I recently read an article from MacLean’s about adults turning to children’s books for comfort when they they face challenges in life. The article got me thinking about adults enjoying books written for children for many reasons, not just during trying times.
I have to admit that I was surprised when I started reading books with my daughters for book club more than a decade ago at how much I genuinely liked the books. This was no chore, or something that I thought I should do as a bonding experience for my daughters and me. Instead I found myself appreciating children’s literature in a new way.
It’s easy to assume that kids books have simple plots and offer older readers no opportunity for introspection. That’s why people often ask me if I get bored reading books to recommend here for mother-daughter book clubs. But I find the opposite to be true in many cases. Kids understand complex emotions, maybe even better than adults, because they’re still close to raw emotional expressions. The best writers for kids get that, and they don’t pull punches when it comes time to write nuanced stories that make readers of all ages think.
Another thing to consider is that kids are experts at spotting lectures coming from adults, so books that they want to read must weave a message seamlessly in with the story. Plus, timeless stories for children often hold up to second or third or fourth readings or more because the message has layers, meaning that as children get older they will find more meaning as they understand more about the world about them. Adults may be more likely to grasp the whole meaning on a first reading, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy the story less.
Here’s a short list of some of my old and new favorites with appeal to kids in different age groups. I hope these titles inspire you to pick up a book and enjoy reading it with your child, or even just to discover the joy of reading books for children with classic staying power.
Elementary school readers ages 9 and 10
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg
- Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
- Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Middle school readers ages 11 to 13
- Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
High school readers ages 14+
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
- A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Want more suggestions? Take a look at List Challenge’s Top 100 Children’s Novels. All the books on the list are great for adults to read too.