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The Young Readers Gift Guide

Kids can be hard to shop for—maybe you feel like the littles in your life have everything, or you have no idea what your middle school niece thinks is cool. Books are a favorite default option—they don’t go out of style, they’re practical and entertaining, and there’s no giver’s guilt attached—but which ones to gift?

We teamed up with DonorsChoose and AKJ Education on four bundles made up of the best books to give kids at every age—from pre-K to high school. Our friends at DonorsChoose—a nonprofit that connects teachers, who often spend their own money on school supplies, with donors who can give them the help they need—pulled the top ten books requested by teachers in the past year for four different age groups. (More than 100,000 public school teachers have created projects on DonorsChoose in 2017. We’ve organized their book picks beginning with the most popular for each age range). To up the holiday spirit and sweeten the deal, every collection of physical books from AKJ comes with a $50 gift card to DonorsChoose.org—so the recipient (or recipient family) can pay it forward, and choose a worthy classroom project to help fund (i.e. send books where they are needed most).

You can our see reading highlights below, and shop all the limited edition bundles online at AKJ before December 10—checking off the holiday list never felt so good (and easy).

Picture Books for Littles

Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Illustrated books are both form and function. Just reading the titles of the stories that teachers most commonly request can make you happy: Take Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun, My Mouth Is a Volcano!, and Enemy Pie, for example. Participation in story time is required with this gift.

  • My Mouth Is a Volcano!
    By Julia Cook
    Illustrated by
    Carrie Hartman
  • The Most
    Magnificent Thing
    By Ashley Spires
  • Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun
    By Maria Dismondy
    Illustrated by Kim Shaw
  • The Invisible Boy
    By Trudy Ludwig
    Illustrated BY
    Patrice Barton
  • Rosie Revere,
    Engineer
    By Andrea Beaty
    Illustrated by
    David Roberts
  • The Girl Who Never
    Made Mistakes
    By Mark Pett &
    Gary Rubinstein
  • The Recess Queen
    By Alexis O’Neill
    Illustrated by Laura
    Huliska-Beith
  • Ada Twist, Scientist
    By Andrea Beaty
    Illustrated by
    David Roberts
  • What If Everybody Did That?
    By Ellen Javernick
    Illustrated by
    Colleen M. Madden
  • Enemy Pie
    By Derek Munson
    Illustrated Tara
    Calahan King

Chapter Books for Budding Readers

3rd to 5th Grade

The grade schooler list is dominated by some of the most beloved modern classics—from Roald Dahl’s Matilda to Holes and 1990 Newberry Medal winner Number the Stars. Reading them is akin to a rite of passage. (You’ll see some overlap across age groups, and it’s worth noting that this is the first of three for which Wonder by R.J. Palacio tops the charts. The film adaption of the mega-hit novel is in theaters now, starring Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay of Room fame, and Owen Wilson).

  • Wonder
    By R.J. Palacio
  • The One and Only Ivan
    By Katherine Applegate
  • Number the Stars
    By Lois Lowry
  • Holes
    By Louis Sachar
  • Frindle
    By Andrew Clements
    Illustrated by
    Brian Selznick
  • Matilda
    By Roald Dahl
    Illustrated by
    Quentin Blake
  • The Most
    Magnificent Thing
    By Ashley Spires
  • Fish in a Tree
    By Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • The BFG
    By Roald Dahl
    Illustrated by
    Quentin Blake
  • Because of Winn-Dixie
    By Kate DiCamillo

Middle Grade Fiction for Pre-Teens

6th to 8th Grade

From S.E. Hinton’s 1967 iconic coming-of-age tale (“Stay gold, Ponyboy”) to Jacqueline Woodson’s gorgeously written, 2014 collection of poems about growing up an African American girl in the 1960’s and 1970’s—this roundup showcases a great swath of American history.

  • Wonder
    By R.J. Palacio
  • A Long Walk to Water
    By Linda Sue Park
  • The Hate U Give
    BY Angie Thomas
  • The Crossover
    By Kwame Alexander
  • The Book Thief
    By Marcus Zusak
  • The Outsiders
    By S.E. Hinton
  • Brown Girl Dreaming
    By Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Absolutely True Diary
    of a Part-Time Indian
    By Sherman Alexie
    Illustrated by Ellen Forney
  • All American Boys
    By Jason Reynolds &
    Brendan Kiely
  • Everything, Everything
    By Nicola Yoon

YA Reads for High Schoolers

9th to 12th Grade

Full of reads that are just as beloved by adults as teens (looking at you, John Green), this bundle’s worth stretches beyond the twelfth grade. We fully plan on gifting, and for starters, borrowing Angie Thomas’s debut, The Hate U Give, which was longlisted for the National Book Award this year and which friends young and not-so-young have raved about. (For more YA picks, see our reading guide here.)

  • The Hate U Give
    By Angie Thomas
  • The Absolutely True Diary
    of a Part-Time Indian
    By Sherman Alexie
    Illustrated by Ellen Forney
  • Everything,
    Everything
    By Nicola Yoon
  • All American Boys
    By Jason Reynolds &
    Brendan Kiely
  • 13 Reasons Why
    By Jay Asher
  • The Book Thief
    By Marcus Zusak
  • Wonder
    By R.J. Palacio
  • Speak
    By Laurie Halse
    Anderson
  • The Fault in Our Stars
    By John Green
  • The Perks of Being
    a Wallflower
    By Stephen Chbosky
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