Hello, dear book-lovers. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this guide, it’s because you’re a reader—and you have a young person in your life whom you’d very much like to see grow into a book-lover, too.
Books can be wonderful gifts—but only if they’re the right books. Because we book-lovers know that all books are not created equal.
There are books we consider friends, and books we (rightly) consider trash. There are books we want to read over and over and over again, and books that aren’t worth reading even once. There are books we want to keep on our bookshelves forever, and books that simply take up space.
If we’re giving books to our kids and nieces and nephews and nannied-fors and other young loved ones in our lives, we have to make sure we’re giving them good books. Because they won’t become readers if we give them bad ones.
Unfortunately, giving good books isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s hard enough to find good books for ourselves, but if we can’t remember what it’s like to be 2—or 12—and what kids those ages like, finding a good book to gift them for Christmas can be a guessing game.
There’s an expression I’ve heard my dad say a hundred times: “paper gains, paper losses.” He likes to keep an eye on his investments, and as he watches their value rise and fall he likes to remind me (and himself, I suspect) that you haven’t truly won or lost anything until you cash out.
This guide is called “Paper Gains” because you can’t lose with the books listed here.
This guide will steer you towards good books for the young people on your gift list. It’s full of books that they’ll love reading—again and again. Books that will turn them into readers. (Hey, it’s full of books you’ll probably love, too!)
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive—but it doesn’t have to be. Because once a kid develops a taste for good books, they’ll be able to find plenty more of them. The challenge is in learning to recognize what makes for a good book.
Help out a young reader by gifting them a good book this year. And here’s wishing you—and the young readers in your lives—a very happy holiday.
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a note about the age guidelines in this guide
I’ve included very approximate age guidelines with each title listed here. Please know that that’s all they are: guidelines.
Young children differ greatly in both their reading skills and emotional maturity. Both factors are important to consider when putting a book in a child’s hands.
If you’re not sure whether or not your child or young friend is ready to read a certain book, try reading it yourself first, or reading it with them.
That being said, it’s never too early to begin building a child’s library. It’s an investment that will surely pay off. There are no “paper losses” to be had from an investment in good books.
These are great books for parents who read and want to pass down a love of reading to their kids. From beautiful books to share with your youngest readers to books on literacy theory (not as boring as it sounds).
Some books are such classics that every child, regardless of interests or age, should have these read to them over and over again. Calling them classics is not enough.
Finding good books to read can be tough. When you get hooked on a series, you don’t have to worry about finding great books; you can just enjoy reading them.
If you have kids in your life who live and breathe baseball, these are the books to get them reading. Interesting facts and 9th inning heroics.
Well-chosen books encourage and inspire the young people in your life who dream of being writers, poets, architects, dancers, or who just love to get creative.
Kids love the unexpected (and slightly ridiculous) plots of the stories below. Adults will love them, too–because while these stories are silly, they’re not stupid.
These titles are for any kid who’s head-over-heels in love with trains, planes, or diggers. Invest in the hardback or board book version because your young friend will want to read about his favorite vehicles over and over and over again.
Good fiction develops imagination and empathy, not to mention reading skills and appreciation for good literature. Your young reader will enter into new worlds through these wonderful works of fiction.
These books don’t have to be read from beginning to end: they can be popped open at any time, to any page, to read (or re-read) and enjoy.