I have always been known for reading outside of my age group. When I was little, I loved to pick up books that challenged me, reading titles that were meant for older children. And now, as an adult, there’s nothing I love quite like reading a good picture book or middle grade title (although most of what I read is still for adults). While age designations on books are extremely important, as it helps you find books that are written for people in your age group, there’s nothing wrong with reading books for a different age group, if the reader in question enjoys those kinds of stories and is able to understand the information they contain. Obviously, this is more of an issue for children reading older books (as you’ll sometimes find mature content), so concerned adults should always be aware of what their children are reading. But, readers should be able to read what they like. However, if you’re curious about the difference between EZ Readers and Picture Books, or Middle Grade and YA, keep reading! Let’s learn all about the different age categories in our collection!
Board Books (Ages Infant to 3)
Board books are made with a stiff cardboard to make them durable to little hands that don’t understand that readers need to be gentle. The stories (if there are any) are usually pretty simple. Still, that doesn’t mean that these stories can’t be a lot of fun to read with your little ones. And best of all, you can let them handle the books without worrying about torn pages!
I don’t have any little kids, so I generally don’t read board books. So, if one pops up on my reading list, it’s almost always by mistake. But, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the ones that I did read. Brooms are for Flying is a cute little story about some trick-or-treaters who get a real Halloween surprise! Up and Down (Ue to Shita /うえとした) comes from our World Languages collection. Learn your opposites (and some Japanese vocabulary) all in one handy book! And finally, My First Winnie-the-Pooh is exactly what it sounds like: an adorable collection of Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems by A.A. Milne.
Picture Books (Ages 3-6)
Picture books are short books with illustrations as the main focus of the story (although there are occasionally titles that have no pictures!) These stories are written for children between the ages of 3 and 6, but can honestly be enjoyed by just about everyone! This librarian is very partial to picture books and reads them by the stack!
The titles I’ve selected here are a fun mish-mosh of different types of stories. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is a collection of funny fairy tale retellings, coupled with Lane Smith’s outlandish and iconic illustration style. The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend is an adorable tale of an imaginary friend looking for a child to call his own. And of course, Curious George is a classic of children’s literature, about a little monkey who gets into all sorts of trouble!
Easy Readers (Ages 6-10)
Also spelled EZ-Readers, these books are written to be read by children just learning to read. These titles use a limited vocabulary, and simple words, often offering definitions of some of the more complex, unknown, or confusing terms and phrases. These stories can easily be read in one or two sittings (or in just a few minutes for more experienced readers) and are a lot of fun. While the stories are perhaps a little simpler than picture books (since these books are meant to be read by early readers, rather than to them), they are still enjoyable tables regardless of age. These types of books will generally have some sorts of images, although they are more text-heavy than in picture books.
The three titles I’ve selected here are some of my favorites. In a Dark, Dark Room is a great collection of scary stories to enjoy as the days get colder and the nights get longer. But, don’t worry: since these tales are written for young readers, they never get too scary! Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears is part of the greater Mr. Putter and Tabby series, so readers who enjoy reading about this old man and his cat will find plenty of adventures to keep them occupied! And finally, Frog and Toad are Friends is a hilarious collection of short adventures shared by two good friends.
Middle Grade (Ages 8-12)
This is one of my favorite book “ages” to read. These books are written for children who have already learned how to read (as opposed to Easy Readers), but still don’t become too complicated in terms of language or include too much mature content. These stories are fun, exciting, and dramatic, often dealing with young children or animal characters. The stories can be extraordinary adventures or daily life, and often have a lot of heart. Middle grade books are not always illustrated, although some titles will have the occasional picture (and who doesn’t love books with pictures?)
If you’re looking for something funny, look no further than A Year Down Yonder. This book about a young girl sent to live with her grandmother during the Great Depression had me in stitches and I’ve read it multiple times! The Tale of Despereaux is the story of a brave little mouse who won’t let his small size keep him from rescuing a beautiful human princess who has been kidnapped by rats. And finally, The Beast and the Bethany is about a horrible man named Ebeneezer Tweezer, who is kept young and handsome by the beast who lives in his attic. Spooky premise, but terribly funny!
Young Adult (Ages 12-18)
Young Adult (YA) books provide more complex language and themes than middle grade. These books often feature teenage protagonists and are usually high drama. Fantasy, romance, and dystopian themes abound in YA titles, which are often fast-paced and exciting. These cover a wide array of genres and often feature young people trying to find themselves and their place in the world, and often address topics like dating, depression, sexuality, and growing up.
The Hunger Games is one of the most iconic YA series. This dystopian series is the story of Katniss, a teen forced to participate in a battle-royale crafted by the ruling class as a means of punishing an uprising from decades before. The series can be grim and intense, but was praised for pulse-pounding action and well-written characters. If fantasy is more your speed, you might enjoy The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, which is based on Korean mythology. Every year, the people of Mina’s homeland sacrifice a young woman to the Sea God by tossing her into the ocean as his bride. When Mina’s brother tries to interrupt the latest sacrifice, Mina steps in and sacrifices herself instead, but instead of drowning, she discovers the true fate of all the previous brides and must work to save the Sea God and find her way home. And last but not least, we have a nonfiction graphic novel biography of President Roosevelt: Teddy. This well-written and well-researched biography chronicles Roosevelt’s life from childhood until death, and was a beautiful tribute to a great man.
Adult (Ages 18+)
Finally, we have the adult books. These are books that are written with a more mature audience in mind. Mature, of course in this context, does not mean that these books are inappropriate for younger readers, per se, but that they are best enjoyed by adults. As with the other age categories we’ve explored, Adult fiction is incredibly diverse in terms of genre, story, and characters. Whether you’re looking for a romance or a mystery, there is something for every reader!
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a poignant tale of a young girl struggling after the death of her beloved grandmother. After the old woman dies, she discovers a secret quest entrusted to her– to deliver a message to a diverse group of people living in her apartment complex. Along the way, our young protagonist will learn a lot about her grandmother and about life. The Baker Street Letters is the first in a series of mysteries following two brothers who run their law firm from 221B Baker Street, the location where Sherlock Holmes supposedly lived. But, as in our world, Sherlock Holmes was not a living, breathing person but a fictional character, and the brothers often get “fan mail” that can never be delivered. When one of them decides to act upon the information in one of the letters, it sets off a change of events that could cost the brothers their lease–or worse–their lives! And finally, Poison for Breakfast is a strange, rambling little book about author Lemony Snicket, who has just finished eating breakfast, only to learn that he had been poisoned. While he’s not sure who poisoned him or why, he sets off on a quest to find out.
The titles listed here are just the tip of the iceberg, and it was increasingly hard to choose just three for each age group (as there were hundreds more that I had to pass up). But, regardless of which ones you read, I hope you feel inspired to check out more!