Common Sense Media recently released a list of 50 books kids should read by age 12, and it’s fantastic.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein is on there. So is “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis.
“I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai, “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney and Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” all made the cut.
“The list includes books that are known to turn a kid into a reader, books that are known to hook reluctant readers and books that have stood the test of time,” Common Sense senior editor Regan McMahon told me.
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“I also didn’t want the list to be all books from a white, Western perspective,” she said. “I wanted books that discuss the immigrant experience and the people-of-color experience. I wanted different genres to be represented: poetry, science-fiction, graphic novels, historical fiction, novels in verse, dystopian novels, fantasy.”
McMahon compiled the list largely by herself, with input from the Common Sense managing editor and editorial director.
Certain books, she said, made the list for being cultural touchstones: “The Hunger Games” books by Suzanne Collins, “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter.
“When kids get to high school and people make literary allusions to certain works, it’s a good idea that you’ve read them,” she said.
Not everyone agrees.
“A lot of people are horrified that we’d ever recommend ‘The Hunger Games,’” McMahon said, of the stories about 24 teens pitted in a reality-show race to kill one another. “But it’s a great series. I read it. And it’s not only known to hook kids and appeal to both boys and girls, but it’s a very trenchant critique of our media-obsessed culture and the culture of violence that we’re steeped in.”
Besides, a list that pleases everyone would be a tall order.
“Not even ‘The Cat in the Hat’ is safe from our finger-wagging culture,” McMahon said. (Some parents disapprove of Thing One and Thing Two destroying Sally and her unnamed brother’s house.)
I was surprised to see “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book I didn’t read until high school (and then again as an adult), on the list. But McMahon said several of her peers read the Harper Lee classic in middle school, and more to the point, she strongly believes the themes resonate with 11- and 12-year-olds today.
“Race is such a strong issue right now,” she said. “The issue of consent is constantly being discussed on high school and college campuses right now. The notion that we need to protect our kids from concepts like rape and racism – I think kids are running into these topics anyway, so why not read a great literary work that deals with them?”
I wholeheartedly agree. So much so that I forgive the list for not including my favorite kids book of all time: Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings.”
Let us know which books you have read – and which others should be on this list.
50 books kids should read
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” by Mo Willems
“Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” by Sherri Duskey Rinker
“Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle
“Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak
“Harold and the Purple Crayon,” by Crockett Johnson
“The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” by Beatrix Potter
“The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss
“Frog and Toad Are Friends,” by Arnold Lobel
“Madeline,” by Ludwig Bemelmans
“The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh,” by A. A. Milne
“Mercy Watson to the Rescue,” by Kate DiCamillo
“Ramona the Pest,” by Beverly Cleary
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl
“Ivy + Bean: Book 1,” by Annie Barrows
“Stuart Little,” by E.B. White
“Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein
“Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White
“Coraline,” by Neil Gaiman
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1,” by C.S. Lewis
“The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread,” by Kate DiCamillo
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll
“Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery
“The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1” by Lemony Snicket
“Big Nate: In a Class by Himself: Big Nate, Book 1,” by Lincoln Peirce
“Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson
“Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” by Jeff Kinney
“The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien
“The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1,” by Rick Riordan
“Little House in the Big Woods,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” by Judy Blume
“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle
“Esperanza Rising,” by Pam Munoz Ryan
“Hold Fast,” by Blue Balliett
“I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,” by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick
“Inside Out and Back Again,” by Thanhha Lai
“My Side of the Mountain,” by Jean Craighead George
“Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party,” by Ying Chang Compestine
“Walk Two Moons,” by Sharon Creech
“Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank
“Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio
“Ender’s Game,” by Orson Scott Card
“The Fellowship of the Ring,” by J.R.R. Tolkien
“The Hunger Games, Book 1,” by Suzanne Collins
“Legend, Book 1,” by Marie Lu
“March: Book One,” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
“The Outsiders,” by S.E. Hinton
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee