What Is Quality Literature? (Plus Age-Appropriate Book Guide)

You may have heard about the importance of reading to your child, but what books are best? Are they all created equally? How important is it to read quality literature?

Quality literature opens your child’s world, inspires their imagination, and helps them learn grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, art appreciation, and social and emotional skills. They can also learn facts in school subjects like history, science, geography, math, social studies, and so much more!

What Is Quality Literature?

What exactly is quality literature? This might conjure up ideas of Shakespeare or famous poets, but thankfully, these are not the only kinds of quality literature.

Literature is like eating a meal. While dessert isn’t off limits, most of the meal should be something nutritious, like protein, fruits, veggies, dairy, and grains. Quality literature is like the nutritious part of the meal: you want your child to be reading (consuming) the best literature to grow their minds, imaginations, and educational skills.

A book would be considered quality literature if it includes all (or most) of the following:

  • Well-written, interesting stories: Some stories are too simple, don’t make much sense, or don’t provide a positive message. 
  • Age-appropriate words: Most of the words should be understandable to a child, but quality literature will stretch a child’s vocabulary just a little bit.
  • An overall positive message or conflict is resolved: Quality literature often has role models, teaches life lessons or positive character quality, or has inspiring themes. Conflict resolution is also important.
  • Illustrations are detailed: Interesting illustrations draw children back to the book because they want to look at the pictures. Detailed illustrations allow you to discuss the pictures, which further expose your child to language understanding. 
  • Has won an award: Outstanding books are awarded every year. Some popular awards are the Randolph Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and Pura Belpré Award.

In summary, if you (or your child!) want to read the book more than once, it’s likely quality literature. 

What’s not quality literature? Here are a few things to avoid when choosing books:

  • Trending animated characters: Whether it’s talking trains, classic princesses, or the next trending movie or TV show, these are not quality literature. Children may want to read these books more than once, but it’s not because the literature is quality. 
  • Graphic novels: While not all graphic novels are bad, these can be a crutch that cripples children from making the transition from picture books to chapter books. The plot lines are often shallow and feel too much like a cartoon to be taken seriously. 

These types of books would be the “desserts” of literature: they are fine in moderation but shouldn’t be a child’s only exposure to reading. 

Finding Quality Literature

It’s easy to find quality literature for story time! While you should purchase some of your favorite books, you can find most books through your local library.

Type in “quality literature + age of your child” into a search bar for thousands of options for quality books. You can request dozens of these books at a time from the library.

You can also ask your librarian for suggestions. They will know of classic books as well as new award winners and recent releases. 

If you’re expecting a new baby, register for some classic children’s books, even if they’re not baby books; you’ll be happy you have them later.

Another option is to buy classic books for Christmas, birthdays, or holiday gift baskets. While these might get passed over at first for candy and toys, the books will be what your child wants later!

Here are some age-appropriate quality literature books for young children.


  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox.
  • Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
  • I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom
  • Mommies Say Shhh! by Patricia Polacco.
  • Peekaboo Bedtime, by Rachel Isadora. 
  • Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • My Farm Friends, by Wendell Minor. 
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
  • Moo, Baa, La la la, by Sandra Boynton
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr
  • Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
  • The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats


  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  • The Little Red Caboose, by Little Golden Books
  • Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
  • Little Blue Truck, by Alice Shertle


  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
  • Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
  • Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman
  • Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
  • Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Go a Little Deeper

As you read a book with your child, ask age-appropriate and thought-provoking questions or commentary before turning the page. 

For instance, if a picture has animals in it, tell your baby or toddler what sound it makes. If your child is older, ask them what sound it makes. You can also tell young children about colors, shapes, and numbers, as well as spacial concepts like up and down, in and out, and over and under. 

Older children can also make social and emotional connections through stories. If a picture shows a character who is sad, happy, or surprised, ask them why they might feel that way. Or if there is conflict in the story, ask your child what should happen to make things right. 

Technology Can’t Replace the Parent

If you want your child to experience the benefits of reading but don’t have the time to sit down with your child, you might turn to audiobooks or children’s podcasts. Your library may also have children’s books that read the book aloud to your child. 

While these are better than iPads or television shows, podcasts and audiobooks aren’t the same as reading with your child. This is because the emotional bonding over books is lacking; a stranger is reading to your child.

This doesn’t mean that you can never let your child listen to a podcast or audiobook, but if you want your child to fall in love with reading, it’s vital to take the time to read with your child. 

Children’s Academy Childcare and Preschool is proud to offer an outstanding curriculum that is educational, fun, and prepares your child for kindergarten per state educational standards.

If you’re looking to give your child a head start in school, contact Children’s Academy Childcare and Preschool today!

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