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How to Choose Books for Children to Read!


Choosing age appropriate books for children to read is as easy as 1-2-3!

Check for the right section in the Library:

Picture Books (spine label begins with X) 
Stories with pictures to read aloud to young children; many are also suitable for beginning and middle readers to read alone.
Examples: Thomas' Snowsuit (Robert Munsch), Horton Hears a Who (Dr. Seuss)

Easy Fiction (spine label begins with Z)
Short books with limited vocabulary for beginners up to Grade 2.
Examples: Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish), Hop on Pop (Dr. Seuss)

Junior Fiction (spine label begins with J) 
Novels or "chapter books" for children Grades 3 to 6
Example: Superfudge (Judy Blume)

Youth Fiction (spine label begins with Y)
Novels for teens Grade 7 and up
Example: Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Check for reading and interest level:

Picture Books (X) 
Library staff have identified great picture books for specific ages with a coloured spine label:

 Red – Babies

 Green – Toddlers (18-36 months)

 Blue – Preschool (3-5 years)

Easy Fiction (Z)
Some publishers print a reading level on these books, and to harmonize all their different systems, the Mississauga Library System has divided the collection into three levels:


Level 1 – Approximate ages 4-7

  • Simple Vocabulary
  • Many Visual Cues
  • High Frequency Words
  • Basic Language
  • Large Font
  • Rhyme and Rhythm
  • Word Repetition
  • Simple Concepts
  • 50 to 250 words in length

Level 2 – Approximate ages 5-8

  • Increased Vocabulary
  • Some Visual Cues
  • Simple Dialogue
  • Language Play
  • Varied Sentence Length
  • Rhyme and rhythm
  • Some Word Repetition
  • CreativeConcepts
  • 200 to 500 words in length


Level 3 – Approximate ages 6-9

  • Challenging Vocabulary
  • Limited Visual Cues
  • Mixed Dialogue
  • Language Play
  • Short Paragraphs
  • Basic Chapters
  • Limited Repetition
  • Engaging Plots
  • 400 or more words in length


Junior Fiction (J) 
Some publishers add a reading level or R.L. corresponding to grade level, e.g. an R.L. of 3.5 means it is for halfway through Grade 3.

Books with no listed reading level
Try the five-finger rule: have your child read the first page, and hold up one finger for each word he or she does not recognize; if there are more than five fingers, it may be too difficult.

Always read the summary of the book (either on the back cover or inside the front cover) to determine whether the theme and content would appeal to your child's interest and comprehension levels as well. 

For example, the reading level of Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories from Wayside School is 4.9, and concerns the antics of a class of middle-grade students; Sachar's Holes has an RL of only 4.5, but concerns a pre-teen's experiences at a juvenile reformatory, and so appeals more to an older child's level of maturity. 

A good guide is to look at the main character's age: he or she should be roughly at the same age as your child or a bit older.

Ask for help:

If you run out of ideas, or don't know where to start, ask Library staff for suggestions. Many locations also have displays of recommended books.