Are you worried that in this digital age, your child isn’t reading enough? Or, is your little one eager to read, but you’re not sure of which books to give them?
Whatever the case may be, books are right up my alley and I’d like to help. Choosing age-appropriate books is just as important as choosing age-appropriate toys. Here’s what you need to know before you buy books for your 9-year-old.
Why Your 9-Year-Old Should Read More
Reading develops language, comprehension, critical cognitive skills, and communication. It enables our imagination and emotional awareness. Books are educational and can even develop your child’s motor skills (1).
Reading also significantly improves your child’s academic performance and makes a greater impact on their studies than any other factor (2).
What Should Your 9-Year-Old Be Reading?
Reading is a developmental process, so there are milestones that go alongside it.
By the age of 9, your child should be able to read (3):
9-year-olds comprehend stories that lack pictures, and that are more detailed in plot.
Your child should be able to grasp words without reading out loud.
They should understand that not everything they read can be interpreted literally, and should seek deeper meanings in their stories.
Your child should be able to recall, summarize and retell what they’ve read, in their own words and by their own understanding of it. They should also have a full understanding of story elements like location, time, conflict, and resolution (4).
They should be able to use dictionaries and other references when they encounter words or concepts that they don’t understand.
The Best Books for 9-Year-Olds of 2020
This age group should now be able to read fluently, and finding books for them can be challenging. I’ve narrowed it down for you — here are my top picks of the best books for 9-year-olds.
1. The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Most nine-year-olds are up for a good adventure, right? If yours is, they’ll enjoy this sci-fi book. Friends Otto and Sheed are preparing to kick back as school winds down for their summer, but things take a different turn.
The two boys are thrust into a time-travel adventure when an eccentric man with a camera literally freezes time. Can they race to save their town before it’s too late? This story will keep your kids turning the pages.
2. Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
This is the first of three books in a series about a Chinese-Caucasian girl who loves reading — and loves writing even more! The books follow Cilla’s adventures and sensitivities being a mixed race girl. They also explore her initial struggles with reading, as well as some healthy friend drama.
Cilla Lee is excellent for readers who still enjoy seeing pictures in their chapter books. The books are heavily illustrated and feature a readable font, ideal for readers still finding their footing. This pick is for kids navigating identity and cultural complexities.
3. Power Forward #1
Does your child play basketball? Handing a sporty kid a book about sports may be an easy way to open them up to reading. This series focus on Pakistani-American Zayd Saleem who dreams of becoming a basketball legend.
Although Zayd is scrawny and his parents think practicing violin is more important than playing ball, he’s not letting anything deter him. This pick is perfect for kids who are passionate about chasing dreams, or just want to read about another kid doing so.
4. Stella Díaz Has Something to Say
Young Stella Diaz moved to the US as a baby, and everyone in her family is bilingual. However, Stella is shy about speaking English because she sometimes mixes up her English and Spanish words in class. But things start to improve when Stella joins an ESL class at school.
This book is perfect for kids who want to learn Spanish because the text is interspersed with Spanish words. Shy kids will also see themselves in Stella, and her story will inspire them to speak up because their voices matter too.
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
No children’s book list would be complete without Harry Potter. This magical series inspired an entire generation of children to read.
In case you don’t know, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone tells the story of an 11-year-old orphan boy who learns he’s a wizard. He’s whisked away to a hidden world of magic, where he’s a living legend due to his tragic past. With his friends, he must solve a mystery within the walls of his new school.
The Harry Potter series grows a little darker with every book, but this one is charming, innocent and ideal for 9-year-olds who want to explore magical worlds.
6. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
This book is not only well written, it’s beautifully designed too. Diversity in books is all the rage now (finally), and this fantasy is interwoven with Chinese folklore.
It tells the story of Minli, who resolves to find the Old Man on the Moon in a quest to change her family’s fortune. On her way, she meets a dragon who accompanies her on her mission.
It’s a warm-hearted tale of friendship, imagination, and determination, and probably different from anything your kids have read before.
Wish is a powerful story that may cause a few shed tears, but don’t let that put you off. Stories like this are important. They bring your child’s sense of compassion and emotional awareness to the forefront.
Charlie is a little girl who comes from a broken home. She expends almost all her energy wishing for the one thing she wants most in the world. One day she befriends a stray dog and the boy next door. She soon learns that what she wants and what she needs are two different things.
It’s a heart-warming, touching, and bittersweet book that gives us an inside look into lives that are different to ours.
8. Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja
When I was a kid I adored first-person stories. I’ll eat my socks if your 9-year-old doesn’t love this one.
Meet Chase Cooper, a 6th grader who also happens to be a ninja. He chronicles his adventures as a warning to other kids not to become ninjas. But before he can save the world, he has to survive his first day at a new school.
What’s not to love? This story is the ideal blend between old tropes and modern spins. It’s a highly entertaining read.
9. Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Ten-year-old Isaiah’s dad died the year before and he’s trying to help his little sister maintain a sense of normalcy. His mom is grieving and depressed, but with the help of his friends and community, Isaiah tries to find his feet again.
This book is excellent for kids who enjoy poetry as Isaiah also loves poetry and draw sense from his dad’s poetry. Although it is emotional at times, this story is a well-written portal to discussing tough topics like death and grief. It also highlights the value of community, warm sibling relationships, and wholesome male role models.
In stark contrast to the silliness of Dr. Seuss, is this serious (but sweet) story.
With over 6 million copies sold and a number one spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list, Wonder has inspired many humans to be better people.
It’s the story of Auggie, a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome, who tries his best to fit in. Before long, his family and classmates come to see him in a different light. It’s definitely a book that warms the soul.
It wins points for diversity, and shows different perspectives. Though it’s not a difficult read, it shouldn’t be a starter book and is best for more advanced readers.
11. The Land of Stories
I had to include this 6-book set because my 9-year-old nephew specifically requested them. As a beginner bookworm, he read one, and desperately wants the rest. I think that says enough.
It’s a simple fantasy in which twins Alex and Connor are pulled into a magical world, where all the mystical creatures and happenings they’ve read about are real.
It’s reminiscent of the Neverending Story, the Pagemaster, and even the Chronicles of Narnia.
12. Some Places More Than Others
A family tree project in school leads Amara to ask her dad questions about his estranged family. After much persuasion, he caves and allows her to come with him to New York City to see his side of the family. Family secrets are revealed in time for a warm reunion.
This is a heartwarming gem of a book, and Renee Watson is one of our favorite children’s and teen writer. If your kid is eager to visit the Big Apple, start with this book! It’s packed with historical and touristy details about the city.
13. Any Day with You
Kaia is sad to hear that her Tatang has decided to move back to the Philippines. So she and her friends decide to submit a film they’re making about Filipino folktales this summer to a contest. She hopes that if they win, Tatang will stay.
This sweet book set on the beachy West Coast is full of warm family and friendship moments. It’s also packed with Filipino folklore, and American history. Any Day with You makes for a perfect family readaloud.
Katherine Applegate (author of Animorphs) has been a staple in children’s fiction for decades. Wishtree doesn’t disappoint and may be exactly what your child wants.
The story is told from the perspective of a 200-year-old oak tree, Red, who only wants the best for his neighborhood. People use Red as a wishtree, you see, so he takes their dreams seriously.
Although this book isn’t long, it’s tone is much more serious than many other children’s books. It’s a good place to start if your child is ready for thought-provoking narratives.
15. Wings of Fire
Who doesn’t enjoy a good story about dragons?
This series will place you right in the middle of a war that has raged between two dragon tribes for years. When five of the dragons learn they’re the subjects of a prophecy — and destined to end the war — they must make a choice.
Freedom or heroism? Flight or fight?
If your child’s interested in fantasy, this is an excellent starter series. It has that classic fantasy feel, and has all the beloved tropes.
A word of warning: a few parents complain about the advanced vocabulary and violence.
If your child is already accustomed to books and enjoys a thrilling story that pulls on the heart strings, introduce them to Refugee.
You meet three characters. Josef is a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany, escaping the Holocaust with his family; Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994, bound for America after her family flees riots and political unrest. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015 who becomes a refugee after his homeland is wartorn.
Although they each come from different corners of the world, their stories are connected. It’s a beautifully woven story of both suffering and hope. It’s educational too, and will give your child a better understanding of the global political climate.
17. Warriors: The New Prophecy
In league with Watership Down and Tailchaser’s Song, this is the charming story of a clan of cats. A dark prophecy looms over their heads, bringing a mysterious danger that threatens their peace.
Six cats step up and resolve to protect their forest. They’re led on a magical and exciting adventure that puts their entire home at stake.
This story appeals to so many different personalities, including cat lovers, fantasy geeks, and adventure fanatics. This box set is great value for money too.
18. The Last Kids on Earth
Is your child looking for laughs? I’ve found the book for them.
Jack and his friends live in a treehouse. They’re the last remaining humans after the Monster Apocalypse, and for them, life is a video game. They battle monsters and run from zombies, all while running the world.
Jeff Kinney, author of the acclaimed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, praised this book series, describing it as “terrifyingly fun.” It’s a cool adventure that will give your kid lots of giggles along the way.
19. Keeper of the Lost Cities
This collection of five books is highly acclaimed and could become the next best thing. Fans of Harry Potter or superheroes are sure to enjoy it.
Sophie is telepathic, and it’s up to her to save a world she never knew she was a part of. She’s led on a journey to a mystical world, where she learns her power is not the only thing that makes her different.
20. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
This book is relatable to anyone who has had to deal with younger siblings. Even if your darling is an only child, there’s still much to enjoy here. It’s charming, it’s funny, and it’s stood the test of time.
Peter has had to struggle for his parents’ attention ever since his little brother, Fudge, arrived. He’s frustrated by how Fudge always gets away with murder, and he feels invisible most of the time.
When Fudge steals his pet turtle, Peter decides he’s had enough, and comes up with a plan to turn his parent’s attention to him for a change.
21. Legend of the Star Runner
Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? This one is similar, except it’s innovated a fresh way of storytelling. At the end of every chapter, your child will have a mystery to solve.
Timmi follows clues in his family’s secret legacy to save a dear friend. Attempting to find a legendary pirate ship, he triggers an ancient and dark power. It stands in the way of his mission.
The story is great, it’s beautifully illustrated, and the mysteries will leave your child feeling like a professional sleuth. How fun!
I wish I could have awarded each of these the top spot in the best books for 9-year-olds, but there can only be one. Although I give Cilla Lee and The Last Last-Day-of-Summer top honors, my favorite is The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. Who doesn’t love National Geographic?
It’s suitable for all kids, no matter their gender or taste. It’s educational and filled with fascinating facts that will keep the whole family entertained for years to come.
Which books does your 9-year-old love? What are your recommendations? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.