Reader Age Groups for Children’s Books

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to Children’s books that should be addressed before going too far into the process. The first things to consider are what reader age group the story is written for and what type of book to produce. So, let’s explore reader age groups, the appropriate types of books, and some of the considerations for writing and marketing to each specific group.

Reader Age Groups at a glance

Reader Age Group Book TypeBinding Illustration TypePage Print ColorPage Count
Newborn –
Age 3-5
Story Books or Novelty Books Hardcover ColorColor 24-40
Ages 3–8Coloring and Activity Books SoftcoverBlack line drawing Black40-80
Ages 5–9 Early Level Readers Hardcover or Softcover Color or BlackBlack or Color40-60
Ages 6–10 Chapter Books Softcover or HardcoverBlack Black60 & up
Ages 8–12 Middle Level ReadersSoftcover or Hardcover Color or Black Black or Color 80 & up
Ages 12 – 14 & up Young Adult (YA) Novels Softcover or Hardcover Usually not illustratedBlack120 & up

Reader Age Groups book types, illustrations, printing, and considerations

Newborn + Age 3-5: Illustrated Story Books

For the reader age group Newborn + Age 3-5 laminated hardcover or ‘board books’ are most popular. The story should be simple and enjoyable to both the child and an adult reader in a shared reading experience. The story should flow along with single or double page illustrations in colors and styles that will entertain this young and tender age group. The story text should be in a large text size and font that is easy to read. The text is usually broken into small paragraphs that are easy for early learners to follow as the book is read aloud. Books produced for this age group also have size options to consider that depend on the intended use of the book. A large book will fit nicely in a library of favorite books for bedtime reading, but a more compact size will fit in a tote to take along on outings where reading would be enjoyed.

A sample of double page illustration with a full-page bleed designed for a 8.5 x 11 full-color Children’s book. Note that the part of the illustration in the center does not contain any important elements that will be obscured by the binding.

Ages 5–9: Early Reader

Ages 5–9 are in the Early Reader group, so the story content is geared toward early vocabulary paired with illustrations that are relevant to the content to help early reader comprehension and add enjoyment to the reading experience. These types of books can be printed in several book sizes with full color or black ink only layout depending on story content

Ages 6–10:First Chapter Books

Ages 6–10 are exploring their first chapter books. The vocabulary of this age group is growing and comprehension is expanding to understand a segmented story line. These books are usually in black text, but they can also have simple black line or gray-scale drawings used on chapter title pages or inserted in the story text as appropriate. A 5.5″ x 8.5″ or 6″ x 9″ perfect bound (softcover) book is typical for this age group. Or, if you would like to also offer a hardcover choice, we can use the same layout and cover for both editions.

Cover design for Youngen by Maria J. Andrade
This book by Maria J. Andrade was written for the 6-10 reader age group. The laminated hardcover book has a full color cover with a black only inside page layout.

The illustration examples to the right are placed in the page adjacent to the text they are illustrating. Each chapter page as a small illustration taken from the illustration for the chapter.
Black gray scale illustrations are typical for a Middle Reader age group

Ages 8–12: Middle Reader

Ages 8–12 are in a Middle Reader book level. The story needs to support a more sophisticated vocabulary and understanding of personal and social situations. Stories have be written for a wider range of reading capabilities and yet have relevant content that appeals to the age group as a whole. Simple black line drawings or gray-scale illustrations can be included on chapter title pages or inserted into the story as appropriate. Hardcover or perfect bound (softcover) books in a variety of trim sizes can be used for this age group depending on the intended use. If you would like to also offer a hardcover choice, we can use the same layout and cover for both editions.

Samples of a Children’s book page layout for Ages 8-12 in the Middle-Grade Reader age group. This layout has page layouts using strategically placed illustrations along with pages with no illustrations. This book by Hal Blakeslee, published by Blakeslee Publishing, is written to challenge the reader’s vocabulary with humorous verse and is accompanied by equally humorous illustrations by Jacky Wilk.

Ages 12-14 & up: Young Adult

Ages 12-14 and up are in the Young Adult (YA) age group. YA novels are stories written with adult vocabulary but have content that reflects young adult ideas, situations, and imaginative story lines that will entertain a younger audience than most adult novels. Like their adult counterpart, Young Adult novels are most likely to be printed in perfect bound books in the 5.5″ x 8.5″ or 6″ x 9″ trim sizes. If you would like to also offer readers a hardcover choice, we can use the same layout and cover for both editions.

Content Dependent Reader Age Groups

Coloring and Activity books are most often designed with Ages 3–8 in mind, but with the latest craze in adult coloring books, that age group may be expanded to Ages 3 to Adult depending on content.

This workbook is written by Eugenia Onwu Ukpo, a teacher working in Africa. She wrote this workbook using words and situations familiar to her students local environment. She wanted illustrations to reflect the unique content by concentrating on the local items used as examples in the lessons.
Sample pages of an activity workbook for early reader vocabulary and handwriting lessons, illustrated with line drawing for each letter and a layout that is easy to read and to follow the instructions.

The full color cover was designed with colorized versions of black line drawings used as illustrations in the book layout.

Game & Novelty Books are designed with interactive content, pop-ups, foldout maps, and games, and they can even include toys or objects as part of the game or items relevant to the story. These books can be geared to a range of Ages 3 and up, depending on content. Beware: these types of books are expensive to produce, requiring specialty printers, costly set-up fees, and minimum orders that are usually beyond the budget of a self-published author or small publisher.