choosing books for advanced young readers, after school with smarty pants

Choosing Books for Advanced Young Readers

Please welcome my guest author, Natalie from After School with Smarty Pants. She has wonderful enrichment activities and life skills for advanced learners on her blog. Today, she covering how to find books for an advanced young reader which can be tricky because the content might be too advanced or inappropriate for them.

Who Is an Advanced Reader?

Every parent probably knows if they have an advanced reader. Here is my definition from my post on book recommendations for advanced readers:

  • Advanced readers don’t need reminders, rewards, or any other encouragement to read.
  • Started reading early or progressed very rapidly in their reading levels.
  • No longer interested in most books recommended for their age.
  • Choose reading over other activities, read to relax and chill out.
  • Not intimidated by the length of the book or by font size.
  • Can spend hours in the library.
  • Might have a passionate interest in something and look for every possible book on that subject.
  • Have good comprehension and usually test significantly higher than their age on reading and comprehension tests.

My daughter learned to read at age 3. She is 7 now, but her school gives monthly tests on reading levels, and hers fluctuates between 8th and 11th grades of US school. In this post I will talk about selecting books for children whose reading level exceeds what is expected of their age. choosing books for advanced young readers, after school with smarty pants

Disclosure: Natalie is an Amazon associate, and this post contains her affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting her blog!

A Blessing and a Curse

Having a bookworm is definitely a blessing. I rarely have problems keeping my child busy or listening to her I am bored! complaints. When she is immersed in a good book, she can spend hours in her room devouring it. But with this blessing comes parental responsibility of choosing appropriate reading materials.

What makes it more difficult is that neither myself nor my husband were exposed to children’s literature in English, since he was born and raised in Germany, and I grew up in the former Soviet Union. Of course, we could just let her loose in the library, but we had one bad experience when our then 6 year old picked a book of Short and Shivery Stories by Robert D. San Souci and had nightmares and trouble sleeping for two months.

In a way, this fiasco was useful, since we had a chance to talk with our Smarty about what to do if a book makes her uncomfortable and how to recognize elements that she is not ready for.

5 Ways to Choose Books for Advanced Readers

1. Booklists from Trusted Sources chapter books for young girl I admit that I don’t read dozens of book blogs, but over time I developed great respects for two bloggers that produce amazing book lists. My hostess Mia was even kind enough to write a post specifically for my daughter – 20 Gentle Chapter Books for a Young Girl. My other source of good books is Erica from What Do We Do All Day, you can check out her master list of booklists and pick one that is suitable for your family. You simply cannot go wrong with her booklists!

2. Book Finders Scholastic Book Wizard Scholastic Book Wizard is a great resource in finding books based on grade or reading level. I also like trying my luck with “similar books” feature in this book finder. 3. Follow Your Child’s Interests My daughter’s interests changed over time from non-fiction to fiction and fantasy, but many children follow the opposite path. While following her interests of mythology, history, school and humor books, I make sure she is still exposed to poetry and science books.

4. Bring On Classics… and Read Them Together 100 best children's chapter books Even though our 7 year old is a very fluent reader, I am still making my best effort to read to her every night. It brings us close, it gives us an opportunity to explore fantastic books together, and sometimes it helps daughter to get over a slow start that is quite common for classic books. I also love an opportunity to make sure she masters new vocabulary from more advanced books (sometimes she understands new words perfectly well from context, but doesn’t take time to sound them out correctly). We are slowly going through an amazing list of 100 Best Children Chapter Books from Children’s Books Guide.

5. Invest in an eReader and explore free books. Kindle Paperwhite I don’t advocate learning to read with gadgets. I am still old-fashioned that way and prefer good old paper books. But we are a Kindle family, and for her 6th birthday our daughter begged for her own Kindle. She inherited my old classic Kindle, and I upgraded to Paperwhite. We still buy paper books, but our eLibrary is growing rapidly, because my husband cannot pass up many Kindle Deals of the Day. There is also a multitude of sites for free Kindle books. We mostly use our own library’s Overdrive lending service, Amazon Prime lending library and Project Gutenberg, but you are welcome to browse through 25 places to Get Free Kindle Books.

More Book Recommendations

  • 1. Consider following my Books Worth Reading Pinterest board
  • 2. Follow me on Facebook where I share daily reading recommendations for advanced readers.

Do you have book recommendations for a young advanced reader? Please share! Thank you!


More Book Lists from PragmaticMom for Young Advanced Readers:

20 Gentle Books for a Young Boy

Reader Challenge: Happy Chapter Books for Little Girls

10 Perfect Read Aloud Chapter Books for 3rd Grade

Top 10: Best Old Fashioned Children’s Books and Their Modern Day Equivalents

Best Old Fashioned Conflict-Free Families in Books

Top 10: Books for Kids with Science Concepts

Top 10: Strong and Capable Princess Books for Girls (ages 2-16)

Philosophical Zen Picture Books to Ponder: Top 10 List

From my daughter, PickyKidPix, when she was in 3rd grade. Top 10: Best Books for 3rd Graders by Me (a 3rd Grade Girl who is very picky)

Follow PragmaticMom’s board ‘Best of’ PragmaticMom on Pinterest.

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Best Books for Kids on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. This can be a thorny problem. My daughter also began reading at age three. By the time she started school, we had exhausted the early reading shelf in the library. These are good suggestions.

  2. I am super excited to be your guest, Mia! Hopefully, your readers will find my suggestions useful!
    Natalie recently posted…Teaching Geography Through GamesMy Profile

  3. Yep. We have the same problem here. As they get older, it gets a bit harder. Great recommendations, Natalie! We’ll be sharing.
    Christine recently posted…Word of the Week (3/31): Stanley is the EPITOME of dogness.My Profile

  4. Specifically targeted at the advanced middle grade reader, the titles from this fantasy series, The Bekka Chronicles, are available at OverDrive as well as amazon, etc.
    1.Bekka of Thorns
    2. The Carven Flute
    3. Rakara
    4. The Woodlock
    5. The Blue Hills
    6. The Wicked Wand
    7. Quen Nim
    8. the Snows of Charborr Forest
    steve shilstone recently posted…ZOMBIE MOM RANTMy Profile

  5. Sunny

    We are in the same boat with my daughter who is now 10 and 8 year old son, though he does not read quite as voraciously. I do think classics and older (pre-1960s) children’s books are good options. My daughter has read all but a handful of the books on the link you listed. I have held some back (e.g. Where the Red Fern Grows) just due to sensitivity issues. We are also working through lists from “1000 Good Books List” and continually looking for good series. πŸ™‚
    Thanks for the post!

  6. Interesting post for parents with advanced readers. Bookmarked the list, as I’m always searching for a granddaughter. I was surprised the Princess Academy wasn’t on the list. And, Keeper of the Lost Cities trilogy, by Shannon Messenger.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2My Profile

    • Hi Patricia,
      I haven’t read Princess Academy by Shannon Hale yet but thanks for your suggestion. It’s recommended for ages 9 -12 but it does look great for younger girls.

      Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.

      Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.

      Keeper of the Lost Cities sounds great too:

      In this riveting debut, a telepathic girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world—before the wrong person finds the answer first.

      Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…

      But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.

      But Sophie still has secrets, and they’re buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden among humans? The truth could mean life or death—and time is running out.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Huge Self Published Kids Book GIVEAWAY and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  7. SUCH a great post! Natalie, I like your tip to read the classics to your kids. I’ve been trying to figure out what my next read aloud should be for my advanced reader (she’s almost 7). I decided it was time to pull out the classics, and we’ll be starting Pollyanna this week. Thanks for linking this to After School, Mia!
    Anna recently posted…Family Gardening TipsMy Profile

  8. Victoria

    What a great comprehensive guide. Definitely one to file away for later, thank you!

  9. Christy

    One of the good things about reading the classics together is the ability to discuss the thorny topics that might be inappropriate for the child to read on his or her own. Many classics contain bits of racism.

    We found that some older science fiction or fantasy series good ones for our advanced young reader. Dragonlance or Star Trek books tend to be “clean” and reasonably safe but there are large numbers of them, so our reader doesn’t run out.
    Christy recently posted…Of Quarks, Quasars, and Other Quirks: Quizzical Poems for the Supersonic AgeMy Profile

  10. Great post Natalie and Mia. And thanks for the kind words about my book lists! I have one early reader and one typically developing reader and it has been such a different experience finding books for them.
    Erica recently posted…Read Aloud Chapter Books for 3rd GradersMy Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      We love your lists! It is interesting how kids learn to read at different rates. My three kids read at basically the exact same time (regardless of age) — it was the month of January in kindergarten. Two of my kids were old for their grade and one was young. We had the same wonderful kindergarten teacher, so I give her all the credit.

      But … all three of my kids have widely divergent interests in reading by subject matter and all were reluctant readers in their own way.

      Even now, I get stressed out when they finish their book and say that they have nothing good to read. My oldest, in 8th grade, is finally able to find more books on her own that she likes but my other two need help or they just stop reading.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Huge Self Published Kids Book GIVEAWAY and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  11. keisha hanvy

    Great suggestions! My daughter was a late reader so we had the opposite problem. While she didn’t want to read baby books she couldn’t independently read books that were written more for her age! Thanks for linking up this week at the Homeschool Linky Party! See you next week!

  12. You and your readers might find my blog useful as it deals with the thorny subject of what to read with very bright 9-13 year olds. I am a former teacher, and am now a bookseller so I have a lot of experience. The blog reviews are picky so you don\’t have to be with watch points for a range of issues including fear, bad language, relationships etc. so you can decide it if is the book for your child, or your class.

  13. Love that Calpurnia Tate!! Great book picks!
    danielle recently posted…humands / our diy painted handsMy Profile

  14. Wow, this was so helpful. We are no where near this stage yet but as you said, your daughter learned to read when she was 3. There is so much to explore but books for older kids touch on issues that may not match her in maturity, so these strategies are great. Thanks so much for another great post and for joining us on the Kid Lit blog Hop
    Julie Grasso recently posted…Kid Lit Blog Hop #36My Profile

    • Hi Julie,
      My guest author, Natalie of Planet Smarty Pants’s daughter, learned to read when she was three. My kids were older — they all learned to read Decenber/January of their Kindergarten year though one was 5, and two were 6.

      I’m grateful to Natalie for her wonderful post! It seems that there are tons of parents out there with Smarty Pants kids who read very well at a young age. We’ll keep posting on this subject!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Twitter Tips and how I got 55,000 followersMy Profile

  15. This is perfect πŸ™‚ Thank you.
    My daughter gets frustrated that the school’s selection of what 2nd graders can read is too easy. However, I don’t want her reading “more grown” books. I’d like her to stay eight πŸ™‚
    I can always count on finding great reads for my young readers here–thank you!

    • Hi Mrs. AOK,
      I’m totally with you! There is plenty of time to read more advanced books! I wanted my son to stay in easy chapter books, picture books and graphic novels through the end of 2nd grade for the same reason. I love picture books. I still sneak them in with all three of my kids telling them that I need their opinion. They still enjoy them too but only if I make them listen to them. There is such peer pressure at my kids’ school to read chapter books as fast as possible. It’s as if they think that “reading” means “chapter books.”

      My son discovered Percy Jackson in the beginning of 2nd grade. He asked to read them but I demurred so he borrowed a book from a friend and never looked back. If it were up to me, I’d have waited another year and a half.

      Good reminder to me to keep sneaking in those picture books for my kids!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Twitter Tips and how I got 55,000 followersMy Profile

  16. All excellent suggestions! I have never heard of Book Wizard! Thanks so much!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…Improving your Blog: Improving your Images with Picmonkey and Organization with Trello – Blogging eBook ReviewsMy Profile

  17. Paula Willems

    This is so cool because that was SO ME as a child. Major book worm, and my parents had to “ground” me from reading occasionally because I didn’t want to go outside and play. I want to be prepared incase my kids are the same way with appropriate material, so I am pinning this for later. Thank you, Thank you!
    Paula Willems recently posted…Organizing My Life: My Ideal DayMy Profile

  18. Excellent post, Natalie! I’m a big fan of the Kindle Paperwhite.
    maryanne recently posted…Learning to Read With BOB BooksMy Profile

    • Hi MaryAnne,
      My middle daughter, PickyKidPix, received a Kindle Paperwhite for her birthday. Now she rents it out to us since she has the only Kindle in our house. Rick Riordan has two ebooks only on Kindle so I have to rent it to read those with her brother! It is a nice eReader!! I like it better than my color Nook which is a little too heavy for me to hold up.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Twitter Tips and how I got 55,000 followersMy Profile

  19. Yet another resource from your Mia that I am going to come back to again and again πŸ™‚ Sometime back I did exactly what you pointed out.. I am going for classics for little one. I know that you can’t go wrong with those. Especially now that she is reading chapter books and I feel as if I need to “whet” them out first and I can’t keep up with her reading, its a safe bet to pick up classics!
    Thanks for sharing on Kidlit Bloghop !
    -Reshama @Stackingbooks
    Reshama recently posted…Three Ladies Beside the SeaMy Profile

  20. Renee @ MDBR

    Great post Natalie! I agree that Mia’s blog and Erica’s blog are two great resources for helping to choose appropriate books for advanced readers. We’ve had similar issues within our family because just because a child’s reading ability is advanced, it is still important for them to read books that have age-appropriate themes. The Hunger Games was one book that was hotly debated because my daughter was 10 when the series was very popular and I did not let her read the book even though other girls in her class read the book and went to see the movie. I just think those the themes in the book are too advanced for a 10 year old – but that’s just my opinion! Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop Mia
    Renee recently posted…Book Blast Sign-Ups: Mighty Dads by Joan Holub & James DeanMy Profile

    • Hi Renee,
      That’s to funny because I had the same argument with my then 4th grader, also 10, about waiting to read The Hunger Games — right around when the first movie came out. Of course, as soon as I told her that I wished she would wait even 6 months, she borrowed a copy from a friend and read it. Thanks for your great post Natalie!! Hopefully, your daughter takes more guidance from her mom than PickyKidPix.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Lots of Ways to Save: Healthy Essentials Twitter Party with PrizesMy Profile

  21. Jenna Underwood

    This is a great post which I shared with my friends on Facebook. Like you, my daughter just turned 7 and reads everything. She loves Rick Riordan’s books. If the content is questionable or particularly complicated, that’s a book we choose as a bedtime story/ read together story. Since our children are about the same age and reading at about the same levels, I thought I would share a few that we love. Jessica Day George has a great series started called Tuesdays at the Castle and also the Dragon Slippers series. I want to second the Princess Academy books. If your daughter wants more action-adventure like the Lightning Thief, the Deltora Quest books by Emily Rodda are good. Actually the Rowan of Rin series was good too. Also Guardians of Ga’hoole by Kathryn Lasky is good and there are a lot of books there which is useful to me as my daughter will read an average of a book every 1 – 2 days. Anyway, I’m glad to see others dealing responsibly with this issue as I try to steer my daughter toward the ones that are most appropriate for her emotional maturity while still keeping her interested from an academic/literary standpoint.

    P.S. – While I *love* that Scholastic’s Book Wizard gives you a start point for books, keep in mind that scholastically the books are sometimes all over the place. There are books that I would place as a much lower or high grade level equivalent than what they do. Of course, to some extent it is subjective.

    P.P. S – I would love to stay in touch and share reading resources.

  22. mirella

    Thank you so much for this extensive list!

  23. Lisa

    Thanks for this list! My four year old son also started reading of his own accord when he was three. He loves Magic Treehouse, Geronimo Stilton, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Galaxy Zack among many others. He recently enjoyed Phantom Tollbooth, which I expected would be over his head. It is an amazing blessing and my mind is blown every day watching his brain work. My favorite is when he uses a word in conversation and mispronounces it in a way that I can tell he learned it from reading and has never actually heard it out loud.

    Here are the things I’m struggling with:

    He is advancing so quickly, that by the time he is in kindergarten or first grade it will be hard to find books on his reading level that have appropriate content. He is fast approaching the level where all of the books will be aimed at kids going through puberty, and I don’t think he’ll be ready to encounter that at 5 or 6.

    He also loves superheroes, ninjas, knights and all of the other warrior images that our culture shoves at little boys. When he encounters violence, being a 4 year old with not a lot of impulse control, he tends to start acting it out. I do avoid bringing books with violent content into the house, but again it won’t be too long before he’ll want to read a lot of great stories (Harry Potter, for example) that have more violence and darker themes than he is ready to be exposed to. I noticed Renee’s post above about the Hunger Games. That is exactly the sort of quandary I’m anticipating.

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