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They fascinate us all. Our ears perk up when we hear they’ve just dug up the biggest T-rex skeleton ever. And we love to sit in the theater, fingernails digging into the armrests, watching the latest thrilling installment of Jurassic Park.
And kids have the fever, too. They’re perennially interested by all things dinosaur. And, why not? Animals as tall as skyscrapers. Lizards, like real-life dragons, that take to the air on leathery wings. Truck-sized, armor-plated armadillos battling to the death with their mace-like tails. How cool is that?
All of this makes dinosaur books a great choice for readers of all ages. Why? Because these books are extremely high interest. Whether a book is scientifically accurate, or simply an imaginative romp, the interest it generates in young readers can focus their attention like a laser. That interest will keep them turning pages, encourages them to find time to read, and can drive them to tackle new words, even without prompting. Some kids may even choose books that are beyond their reading level, compelled by the topic to really challenge themselves.
Dinosaur books have one other valuable characteristic, as well. They can stir an early interest in science, something we really want for our kids in a world where the importance of STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – grows on a daily basis.
The best dinosaur books for kids
Below is a list of dinosaur books to inspire young readers. Some of the books are new, some are perennial favorites, others are award winners. While the list has been divided into three reading levels, these levels aren’t cast in stone. If you’re a parent or teacher looking for age-appropriate books, the categories below are just a rough guide.
If a child quickly reads through a book at one level or seems bored, it may be time to choose books from the next level up. Conversely, if a child struggles with the books at one level – losing his or her place often or needing to stop and sound out too many words – it may be time to drop back.
Dinosaur books for preschoolers
Books matter long before children can be expected to read on their own. When parents read to their kids, they’re exposing them to essential early reading skills like learning that books are fun, knowing that they’re read front to back, and learning that those letters on each page actually “mean” something.
Dinosaur books are ideal for these earliest readers because they have bright colors and interesting pictures on every page.
|Clifford Digs a Dinosaur – This book, by Norman Bridwell and Sonali Fry, combines the loveable character of Clifford with the notion that dino bones lie in the ground, awaiting discovery. It’s a great way to introduce toddlers to the field of paleontology without overwhelming them with scientific jargon.|
|Digger the Dinosaur – Digger is a character that little ones can identify with. He means well, but his big tail and feet just keep getting in the way. Author Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrator Gynux work well together, bringing this loveable character to life.|
|My Big Dinosaur Book – This book comes with the big, bright pictures and sturdy pages that make it ideal for little readers. It combines realistic illustrations and real dinosaur names with simple captions like, “Peaceful plant eaters.”|
Dinosaur books for emergent readers (grades 1 – 3)
For this age group, high interest really matters. These first three years of school are when beginning readers move from sounding out nearly every word to reading smoothly on their own. This is when we really want to convince them that reading is fun, and not a chore. And what’s more fun than dinosaurs?
|Dinosaur Days – This book, written by Joyce Milton and illustrated by Richard L. Roe, covers the basics of dinosaur lore. It introduces information such as the fact that some dinos were huge while others were only the size of chickens. It also comes with a pronunciation guide, a great way to help early readers wrap their tongues around really big words.|
|Attack of the Tyrannosaurus – This first in the Dinosaur Cove book series, written by Rex Stone and illustrated by Mike Spoor, follows Tom and Jamie as they explore a mysterious tunnel that leads to a land filled with dinosaurs, some friendly and some not so friendly. This book comes with the added bonus of being part of a series. Series are a great way to draw kids from one book to the next.|
|Boy Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! – This nonfiction book, by Kathleen V. Kudlinski, takes a look at some of the older ideas about the dinosaurs that we now know are just plain wrong – that dinosaurs could float, for instance. Not only will it keep eager readers up to date on dino lore, it also illustrates the changing nature of scientific study. What better way to interest kids in a future career in science than by letting them know that there are still exciting discoveries out there waiting to be made – maybe by them!|
Dinosaur books for the middle grades (grades 4 – 6)
By the middle grades, most kids are becoming more and more confident readers. Now we really want them to focus on skills like reading to answer a question or being able to identify the main idea of a book. Dinosaur books are perfect for this; they’re simply packed with information.
|Dinosaurs: The Most Complete Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages – Penned by professional paleontologist, Dr. Thomas R. Holtz Jr., this “Outstanding Science Trade Book Award” winner covers more than 800 dinosaur species and has chapters that cover their history and biology, as well.|
|Dinotopia – While this little gem, written and illustrated by James Gurney, is purely fictional, it tells an exciting tale of a father and son who stumble on a mystic land where dinosaurs walk and talk and have jobs. The breathtaking illustrations alone will keep kids turning pages.|
|Beyond the Dinosaurs! – This book, by Howard Zimmerman, can renew an older child’s flagging interest in dinosaurs. It examines some of the lesser-known inhabitants of our prehistoric past: “sky dragons” and “sea monsters.” It offers up-to-date science on the massive reptiles that once filled the air and sea.|