’ attention. Once you identify the emotional hook, you can find other books about that issue.
  • Check out the books. Check out reviews, book covers, and publishers' Web sites for information on reading levels, as well as the age level for the content, and see our advice on choosing books for kids. The reading level cues you in to the vocabulary and language issues; the age level gives you the experts' rating on how old kids should be before they tackle the content. For suggestions on books for kids, see our collection of booklists.
  • Know the authors. Once your child finds a favorite author, she'll probably want to read every volume that writer ever penned. That makes the search for new books for kids easier for a time, but keep a watchful eye on the titles he chooses. Some writers cross over into adult material. Elementary-school favorite Judy Blume, for example, also wrote Wifey, definitely adult material.

What if she still wants to read Wifey instead of more appropriate books for kids? Then there are only two choices left. First you can exercise your right to set limits and say, "I'm sorry, but I don't want you reading that book at your age.” Or treat it as one of those rare opportunities to explore values and issues that you didn't know, up until this very moment, your child was ready for.

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