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Young boy reading by riverQ: My 8-year-old son is a precocious reader, and I am having a hard time finding books that are both age-appropriate and challenging enough to keep him engaged. I worry that the books at his reading level are too violent or contain other content that he’s not ready for. Where can I find books (lots of them!) for avid young readers?  –  Baffled by Books in Brookline, MA

 A: Dear Baffled,

Many parents of advanced readers face this challenge—more intellectually challenging books often contain more mature content. And because children don’t yet have much life experience to compare stories to, whatever they read will influence their beliefs about the world. For example, stories that include violence may make violence seem more normal, creating an increased tolerance for aggression in real life. The problem is particularly tricky for those (including many boys) who are drawn to adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, and other genres that often contain more such content.

Fortunately, there are some great free resources that can help you choose books that will appeal to your ravenous reader—and send messages you’d like him to receive:

  • Books That Guys Read: A list of books recommended by teachers, librarians, parents, and publishers specifically geared towards young male readers.
  • Early Expert Readers: Short description of what makes a child an ‘early expert reader’ and gives a brief list of books that are developmentally appropriate for advanced young readers.
  • Books for Early Readers: Short list of elementary school librarian recommended books for young readers (printer-friendly).
  • Parent’s Choice: Books reviewed by the Parent’s Choice expert panel and categorized by genre and reader age.
  • A Mighty Girl: A list of books (and movies) that are female-centric and organized by genre, reader age, and even price.
  • Public Libraries: librarians can often recommend great books for children based on their reading level and interest. Libraries also provide you with a nearly unlimited selection of books so you won’t go broke buying them!

Once you’ve selected a book (or several!), share them with your son—or if he’s reluctant to take direct suggestions, leave them lying around the house so he can discover them for himself. And if there’s a book he really wants to read that concerns you, evaluate it for yourself or even join him in reading it. When my son first picked up Harry Potter at age 6, for example, my wife read it along with him so they could talk about it and work through any of the questionable content.

Also remember to share developmentally suitable books that you love—that can be a great way nurture your relationship and quench his thirst for a good read.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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