Librarian David Rainey worked with his daughter Anna Rainey to create The Rainey List of Best Books for Children, an up-to-date guide to children’s literature.
Annotated descriptions of more than 400 books each include recommended age range along with pithy descriptions. While The Rainey List of Best Books for Children is not written specifically for a Christian audience, it includes a few books that might appeal especially to them, books such as God Helps Me Every Day by Elspeth Campbell Murphy and the Hero Tales series by Dave and Neta Jackson.
The Raineys have selected books from among classic such as The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey as well as new books such as March of the Mini Beasts by Ada Hopper and Sherlock Academy by F.C. Shaw.
In the introduction they explain that they have chosen “books that are funny, and books that inspire” (p. 10). They do not try to include all types of books. They say, “You will NOT find any books that encourage fear, bad attitudes, foul language, or disrespect towards authority” ( p. 11).
The bulk of the book is arranged into categories of books rather than strictly by age groups. Categories begin with board books for young children. The next four categories—picture books, holiday picture books, nonfiction picture books, and poetry—are all for ages 0 through 12. The next section is for beginning readers ages 4 through 9. This is followed by chapter books for ages 7 through 10 and children’s novels for ages 8 through 12.
Annotations are all within the above sections. Additional book lists help us identify books under “Gift Ideas by Age,” “Top Picks,” “Books that Teach Life Lessons,” and “Select Topics.” The Top Picks come from each member of the Rainey family. The “Life Lessons” books are listed with each title followed by potential areas for life lessons. For example, We Found a Hat is followed by the words “friendship” and “sacrifice.” Under “Select Topics” are 17 groupings such as Award Winning Books, Based on a True Story, Christian Titles, and Dinosaurs. Lots of ways to find just the right book!
Other guides to children’s literature are available, but most that I am aware of are getting out of date. The Rainey List of Best Books for Children is the most current that I have seen. Personally, I appreciate the careful and selective approach they have taken. There are many children’s books that are disturbing or demoralizing that I think it best to avoid. This guide will help other parents who share my outlook. Because of the Raineys’ approach, I would feel comfortable letting a child choose books from this list without having to check them out myself. That’s a big help!