Question: finding appropriate reading material for kids

Diana asked the 4 Moms a great question on facebook.  I don’t have a good answer for her, but I’m hoping somebody does.  Can you help?

 I have a 15 year old sister who is struggling to find appropriate reading material. I’ve run out of ideas and my mom is struggling because she doesn’t feel like she has adequate time to preview books before my sister gets them. Any suggestions that would be appropriate, specifically avoiding “romance”? Do you have a trustworthy reference that my mom could use to give her the scoop on a new book without having to read the whole thing?

What do you think?  Does such a resource exist?  It sounds like for books instead of movies.  We find it useful because rather than just saying that a movie is safe for kids, it gives a very detailed list of all the scenes, topics, and expletives that viewers might find objectionable, even touching on worldviews.  This is useful to us because we are far more concerned about sex scenes or implied sexual relationships than we are about rough language or alcohol, for example.  I would love to know if such a resource exists for books.


  1. Hi,
    I didn’t know about – it sounds nice and might be more detailed than the review service I usually use, but I wanted to mention these two websites that provide a similar service, but for free 🙂

    they have reviews of movies and videogames (commonsense also tv-shows) seen from a Christian perspective, so deals with both language, violence and such but also general worldview and ethics.

  2. Kathryn says:

    I would checkout “The Hornbook” []
    It has reviews/info about the latest YA and kids lit and library/media resources, and unlike some of the other YA journals which can be hard to get a hold of if you’re not a teacher or librarian, it’s available in most bookstores (in the periodical section, obviously!)

  3. Amy Hollister says:
  4. This site has been around for ages. All the books are worth reading. 🙂

  5. N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy. He’s a christian and the series is impeccably clean and wholesome and adventurous. He’s also got a new series of which two books are already published which if anything may be even better than the other. The series is called Ashtown Burials.

  6. I”m going to sound like a parrot, but seeing as I enjoy all kinds of books on all kinds of levels I’d like to share some of my favorites (which incidentally happen to be many of the same ones already recommended!)

    ~A Life of Faith books- Out of print, hard to find, expensive when found, but SO WORTH THE INVESTMENT! I had the opportunity to buy the Violet series for $20 (all 8) and even though I already have them, I leapt at the chance. Every single person I’ve gotten to read the Millie, Violet, Kathleen and Laylie books have ended up adoring them and buying as many as they could find. It just happens.

    ~Lamplighter books- All levels of their books, even the ones for ‘younger’ kids are worth reading. I love their audio dramas too. My all time favorite is ‘The Hidden Hand’. A high energy, laugh out loud hilarious, fast-paced character building mystery and story of epic proportions. Again, a steep price tag, but well worth it. Sometime, you just gotta go for the quality.

    ~Viking Quest Series by Lois Walfrid Johnson- Amazing. That’s all there is to these books. This series really blows the modern ‘teen’ image out of the water. Set in 1100’s Ireland at the time of the Viking invasions, the way the characters, though separated from their families for long lengths of time, hold on to their parents teaching and the Lord is demonstrative of many Proverbs and an excellent mental picture of what faithfully honoring your parents looks like in difficult situations.

    ~Lucy Maud Montgomery- I don’t know if you’ve read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ or whether your sister would consider them to young or not (FYI- You’re never too old for Anne!) but I’ve read practically everything I can get my hands on through the years by L.M. She has some kinda ‘weird’ spirituality on occasion, but someone spiritually mature can easily overcome that. She’s well worth reading for good wholesome adventures and sweet stories. The Story Girl and The Golden Road are two of my lesser known favorites.

    ~To have and to Hold by Mary Johnston- (VF sells this one) An exciting tale of early America, this one is great for re-reading!

    ~Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss- To be honest, I couldn’t stand this book at first. The girl was whiny and needed a good slap of reality. But I stuck it out and was incredibly blessed by the story of a young girl as she grows to adulthood and in her faith.

    ~Jane Austen’s novels- having been a fan of some of the books before I saw my first Jane Austen film, let me just say, the books are excellent. Each book has timeless Biblical truths to be gathered. However, her books take careful thought and reading to see them. Sort of like the parable of the priceless pearl! If you search hard enough you will see that each book is filled with observations on human nature, relationships and themes like loyalty, perseverance and patience. And each of the characters become dear friends!

    I’d encourage everyone to read more biographies and autobiographies. You can glean so much from accounts of historical figures, scientists, preachers, missionaries, inventors- whether a believer or not. Reading up on economics, politics, education and other topics may seem tedious, but it’s greatly worth while. Biblical apologetics, science and Biblical history will be beneficial wherever the Lord takes you in life. I read a lot of non-fiction and closely historically linked fiction. (There is a difference- much ‘historical fiction’ is barely that.) Some of my favorites include:

    John Jay Dwyer:
    The War between the States (non-fic)
    Stonewall Jackson (Fic)
    Robert E. Lee (Fic)

    The Uncle Eric Series by Richard J. Mayberry
    All about history, economics, politics etc. in an easy to read and entertaining format.

    Politically Incorrect Guide series-
    You need to be a touch more discerning on this series, but I highly recommend this series for completely announcing their bias right off the bat and their ‘if you don’t like it, don’t read it’ approach.

    Anything by Brother Andrew
    He’s got more books than just ‘God’s Smuggler’!! They’re all worth the read and give you a global perspective of the Church.

    Voice of the Martyrs/Living Sacrifice Books
    These are heart wringers, sorrowful and hopeful, joyful and painful all at the same time. Each book will give you much to pray for. But as a part of the Body of Christ, it is good to read and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world.

    Answers in Genesis-
    Anything and everything. Some of it may be way over your head, but, read it away. An overview of lots of topics will be helpful and push you to try and comprehend even more.

    Lee Strobal-
    Biblical apologetics. His ‘Case’ books are excellent. I think my favorite is ‘The Case for the Real Jesus Christ’. Each book is presented in an informational, yet entertaining way.

    Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelly
    Many people know NOTHING about the heritage of the Church with a capitol C. This is a real problem. I love studying to see God’s hand through the history of the Church, see Him at work through it all. This is one of the best, truly easy to read books out there. (Shameless plug- I used this book extensively when writing my play on Church history ‘Legacy of Light’ which is available online at my website.)

    David McCullough-
    I can’t in good conscious recommend ‘anything’ by him, because I haven’t read all his stuff, but 1776, John Adams and Brave Companions are wonderful. There is a tiny bit of language in the last one, and the occasional unnecessary reference, but easily over looked.

    In the Presence of my Enemies- Gracia Burnham
    I cried my eyes out at this book. But it was such an encouraging, hopeful story. As I read the book the first time, I kept thinking, ‘She seems like she’s awful hard on herself…’ and last year I was privileged to attend a conference where she was the speaker. Yes, I would say she was hard on herself! She is a wonderful woman of God, and the story hasn’t ended yet! God is working in the hearts of some of their captors, turning them to Himself!

    Douglas Bond-
    His Crown and Covenant and Faith and Freedom series are both educational, entertaining and enlightening. Great adventure stories based on a lot of true events!

    Well, that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure you didn’t exactly want a novel about novels and other books! Hope some of this was helpful. I do love my books. 🙂

  7. That’s a very good question and an issue that every family with avid readers has to grapple with. I can identify with the mom who doesn’t have time to read everything anymore!

    Some good sources are blogs of people I know and trust who put their reading lists out. It’s always wise to keep in mind, though, that just because someone recommends it, it might not be the right choice for you.

    I highly recommend this blog as one that encourages you to know HOW to read books, and that will greatly help with the WHAT to read:

  8. Julie Tysh says:

    Skimming the book, or even just reading the flap or back part with the summary can often be enough to figure out if it’s a romance-themed, or romance-containing book or not. Key phrases like “learning to love” or “discovering how to open her heart” that kind of thing. And inside the book any allusion to romance is surprisingly easy to find just by scanning through the main areas. Chapter titles help if they’re included.

  9. Any of the Janette Oke books are good, Francine Rivers has some good ones too, Karen Witemeyer is a favorite around our house, T. Davis Bunn also has some good ones, Lynn Austin, Wanda Brunstetter, Beverly Lewis, Judith Pella and Tracie Peterson are some adult ones that should also work for that age. My daughter began reading most of these authors at 15 or 16.

  10. Try your local christian bookstore. The store I work at has a great selection of books for teens. The Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series by Robin Jones Gunn are really good, the Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson, The Dragon Keeper Chronicles-5 books-by Donita K. Paul, the River of Time series by Lisa Bergren has my daughter crazy over them, the Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Stengel is also popular with my daughter. There are 10 or 11 books by Bryan Davis in 3 different series-Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire and Children of the Bard, those are popular as well. Ted Dekker has the Lost Books series that has been popular with adults and teens both. Hope this helps a little. Blessings!

  11. I don’t know of any book review websites, but if I want to read a random book (that isn’t popular enough to make it on a book review site!) I will go to the reviews. It is hit or miss, but sometimes I will find a comment in there that lets me know if it is ok to read, such as if there are sex scenes or that it is wholesome. That’s my only tip, sorry!

  12. We use a book called Honey for a Teen’s Heart. It is full of great booklists for teenagers. We also have Honey for a Child’s Heart, and their Mom version as well. 🙂

  13. I read the Song of Acadia series, co-authored by Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn, and it was excellent. It was refreshing for romance not to be the main plot of the books!


    We have some reading list links posted here.

  15. Three resources I use are,, and all have lists within each year’s curriculum. These are all Christian companies with high standards for the books they list.

    • rebekah says:

      I agree, ambleside has an extensive list you could choose from, and is divided by age. At the.end of each grade there are free reading selections, that my be more “fun” options.

  16. Melanie E says:

    Here is a conservative reading list of 100 top-notch godly books (available for free download):

    Two of my absolute favorites at that age were: Beautiful Girlhood, by Mabel Hale, and How to Be a Lady, by Harvey Newcomb.

    • I just bought a few copies of Beautiful Girlhood. It’s a real gem of a book, highly recommend.

  17. I agree with Laura. The Lamplighter books are wonderful. I’m reading Pain:The Gift Nobody Wants. Wonderful book. Dr. Brand had such an interesting life. My girls enjoy biographies, missionary books: for instance, Bruchko. What a man! They enjoy Louis L’Amour, Charles Dickens, theology (such as the books Augustine wrote. Those are not exactly “can’t put it down” books but that is why they have a stack of books by their bed. The Federalist Papers. I would be underlining these titles but I don’t know how to do that on the computer. Anyway, there is a lot of excellent material for reading. It’s just a question of time…..Amy Carmichael’s book….Grace Livingston Hill….James Fenimore Cooper….travel books. The Wall Street Journal is a wonderful newspaper…..I pick it up at my bank on Fridays….a week’s worth of Wall Street Journal everyweek for free! They save it for me….just ask…..The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire…riveting stuff. Have fun.

  18. The rule of thumb I follow with books–older the better. Usually books published before 1900 are much safer than books published after that date…Even the romances ( I think) are safer (like Jane Eyre for instance) and you can be pretty well assured that they aren’t going to be steamy or full of expletives… Besides that the vocabulary is better, the thematic elements are meatier and so on…

  19. I read most books, I fail sometimes and worry about what they are reading, but as mom’s we can’t do everything.
    Here is a list of some books for the younger ages, although I think the older kids would enjoy the lamplighter books. I know the lady that started this personally.
    I also love the Life of Faith books, they do have some relationship elements but not romance per say, they take the life of a girl from about age 8-10 thru young adult. Set in historic America.

Don't just think it: say it!

%d bloggers like this: