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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

A Christian Mom's Guide to Choosing Clean Books for Kids

reading in the window

Since they were very little, I’ve always allowed my kids to select picture books at the public library. Before checking them out, I quickly sift through the stack they’ve culled and weed out any books that may not be appropriate, briefly explaining why a book doesn’t make the cut. 

With novels, I take a slightly different approach.

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When I’d like my younger kids to read a chapter book, I gather five or six appropriate titles for them to choose from. These are books that I either think they’ll like based on their normal reading preferences or books with topics/themes I’d like to introduce them to. My kids are free to select any book from the stack I’ve piled. In that way, I’m still giving my children the power to choose their own next great title, but I’m also ensuring that the books are at their reading level and am safeguarding them from any inappropriate content. Presorting books for them trains their affections towards good quality literature and helps them become discerning readers.

According to the BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications), American publishers release 25,000 children's and young adult books each year. It's obviously not possible for me to pre-read every title. But pre-reading isn't the only way to vet a book. 

The following is a list of five other ways I can quickly use to determine if a book will be both clean and captivating for one of my kids. 

A Christian Mom's Guide to Choosing Clean Books for Kids #kidlit #christianmom #christianhomeschooling

Be Extra Vigilant with Certain Categories

After taking a children's lit class in college, curating and overseeing the children's library of a very large church for several years, leading a tween book club, and reading aloud to children both in and out of the classroom for over two decades, I've learned that there are some categories of books that are more tricky to navigate than others. That's not to say that whole sections in the library should be avoided altogether, but that a mother has to be particularly cautious when vetting the books found on the following shelves:

  • Newberry award-winners written after 1963 (Here's why I don't let my kids read most award-winners.)
  • YA books (Here's why the YA section is so troubling.)

Consult Good Book Lists

There's no shortage of kid-lit book lists. Every public library, parenting magazine, and mommy blogger has one. But just because a booklist exists doesn't mean it's worth your time and attention. Consider the source. Does the person or organization who's compiled the list share your same values? Do their parenting choices match up with yours? Do they know anything about selecting children's literature? If not, give that popular book list a hard pass and look for one whose curator shares your same vetting standards.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many book lists found in periodicals or on certain big-name websites have been bought and paid for by a publicist or publisher who is trying to peddle a particular book. So, be wary of book lists that are nothing more than advertisements. 

Here are a few worth considering:

Give Your Child the World- Curated by a homeschool mom whose husband and children have come from different countries around the world, this book is divided into geographic sections of the world and only includes book titles representing other countries and cultures. 

Honey for a Child's Heart- This is the GO-TO resource for Christians looking for kid-lit book titles and is the first in a series of three. The first half of the book is a rallying cry for parents to be intentional when it comes to sharing books with children. The last half is an exceptional book list. (I read Honey for a Child's Heart over twenty years ago and it is still one of my top 5 favorite non-fiction books.)


Honey for a Teen's Heart- This is the second book in the series and focuses on developing a teen's reading life. Like the original, it too has a lengthy list of book suggestions in the back. (Please note: Gladys Hunt is an advocate for a robust liberal arts education for teens. This means that she may include titles such as Fahrenheit 451 that other Christians might be uncomfortable with because of the literary and discussion value of the story.)


The Read-Aloud Handbook- A few books about kid lit and the importance of reading to children have been released in the last two or three years and have been widely popular in homeschooling circles. They've all been modern iterations of this timeless classic. And while they are all great reads, I prefer the unabridged original.


No Twaddle Book List for Every Age- This is a free printable book list that includes suggestions for each year of life from tot to tween.

My List of the TOP Book Lists- A few years ago, I put together a list of book lists from around the web that continue to be my GO-TO resources for new-to-me books. 

The Good and the Beautiful Book List- While I have some mixed feelings about the Good and the Beautiful curriculum, I think their free curated book list is fantastic. 

Sonlight- This is a living literature curriculum. Though you might prefer different learning resources or even a different method of education in your homeschool than the Charlotte Mason approach used by Sonlight, you can still refer to their wonderfully curated read-aloud and read-alone lists for quality book suggestions. 

reading by the fire

Use Trustworthy Vetting Sites

When you stumble upon a new-to-you book or author and aren't sure if the book will be worth reading, consult the following trustworthy review sites. Some are more user-friendly than others, but all use presets to evaluate titles according to age-appropriate content, profanity, themes, and more.

Bloggin' 'bout Books- This is a mommy blog dedicated to reviewing books for both kids and adults. Admittedly, it's not the easiest site to navigate as it is just a continual scroll of blog posts. But, if you type a particular title into the search bar, you'll be able to find what you are looking for relatively quickly. The helpful grade letter and movie review rating given to each book balance out the clunkiness of the website.

Common Sense Media- This is a member-only review site for both books and movies. However, the first three reviews per customer are free. I don't always agree with the overall star ratings, but I do appreciate the very specific information given under the following categories:

  • educational value
  • positive messages
  • positive role models
  • violence & scariness
  • sexy stuff
  • language
  • consumerism
  • drinking, drugs, and smoking
(Be sure to click on the "arrow" tab next to each category to see the words, phrases, or plot points that led the reviewer to give it a high or low score in each of those categories. You might find that you agree or disagree according to your family's personal standards.)

Compass Book Ratings- Hover over the "Search for a Book" drop-down tab to access several different search options.

Novel Book Ratings- To go directly to the review section of the site, click here. Be sure to click on Ratings/Reviews to set your own personal standards for profanity, violence, and sexual content.

Plugged In- This is mainly a movie review site compiled by Focus on the Family. However, it does offer a small selection of book reviews.  

Rated Reads- To find a review of a particular book, enter the title into the search bar found at the upper-right side of the home page.

Read-Aloud Revival- I appreciate Sarah Mackenzie's desire to make reading aloud a daily habit in every home. Her passion is infectious and her literary eye is focused on quality. I don't always agree with all of her recommendations, but I definitely appreciate how she introduces the world to new and up-and-coming authors worth keeping an eye on.

Redeemed Reader- This is a website dedicated to helping Christian parents navigate book selections for their kids. The contributors definitely take a much more liberal approach than I do when choosing titles. But, their reviews are thorough and always indicate why they have assigned a low or high rating which helps me determine whether it might meet my personal criteria.

The Literate Mother- This site mostly focuses on reviewing teen and YA lit. I don't think the site is updated very regularly, but it does have a decent-sized back catalog of reviewed titles. Use the search bar to find information for a specific book.

boy reading on the floor

Consult the Endorsement Section

Birds of a feather flock together. Authors tend to forge writerly friendships with other writers who share their same writing style, genre focus, and overall tone/voice. These connections come in handy when they need to garner endorsements for their work. Endorsements are personal stamps of approval. Someone who writes clean kid lit is not going to endorse irreverent, vulgar, or violent books and vice versa.

So after finding a great title for your child, check the inside flap or back cover to see which authors have endorsed it. Chances are an author who has appreciated the writing of that book writes his/her own books with similar convictions. Compile a list of those endorsers and start reading their offerings.

While not a fool-proof way to find new-to-you authors, an endorsement list can be like a trail of bread crumbs, leading you to a long list of books to pass along to your young reader.

boy looking through home library shelves

Stick with Trusted Authors

When in doubt, stick with authors you're already familiar with and trust. If your child likes one book by him/her, he'll likely enjoy the others in that author's repertoire of works. Here is a shortlist of quality authors I continue to return to when I'm in need of a good book for one of my kids. 

David Adler
Clyde Robert Bulla
Beverly Cleary
Alice Dalgliesh
Eleanor Estes
Jean Fritz
Marguerite Henry
Maud Hart Lovelace
Robert Lawson
Robert McCloskey
David McCullough
L.N. Montgomery
Arleta Richardson
S.D. Smith
Elizabeth George Speare
E.B. White
Laura Ingalls Wilder

A Final Word

Selecting clean and captivating reads for your kids can feel like a daunting task at times. Who has the time to pre-read a library's worth of titles? It would be so much easier if books came with a rating system similar to movies. But, alas, they don't.

With just a little bit of direction and simple vetting from trustworthy sites, however, you can curate a list of great books to keep them reading for years to come.

9 comments:

  1. What are your mixed feelings about "The Good and Beautiful" Curriculum?

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    1. I’m guessing because the founder is Mormon

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    2. No, actually, my hesitation is not because the founder is LDS. Although, she is. My biggest issue with the curriculum is that so many moms have purchased it for their young kids in the early years only to have to abandon it in a few years later because they notice there are many holes in the material. The upper levels are quite basic and underdeveloped. It's disappointing that so many mothers invest time and energy into a program only to have to start at square one with a different curriculum a few years later. As far as a "traditional" curriculum is concerned, I don't think it's academically the best choice.

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    3. Thank you for your thoughts!

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    4. Jamie,

      Thank you for this list! I am always on the lookout for ways to vet books for content and cleanliness. My question is in regards to your comment about The Good and the Beautiful curriculum. I have used TGTB for the last 4 years and have been very active in many TGTB related Facebook groups, and I have never heard this complaint of basic/underdeveloped upper levels or holes in the material. My oldest is only in 4th grade, so I admittedly don't know the upper levels well, but their math and LA have been great fits for us so far, and I have not experienced any issues with gaps in learning. Could you please offer specific examples in regard to gaps in the curriculum that you have heard of others experiencing? Thanks!

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  2. Good post; agree 100%. Thanks.

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  3. I just discovered that Common Sense now deletes any comments warning of LGBTQ content and they have clearly laid out in their about me info. So just know that they will not allow for any heads up on that kind of content unless it is graphic.

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