A Parent’s and Educator’s Guide to Children’s Literature

Parent's and Educator's Guide to Children's Literature


Choosing the right book for a child or youth can be difficult, especially for those not particularly familiar with the publishing industry or its terms. Below is a guide to children’s literature and what types of books are most commonly read by various age ranges.

Board Books

Board books are books specifically designed for the littlest reader, newborns to ages two or three. Printed on paperboard so that they can weather rough handling and chewing, these books should have bold illustrations and short text. Newborns and infants do not have the attention span for long stories, so steer clear of full-length picture books printed as board books, or books clearly aimed towards adult caregivers. Look for short, rhyming text; contrasting illustrations; and interactive elements.

Picture Books

Picture books are generally understood to be written for young children, such as toddlers and preschoolers, but, really, a picture book is just a book where the illustrations and the text combine to tell the story. That is, without the pictures, the story does not quite work. So picture books can actually span a large age range and deal with a variety of topics such as historical events, politics, and more. Parents should review picture books to make sure that they are choosing ones that are developmentally appropriate for their child. And adults should keep in mind that, because picture books are typically meant to be read aloud, they can often have a larger vocabulary and more complex sentences than other types of children’s books.

Beginner Readers

Also called easy readers, early readers, or leveled readers, these books are for children just starting to read on their own. As a result, they tend to feature short sentences and repetitive text. They are usually read by children roughly from ages 5-7. The “levels” on the cover (ranging from the numbers 1 to 4) indicate the complexity of the text, and take readers from just beginning to read on their own to transitioning into chapter books. Some parents use the levels on the covers to find a suitable title, but the levels are not standardized across publishers. The best practice is for the adult to review the books beforehand to find the ones most suitable for their child’s experience. Examples of beginner readers include the Piggie & Elephant books, the Fly Guy books, and the Henry and Mudge books.

Chapter Books

Contrary to popular belief, chapter books are not any book divided into chapters. This term refers to books for newly independent readers, usually around the ages of 7-9. They are shorter books that contain some illustrations, but not necessarily one on every page. Examples include Magic Treehouse, EllRay Jakes, and the A-Z mysteries.

Lower Middle Grade

Typically, middle-grade is said to be for children ages 8-12. However, middle grade is understood by librarians, teachers, and even authors as typically being split between upper and lower categories. Lower middle grade books are for ages 8-11, or roughly third to fifth grade. These books are usually shorter, simpler, and not as dark as upper middle grade books. However, they are longer and more complex than chapter books.

Upper Middle Grade

Although middle-grade books are marketed for ages 8-12, the audience for upper middle grade actually spans a larger age range. As YA (teen) books become darker and cater to an adult audience, many younger teens are continuing to read middle-grade. In fact, some books that used to be considered teen books (Harry Potter, The Giver, etc.) are now shelved as middle-grade to reflect the trending maturity in YA. Upper middle grade books are thus suitable at least for ages 11-15, or roughly sixth to eighth grade. Books such as the Percy Jackson and Keeper of the Lost Cities series are upper middle-grade books and certainly appeal to readers older than 12.

Young Adult (YA)

Young adult or YA is the current label for teen books and these books are supposed to be appeal to teens from 13-18. Many librarians and educators, however, see the YA label as more appropriate for ages 16+. Parents should be aware that YA books do not necessarily contain more difficult vocabulary or sentence structure than upper middle-grade books. It is the content of the books–content that may include sex, substance abuse, violence, etc.–that warrants the teen label. So younger teens who want to “read up” or “above grade level” do not need to seek out YA books if they are not yet ready for some of the content they may encounter.

Adult Books

Some teens, especially teen boys, may choose to skip YA altogether and start reading adult books. The current theory seems to be that most YA books are written by women for women. They also tend to start female protagonists. Teen boys may not see themselves or their interests reflected in YA books, so they jump straight to the adult section


Finding the right books for the right reader is more art than science. Not every reader will be ready for the same books at the same time. And that’s okay! This guide is truly meant to be that–a guide–and not a rigid rule book.

Do You Prefer Male or Female Protagonists? (Let’s Talk Bookish)

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

The Prompt: When it comes to books, do you prefer male or female protagonists and why? Do you not have a preference? Have you ever not read a book because the protagonist was male/female? Do you think it’s important for children to read protagonists of the opposite gender from them? Do you feel like certain genres have more of a certain gender of protagonist than the other? (Mahita @ Amateur Teen Writer)

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I pick books based on plot and premise; the main character’s identity is not a factor in my decision. Some of my favorite books feature mostly male characters, while other favorites are mostly about female characters. (See: The Lord of the Rings and Anne of Green Gables.) The important thing is that the story is good and that the characters are complex and well-written. This also means it doesn’t matter whether a female author is writing a male main character or a male author is writing a female main character; as long as they can write a convincing and engaging protagonist, I’m in.

Because I read a lot of YA books, however, I do read a lot of books that are about teenage girls. While publishing is often accused of being male-dominated, the facts are that children’s literature, and particularly YA books, is dominated by women agents who rep books by women authors about female protagonists to women editors. It’s actually hard to find a YA book, especially a mainstream popular one, that has a boy protagonist, and the ones that often jump to people’s minds tend to be older (ex. Eragon or I Am Number Four).

This is a problem in the sense that teenage boys often feel as if YA is not “for them” because they are so sparsely represented, and because girls in general are more likely to be avid readers than boys, I would love to see publishers publish and market more books featuring boys. (Yes, boys can read and like books about girls and vice versa, but the reality is that people DO like to see themselves in books sometimes, and it would be nice for boys to see more YA options that are about them and for those books to get a lot of hype.) Middle grade tends to be more balanced in terms of protagonist gender, so there’s really just a gap between MG and adult books that I think publishers can still fill. (Read one of our lists of YA books with male main characters here.)

So while I personally don’t choose books based on the protagonist’s gender, I do think it’s important to have balance in the market in general, and I hope that more male-focused stories can find their way into YA just as I hope more female-focused books can find their way into adult SFF and other genres.


5 Trends in Picture Books I Do Not Like

Picture Book Trends I Don't Like

Picture books are true works of art! From beautiful illustrations to innovative formats, picture books constantly are reinventing the idea of what a book can be and do. But not all picture books are created equally. Here are a few trends in picture book publishing that I do not particularly enjoy.



Picture books written primarily in speech bubbles seem to be all the rage. While this technique can be done wonderfully, as in Mo Willems’ Piggie & Elephant books, other times, writing the story in dialogue does not seem to add much to the book. It just makes reading the picture book aloud more difficult as one must adopt different voices to differentiate the characters, or find some other way to make sure listeners can follow who is speaking and when.


Sarcastic and Rude Characters

This trend seems to be going along with the first one. The characters using speech bubbles often are rude or sarcastic. The intent is seemingly humor. However, I do not find rude people funny, and I certainly would not want to teach children that is is ever acceptable to make fun of others in order to get a laugh from an audience.

Ugly Pictures

This point is admittedly subjective, but it seems to me that so many current picture books have ugly, scratchy drawings for the illustrations. Do children like these? I would think many children enjoy more colorful illustrations and, well, prettier ones.


Books Geared Towards Adults

Board books and picture books that focus on historical or contemporary figures, scientific concepts, political movements, historical events, and classic works of literature are very in right now. However, the littlest readers do not have much context for these things, so they are not likely benefiting much from a biography where they lack historical background, or a satire where they do not know the book being satirized. These books are written for the caregivers, and not the children.

Longer Text

Longer picture books are, in part, because of the trend of writing books that are marketed towards adults and not children. Also, some picture books are longer because they are meant for older children and not toddlers. However, it seems to me that more and more of the new releases I peruse have an unusually large amount of text. I prefer shorter books, since not every child is going to sit still long enough to finish the lengthier stories.

Have you noticed any of these trends? What kinds of picture books do you like–or not like–to read?

4 Things I Learned about Writing in School I Also Use While Writing My Blog

Whenever Krysta or I bring up the structure of a blog post or the idea of research or evidence in a blog post, we get a flurry of comments to the effect of, “This isn’t school!” No, it isn’t school, but my theory is that the things I learned about writing in school are not ONLY for writing research papers about Shakespeare; they’re also guidelines for how to write things in daily life! So while I admit I don’t put the same amount of rigor and structure into writing for the blog that I would have for a serious academic research paper (I agree; this is still just a hobby!), there are are things I do while writing to try to make my blog posts more cohesive and readable.


Have a Thesis

A “thesis” is just the idea that the text has a main point, and that the main point is clearly stated somewhere in the opening paragraph or introduction (if the introduction is more than one paragraph long). This means that, for discussion posts, I try to make the main argument or question clear in the beginning of the post. For reviews, I try to end the first paragraph with a clear statement of whether or not I enjoyed the book and what main aspects of the book led me to like/dislike it.


Write Topic Sentences

This is probably the area where I’m flakiest on the blog because I put A LOT of effort into writing topic sentences for academic papers, and I don’t put nearly the same amount of thought into them for my blog. However, I do still try to write them! Using topic sentences helps the reader know what the paragraph is going to be focused on, and they help me as the writer stay focused on that thing, whether I’m discussion the pacing of a book, the logic of a plot, or the characterization of a protagonist.

Use Evidence to Back Up My Points

The idea that you should back up your arguments with evidence has been a strangely controversial point on our blog in the past, but I think it’s immensely important! “Evidence” is just the reasons I believe the things I am writing. For a factual discussion post, this could, in fact, mean research and reading studies and articles to cite and link to. For instance, if I want to make a claim that “no one reads audiobooks anyway,” I should probably look up what percentage of readers do (or do not) listen to audiobooks.

The important aspect is recognizing what is “just my opinion” and what is a claim that could be proved or disproved with actual research. I have awkwardly seen book bloggers make (sometimes very angry!) claims about why publishers do X, why ebooks cost Y, why libraries do Z, etc. that are . . . just factually wrong. I know “research,” for a lot of bloggers, sounds like something that they shouldn’t have to do for a hobby they are just doing for fun, but I believe it’s important to try to make accurate claims when possible.

And for topics that ARE more opinion-based, I still think evidence is important! If, for instance, I say in a review that the plot is slow, I try to give an example of why. Or if I say a character is brilliant, I might give an example of a time they did something exceptionally smart.

Evidence is important to help your audience understand why your opinions or arguments are what they are, and help the audience decided whether they agree.


End with a Conclusion

This might be the most obvious point on the list, but I do try to end my posts with some type of conclusion. In a discussion post, I try to sum up the main point and any final information I want the readers to take away. In a review, I make a final point about whether or not I recommend the book to other readers, and why.

Conclusions can also be good for SEO. I’ve read that readers like seeing them, and having a clear conclusion can increase how many people finish reading the post. Using clear heading tags like “introduction” and “conclusion” throughout the post can also be useful for SEO.

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And One Thing I Don’t Do As Much As I Should: Proofread

I literally proofread professionally, but I can’t stand reading my own work. Sometimes I reread a post once it’s published and notice some typos I need to clean up, but I admit I don’t do much proofreading of my own drafts. Please forgive me.


Should Libraries Go Fine Free?

Should Libraries Go Fine Free

In the U.S, an increasing number of libraries are considering going fine free. The argument in favor of this move says that it will increase library usage among low-income individuals and families who may not be using the library currently, either because they fear accruing fees, or because they have already accrued fees that they cannot afford to pay. Dissenters worry that removing late fees will give patrons no incentive to return books on time. Additionally, some libraries rely on overdue fines to supplement their budgets. Either way, the topic can raise strong feelings. The research, however, currently suggests that going fine free can create more benefits than negatives.

What does it mean to be fine free?

Some people worry that removing late fines means that patrons will no longer return materials, making them unavailable for others who may need them. It is important to note, however, that removing late fines does not mean that people can keep out materials indefinitely. Typically, libraries allow patrons to keep materials a certain number of days after the due date. After this extension, the patron is charged the full price of the materials, as if they are lost and need to be replaced. Returning the materials will erase the replacement fee from the patron’s record. In the meantime, the replacement fee, if large enough, may create a hold on the patron’s account, meaning that they cannot use their library card until they return the items. Grace periods vary by library, and presumably affect how available items are on the shelves. I have seen libraries give grace periods anywhere from one week to six weeks.

What are the benefits of going fine free?

Proponents of fine-free libraries argue that it promotes equal access because low-income families and individuals may be deterred from using the library by the prospect of having to pay. Additionally, many are particularly worried about the impact of fines on children, who may not be able to use the library, either because their caregivers worry about fines, or because their caregivers have already accrued fines (possibly on the child’s card). Going fine free is a way to encourage people to come back to the library and to use it more often.

Why do some people not want to abolish fines?

Some people worry that abolishing overdue fines will mean patrons will no longer be incentivized to return materials on time. Others worry that getting rid of fines will remove a source of funding for libraries, which already tend to be under-funded. However, a study by the Colorado State Library suggests that there is not enough data on fines and patron behavior in order to make an evidence-based argument that fines work. A 1981 study by Hansel and Burgin (referenced by the Colorado study) found that fine-free libraries do not have higher overdue rates than libraries with fines, but also that fine-free libraries tend to have higher overdue rates in the short-term, but lower ones in the long-term. In other words, patrons of fine-free libraries may be keeping their books past the overdue dates, but at least they bring the materials back eventually, instead of deciding to keep them forever once they accrue too many fines. A 1983 study by Hanel and Burgin later found that overdue fines only worked if they were high.

In addition, the Colorado State Library study suggests that libraries can break even or potentially save money by eliminating fines. While libraries may believe that fines are important for their budgets, removing fines can result in reduced costs because libraries are no longer investing in technology used to collect fines.

Is Fine Free the Way to Go?

A lack of studies on overdue fines and patron behavior makes it difficult to say with certainty if going fine free will either create or solve problems. However, the current information available suggests that going fine free could mainly create longer wait times for materials, at least in the short term. The question is then, whether having materials available to all patrons more speedily is valued more than making the library more welcoming to individuals who might not use it at all, if they fear accruing fines. Currently, it seems like more libraries are interested in expanding equal access by removing fines.

What do you think? Is your library fine free? How did the transition go? Would you like your library to go fine free?

6 Reasons I Love to Read Book Blogs

1. Book Blogging Is Accessible and Diverse

To start a book blog, one needs access to books and the Internet, and that’s basically it. There is close to no monetary commitment (especially if you have access to a library and aren’t even buying the books), and there are no special skills required beyond being decent at writing. In contrast, influencers on more visual platforms often invest in (expensive) quality equipment for filming or photography, and of course it’s helpful if you have a talent for performing on video and if you’re conventionally attractive. Book blogging, then, seems more open to the average person, meaning we get a wide variety of voices and bloggers from different backgrounds, and I love hearing what they all have to say.

2. I Love Reading the Comments

Comments on blogs do seem to have been decreasing recently, but overall I still think blogs are one of the best places to get a conversation going on in the comments. Readers often leave lengthy and thoughtful replies, which is much less common on other platforms. On BookTok, the likes and views might outstrip the kind of traffic one gets on a book blog, but it seems as if many people barely leave a comment beyond a couple words long. I love reading blogs because I can see not only what the original blogger thinks about a topic but also what a bunch of other people think about it.

3. Blogs Often Get to the Point Faster Than Videos

I don’t watch a lot of videos in general, and that’s because I find it infinitely faster to read something than to listen to a video about it. A booktube video might be 10 minutes or longer, and it’s difficult to skip over parts you’re not particularly interested in. (For example, I can skip reading the book summary on a blog post if I already know what the book is about and don’t need to read it, but that’s harder to do on a video.) I’m also a fairly quick reader, and I like knowing I can read several blog posts in the time it would take me to watch one booktube video.

4. There’s Less Stress to Focus on “Popular” Books

Every time a news article pops up about the miracles of BookTok for views and book promotion, users are quick to point out that making videos about certain titles is much for likely to rack up those views than focusing on books the algorithm doesn’t favor. Of course it’s true for book blogs, too, that posting about a Marissa Meyer book will get you more traffic than posting about a backlist title from 2011 no one remembers, but bloggers aren’t working with an algorithm or really trying to “get popular” in the sense that social media influencers might be; there’s just more room in blogging to post about what one likes and what one is currently reading, whatever that is, instead of posting about the same books again and again.

5. Blogs Provide Space for In-depth Content

One could post a very long Booktube video or long Instagram caption (and I have seen some very long videos addressing complex topics with a lot of research and nuance), but overall I find blogs one of the best spaces for readers to fully flesh out their ideas and post their thoughts about a particular topic. I love in-depth reviews and discussion posts that get me thinking about something I haven’t thought before, and book blogs are the perfect place for these things.

6. There’s Still Room for the Visual

People point out the value of Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, etc. for the visual potential, but blogs can be very visual, too! It’s straightforward enough to take the type of photo one might add to Instagram and add it to one’s blog post. And, honestly, I think that’s about as much “visual” content one needs to discuss a book. If I can see the cover, or any special additions like sprayed edges, that’s pretty much it. I don’t think watching a video about a book adds much value in the sense there’s . . . nothing much to look at besides the cover, unless it’s a graphic novel and there are inside illustrations to show, as well.

What do you love about book blogs?


How Book Synopses Set Reader Expectations and Why That Matters

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about book synopses, and I assume most other readers don’t either. They’re just a little blurb on the back of the book telling readers the general idea of the plot so they can decide whether or not they might like to read the book. Sometimes, if the editor is being clever, the summary might be written in the same tone or voice as the book itself (most common for picture books), but generally it’s just . . . there.

However, a book synopsis doesn’t really just tell the reader what the main premise of the book is; it often gives them an idea of what genre the story is. It is an action-packed adventure? A swoon-worthy romance? A quiet but thought-provoking story?

This is significantly more important to marketing than telling the reader “what happens” in the story. When a synopsis misrepresents the genre of a story and readers don’t get what they are expecting, they rate the book low — because they aren’t rating the book on what it is; they’re rating the book on what it’s not.

A misleading synopsis was an issue for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus when it was released in 2011. The publisher wrote a summary for the story that led readers to believe that the focus was on a magical duel or race between the two protagonists, that the story would be a fast-paced fantasy with challenges and competitions. What readers ACTUALLY got was a somewhat slower-paced story that revels in world-building and is more concerned with immersing readers in the magic of the circus than showing them a cutthroat duel between two master magicians. Readers were upset. Many rated the story poorly. But it’s possible they would have rated it better if they had been led to expect something different.

This happens frequently. If a book is marketed as romance, but the romance is actually a small part of the story and the real focus is on a mystery, most readers don’t say, “Well, there wasn’t much romance, but as a mystery this was excellent. 5 stars.” Instead, they rate what they were told the book was. They say, “There was practically no romance in this romance novel. 2 stars.”

Editors and others in charge of writing book summaries (which is a harder task than one might think, if you are literally looking only at a manuscript and don’t have an existing summary to work off), then, need to be conscientious about what they are implying the focus of a book is. It’s important not to think, “Oh, emphasizing the romance will help the book sell” if the book isn’t actually that romantic. Focus on what the book actually has, and it will find the right audience, and readers will be more likely to give it a higher rating.

Have you ever found a book summary misleading?


What Are the Best Ways to Get Over Reading Slumps (Let’s Talk Bookish)

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

The Prompt: Sometimes you just don’t want to read anymore, how do you get back into it? Do you give yourself a break? Watch Booktube or read blogs? Read an old favourite book to reignite that spark? Do you just force yourself through it? Maybe you read a picture book or a graphic novel?

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How to Get Over a Reading Slump

I have blogged about this before, but I do not actually see reading slumps as a problem. Indeed, I previously wrote about how I find reading slumps valuable. Not reading gives us time to do other things, such as catching up with friends, writing, gardening, getting outdoors, and more. Just because we are not reading, that does not mean that we are not doing something worthwhile. Because I have never seen reading slumps as something negative, I have never tried to get over one.

Reading is activity that can, frankly, come with a lot of moralistic baggage. Reading is almost universally considered to be a social and individual good, a pastime that educates and improves its practitioners, even as it entertains. Parents, librarians, and educators are forever trying to find ways to get students to read more. Adults are always trying to read faster. As a result of all the language surrounding reading and its benefits, people who read big books, who read many books, or who read “difficult” books are often assumed to be better and smarter than everyone else. Simply put, there is a lot of pressure not only to be a reader, but to be a “good” reader.

As someone who enjoys reading and who has experienced the benefits of reading, I, of course, also think people could and should read more. However, that is not to say that people need to be reading all the time. There are plenty of other activities that are beneficial to people. And there are plenty of other ways for people to experience the benefits of reading, without reading. Gaining information, learning critical thinking skills, becoming more empathetic–these are things people can do without reading. So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves, and others, to be reading all the time?

The idea of a “reading slump” is, I think, more common among avid readers than among the general population. I have, in fact, never heard someone who is not a book blogger even use the term “reading slump,” and I suspect this is because, for many, not reading for a period of time is neither unusual nor concerning. Sometimes we might want to read. Sometimes we might not. This is probably true of most things in life. Sometimes we might want to paint or watch TV or go for a bike ride or sing. And sometimes we might not. But few people talk of “painting slumps” or “TV slumps” or “biking slumps” as if the people not doing these things every day have failed some sort of test. I think this is because reading is seen as virtuous, in a way many other activities and hobbies are not.

The reality is, however, that reading is just one beneficial or pleasurable activity we might choose to spend our time doing. But there are many other interesting things to do, as well! Reading slumps are not a problem. The best way to get over one? Don’t worry about it. Do something else fun instead.

Fiction or Nonfiction: Is One More Persuasive? Or Neither without an Open Mind?

Fact or Fiction: Is One More Persuasive?

Readers often talk about the idea that reading fiction can expand one’s worldview and open one’s eyes to new ideas and new perspectives. This ability of fiction to broaden one’s mind and teach one new things is, of course, one of reasons that readers love reading in the first place.

On the flip, side, however, I’ve seen some debate over exactly how POV-changing reading a book can be. For instance, if a man who thinks periods can’t possibly be painful reads a book about a character who is doubled over in agony and vomiting from terrible cramps, will he suddenly think, “Wow! Periods must be excruciating for some women, after all!” Or will he write this off as “just one character” whose experience isn’t common? Or write it off as entirely a fabrication that doesn’t apply to anyone real? Confronted with this question, sometimes I’ve seen people suggest, “Well, reading fiction might not be the best way to ‘understand other people.’ Some readers will be more persuaded by reading factors and figures, or reading nonfiction.”

“Reading nonfiction will change people’s minds” sounds as good to me as “Fiction can change your mind.” Personally, I believe both. But then I remember the experiences I’ve had reading and discussing Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez, and it strikes me that some people aren’t persuaded by research and facts and figures either, not if the information is something they don’t want to hear.

Invisible Women is, as the title states, about all the ways our world is designed for men. Office temperatures are set to be comfortable for the “average man.” Car safety features are tested on the “average man.” New medicine is tested on the “average man.” The height of the handrail in your local bus and the route it takes and the lighting at the places it stops are likely designed for the “average man.” All this means that women in the office tend to be cold, women are more likely to injured if in a car crash, women are more likely to have adverse effects from medicine or not get the positive effects the medicine touts, and women are less likely to find the bus goes the places in the city they need to go.

Nearly every single time I have brought up this book and its research with a man, however, he’s not impressed. He doesn’t say, “Wow! I never knew or thought about that, but all these facts and figures have convinced me!” Instead, he launches into a lengthy explanation of why these things are so and why they SHOULD be so. “Oh, well, it’s better to be cold than hot in the office. You can put on a sweater; I can’t take off my shirt” or “Oh, well, men drive more often and buy more cars, so cars should be designed for them,” or just “Oh, none of that can be true.” I brought up the section in the book about piano keys and how they are spaced more comfortably for men, who on average have larger hands than women, but pianos with small keyboards aren’t common, and one guy gave me a whole lecture about how pianos with smaller keyboards sound entirely different and of course no one can or should use them as a serious musician. Reader, I looked it up. The pianos do NOT sound different. My friend simply assumed this was true and lectured me about it, ignoring any and all actual facts.

So is nonfiction “more convincing” to certain types of reader? I would say so only if the reader is actually open to what the book is saying, is willing to consider with an open mind that what the book is saying is true. There’s a lot of research about how people are predisposed to believe things that confirm what they already think and dismiss things that challenge their beliefs. It’s not a question of whether nonfiction is more convincing than fiction and whether certain people are more into statistics than anecdotes or fictional experiences. It’s a question of whether the reader is willing to consider that what they think is wrong and they might actually need to open their mind to new information, whatever form that information comes in.


Is It Okay to Ever Get Rid of a Book?

Getting rid of books is hard and, for some book lovers, may even seem like a form of sacrilege. However, every book has a natural lifespan and, sometimes, it simply is time to recycle–or even toss–a book. Here are some scenarios where books just can’t be donated.

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The book has mold or mildew.

If a book has mold or mildew on it, its lifespan is sadly over. Donating the book or trying to keep it on the shelf will only risk spreading the mold to other volumes, and destroying them, as well. If you see mold on your book, you will, unfortunately, have to throw it away. It cannot even be recycled.

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The book is otherwise gross or in poor condition.

When donating books, consider whether the volume is something you yourself would want to read or buy. If the books are, for example, being pulled out of a ten-year stay in the basement and, as a result, are torn, water damaged, or covered in basement gunk–don’t donate them. The library or store where you drop these volumes off will then have to spend time and money disposing of them for you. Save yourself the time and effort, as well as the volunteers, by disposing of the books in the first place.

Other signs a book should not be donated: missing pages, broken bindings, excessive highlighting or note-taking, stains and dirt, and excessive odor.

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The book has outdated information.

Few book lovers want to see a book tossed into the recycling, but some books have simply outlived their usefulness. Nonfiction books with outdated information cannot be sold or circulated not only because the information is no longer relevant (think software no longer in use), but also because the information could even be harmful (ex. medical advice). If you try donating outdated books, the library or store workers are going to have to dispose of them, so you should save your time and theirs by doing it in the first place. If the book is in good condition, see if your local recycling will take it, and do some good for the environment in the process.

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The textbook is no longer in use.

No one likes getting rid of a textbook that cost a whole bunch of money. However, the reality is that publishers quickly update to new versions so that they can make some sort of profit in a market where they are competing with used book sales. As a result, most instructors upgrade to the most recent version (the one readily available for purchase), and the older versions are typically then no longer useful to students. Because no one wants an old textbook, almost no donation site is going to accept textbooks at all. You should check with your local recycling center and see if you can recycle the books instead.

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The book is just not going to sell.

Have you ever walked into a used bookstore or your library’s book sale and noticed 50 copies of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, or another once-bestseller? The reality is that some books are just not going to move off the shelves because there are too many copies in circulation. So if you own a past bestseller that seems like no one will want it anymore, do not feel guilty about finding another use for it. Try recycling it or even up-cycling it into some cool book art!

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If you have to recycle or even toss a book, do not feel guilty! Not every book can last indefinitely, and sometimes, a book’s lifespan is simply over. Do your best to recycle or up-cycle when possible. And be kind to yourself when you realize that you are going to have to let a book go.