Books for Kindergarteners

Illustration from WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World

 

Age Categories & Beyond

Recently a friend was looking for a gift for a grandchild, and asked me to recommend which of my books would be appropriate for kindergarteners.  It’s a question I’ve been asked before. When kids enter school and start learning to read, it’s only natural to want to provide them with books that will encourage their progress.

But when it comes to age categories for children’s books, I’m as fidgety as a school kid waiting for recess.  I’ll be blunt: I just don’t like them.  Why?  Because fitting a children’s book into an age category is like trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

From a literary point of view, the very idea of age categories makes me uneasy.  Sure, sometimes they work, and that book you find in the “3-6” aisle turns out to be just the right gift for that four-year-old on the opposite coast who you’ve never met.  Or the “8-12” tab of a distributor’s website helps a librarian find the right book for a fifth grade science project.  But just as often these categories are off, and may even be restricting.  Parents and teachers are discouraged from buying books if they don’t match the child’s age – even if, without that category, they might have considered it.  Like a pregnant woman’s calculated due date, who can really determine when a child is ripe to learn?  Surely a child’s experience of a book is an emotional one, as unique and varied as children themselves.  Teachers are familiar with the frustration of trying to teach all their students at the same pace.  Likewise, librarians must keep a broad range of individuals in mind as they make their selections.  This includes advanced readers who may be hungry for more text at a younger age; kids who are slower to read and thrive on images; and creative readers of ALL ages who are attracted to picture books as cohesive works of writing and art.

Age categories do have their value as a marketing tool.  They help guide publishers, distributors, retailers, librarians, and teachers in organizing and presenting books.  These professionals present groups of books to groups of people.  They rightly regard books as a resource and commodity.

But let’s not confuse marketing with reading.  I don’t make books for buyers, I make them for readers.  I don’t aim for age groups, I aim for some little kid’s heart.  You never know what mix of pictures and words will speak to a child at any given age.  Some books are meant to be read out loud, and can hold a 5-year-old’s attention longer than a book he is first trying to read by himself.  Children on the cusp of reading need greatly simplified words and consistent word forms.  Children who are listening need content that will stimulate their minds.  A boy of three could be ready for my DRAGONFLY or SALAMANDER book (Holiday House, written by Emery Bernhard) if he is fascinated by insects or amphibians; while another child might not take interest in these books until she has to write a biology report in middle school.

I thought about my own three children as kindergarteners, and what nourished them in that magical transition year when they got on the school bus and went out into the world for the first time.  The dreamlike world of preschoolers changes as they enter kindergarten and begin to rapidly absorb knowledge.  Their sponge-like brains are dazzled by the world of facts.  Social knowledge is also assimilated as they experience themselves as part of a group.  Behold!  Suddenly they have lives of their own.

So here are my best books for kindergarteners.  But in making your choices, please consider the child and the book, not the age range printed on the jacket.

While You Are Sleeping - Books for Kindergarteners

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Kindergarten-age kids love the hide & seek flaps of this book.  Older readers who are learning about time zones and how to tell time can understand these concepts readily through visual imagery.  Kids of all ages love to peek into other kids’ lives. A CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book; and an International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society.

Around The World in One Shabbat - Jewish Books for Kindergarteners

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You don’t have to be Jewish to . . . take a trip around the world, into the warmth and joy of the Sabbath.  Kids love it when their parents take a break!  Find out what this ancient tradition – and the people who celebrate it – are all about.  A Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

 A Ride On Mother's Back - Recommended book for Kindergarteners

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In print since 1997, this classic and colorful portrait of babies from diverse cultures being carried through their daily lives has become an icon of natural parenting.  An American Bookseller Association Pick of the List.

In the Fiddle is a Song - A good book for kindergarteners

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This unique flap book invites children to explore the hidden potential in both the natural world and the world of human creation.  Selected by Child Magazine as Best Book of 2006; winner of the Please Touch Children’s Museum Award.

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This entertaining story from Eritrea is a classic tale of childhood mischief.  Recently published as a bilingual edition in English and Amharic by Ethiopia Reads.  Buying this book helps bring books to children in Ethiopia.  Available only in paperback.

The Way of the Willow Branch - A great book for kindergarteners

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A gentle tale that helps young children understand the cycle of water as a willow branch makes its way from the mountains to the sea.

To and Fro Fast and Slow - Children's book for kindergarteners about divorce

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This rhyming book of opposites follows the life of a child of divorce as she goes back and forth between two worlds – and finds they have much in common.

Earth Sky Wet Dry - Book for kindergarteners about nature

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A rhyming book of nature opposites, this book shows the many life forms that exist in the world of a single tree.  Older children will enjoy the field guide at the back of the book.
A Parent Council, Ltd Outstanding Book Selection

What's Maggie Up To - Rhyming book about nature and opposites.

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This was my first picture book, published in 1992.  Kindergarteners still love stray cats, friendly neighbors, and counting kittens.

Ladybug - A children's picture book about stray cats and friendly neighbors.

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A non-fiction book well-suited for curious kindergarteners, this title was named as a NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Book for Children in 1993.

Dragonfly - Science and nature book great for kindergarteners.

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Everyone loves dragonflies.  This book gives young readers both facts and folklore about these colorful insects that are symbols of good luck.

How Snowshoe Hare Rescued the Sun - Recommended for kindergarteners.

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This bold and simple folktale from the Yuit people of Siberia tells how the Arctic sun disappeared – and is rescued by the humblest creature.  A NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

Salamders - Great children's picture book for scientific kids.

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Another good choice for budding scientific minds, this book has just enough facts for kindergarteners.

View All of My Children’s Books

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2 Responses to Books for Kindergarteners

  1. Nick Alba says:

    I agree totally with the author’s comments about grouping books into age categories. Every child is an individual, and children vary tremendously in their interests and their aptitudes. Categorizing books by age discourage buyers away from purchasing books that would appeal to children outside the recommended age category. Subject matter is very relevant to the individual child. In addition, the kind of great illustration that we see here is what really brings kids books to life and give them visual appeal that encourages learning.

  2. durga says:

    Thank you Nick. It’s great to hear from experienced parents like you.

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