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Date : October 19, 2020

Is your child choosing the same sorts of books and re-reading old favourites? Entice them to try something new by exploring the 7 genres of children’s literature!

Literacy is very important. Ask any educator… whether they work as early childhood teachers, primary school teachers, high school teachers, or librarians – they’ll all tell you the same thing: there’s no such thing as rubbish when it comes to children’s literature. Whether your child chooses to read comic books, the Goosebumps series, or they’re hugely addicted to Charles Dickens, it’s all a positive step in the right direction, and you definitely do not want to discourage them. But what if you think they’re taking the easy road, and not choosing something that might challenge them? How do you encourage them to take the next step – from the easy chapter books they loved when they were younger to more challenging, longer books meant for more advanced readers? Read on to find out how exploring the 7 genres of children’s literature can help your child grow into a future voracious reader!

What are the 7 genres of children’s literature?

Typically, children’s literature is categorised into the following 7 genres:

  • Picture books – Books that provide a visual experience through the telling of a story using images.
  • Traditional literature – This includes folktales, fairytales, myths, legends, fables, and any other types of stories passed down throughout the generations. 
  • Realistic fiction – Books set in modern times and based on modern situations. These stories often allow children to experience different cultures or lifestyles to their own.
  • Historical fiction – Books set in a past time period that convey information about that period or a specific historical event. This is history through the viewpoint of a child. 
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction – This genre involves the use of imagination, worlds of magic and myth or stories set on alien planets. 
  • Non-fiction – Informational books that explain facts about a subject or concept in the real world. 
  • Poetry – Books written at different reading levels that introduce readers to condensed language, and imagery, as well as creative expression and imaginative perceptions.  

How can exploring these genres help your child advance to the next level in their reading?

The key ingredient to encouraging your child to expand their reading horizons is to play to their interests. If your child loves dragons or you find it impossible to pry them away from their Disney+ subscription, then you’ll want to start with fantasy or science fiction chapter books. It’s hard for a child to resist a book about their favourite topic. Try to move between genres to foster literacy development. If your child loves space, for example, you can move from the obvious non-fiction books to science fiction, and even historical fiction involving the space race or NASA. Your child might not have a preference, but until they do, encourage them to explore all of these genres. Book Trust in the UK have put together several lists that can help you get started. They even have a bookfinder function to make finding your child’s next book easier!

You should also encourage them to choose the books themselves – children are much more likely to be excited about a book they’ve chosen, and they’ll want to talk to you about it. Ask them questions about the book they’ve read and initiate a conversation. The more excited they are about a topic, the more they’ll want to read about it, and learn more about it. If they’re reading fiction, look for series rather than stand alones, as this encourages further reading. 

If your children are older – from age 10 and upwards – then asking your local public librarian or even checking sites like Goodreads for recommendations based on prior favourite authors can also be a huge help when looking for new titles. There are also sites like Who Next..? that can be very helpful. If your child loved the WeirDo books by Anh Do, they might try the Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon, which are for slightly older readers, or David Walliams’ books, which can be quite long and therefore challenging. 

For more information on encouraging your child to read, or on children’s literature in general, visit May Gibbs for a dose of Aussie kids’ literature today!

Librarian Bec Right now, Librarian Bec’s hard at work at your local library, sharing a passion for reading with little people and big. Bec writes about inspiring little readers and embracing lovely literature.

types of children's literature genres

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A Kid-Friendly Guide to Different Reading Genres

Explore 10 unique genres of books with your child, along with recommended reads for each category..

Helping kids discover reading genres that interest them makes the search for new books much easier. For instance, if kids understand that the Harry Potter series falls into the fantasy genre, then they can ask a librarian to recommend other fantasy books. It also helps them identify and convey what kind of readers they are. When someone asks what type of books they like, they might respond with, “I enjoy reading historical fiction,” or “I prefer poetry.”

Exposure to different genres opens your child's eyes to the enormous range of books that are available. Here are 10 popular reading genres, defined, to share with your young reader — along with book suggestions for each.

Looking to further build your home library? Here are books teachers recommend you have on hand , and expert-approved picks for beginner readers . Shop all book genres at The Scholastic Store . 

For more book and reading ideas,  sign up  for our Scholastic Parents newsletter.

Realistic Fiction 

Defined: A genre of stories that are made up but could very well happen in real life. These stories often take place in settings familiar to your child — like schools — which makes them more relatable. ( Here are books about elementary school that kids love! )

Popular Realistic Fiction

Historical Fiction

Defined : A genre of stories that didn’t really happen, but are based on events in history. They're perfect for kids who love to explore the past, and are often full of big adventures. (One of the most famous examples of historical fiction for kids is the I Survived series .) 

Books Inspired By Real Life

Traditional Literature

Defined : A genre in which stories are passed down from one generation to the next, such as tall tales and folk tales. You probably heard a number of these as a child. ( Here are more stories parents loved as kids .) 

Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and More

Science Fiction 

Defined : A genre of stories that are not very likely to happen in real life, but are generally set in the future and tie in with science and technology. (These STEAM Books can also ignote your little learner's love of science.) 

Science Fiction Books

Defined : A genre of stories that are made up and include ideas that could not happen in real life, often involving magical or supernatural elements, such as talking animals.

Fantasy Novels

Defined : A genre of stories that involve a secret or crime that needs to be solved, usually by the end of the story. Because kids need to pay close attention to details and follow cause and effect, mystery books can be a great way to boost comprehension and other literacy skills . Don't miss these 7 great mystery series that will appeal to Nancy Drew fans!

Kid-Friendly Mysteries


Defined : A type of nonfiction that provides factual information about a particular topic such as sports, animals, or historical events.

Fact-Based Books

Defined: An account of someone’s life written by another person. These books are great not only for reading, but for inspiring! 

Fascinating Biographies


Defined : An account of someone’s life written by that person.

Great Autobiographies

Defined : A genre where verses, that may or may not rhyme, are written to evoke a feeling from a reader.

Browse Poetry Books

Connect with Jodie at  Growing Book by Book .

Featured Photo Credit: © vadimguzhva/Thinkstock

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Children's literature • genres: children's literature.

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  • Genre Resources
  • Folklore & Folk Tales
  • Historical Fiction
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Non-fiction

Library Guide Welcome

Children's literature genre library guide.

children's book

Each genre identified includes a general overview and selection of titles in the juvenile collection.  Genre resources available in the library and Instructional Resource Center collections are also presented.

Archer Library's Juvenile Collection

Children's books, the library's juvenile collection, are located on the second floor of Archer Library, directly outside of the Instructional Resource Center.  In this collection, you will find fiction and non-fiction, picture books and novels, big books and book kits, award winning books, and even a few oversized books. Our collection is cataloged and shelved using Library of Congress call numbers.

Explore New Juvenile Books

We have a new book area on the second floor featuring recent additions to the juvenile collection. New titles are added at the start of each term. Read the IRC News & Information blog to learn about recent collection additions.

Looking @ Genres in Children's Literature

Children's literature genres.

This chart, adapted from Cullinan and Galda's Literature and the Child , provides brief descriptions of children and young adult literature genre's (Cullinan & Galda, 2002, p. 8). When searching for children's books in the library catalog, you may notice categories identified as subject genre/form.

Cullinan, B.E. and Galda, L. (2002). Cullinan and Galda’s literature and the child (p. 8) . Belmont, CA:   Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Library of Congress. (2014, July 10). Frequently asked questions: Children's and young adults' cataloging program (CYAC) . Retrieved from

Diane Schrecker

Diane Schrecker, MLIS, M.Ed.

Curriculum Librarian Head of the IRC ✉ [email protected] ☏ 419.207.6406

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About children's literature, children's literature.

Children's Literature is often defined as material written or produced for the information or entertainment of children or young adults. It includes all literary, artistic genres and physical formats. - Children's Literature, Library of Congress .

Children & Young Adult Literature

"A basic definition might state that it (children's literature) is books written for this particular audience; we might also add that it includes books that children and young adults enjoy and have made their own." -- Cullinan & Galda's Children's Literature and the Child (p.8) .

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Children’s Literature Genres: The Difference Between Children’s Lit, Middle Grade, YA, and New Adult

by Kate Sullivan | 8 comments

children's literature genres childrens lit middle grade YA and new adult

Fiction for young readers is big business.

That’s because kids aren’t the only ones reading it. Look at the success of series like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, and more—everyone can enjoy the themes of finding yourself, establishing relationships, and seeking change in the world.

But every genre that breaks out of its niche into the mainstream gets complicated fast. Gone are the days when there was just the “Juvenile Fiction” section at the library, cramming together picture books and books for teens.

Today, we have an explosion of categories for younger readers: children’s books, kidlit, middle grade, YA, new adult, books for young readers…the list goes on.

What’s the difference between all these different categories? And do they really matter?

Let’s check it out.

Children’s Literature Genres

The overall name for books intended for young readers—loosely defined as “people who aren’t out of college yet”—is children’s literature . There are many different types of genres for children’s literature, so it’s important you understand these differences if you’re planning to write a children’s book.

Of course, the categorization of children’s literature leaves a lot to be desired, given that you wouldn’t really consider a 16-year-old to be in the same reading category as a 6-year-old, an infant, or a 20-year-old!

That’s why we’ve ended up with all the children’s literature sub-genres we have: it’s an attempt by librarians, booksellers, marketers, publishers, and others in the book industry to narrow down the scope of literature for young readers so that they can better understand their audience and target their interests.

This overall category is also sometimes known as juvenile literature , but that isn’t a great name, either, as it implies that the books might be less than serious or professional—which isn’t the case.

Books for young readers often deal with very heavy topics, like death or illness. They’re defined less by their subject matter and more by the age they’re intended for.

List of Children’s Literature Genres

Here’s our list of the top children’s literature genres with details on the differences between each subgenre of books for kids.

juvenile literature kidlit

In the past few years, the name kidlit has become popular with a lot of writers who target younger readers—it’s a shorter, snappier way of saying “children’s literature” or “books for younger readers.”

This category also covers a lot of territory: some people use it to define any book with a target audience under the age of 18 or so, while others narrow that down to books meant for readers about 8 and under.

Regardless, there are a lot of different types of books to be found here.

First Books

First books are exactly what they sound like: baby’s first book. Some of these are even meant to be read to the baby before it’s born!

Often, these books are actually more complex than books meant for slightly older kids, as the child isn’t really meant to understand the words or concepts—the books are more to get them used to the sounds of words and reading.

Grownups read these books to their very young kids, often as part of reading groups or playgroups at libraries and community centers. They focus on introducing babies to their new world and giving parents an opportunity to soothe the baby with their voice.

Picture Books

Picture books are what most of us think of when we think of books for small children. They are often beautifully illustrated, but don’t have many words—they’re meant to be easy for very young children to understand.

Frequently, picture books only have 200-300 words, but the pictures more than make up for that.

Picture books are often the result of intense collaboration between an author and an artist, and the illustrator may play a key role in developing the book and its plot—which is a switch from the usual author-illustrator relationship.

Because illustrations are so critical to a great picture book, it’s important that you either be a good artist yourself or be able to work with a good artist to develop your picture book.

Always be sure to get a signed contract for any art that’s created, whether you’re commissioning it for a fee or partnering with the illustrator on a royalty share—that will be important when your book is published.

Board Books

Board books are a lot like picture books, but they’re meant more for very small children to use themselves, whereas picture books might be read together between parent and child.

To encourage young readers to get used to using books, board books are very sturdy. The pages are made of thick cardboard to stand up to small hands flipping the pages and playing with them.

That’s the main difference between a board book and other types of kidlit books: the pages are super-thick and stiff and they don’t tear or bend easily.

The types of content are similar to other picture books: lots of images combined with simple words.

Board books may also include various objects or items to stimulate the child’s sense of touch, like a piece of faux fur to pat or cutouts to stick things into.

Rhythmic Books

Rhythmic books overlap with a lot of board books and picture books, but they deserve a category of their own because of how many there are!

Nursery rhymes, sing-song books, and even the work of Dr. Seuss falls into this group of books, which is meant to help children explore language and concepts through sound.

Concept Books

Concept books teach kids about the world around them. They may fall into the “picture book” category as well, but many of these books are a little more complex because of the challenging issues they seek to explain.

Concept books can cover any topic from death or illness to the environment to welcoming a new baby brother or sister—the key feature is that they’re trying to explain something about life to the child.

Even books about tying your shoes or being nice to animals falls into this sub-category of kidlit. If you’re trying to teach a child something about the world in an engaging and easy-to-understand way, you might be writing a concept book.

Early Readers

Early readers are meant for kids who are getting pretty good at reading on their own. The exact age range varies, because every child’s reading ability progresses at their own pace, but in general, early readers are for kids between 5 and 8 years old.

These books are more challenging and complex than picture books or concept books, but still use simpler words and more direct grammar than books meant for older children.

Early reader books are often a bit longer than other kidlit books—they may start introducing short chapters, longer paragraphs, and other features to gently ease kids into the kinds of reading they’ll do as they grow up.

Some of these books teach concepts and others are just for fun. Think of books like the Fancy Nancy series or even James and the Giant Peach —these books start to advance young readers’ skills and blur the line between “baby books” and “grownup books” as kids engage with reading.

what are middle grade books

Middle Grade

Middle grade books are meant for younger readers who are comfortable with longer works, more complex topics and grammar, and full chapters.

There’s a huge range of types and styles in this area—everything from Black Beauty to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series could be considered middle grade!

Basically, if it’s appropriate for a kid between 8 and 13, it’s probably middle grade.

These books are often full of adventure, because kids in this age range are exploring their world and learning more about themselves.

The concepts frequently deal with making friends, understanding who you are, finding your place in the world, and figuring out how to stand up for yourself while also not being a jerk.

You know: all the things tweens deal with!

The language and structure of middle grade books is often on the simpler side of what a grownup might expect. That’s to help keep young readers engaged and prevent them from feeling frustrated by too many big words they have to constantly look up.

Some of the most popular middle grade subgenres today are middle grade fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction. Authors are finding great success writing about how kids lived in the past—or how they might live in the future.

what is young adult fiction

YA, or “young adult,” fiction is one of the hottest genres around—both for kids and adults!

This category is technically intended for teenagers, but almost everyone can identify with the challenges and topics covered in these books.

Teens from 14 to 18 are the traditional target audience here, but both younger and older readers may enjoy the dynamic characters and scenarios that tend to appear in YA books.

YA has about a billion subgenres, from YA romance to fantasy to dystopia to sci-fi. Some of the most popular themes appear again and again: going off to a school for special individuals (whether spies, vampires, wizards, or Greek gods); fighting against injustice (often in a post-apocalyptic dystopia); finding first love; dealing with bullies; and coping with crazy families.

Themes are often more complex and mature than in books for earlier readers—there’s accidents, deaths, tragedies, love, and more. Still, a lot of the action takes place “off screen” when sex and violence are involved, because parents and others may not be comfortable with their 14-year-olds reading explicit scenes.

With all these variations, how can you tell if you’re writing a YA book? Well, is the main character somewhere between the ages of 14 and 18, dealing with things that other 14-to-18-year-olds would be interested in?

It’s probably a YA book.

what is new adult fiction

One of the most recent categories to turn up is new adult .

This is largely a marketing invention, created because people realized that there was an emerging group of books meant for readers who are out on their own but not quite comfortable with that.

New adult books are largely meant for readers who are moving away from home for the first time, starting to experience life as an independent adult, but struggling with some of the many complications that brings on.

Finding your first job, getting an apartment, dealing with relationships and breakups, getting established in your career—all of these are typical new adult topics.

New adult books have been around for a long time, despite only getting a category name in the past few years. Many of them cross over with romance books, literary fiction, or chick-lit categories: think of The Devil Wears Prada or Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

There are really no rules when it comes to content, writing level or technique, and so on in new adult books—they’re meant for adults, after all…just ones in their early 20s. The defining characteristic of the group is simply that they’re meant for adults who are just starting to get a grip on what it means to be an adult.

Do Children’s Literature Genres Matter?

So now that we know what the various children’s literature genres are, the big question is: Do they really matter?

If you’re writing a great book, does it really matter what age range it’s targeted at? Do you have to put a label like “YA” on a book like Divergent if it’s going to appeal to a much, much wider audience?

Well, no…not really.

Great books will always find an audience. And that audience is often much larger than you might expect from the labels that are applied to the book.

After all, saying something is “a middle grade fantasy book” narrows its appeal to a very small group. But the ideas in that book could appeal to millions of people, given the opportunity—that’s where we get smash successes like The Golden Compass .

The best thing to do is to simply write the book that you want to write.

Yes, you should do market research and learn what your audience is looking for—but you should also write something you’re passionate about, because your love of the topic will shine through and make your writing sparkle.

But don’t simply jump on the bandwagon. Just because unicorns are selling like crazy in the middle grade area doesn’t mean that you need to write your next book about a 13-year-old unicorn! In fact, following trends may mean that you experience less success, because readers are already moving on to the next thing by the time you’ve published your trendy book.

Don’t worry too much about what age range your book targets. It’ll start to flow naturally as you write: a book with a 7-year-old protagonist will usually start to shape up as a middle grade book, and one with a 21-year-old getting his first job will naturally start to develop into new adult.

Now, this isn’t always the case—there are books that feature young protagonists that are meant exclusively for adult readers, like Life of Pi —but as you write your book, it’ll start to become clear what reading level you’re using.

Marketing Labels

When the book is done and it’s time to market, that’s when labels become handy. Being able to target possible readers using smart keyword strategies will help you sell more books and win more fans—and age-range categories are a big part of that keyword strategy.

So once the book is written, read through it again and have some trusted friends or fans read through it, too. Ask them what age range they think it’s most appropriate for: 8–13, 14–18, or 18 and up?

Use that to label your book for marketing and to start targeting your audience.

Literature for younger readers takes a lot of forms, but all of it deals with universal themes of finding your place in the world—so it can be enjoyed by anyone.

Share your experiences with writing for younger audiences in the comments!

For more on writing and targeting fiction, check out these articles:

  • How to Write a Fiction Book Blurb That Sells (Not Just Another Boring Synopsis)
  • How To Earn a Full-Time Income Writing Fiction Books
  • How to Write Better Fiction and Become a Great Novelist

Kate Sullivan

Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.

In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!

MaryAnn Diorio

An informative post. Very helpful in navigating the increasingly complex, yet exciting, world of children’s literature.

MaryAnn Diorio Author of The Penelope Pumpernickel Series of Chapter Books and the Dixie Randolph series of Middle-Grade Novels

Cole Salao

Hey MaryAnn, thanks for reading! Glad you found it helpful :)

Elle Flagg

This was a really awesome and informative read, thank you!! :)

Kaelyn Barron

You’re very welcome, we’re so glad you found the post helpful! :)

Jessica L Crichton

Thank you for this, but I have to say that “Harry Potter” is not entirely Young Adult. The early books — from Book 1 to about 3 or 4, are Middle Grade, not YA. It’s frustrating for me when people say they’re all Young Adult, because I’m 99% sure that’s why so many people keep calling my own books YA when they are solidly MG.

Otherwise, thanks again! It’s nice to see someone else who actually knows kidlit genres!

Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment! I understand your point. I’ll work on updating the post :)

Robert Buseley

This is very informative for our class focusing on children and adolescent literature.

Hi Robert, I’m so glad you found it helpful! :)

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  • Genres: Definitions for Children’s Literature

Please understand that categorizing books is not a science. There are many gray areas, and some genres have a lot of subtypes. Use standard textbook reading lists and get recommendations to develop your appreciation for each genre.

Why categorize books? Children’s books are categorized into genres for various reasons:

  • Each type of book has its own history and criteria for evaluation.
  • Children may request books in the specific genres they enjoy, and you will be in a position to recommend books you think they might like.
  • By reading many books in a genre, students of children’s literature may compare them and begin to understand and appreciate the elements of each type.

Here are a few very basic definitions, adapted from several sources, to help you understand the essentials of each genre.

Contemporary realistic fiction  includes stories that could happen to people or animals. The characters are made up, but their actions and feelings are similar to those of people we could know. These stories often take place in the present time and portray attitudes and problems of contemporary people. Realistic fiction includes family stories; realistic animal stories; sports stories; adventures; and mysteries.

Historical fiction  is set in an historical time period which blends authentic historical settings and facts with imaginary characters and plot. It may include real historical figures as secondary characters. It is generally considered to be a story written about a time in which the author has not lived or set in a time no later than one generation before the composition.

Non-fiction or information books  emphasize documented facts. They inform and entertain young readers by the excellence of presentation, illustration, and research. They can be written about any aspect of the physical, biological, or social world.

Biography  tells the story of an actual person’s life or a portion of his or her life. Often the person’s life is notable for his or her accomplishments or a significant triumph. An  autobiography  is simply a biography written by a person about him- or herself.

Traditional literature , the ancient stories or poems of many cultures, originate in the oral, or storytelling, tradition. These books are often attributed to different groups and cultures, but have no known original authors. Traditional literature has been used as a way of passing down traditional wisdom and knowledge necessary for the survival of the group as well as a way of explaining myths, epics, legends, tall tales, fables, and religious stories.

Poetry  is the artistic expression of ideas and feelings though a rhythmical composition of imaginative and beautiful words carefully selected to achieve the desired effect in the listener or reader. Types of poetry include Mother Goose and nursery rhyme books; anthologies of many kinds of poetry in one volume; poetry books in which all the poems are on one theme or topic; and single, illustrated poems.

Modern fantasy  refers to works of literature in which the events, settings, or the characters are outside the realm of possibility. The author must convince the reader to suspend disbelief by creating an internally logical and consistent world. There are many types of modern fantasy, including the modern fairytale (by a known author); animal fantasy, personified toys and objects; quest stories and high fantasy; time travel; and stories about miniature worlds and people.

Science fiction  is a type of imaginative literature in which the author convinces us that something unusual could happen because the story is grounded in scientific principles or technical possibility. It is sometimes called futuristic fiction.

Picture books  (which are a format, not a genre) are profusely illustrated books in which the pictures are essential to complete understanding and enjoyment of the story. The illustrations may provide clues to setting, plot, characterization and mood. Types of picture books include baby and toddler books; alphabet, counting and other concept books; wordless books; picture storybooks; pattern books; and beginning readers.

Tomlinson, C. M. & Lynch-Brown, C. (2000). Essentials of Children’s Literature . 4th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.  IMC 809.89282 L987es4

Lukens, E. J. (1999). A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature . 6th ed. New York: Longman.  IMC 809.89282 L954cr6

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Genres of Children’s Literature

types of children's literature genres

How do you select books to read with your child? Do you rely on those you remember from your childhood, seek recommendations from friends, or wander the aisles of the local library or bookstore looking for interesting titles? As you make selections, consider providing a variety of genres or categories in your home library.

There are many ways to categorize young children’s literature. One helpful way is with these four primary genres: Concept, Predictable, Narrative and Informational. (Hint: many books have characteristics of more than one genre.)

Concept Books

Most concept books do not have a main character, problem, or plot. Instead, the concept or skill provides the book’s framework. Examples include alphabet books, number books, and books about colors and shapes. We may think that concept books are only for infants and toddlers, but some concept books, such as those related to number sense, are appropriate for preschool and kindergarten-age children.

Predictable Books

Predictable books generally use repetitive words, phrases, or sentences, rhyme and rhythm. The words and pictures are closely matched. Children are able to predict a repeated word or sentence pattern and, therefore, begin to join in during the reading. One popular example of a predictable book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Why Are Predictable Books Important?

Narrative Books

Narrative books generally have at least one character, a problem, and a plot that leads to resolution of the problem. Narrative books can foster imagination and help children see how characters deal with common fears, new situations and friendships. Fairy tales and classic stories as well as many popular children’s stories fall into this genre.

Informational Books

Informational books provide accurate, factual information. Also called nonfiction books, many informational books are organized into sections, and the vocabulary tends to be more complex. They often, though not always, use real photographs. People may think that informational books are too complicated for young children. However, research has shown that this is not the case. In fact, some preschoolers prefer informational books over narrative books, especially if they have a particular or “out of the ordinary” interest. Informational books are a great way to introduce science, health, engineering, history and geography topics to your child. And, there are many parents who like informational books better than fiction; they will read more with their young child if given “permission” to choose books from this genre.

Some additional questions to consider when selecting a book:

  • How interested is your child in the topic?
  • Does the book match the values you want to teach your child?
  • Does the book provide a rich and varied vocabulary for your child?
  • Do the text and illustrations match the appropriate level for your child?
  • Do you think both you and your child will enjoy the book?

With these tips in mind, you can successfully evaluate a book from any genre, for any child. If your child really likes sharks, birds, or any other topic, you can probably find narrative, informational, concept and predictable books to please her. When you read books from a variety of genres, you give your child a deeper understanding of the world, more vocabulary exposure, more connections with you, and a greater chance to hook him on a love of reading for life.

types of children's literature genres

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Children Literature

Learning content summary [ edit | edit source ].

The Children's Literature learning resource aims to provide an in-depth understanding of literature specifically written for children. It encompasses a variety of genres, including picture books, legends, fairytales, folktales, fables, short stories, fantasy fiction novels, poetry, non-fiction, and biographies. Learners will explore the criteria that define children's literature, such as simple themes, child heroes, and the instillation of moral values. The resource delves into the significance of children's literature in helping children understand the world, develop reading habits, and learn valuable life lessons. Additionally, learners will gain insights into the various forms of children's literature and their suitability for different age groups. By the end of this study, Learners will have a comprehensive understanding of the rich and diverse world of children's literature and its impact on shaping young minds.

Goals [ edit | edit source ]

  • 1 Learning Content Summary
  • 3 Definition of Children Literature
  • 4.1 Picture books
  • 4.3 Fairytales
  • 4.4 Folk tales
  • 4.6 Short story
  • 4.7 Fantasy fiction novel
  • 4.8 Poetry and verse
  • 4.9 Non-Fictions
  • 4.10 Biographies
  • 5 Question for Practice
  • 6 References

At the end of this study, learners should be able to:

  • Define children's literature and its distinct characteristics, including the intended audience, simple themes, and child heroes.
  • Identify and categorize different forms of children's literature, such as picture books, legends, fairytales, folktales, fables, short stories, fantasy fiction novels, poetry, non-fiction, and biographies.
  • Explore the significance of children's literature in fostering reading habits, promoting imagination, and instilling moral values in children.
  • Understand the role of various genres of children's literature in helping children understand the world and learn from the experiences of characters.
  • Recognize the age-appropriate suitability of different types of children's literature and their impact on cognitive and emotional development.

Definition of Children Literature [ edit | edit source ]

Obi (2009) defines children's literature as "literature written solely for children." It refers to stories, poetry, rhymes, folk tales, and drama among others, specifically designed for children as the intended audience [1] . The following criteria define literature as children's literature: first, the heroes are children, and second, the theme, which includes ideas, relationships, and language, is simple and not complex. Finally, they hope to instil moral values in their students. According to Corona (2022), most children are exposed to literature from an early age, being read books and told stories, and they will later go on to read on their own [2] . These stories help children understand the world, and the characters teach them how to behave as people. Children's literature is classified into several categories or genres. Some are categorized based on the child's age or reading ability, while others are categorized based on the child's preference.

Forms of Children Literature [ edit | edit source ]

Picture books [ edit | edit source ].

Picture books are intended for young children between the age of 3-5 or first-time readers. They can be all pictures with no words, as in Raymond Briggs' "The Snowman," or all pictures with a little text, as in Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." Picture books frequently include repetitive phrases to assist children who are learning to read. They can be of any genre and are only distinguished by their format [3] . Examples of Nigerian picture books include The Tobi Series, Kob the Antelope, and Diary of a Toddler. They all focus on themes that help to develop an avid reading culture amongst children in Nigeria, using uniquely illustrated stories that depict activities or people in their environment.

Legend [ edit | edit source ]

This is a short story that is thought to be historical, but there is no proof that the events happened. Legends have a unique set of characteristics that distinguish them from other literary genres. You can tell if a piece is a legend by looking at the characterization, themes, and plot elements [4] . Legendary stories are those of Robin Hood, suitably scaled to junior school children of any age, but they can normally be explored more successfully in a sustained and coherent way that makes for deepening understanding, with children between the ages of nine and twelve. Legends will provide children with endless material for their creative work. E.g. Nigerian Folktales and Legends by Cassandra Onwualu, Legends from Yoruba Land by Kemi Morgan, and legendary Queen Idia of Benin Kingdom, among others.

Fairytales [ edit | edit source ]

Fairy tales are stories with a lot of magic in them. They include stories about witches, goblins, fairies, and dragons among others. Magical elements are also frequently used in fairytales. Myers, (2017) stated that, while many fairy tales have their origins in oral tradition, many of them have been written by a single author. "Snow White," for example, is a traditional story passed down orally, whereas "The Little Mermaid" is a Hans Christian Andersen “Literary fairy tale,” story. Many traditional fairy tales include dark elements such as cannibalism and particularly gruesome deaths, while others end happily ever after. Other popular children's fairytales include Cinderella, the Dragon Princesses, the Arabian Nights, Aladdin and the wonderful lamp among others.

Folk tales [ edit | edit source ]

Folktales are instructive stories that have been passed down through the generations orally. Even though they were eventually written down, their origins date back hundreds of years. Folk tale characters are often stereotypes, such as the liar, the good son, or the evil stepmother. There is no magic in this world; good behaviour is rewarded, and bad behaviour is not tolerated. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" and "The Three Little Pigs" are examples of folk tales. Obi [1] also reiterated that children's tastes may shift from simple rustic tales like 'Jack and the Bean Stalk' to more literary works by Walter de la Mare, Oscar Wilde, and Arabian Nights. Folktales like Grants, monsters, and wicked stepmothers, for example, can become the source of a rather stereotyped vicarious horror, whereas a story like 'Beauty and the Beast,' which presents the horror figure ambivalently, can start a much-needed vein of new sympathy. Allegorical stories of the type of pilgrim's progress, kind of the Golden River, and The Soldier and Death; often tales of moral struggle, following the structure of an epic journey, can capture children's imaginations between the ages of eight/nine and eleven years. E.g. Ajapa the tortoise: A book on Nigerian Folktales by Margaret Baumann, Nigerian folktales and Children stories by Chinua Achebe, Yoruba Folktale: How Aayee & Aigboran became Enemies, The story of Oluronbi & Iroko Oluwere, the Spirit Tree, and An African Folktale by Willow Legge.

Fables [ edit | edit source ]

Fables are cautionary and instructive stories about plants, animals, and natural forces such as lightning and wind. All of these elements are human-like in some way. In fables, trees walk, the animals band together to overcome obstacles, and the elements of unseen forces purposefully cause events to occur. Fables are typically short, and they can be humorous while teaching. Aesop fable, an ancient Greek who wrote down over 600 of these orally transmitted tales, is responsible for the most well-known fables. Aesop most likely lived between 620 and 560 B.C., and the fables were already quite old by that time.

Short story [ edit | edit source ]

A short story is a type of juvenile literature, that accounts for past or imagined events. They are found in specialized collections but also appear in periodicals on occasion. Because they are short, these stories are usually limited in scope, many characters, and so on. Short stories have the distinct advantage of being easier to manage. A story can frequently be read to a class in one sitting or studied as a single assignment, whether in or out of the classroom. The short story can also be enjoyed by the entire class at the same time, which facilitates discussion and encourages comparison and imitation. My Naughty little sister is an example of the kind of storybook that bridges the gap between the familiar world of the average child and the My Naughty Little Sister is an example of a storybook that bridges the gap between the ordinary child's world and the unusually familiar world of little people like Peter Rabbit, little O, and the urchin. Stories within this range of experience and simplicity will continue to appeal to children up to the age of eight [1] . Examples of Nigerian short stories for children include Listen! Mother Listen! by A.R. Olagunju, Magic Rainbow river by Mimi Werna, Pa Nase the Spider and the Village woman by Abdul Koroma, Aku and Sun Maker, etc.

Fantasy fiction novel [ edit | edit source ]

Any novel — or "chapter book," as they are commonly referred to in children's literature — that is based on fanciful or unrealistic events is referred to as a fantasy book. In children's literature, fantasy is common. Magic or the occult, paranormal events, science fiction, animal-based fantasy, and unusual or parallel worlds, such as the world in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, are all popular subjects. The Harry Potter books are perhaps the most well-known children's fantasy books of the late twentieth (20th) and early twenty-first(21st) centuries. Nigeria children's fantasy books include; The God and His Bride by Bebe Ernest, O.G.B.A.N.J.E (The Child of Thunder) by Ifeoma Isabella Okeke.

Poetry and verse [ edit | edit source ]

This is a form of nursery rhymes or lullabies are frequently the first literature introduced to a child. These types of poetic verse, with their lyrical appeal and short, direct themes, are seen by some as transitional works that prepare developing minds for longer forms of literature, (, 2022) [5] . Karen (2013) contends that children's poetry preserves the rhythms and pleasures of the body in language and promotes emotional and physical attunement with others [6] . It is critical in creating a holding environment in language to assist children in managing their sensory environments, mapping and regulating their neurological functions, containing existential anxieties, and participating in communal life. Examples of popular Nigerian Children's poems include: Some have food but Cannot eat, oh my home o my home, Holiday is coming, the day is bright and Fair, Parents Listen to your children, Sanda Lily, Sanda Lily, Rain rain go away, all things bright and beautiful, all creature great and small, Row Row Row your Boat, Jack and Jill went up to a hill, my mother, who sat and watched my infant head, Pussy cat Pussy cat, among others.

Non-Fictions [ edit | edit source ]

They are a kind of children's literature that tells facts about the real world. They include informational books that explain a subject or concept for children to learn, (Cullinan, & Galda, 2002; Ashland 2022) [7] [8] .  E.g. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lambs.

Biographies [ edit | edit source ]

These are a form of children's stories with a plot and a theme based on a person's life. They contain basic facts about famous people who led exemplary lives such as national leaders, artists, sports figures, writers, and so on. E.g. The Adventure of Warrior Gandoki.

Question for Practice [ edit | edit source ]

  • How does children's literature differ from literature intended for adults, and what are the defining criteria for a work to be classified as children's literature?
  • Name three forms of children's literature and briefly describe the characteristics of each, including their intended audience and themes.
  • How does children's literature play a crucial role in shaping children's understanding of the world and their moral development?
  • Discuss the significance of picture books in early childhood education and their impact on developing reading skills in young children.
  • Choose any fairytale or fable and explain how the magical elements or moral lessons in the story can positively influence a child's imagination and behavior.

References [ edit | edit source ]

  • ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2
  • ↑ Giedraityte, G. (2014). Introduction to children's literature. Research gate. Retrieved from's_literature
  • ↑ Wright, j. (2017). Stylistic element of a legend. Retrieved from
  • ↑ "Children's Poetry |" . . Retrieved 2023-07-23 .
  • ↑ Coats, Karen (2013-12). "The Meaning of Children's Poetry: A Cognitive Approach" . International Research in Children's Literature 6 (2): 127–142. doi: 10.3366/ircl.2013.0094 . ISSN  1755-6198 . .  
  • ↑ "Children's Literature Types" . Pen and the Pad . Retrieved 2023-07-23 .
  • ↑ Schrecker, Diane. "LibGuides: Children's Literature • Genres: Children's Literature" . . Retrieved 2023-07-23 .

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Understanding Children's Book Genres

children's book genres

Published children’s books fall into distinct book genres, each with its own format and targeted age range. These formats evolved for several reasons: printing presses produced books in standard page increments; teachers needed to use the books for particular grades; the bookstores had to know where to shelve new titles. Though the publishing industry is constantly evolving — and established authors and illustrators are pushing the boundaries with new concepts — if you’re a first-time author submitting to agents and publishers it’s wise to stay within these guidelines. If you’re self-publishing print books that you plan on distributing to bookstores, you’ll also want to follow these general rules as your books need to sit alongside books from publishers on the shelves.

You’ll notice some overlap in the age groups and book genres below. That’s because children read at different levels, especially in elementary school. Read several books from each category to get a sense of the style and format, and then see where your work best fits.

Book Genres:  Picture books — In its broadest definition, a picture book is a book in which the illustrations play a significant role in telling the story. Under this umbrella are several types of books:

1. Board Books — For infants and young toddlers, these books are often concept books (teaching colors, names of animals, identifying body parts, etc.), simple rhymes or counting games, very simple stories, or wordless books. Typical lengths are 12-16 pages. Lift-the flaps or novelty books are common  (books that make sounds, have different textures, etc.) See the Max and Ruby series of board books by Rosemary Wells, and books by Sandra Boynton.

2. Early picture books — Very simple stories for ages 2-5 familiar to a child’s everyday life, simple fairy tales, cumulative rhyming books, or concept books that are more sophisticated than board books (such as counting within a story). Texts are short (generally 500 words or less). Books average 32 pages with art on every page.  Eric Carle’s books fall into this category.

3. Standard picture books — Traditionally, picture books are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary slightly by publisher). Manuscripts can be up about 1000 words, though they are trending toward shorter texts (500-800 words being the average today). Plots are simple (no sub-plots or complicated twists) with one main character who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint. The illustrations (on every page or every other page) play as great a role as the text in telling the story. Occasionally a picture book will exceed 1000 words if the story is more complex; this is usually geared toward the upper end of the age spectrum. Picture books cover a wide range of topics and styles. The list of School Library Journal’s best picture books is a good place to start your research. Nonfiction in the picture book format can go up to age 10, 48 pages in length, or up to about 2000 words of text.

Book Genres:  Easy readers — Also called “easy-to-read”, these books are for children just starting to read on their own. Most easy reader series are broken into several levels, starting in kindergarten and going through third grade, with text getting progressively more complex with each level. They have color illustrations on every page like a picture book, but the format is more “grown-up” — smaller trim size, sometimes broken into short chapters. The length varies greatly by publisher; the books can be 32-64 pages long, with 200-1500 words of text, occasionally going up to 2000 words. The stories are told mainly through action and dialogue, in grammatically simple sentences (one idea per sentence). Books average 2-5 sentences per page for the lower levels, going up to a paragraph or two per page for older readers. Easy reader series can be fiction or nonfiction. See the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish or other “I Can Read” books published by HarperCollins.

Book Genres:  Transition books — Sometimes called “early chapter books” for ages 6-9, they bridge the gap between easy readers and chapter books. Written like easy readers in style, transition books are longer (manuscripts are about 30 pages long, broken into 2-3 page chapters), books have a smaller trim size with black-and-white illustrations every few pages. See The Kids of the Polk Street School series by Patricia Reilly Giff (Dell) or the “Stepping Stone Books” published by Random House.

Book Genres:  Chapter books — For ages 7-10, these books are 45-60 manuscript pages long, broken into 3-4 page chapters. Stories are meatier than transition books, though still contain a lot of action. The sentences can be a bit more complex, but paragraphs are still short (2-4 sentences is average). Chapters often end in the middle of a scene to keep the reader turning the pages. Look at the Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger, The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka, and the Cam Jansen mystery series by David Adler.

Book Genres:  Middle grade — This is the golden age of reading for many children, ages 8-12. Manuscripts suddenly get longer (100-150 pages), stories more complex (sub-plots involving secondary characters are woven through the story) and themes more sophisticated. Kids get hooked on characters at this age, which explains the popularity of series with 20 or more books involving the same cast. Protagonists are kids age 9-13, or other characters (fantasy characters, animals, etc.) that embody the worldview and emotions of middle grade kids. Fiction genres range from contemporary to historical to science fiction/fantasy; nonfiction includes biographies, science, history and multicultural topics. Narrative nonfiction is also hot in this category. Check out these popular middle grade books to get you started.

Book Genres:  Young adult — For ages 12 and up, these manuscripts are 150 to about 225 pages long, with characters age 13 and up. Plots can be complex with several major characters, though one character should emerge as the focus of the book. Themes should be relevant to the problems and struggles of today’s teenagers, regardless of the genre. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton defined young adult when it was first published in 1967; the YALSA list also contains many worthy titles. A “tween” age category (10-14) has emerged, often with characters in middle school. These books are slightly shorter than the 12 and up category, and topics (both fiction and nonfiction) are appropriate for children who have outgrown middle grade but aren’t yet ready for the themes (fiction) or who aren’t studying the subjects (nonfiction) of high school readers.

More to Explore!

May 20th by Laura Backes


Many thanks for a very useful post indeed. You have helped me to ‘grade’ my new chapter books, so I appreciate the advice!

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The Library Catalog does have a search for the genre/form of a title.  However, this is a fairly recent edition to the library catalog so not all titles have a genre/form heading.

Examples of genre/form headings

  • Biographies
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  • Fantasy fiction
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List of Children's Book Types

Young boy reading a storybook

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We tend to envision children’s books as simple picture books. But, that’s really just a starting point to further imaginings. Children’s book categories are much more than that.

  • Picture books or board books are aimed at children from ages 0 to 5.
  • Early readers (ages 5 to 7) progress onto books with short amounts of text on each page. They’re still picture-driven, but they’re beginning to help children build a vocabulary.
  • Young readers or simple chapter books are aimed at children ages 7-12 moving on to less picture-driven books.
  • Young Adult (YA) fiction is the realm of children aged 13 and older, touching on themes that specifically affect teenagers.

Within these age ranges, we find various genres to enjoy. Let’s take a look at a list of children's book types.

This genre is based on a real person, not a fictional character. In it, children will learn about a person’s life, usually from birth to death. Or, it will center upon a prominent portion of their life. What makes this genre special is that it often contains copies of handwritten letters, journal entries, and personal quotes.

Here are some examples of popular children’s biography books, according to Goodreads :

  • The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter (Ages 4-8)
  • Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough (Ages 6-9)
  • On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne (Ages 6-9)
  • Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Ages 6-9)
  • Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet (Ages 7-10)

Fantasy books are set in lands that do not exist (to our knowledge). These are imaginative worlds created entirely from an author’s imagination. Here, we might meet a time-traveling kid who explores the year 9545 or a child whose best friend is an alien from planet Kismelt.

In children’s fantasy books, the settings will usually be fanciful and colorful. They will take little learners off to far and distant (make-believe) lands. In these books, readers will often meet characters with human-like qualities that aren’t quite human.

Here’s Goodreads’ list of the best children’s fantasy books:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Ages 8+)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Ages 8-12)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Ages 9-12)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Ages 10-14)
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Ages 10+)

Science Fiction

Science fiction, often referred to as sci-fi, deals with imaginative concepts like aliens, exploration, technology, and time travel. This genre likes to explore “what if” scenarios. We enter into worlds where aliens roam free, kids put on their space helmets and explore uncharted planets, and families are transported through time.

This genre is fanciful and can open the readers' minds to scientific discovery. Perhaps they’ll ponder a world where time machines exist. Interestingly, a lot of this genre is rooted in some sort of scientific truth. It just takes things to a new level as children explore futuristic settings and imaginary universes.

The Best of Sci-Fi Books ranks the top 25. Here are five picks for every age:

  • Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino (Ages 2-5)
  • If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith Mcnulty and Steven Kellogg (Ages 4-8)
  • Aliens for Breakfast by Stephanie Spinner and Jonathan Etra (Ages 6-9)
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (Ages 8-12)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Ages 12+)

Folklore has a touch of a fantasy element to it. We might meet characters with human-like qualities that aren’t quite human, such as fairies and leprechauns. However, folklore is rooted in cultural heritage. This includes traditional myths, legends, fables and fairy tales of old.

This genre is so old, it predates the printing press. Ancient mythological tales were told through oral tradition. That is, they weren’t written down, rather, people would gather together and listen to stories that they would later tell to others. As the stories passed down from generation to generation, they were eventually recorded into the folklore and fairy tales we know today.

Goodreads lists these among the most popular folklore children’s books:

  • The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac (Ages 3-5)
  • The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (Ages 4-8)
  • The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra (Ages 4-8)
  • Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges (Ages 6-9)
  • Golem by David Wisniewski (Ages 10-12)

Other Fiction

Fantasy, science fiction, and folklore are all members of the fiction family tree. The broader fiction genre includes stories that may not be real, but certainly could be real. They’re the tales of children and their classroom pals or the adventures of kids and their faithful puppy.

So, they’re possible events but they still stem from the author’s imagination. They’re set in “real” places and times and allow readers to dip into the lives of others, even if they don’t technically exist.

Within fiction, you’ll find several subgenres . A popular subgenre is historical fiction. In these novels, the characters lived in a real place and time. However, the story itself remains fabricated. For example, we might read a historical fiction novel of a soldier's daughter who lived during the Civil War. That’s a real event and the dates and details should be historically accurate. But, perhaps this daughter dresses as a boy to join the army and see her father. This fictional tale will detail the realities of life at that time, while still falling within the realm of fiction.

As per Goodreads , popular children’s fiction novels include:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Ages 9+)
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Ages 10+)
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Ages 8-12)
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl (Ages 8-12)
  • The Bad Beginnings (from A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket (Ages 8-12)

This genre includes all books on science, math, history, and even the biographies we highlighted above. Nonfiction books contain real-world facts and information. They explain a certain concept or subject. For example, children might take a fancy to astronomy and read books about the solar system. Or, they might read about dinosaurs or present-day animals.

Bookbub is another well of inspiration for book recommendations. Here are their recommendations for children’s nonfiction books:

  • Baby Loves Green Energ y by Ruth Spiro (Ages 0-3)
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman (Ages 4-5)
  • Worst of Friends by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain (Ages 6-8)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Ages 9-11)
  • Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy (Ages 12-13)

Finally, books filled with children’s poetry abound. Poetry includes rhythmic expressions expressing colorful images and emotions. Sometimes, poems tell complete stories . Other times, they simply relay feelings and emotions. Either way, they help young readers tap into their imagination and, hopefully, adopt a lifelong love of this artistic form of expression.

Barnes & Noble published a list of poetry books they think every child will love:

  • Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People by Jane Yolen, photography by Jason Stemple (Ages 4-6)
  • World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art , Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Ages 5-9)
  • Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Ages 5-9)
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein (Ages 6-8)
  • Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs by Carol Murray, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Ages 6-10)

Children's Book Genres for Every Reader

Whatever your child is interested in, you can rest assured there are kids' book genres and a wealth of books to feed that interest. Explore common themes in children's literature to find a few that fit your child's needs and wants. If you begin a daily routine that involves picture books, you just might find your son or daughter continuing that routine well into adulthood. Let the floodgates to learning open!


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types of children's literature genres

Genres in children's literature

The Library has an extensive collection of Junior Fiction, Non-fiction, and Picture Books available to all Staff and Students. In the  Library Catalogue  they will have a location-code of  JF  (Junior Fiction),  JFP  (Junior Fiction Picture Books) or  JNF  (Junior Non-Fiction). We also have children's books in Irish and they will have a code of  GJF  (Gaeilge Junior Fiction). 

To help you explore genres within children's literature we have compiled lists of books we hold according to category and genre (tabs to the left). These lists are not complete - they only highlight some of the range of the library's junior collections and together with our pages on themes and critical texts provide a starting point for exploring children's literature.

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Fantasy and Science Fiction

Graphic novels, historical fiction, picture books, multicultural literature, realistic fiction, traditional literature.

You can search for children's subjects by selecting the option on the right side of the search screen in our library catalog.

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  • Fantasy A modern, extended fictional form, belonging to the age of the novel. mythology, legends and fairy tale will not be discussed here as s
  • Fantasy books at Stafford Library
  • Science Fiction A genre that speculates about discoveries and developments in science and technology and their effects on the individual and society. Plots revolve around space travel, undersea exploration, time travel, aliens, psionic powers, genetic engineering, nuclear holocaust
  • Science Fiction at Stafford Library
  • Graphic Novel Research Starter The term “graphic novel” refers to stories that are presented graphically like comic strips in book formats. Whereas comic books generally appear in serial form, graphic novels usually stand alone as monographs; both consist of narratives that communicate as artistic expressions in which a series of still images that may or may not include texts create a story of temporal continuity and movement that advances a plotline. Although picture books for children may appear similar to graphic novels in that text and image are both necessary to tell stories, the graphic novel is differentiated by its more mature content with textured semantics and continuity.
  • Graphic Novels Articles, books, and e-books on graphic novels.
  • Awards for Graphic Novels Research Starter This essay will describe and discuss the major awards given to graphic novels, including the Eagle, Kirby, Eisner, Harvey, Ignatz, and Hugo awards, as well as various awards given to manga.
  • Graphic Novels Awards Articles, Books, and e-books.
  • Books about graphic novels at Stafford Library Includes books and e-books.
  • Historical Fiction A historical novel is not merely a story set in the past but a story which attempts, with the aid of scholarly research, to reconstruct and bring to life the events, culture and Zeitgeist of the period.
  • Historical fiction at Stafford Library These are some books at the library.
  • Picture Books The expertly crafted text evokes vivid images on the part of the reader. But a tremendous power in illustrations lies in the direct sensuous appeal of the pictures accompanying the text. For example, expertly crafted illustrations stimulate the reader to extract new, richer, and deeper meanings from a text and to recall particular passages.
  • Picture Books at Columbia College Includes books and e-books.
  • Visual Literacy What is visual literacy, and why should those interested in children's literature be concerned about the topic? For a long time literacy was defined simply as the ability to process, decode, and respond to print. Later, writing literacy expanded the definition. Now, we can add yet a third component: visual literacy. This means the ability to receive, process, interact with, and respond to visual messages.
  • Poetry in Children's Literature This is an article about how poetry “teaches us the power of a few words”
  • Children's Poetry at Stafford Library Includes books and e-books.
  • Multicultural Literature in Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature Multicultural literature is defined as writing that reflects the “customs, beliefs, and experiences of differing nationalities and races” and reflects the “interests, vocabulary, and experiences of students from various cultural or ethnic backgrounds”
  • Multicultural Books A subject genre focusing on the social realities of cultural groups, based on ethnic, religious or national heritage. What the culture is, in relation to traditions, beliefs and worldview, plays a significant part in the work. Often the cultural group is under-represented and unassimilated, as opposed to Euro-American groups.
  • Judging a Book by its Cover: An Evaluation Tool for the Evaluation, Selection and Inclusion of Multicultural Children's Literature in the Elementary Classroom Article in ERIC This study is an extensive literature review including an interview with an expert in children's literature and reading instruction. The research findings are synthesized to provide an evaluation model for teachers to use in evaluating and selecting multicultural children's literature for inclusion into their classroom and reading curriculums.
  • Realistic Fiction Children frequently describe realistic fiction as “real stories about real people.” In essence, this description is fairly accurate. Realistic fiction is the term used to describe stories that could have actually occurred to people or animals. The possibility exists that the events or similar events could have taken place. Fictional characters react to a situation in the same manner that real people might react.
  • Realistic Fiction at Stafford Library This is a selection of e-books on realistic fiction.

Stories that have passed down through the generations such as proverbs, fairy tales, folklore, fables, animal tales, myths, and legends.

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types of children's literature genres

What Are the Different Types of Literature for Children?

"Children's literature" is a term that is very loosely and imprecisely defined. The major consensus on what constitutes literature for children is traditionally defined as any book that is read by children, educates children or is about children for children. Not surprisingly, there is a vast inventory of different types of literature for children of all ages, categorized into literary genres. Some of the most common genres of literature for kids include picture books, traditional literature, poetry and verse, biography, fiction and nonfiction . From these basic literary genres spring a multitude of sub-genres such as science fiction, fantasy, legends and others.

Picture books are usually written for very young children who are learning to read. These books include thickly constructed board books for very young children; concept books such as those that teach the alphabet, counting or basic reading skills; and simple, illustrated books that are read to children to expose them to the language and the art of reading. Examples of traditional children's literature in this genre of picture books might include The Cat in the Hat , Green Eggs and Ham or other stories by Dr. Seuss ; Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.; and the Curious George series by H.A. Rey.

Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th Century Danish author of literary folktales.

Traditional literature for children varies widely and is perhaps the most loosely defined genre, because selections might overlap into the general fiction category. Some educators believe that traditional children's literature is strictly characterized by unknown authorship, stereotypical characters, anthropomorphism and a happy ending. Books that fall into this category might include folktales, fables and fairy tales such as Aesop's Fables , the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, Paul Bunyan and various other stories of legendary characters. Other educators incorporate such time-honored, popular stories by Charles Dickens , Louisa May Alcott, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Maud Montgomery and other authors into the traditional children's literature genre.

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"Little Red Riding Hood" is an example of a fairy tale.

Poetry and verse literature includes the epic poem, narrative poem, dramatic poem, lyric and sonnet , among others. Rhyming literature is popular with very young children, as seen in the cherished nursery rhyme and fable favorites Mother Goose , Jack and Jill and Little Miss Muffet . Appropriate poetry and verse literature for young adults might include The Iliad and Gunga Din , Paul Revere's Ride , The Highwayman , Kubla Khan and the modern compilation of silly verse, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Young adults might like verse poems like "Kubla Khan," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Biographies and autobiographies for children are usually meant to inspire young people or educate them while providing entertainment. Historical fiction or narratives that depict the lives of notable persons in history fall into this genre. Some examples of this type of literature for children include Carole Weatherford's Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom , Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl or Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place .

Works by British author Charles Dickens, such as "A Christmas Carol," are included in children's literature.

Fiction and nonfiction comprise the widest variety of literature for children. Modern fantasy and science fiction stories have become extremely popular with children. Generally, modern fantasy is characterized by time travel, imaginary characters and animals or inanimate objects that talk. Non-fiction literature for children is informational in nature, either as instruction, explanation or persuasion. Literature for children in this genre includes the Children's Almanac , science books or classic reference books geared toward children.

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Discussion Comments

If you're looking for some light but still satisfying children's literature you might want to try some of the excellent fiction magazines out there. You can usually get a selection at the local library if you want to see what they are about.

They often have very high quality children's short stories as well as non-fiction pieces and it adds to the excitement if you have a subscription and they arrive by post.

@indigomoth - I think of it as kind of a default category rather than something people have to hold to strictly. I mean, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child and I know a lot of other people who did as well, but no one would consider those to be traditional literature for children.

I would also argue that there are plenty of books which might seem on the surface to be written for children, but really exist for adults. There are lots of picture books that come under that category, for example.

Once you get out of the province of literature for very young children, there really isn't much of a limit as to what you can print. Kids are smart and authors are very clever at putting information in layers so that more than one type of reader can get something out of a text.

You can see why it's difficult to categorize the definition of children's literature or even classic literature for children when you consider books like The Diary of Anne Frank. I mean, I read that as a child and I've read it as an adult and I don't think I would automatically consider it to be "children's literature."

I would definitely give it to children to read, but I'd think of it as a classic for adults as well. Many other classics are like that. They might be considered stories for kids, but really they just happen to be good enough that anyone can read and enjoy them at any age.

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Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th Century Danish author of literary folktales.

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Children's Literature Types

Most children are exposed to literature from an early age -- being read books and told stories -- and, later, kids will go on to read on their own. These stories help children to understand the world, and the characters help teach them how we behave as people. There are several different types, or genres, of children's literature. Some of these are classified based on age or reading ability, and some based on the child's preference.

Picture Books

Picture books are for young children or beginning readers. They can either have just pictures, without words -- such as Raymond Briggs' "The Snowman" -- or have pictures with a small amount of text, like in "Where The Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. Picture books often feature repetitive phrases, to help children who are learning to read. They can be any genre, and are classified solely by their format.

Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy books are any novel -- or "chapter book," as they are often referred to in children's literature -- that is based on fanciful or unrealistic events. Fantasy is widespread in children's literature. Popular topics include magic or the occult, paranormal events, science fiction, animal-based fantasy or unusual or parallel worlds, such as the world in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Perhaps the most famous children's fantasy books of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are the Harry Potter novels.

Realistic Fiction

Realistic children's literature can either be set in contemporary times or in the past. As the name suggests, the characters are realistic and the plot line follows something that could actually happen. Realistic fiction can either be mostly for entertainment, featuring mysteries, adventures, sports or humor, or can try to tackle sensitive issues, such as life and death, family problems, cultural diversity or mental or physical illness. Realistic historical fiction uses real events from the past as a basis for the story.

Traditional Literature

Traditional literature is the name given to any stories which originated orally and were later written down. These include some fairy tales, folk tales, myths, legends, epics and fables. Traditional literature stories can be found in books, but are the type of story that a parent may tell a child from memory. Some of the best known traditional literature stories include "The Tortoise and the Hare," "Cinderella," "Theseus and the Minotaur" and "Little Red Riding Hood."


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