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Build a great reading list

The sooner children are exposed to reading, says Sarah Crisler- Ruskey, director of the Harrison County Library System, the better. 

“We know from extensive research that children who are read to have an exponentially greater chance of future success than those who don’t get exposed to books,” Crisler-Ruskey says. “It’s so important for children to learn to love books from day one.” 

With National Literacy Month observed in September, Crisler- Ruskey notes that your local branch’s children’s librarian can help not only with book suggestions, but also with tips on integrating literacy into everyday tasks in a fun way. Libraries also offer materials and learning resources families can access at home on their electronic devices. 

“Once children become independent readers, it’s still important to encourage them to read,” she adds, “not just because they have to, but also just for fun and on topics that interest them.” 

Want to create a reading list for your child or yourself? Here are the titles Crisler-Ruskey recommends:


“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, written in 1963, won the Caldecott Medal that year and has delighted families ever since. The simple and colorful book follows Peter’s adventures after the first snowfall of the year. 

• Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is another beloved, award-winning classic about a mischievous little boy and his vivid imagination that eventually leads him back to the place where he’s “loved best of all.” 

• Katherine Applegate’s “The One and Only Ivan,” a Newberry Award winner appropriate for older children, tells the sometimes funny and sometimes poignant story of Ivan, a captive gorilla, and his friendship with a baby elephant, Ruby, from his point of view. Published in 2012, the book received numerous accolades and has been made into a film.


• “The Book Thief” by Markus Zuzak, set in Germany in 1939, is a moving tale about Liese, a foster child living in the outskirts of Munich, and the power of books. 

• “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo is an acclaimed novel in verse about 15-year-old Xiomara navigating life and finding her voice. It tackles numerous tricky topics that will appeal to older teens. 

• “The Giver” by Lois Lowry is a dystopian novel that examines the cost of a “perfect” society where all conflict, but also all beauty and art, have been eliminated. This Newberry medal winner is a thought-provoking classic that parents can enjoy with younger or older teens. 


• Natasha Trethewey’s “Memorial Drive” puts her firmly among the astounding number of exceptional writers from Mississippi. Readers likely are familiar with Faulkner, Welty, and nationally celebrated local favorite Jesmyn Ward, and they should add National Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner and native Mississippian Trethewey’s memoir to their list. Her latest work grapples with the challenging topic of her mother’s murder. Though poetry is Trethewey’s usual genre, she writes just as compellingly in prose. This is a title that readers also may want to experience as an audiobook, as the author narrates. 

• Bill Bryson’s non-fiction, whichever work you choose, guarantees you an edifying and humorous read. From his travel memoir, “A Walk in the Woods,” to his writing on language in “Mother Tongue,” Bryson makes any topic a witty adventure. 

“A Fatal Grace” by Louise Penny is for readers preferring something more escapist. Penny’s Inspector Gamache series tops favorite lists for good reason. The setting is the intriguing location of small-town Quebec, and the lead detective is engaging and likeable. Mysteries have a way of wrapping things up neatly, which can be comforting in stressful times, but the serial nature of Penny’s novels promises more to come and keeps readers hooked.

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