by Jenny Stenis - Manager of the PLS Readers' Center
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. —Maya Angelou
Research shows that the ability to read and to read well allows children to succeed in school and life. Children who read for leisure through their childhood enhance their reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and general knowledge. Reading stimulates eye muscles and improves the concentration of any reader. Readers have a tendency to perform better in academics mainly because they have better oral and written communications skills.
These skills are well and good, but the most important things that reading teaches not only children but adults as well, are the things that make us human.
Readers are validated by self-identification with the hero or heroine in a story. They gain the knowledge and experience that they read about in the book. What child doesn’t weep along with Wilbur at the loss of his friend Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web? Not only didn’t I understand until right then the life cycle of a spider, but the story also brought me an understanding of the heartbreak of losing a friend - human or no.
Books increase children’s understanding of the world around them.
Reading broadens the horizons of children, exposing them to different subjects, cultures, people and their ideologies. When visiting the life experiences of someone else, they develop understanding about situations different from their own and can become more empathetic.
Anna’s story in Number the Stars exposes children to the compassion of the Danish people during World War II. Told through Anna’s eyes and understanding, this story builds empathy for the marginalized and lays the foundation for later historical learning.
Reading materials that parallel children’s lives also provide insight in how or how not to behave.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid chronicles the daily life of many a school child. These books help them think about how they can behave when they experience the same thing without making the same mistakes. The humor keeps everyone from taking themselves too seriously.
Reading also helps children relax and escape the stress of school, family, and friends.
Reading diverts the mind from everyday learning, giving a break. Reading is an inexpensive hobby when you use your public library.
Every child’s taste is different. Don’t worry if they aren’t reading War and Peace at age 12. First, build a good foundation and a positive attitude about reading by letting them pick the stories they enjoy. Make friends with your librarian. They are a wealth of information on finding books that children enjoy. —Rick Riordan
Books that teach kids about being human
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
A family accidentally stumbles upon a spring with water endowing them with the gift of eternal life. Seventy years later, they have not grown a day older, and a young girl discovers them and learns their secret.
Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
A teen-age girl gains new insight into herself and her family when her mentally disabled brother gets lost.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Considered by many to be mentally disabled, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.
Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Destiny leads 11-year-old Cady to a peanut butter factory, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.
Beauty by Bill Wallace
Unhappy about his parents splitting up and moving with his mother to Grandpa's farm, Luke finds comfort in riding and caring for a horse named Beauty.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Wilbur, the pig, is desolate when he discovers that he is destined to be the farmer's Christmas dinner until his spider friend, Charlotte, decides to help him.