How to Find Age-Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

Is your child reading beyond their years? Follow these steps for choosing books they’ll enjoy.

May 09, 2022



How to Find Age-Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

May 09, 2022

The nightly read-aloud routine you instilled from birth has paid off: Your child is reading well above grade level. Now you face a new challenge: They’ve read everything they can get their hands on. 

“I was that child who was disappointed with what was in her school library — because I’d read everything in the school library,” says Deimosa Webber-Bey, director of Information Services & Cultural Insight at Scholastic. “I wasn’t satisfied with what was there.”

It’s a common problem, and it can lead to disengagement. Reading fatigue and avoidance is just as possible with advanced readers as it is with reluctant readers. It’s important that access to books is prioritized to maintain readers’ interest and stoke their enthusiasm. 

For advanced readers, this may mean picking out titles you think are below their reading level or that they’re not yet ready for, either because of the density of the content or its maturity level.

“You want to honor their interests and also share yours,” says Webber-Bey. “One of the things parents can do is put kids into places where they have access and options.”

Providing your child with options may mean looking beyond the parameters of guided reading level — and that’s okay. Your elementary school student may want to dive into a chapter book series that’s popular with middle schoolers one night, and then pick up a favorite graphic novel the next. It’s completely natural; consider it a positive thing that they’re absorbed in reading.

“You want to be cognizant of reading level, but within the home environment also be okay with their reading up and down,” says Webber-Bey.

Barby Garibaldi, a consultant with Scholastic Book Clubs and mother of two children ages 11 and 13, echoes this sentiment.

“Advanced readers will still want to read Clifford, because that’s where their emotional development may be or interests lie outside of reading,” she says.

The key to supporting your advanced reader, Garibaldi says, is striking a balance between encouraging them to further their skills and understanding that sometimes they just want to enjoy a book.

“It’s okay that they’re advanced, it’s okay to embrace that aspect of their development,” she says. “What you want to do is push the reading in general instead of just reading level.”

Garibaldi advises parents to look at the big picture when choosing age-appropriate books for advanced readers.

“It’s not a bad thing that a child is reading above grade level, but it’s not a race to reading competency,” she says. “It’s about forming a reading habit, and finding comfort and joy in books.”

Follow Garibaldi’s tips below if you’re having trouble finding the just-right, age-appropriate book for your advanced reader.

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1. Zero in on what they like. 

Let your child’s interests guide book selection — and let them pick their own books

“Advanced readers thrive on self-selection, so you want to give them the tools to look for what engages them,” Garibaldi says.

If searching by subject (like animals or adventure) isn’t proving fruitful, consider the emotional content of the book, as these more latent themes also attract kids’ attention. Once you identify the “emotional hook” that pulls your young reader in, you can find other books about that issue. 

2. Help your child make connections with their texts.

One of the reasons advanced-level readers like to choose their own books is because they are often self-motivated and find reading enjoyable, Garibaldi says. Encouraging readers to connect with their books beyond just reading, like analyzing how characters change, gives them an extra opportunity to grow their comprehension skills as well as learn what they like about their favorite books. Knowing this can guide them to additional reading opportunities that all but guarantee a regular reading habit is formed.  

“If they’re advanced, we want to keep pushing them,” Garibaldi says.

Summarizing events, writing their own version of the book with a different ending, or writing a poem as one of the characters are all ways your child can improve their comprehension as well as critical thinking.

3. Screen selections for content. 

Be mindful of what your advanced reader picks out, as the vocabulary and content may not be a match just yet — even if they do show confidence in reading beyond their years. Don’t feel you need to know everything about children’s literature to be a fair judge: You can examine each title as your child discovers it.

“Have your child bring you the book they’re interested in, and read the reviews and blurbs then,” Garibaldi suggests. “That’s easier for parents juggling work.”

4. Follow authors and series your child likes.

It’s a relief when your child finds a favorite author, as they’ll likely want to read every volume in that writer’s canon. However, some writers cross over into adult material (and vice versa), so you’ll want to keep an eye on incoming material.

Other times, an author’s world-building is so successful that their books become adapted across different formats, which may be more complex or easier to read but which your advanced reader will devour regardless. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series, originally published as chapter books for upper elementary and middle school readers, have since been adapted as graphic novels for younger readers to enjoy.  

In this scenario, Garibaldi says, you have nothing to worry about, whether your child reads up or down.

“You know the content is going to be similar,” she says.

Your advanced reader may take to series particularly well. Series can feed the appetites of higher-level readers, who tend to read three to four more books in a year than average readers. Once your child finds a series they like, however complex, and you’ve approved the content, you can feel confident letting your child proceed through as many volumes in the series as they like.

5. Encourage your child to start a book club with peers who read at their level. 

Garibaldi’s daughter began a book club with friends in 2020. While the activity then served as a means for creating structure and connectedness in an unsure time, Garibaldi witnessed a lot of open discussion tied to the children’s book selections.

“They discussed topics they may not have otherwise been exposed to in their everyday lives,” she says.

An advanced-reader book club is a great idea as well for gifted or exceptional students who may feel out of place in their everyday environment or different from children their age. 

When it comes to creating the club’s reading list, encourage your child to choose books from different genres, such as nonfiction, poetry, and science fiction, as this variety showcases a wide variety of vocabulary sets and uses of language. For more tips on finding books at the right level for your child, visit our guide on reading levels for kids

Shop books for advanced readers below to get started! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

Book Selection Tips
Age 9
Age 13
Age 10
Age 12
Age 11
Reading Intervention
Reading for Pleasure