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  • Writer's pictureEugene Roginsky

Family Reading Time

Family Reading Time

Family Reading Time: Selecting the Right Book and Exploring Stories with Children


Reading with your children goes beyond the act of reading; it's a gateway to imagination, learning, and bonding. In this article, we delve into the art of selecting the perfect books for family reading and exploring stories that captivate, educate, build empathy, and facilitate an emotional connection between parents and early readers.


Before you pick a book, take a moment to consider what your children love. Are they fascinated by dinosaurs, enchanted by fairy tales, or curious about outer space? Identifying their interests is the first step to choosing a book they will be excited about. Incorporate their hobbies and passions into your selections to make reading a thrilling adventure rather than a chore. As the child's love for reading grows, exploring a wider range of topics, and expanding their world will become increasingly important.

NOTE TO PARENTS: Know what your children are reading. It’s not always easy to find time but read their books.


Choosing age-appropriate literature ensures that the content is understandable and engaging for your child. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Books for Toddlers: Look for simple stories with pictures and repetitive text. Board books are great because they are durable and easy for little hands to hold. Children like to feel things with their hands and experience the story through touch and sound. Make this time playful. It does not matter if your child can talk. Scheduled reading time is significant.


  • Books for Preschoolers: Books should feature bright and colorful illustrations, simple and predictable text, rhythm and rhyme, interactive elements, familiar themes, and a short length to cater to their attention spans. Keep in mind, that children do not mind rereading the same stories.

NOTE TO PARENTS: Parents can engage their children in reading by making it a daily routine, using expressive reading, discussing the story, incorporating play, allowing children to choose their books, creating a reading-friendly environment, modeling reading behavior, and visiting libraries and bookstores. These strategies help foster a love for reading and support early literacy development in young children.

  • Books for Elementary School Children: Perfect books for elementary school children typically have engaging storylines, relatable characters, and themes that spark curiosity and imagination. These books often include age-appropriate vocabulary, captivating illustrations, and a balance between text and images to maintain interest. Genres like adventure, fantasy, mystery, and realistic fiction are popular among this age group.

NOTE TO PARENTS: To effectively engage elementary school children in reading, parents and educators can encourage regular reading habits by setting aside dedicated reading time, providing a diverse selection of books to cater to different interests, discussing the stories to enhance comprehension and critical thinking, use activities like book clubs or reading challenges to make reading social and fun, and model positive reading behavior by showing their enthusiasm for books. Creating a comfortable and inviting reading environment also helps foster a lifelong love of reading.

  • Books for Preteens: Perfect books for pre-teens often delve into more complex themes and characters, offering a mix of adventure, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and realistic fiction that resonates with their growing curiosity and understanding of the world. These books should balance captivating plots with relatable issues such as friendship, identity, and personal growth.

NOTE TO PARENTS: Engaging preteens in reading can be achieved by allowing them to choose books that interest them, connecting books to their hobbies, and establishing a regular reading routine. Discussing what they read and offering a variety of materials, from books to magazines and digital content, can keep their interest alive. Creating a cozy reading space and reading together as a family can make the experience more enjoyable. Encourage participation in book clubs, reading groups, and writing contests to make reading a social and competitive activity. Finally, set an example by being a reading role model and incorporating technology through e-readers or reading apps to cater to their preferences.


Children's books cover a wide array of genres, each appealing to different interests and developmental stages.

Popular genres include fantasy, featuring magical worlds and mythical beings like in

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien;

adventure, with thrilling quests and journeys such as The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé; and

mystery, which involves solving puzzles and uncovering secrets, exemplified by The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

Science fiction explores futuristic concepts and advanced technology, as seen in The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, while

historical fiction combines historical settings with fictional characters, like Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Realistic fiction reflects real-life scenarios and relatable experiences, with books like Holes by Louis Sachar, and

humor uses comedy to engage readers, such as Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish.

Traditional fairy tales and folklore convey moral lessons and cultural values, while

non-fiction provides educational content on various subjects, like the Who Was? series by various authors.

Poetry introduces children to the beauty of language through verse, with collections like Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, and

graphic novels blend visual and textual storytelling, appealing to visual learners, as in Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke.

Books can often blend multiple genres, offering rich and multifaceted reading experiences. For example, a fantasy book might also include elements of adventure and mystery, enriching the narrative and captivating young readers on multiple levels.


Both classic and contemporary books offer unique merits. Establishing a connection with your local library is invaluable for discovering the latest and most captivating children’s literature. Librarians serve as excellent guides, offering insights into current trends and exciting new releases. Additionally, engaging with local parenting groups and seeking recommendations from fellow parents can provide valuable insights into what resonates with children. While every child is unique, having access to informed recommendations empowers parents to make thoughtful reading choices.

A Few Timeless Classics: 

·        Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: A story about a boy named Max who sails to an island inhabited by wild creatures.

·        Charlotte's Web by E.B. White: The tale of a friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, who work together to save Wilbur from being slaughtered.

·        The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: A lively and entertaining story of a mischievous cat who brings chaos to a rainy day.

·        Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: Adventures of a lovable bear named Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.

·        Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: The imaginative journey of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world.

·        Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: A soothing bedtime story that follows a bunny saying goodnight to everything in his room.

·        The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter: The mischievous adventures of Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor's garden.

Modern Hits: 

Contemporary books often reflect current trends and issues, making them relatable for today’s kids. Series like Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid have become modern-day staples.



Reading about different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences fosters empathy, acceptance, cultural curiosity, and understanding.

Recommended Multicultural Books: 

·        Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson: This book follows CJ and his grandmother on a bus ride through the city, exploring diversity and community.

·        The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi: A story about a Korean girl adjusting to a new school in America and learning to embrace her name and heritage.

·        The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan, illustrated by Tricia Tusa: A story about two friends, Lily and Salma, who learn to appreciate each other's cultural differences over sandwiches.

·        Yoko by Rosemary Wells: Yoko, a Japanese kitten, experiences cultural differences at school but ultimately teaches her classmates about Japanese traditions through her lunch.

·        Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez: A heartwarming tale of a young girl and her grandmother, who bridged their cultural and language barriers to form a loving bond.

·        The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro: Based on a true story, this book depicts how a Danish community helped Jewish neighbors escape the Nazis during World War II.

·        Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López: Inspired by the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who became a drummer despite societal expectations.


Based on the child’s age, interactive books can make reading a more immersive experience. Remember, children have a heightened sense of wonder. They want to be a part of the story. Today, it is easier than ever to give them that experience.

  • Pop-Up and Lift-the-Flap Books: These are perfect for younger children who enjoy tactile experiences.

  • Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stories: Older kids can enjoy books that allow them to make decisions that affect the story's outcome.

  • Audiobooks and E-Books: For tech-savvy kids, audiobooks and e-books can be a great way to make stories accessible anywhere.



Educational books for kids come in various types, each designed to engage children in learning while catering to different ages and interests. Here are some common types of educational books for kids:

1.    Board Books: Sturdy books with simple concepts, often used for introducing babies and toddlers to basic concepts like colors, shapes, numbers, and animals.

2.    Picture Books: Colorful and illustrated books that combine engaging stories with educational themes, suitable for preschoolers and early elementary school children.

3.    Alphabet and Counting Books: Books that focus on teaching the alphabet, counting, and basic math concepts through playful and interactive methods.

4.    Concept Books: Books that cover specific concepts such as opposites, emotions, seasons, or nature, using illustrations and simple text to explain these ideas.

5.    Biographies and Non-Fiction: Books that introduce children to real-life people, events, and topics, often featuring engaging narratives or informational text.

6.    Activity and Workbooks: Books that include puzzles, games, coloring activities, and exercises designed to reinforce learning in subjects like math, language arts, and science.

7.    STEM Books: Books that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, often incorporating experiments, hands-on activities, and explanations of scientific principles.

8.    Language Learning Books: Books that teach languages through stories, vocabulary, and interactive exercises, aimed at introducing children to new languages or reinforcing language skills.

9.    History and Geography Books: Books that explore historical events, cultures, and geography, often with maps, timelines, and stories from different parts of the world.

10. Interactive and Augmented Reality Books: Books that use technology to enhance learning through interactive features, augmented reality experiences, or digital content.

These types of educational books are designed to support children's cognitive development, language skills, creativity, and curiosity about the world around them.


Benefits of Book Series: Choosing between series and standalone books for children hinges on their reading preferences, developmental stage, and interests. Series books enable ongoing engagement with beloved characters and storylines across multiple installments, fostering a sense of familiarity and comfort that young readers find reassuring. They also allow characters to evolve, encouraging deeper emotional connections and providing consistent pacing that aids in anticipation and narrative follow-through.

Benefits of Standalone Books: Standalone books provide a self-contained narrative experience, ideal for readers seeking closure within one book. They offer versatility by allowing exploration across various genres, themes, and writing styles without the commitment of a series. Readers can enjoy them at their own pace, independently of chronological order or prior books in a sequence. Standalone books also promote independent exploration, encouraging the discovery of new authors and diverse stories.



Make reading a dynamic experience by engaging with the story.

  • Ask Questions: Encourage children to ask questions and express their thoughts about the story. Talk about the feelings of characters, and discuss if your children experienced similar feelings.

  • Discuss Themes and Characters: Discussing themes and characters can deepen understanding and make the story more memorable.

  • Have fun: Talk about alternative endings. Discuss which characters felt most authentic. Process the parts of the book that were most or least exciting and why?

  • * Don’t over-process: Keep in mind, ultimately reading is about fun. Over-processing can pull away from the joy of reading.

NOTE: See article on empathic reading: 


Establishing reading rituals and traditions can foster a love for books and strengthen the bond between parents and children. Here are some ideas for reading rituals and traditions that parents can incorporate into their routine:

·       Bedtime Stories: Reading a bedtime story every night creates a calming routine that helps children unwind and prepares them for sleep. It can be a special time for bonding and sharing stories.

·       Family Reading Time: Set aside a specific time each day or week for family reading time. Gather together in a cozy corner or around the fireplace and take turns reading aloud from a book everyone enjoys.

·       Library Visits: Make regular trips to the library a tradition. Allow children to explore and choose books they're interested in. This not only promotes reading but also introduces them to the joy of discovering new stories.

·       Reading Picnics: On a nice day, take books outside and have a reading picnic in the park or backyard. Bring blankets, snacks, and a selection of books to enjoy together in a relaxed outdoor setting.

·       Book Swaps or Book Exchanges: Organize a book swap with friends or neighbors where children can exchange books they've finished reading for new ones. This encourages sharing and introduces them to different types of books.

·       Reading Challenges: Create reading challenges or goals together as a family. Set rewards or incentives for reaching certain milestones, such as reading a certain number of books or exploring books from different genres.

·       Storytelling Nights: Occasionally, instead of reading from a book, take turns creating and telling stories together as a family. This encourages creativity and imagination while building storytelling skills.

·       Create a Reading Nook: Designate a cozy corner or a special area in the house as a reading nook. Fill it with comfortable seating, pillows, and shelves stocked with books. Make it inviting and conducive to reading.

·       Literary Traditions: Incorporate traditions around favorite books or holidays. For example, read a specific book every year on a child's birthday or during a certain holiday season to create lasting memories associated with reading.

·       Book Discussions: After reading a book together, have discussions about the characters, themes, and events. Ask open-ended questions to encourage critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the story.

Choosing the right book and exploring stories with your children can transform family reading time into a magical experience.


Choosing the right book and exploring stories with your children can transform family reading time into a magical experience. Remember, the goal is to instill a love for reading that will last a lifetime. So, dive into the world of books, explore different genres, and most importantly, enjoy this special time with your kids.


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