A+ Advice for Parents

Buy Books, Magazines That Reflect Young Readers' Interests

Q: When my nieces and nephews were little, I loved choosing books for Christmas gifts. Now that they're in third grade and up, it's harder. What series are popular for tweens and teens this season?

A: There's no blockbuster like the "Harry Potter" series or "The Hunger Games." But even if there were, what's popular with one reader may bore another.

As readers grow, it's best to let them choose their own leisure reading.

"This motivates them to read more, especially when they can choose books based on their interests, or a series that really hooks them," says Carl Harvey, library media specialist at North Elementary School, in Noblesville, Ind.

Take them to a bookstore -- as President Barack Obama did recently with his daughters -- and let them pick their own presents.

"Browsing the shelves together is a great outing -- young people want the gift of your time and attention, too," says Harvey. "You'll show kids just how important reading is to you. Don't worry if what they choose looks like 'junk.' Wouldn't you rather have them read a comics series than not read at all?

"Once they've made their selections, you can still have them wrapped for the tree."

If an outing isn't possible, ask them if they have a favorite author or series (many do), and order the latest work from that author. Or give gift cards from local or national booksellers. If they have iPads or Kindles, buy gift cards for downloading books, too.

There is one sure-to-please category of nonfiction books to consider -- almanacs and record books.

"These span age levels and make reading a whole family affair," says Harvey. "They're fun, and they can also serve as reference tools for homework assignments."

Four entertaining, fact-packed 2013 almanacs to consider: Scholastic Almanac for Kids 2013 (Scholastic Reference, 2012), TIME For Kids Almanac 2013 (TIME For Kids, 2012), The World Almanac for Kids 2013 (World Almanac, 2012) and National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 (National Geographic Children's Books, 2012).

The granddaddy of record books is Guinness World Records 2013 (Guinness World Records, 2012). Depending on the recipients' interests, browse for other titles, such as Guinness World Records 2013 Gamer's Edition (Guinness World Records, 2012) or Scholastic Year In Sports 2013 (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2012). The TIME For Kids Big Book of Why (TIME For Kids, 2010) is a great discussion starter.

Another idea is to give magazines, suggests Harvey.

"Even in this age of email, texting and digital content delivery, tweens and teens love to get things in the mail," he says.

Most print subscriptions come with online access to special digital content. Some geared-for-kids magazines to consider for tweens include: National Geographic Kids, Kids Discover Magazine, Sports Illustrated Kids, Odyssey: Adventures in Science and Muse. Cicada is a literary magazine for teens 14 and up.

Consider, too, magazines to match young readers' hobbies and interests, such as Popular Science, Sports Illustrated, NASCAR Illustrated, National Geographic, Vogue, InStyle and People.

"Identify a passion, and there's probably a good magazine about it for a teen or tween reader to enjoy," says Harvey. "When you give magazines, you put good reading in their hands year-round!"

(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)

More like A+ Advice for Parents