Have you noticed that chess for kids has become not only popular but “cool”? Interest in playing chess has been exploding over the last few years. There are many reasons for its growing popularity. Reasons include easy access to chess apps (like ChessKid), the popularity of chess YouTubers, a growing number of films and TV shows, and an abundance of engaging, new books (see below).
A quick Google search of “chess benefits for kids” brings up multiple articles and websites claiming that chess will improve critical thinking skills, academic performance, problem solving, and concentration. There are also claims that playing chess can increase patience, teach good sportsmanship, and build self-confidence and self control. But the reality is the studies on the benefits of chess for kids are mixed.
So why learn chess or teach chess to your kids? There are several reasons: It’s a highly competitive “sport” that needs minimal space or preparation, it’s a great way to spend time with your child, and it is fun!
My dad taught me how to play chess when I was 8 or 9 years old. He taught me the fundamentals. Neither of us was very good, but it was challenging and allowed me one-on-one time with my dad–not easy in a family with 5 kids! Having time dedicated to me felt really special and is something I will always remember.
Whether you’re looking for an academic edge, looking for a “cool” activity to share with your child, or creating lasting memories, chess might be just the thing! Below are 10 Books to Help You Learn Chess, Teach Chess, and Improve Your Game. Share these with the chess players in your life like my young friend pictured above.
Nonfiction Instructional Chess for Kids Books
How to Win at Chess: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners and Beyond written by Levy Rozman
This chunky handbook may be intimidating to beginning players but will appeal to fans of the author and YouTube chess teacher. The diagrams give step-by-step chess for kids instructions. But what is unique about this book is each chapter ends with a helpful summary and a QR code that links to chessly.com where players can practice their new skills and strategies online. (I love that!)
How to Win at Chess, From First Moves to Checkmate written by Grandmaster Daniel King
This bold, colorful book is easy to read and digest. It breaks down basics, such as the names and importance of each chess piece. It moves on to effective opening moves and important players and games. I like that the size and format allow the book to lay open on a surface while a player studies the moves shown on the pages.
Chess, We’ve Got All the Best Moves! written by Tom Jackson, created by Basher
This is a basic chess for kids introduction, which covers pieces and setup, moves, and a few strategies. It is written from the perspective of the pieces so would probably appeal to the youngest players. For instance, Knight says, “I can gallop right into enemy territory, thanks to my special moves.”
How to Play Chess for Kids, Simple Strategies to Win! written by Jessica E. Martin
This chess for kids handbook is broken into two parts: Part 1 (basics) and Part 2 (tactics and strategy). It is designed for elementary- and middle-school-aged children. Although the content is accessible independently for ages 10-12, the author recommends having an adult read alongside because “Kids love challenging their parents to a game.” That’s for sure!
The Batsford Book of Chess for Children-New Edition written by Sabrina Chevannes
This is a new edition of a chess classic. Its conversational style will capture the attention of children ages seven and up. It is instructional but at the same time, humorous and engaging. The style includes speech bubbles, diagrams, colorful illustrations, and just a touch of snarkiness. But it is loaded with skills, strategies, and instructions to help chess players of every level improve.
Picture Book Biographies About Chess Players
Tani’s New Home by Tanitoluwa Adewumi, illustrated by Courtney Dawson
A picture book biography of a Nigerian refugee boy who encounters and overcomes tremendous odds to become the New York State Chess Champion. The content is condensed, bringing the young boy swiftly from Nigeria to New York and there are lots of unanswered questions between the pages. Adults should be aware that there is mention of Boko Haram and the family being in danger and having to flee their home. Ultimately, Tani’s life story is about perseverance, positivity, and finding your place in the world.
The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgart Changed the Game written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Stevie Lewis
This picture book biography recounts the remarkable childhood and career of Judit Polgart, the first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster. Judit was a fearless, determined, and gifted child prodigy who earned the spotlight in the 1980s and 90s by becoming the youngest Grandmaster of all time. Young chess enthusiasts will love hearing about the girl who beat champions and became one herself.
Middle Grade Chapter Books About Chess
Not An Easy Win written by Chrystal D. Giles
This is a sensitive portrayal of a twelve-year-old boy who gets kicked out of school for fighting. He is the only black student in an all-white school, and he struggles to find his place. Chess plays a pivotal role in Lawrence’s journey toward healing, compassion, and friendship. Adults should be aware there are complex issues, including racism, poverty, and parental incarceration. A wonderful book to initiate discussion, particularly if you listen to the audiobook together.
Focused written by Alyson Gerber
No matter how hard 7th grade Clea tries to stay organized, focused, and on top of her school work, each day ends up being a struggle. She resists being diagnosed or treated for ADHD, considering it evidence that something is wrong with her. Gerber’s portrayal of living with ADHD is both enlightening and realistic. Chess is the one thing that helps keep Clea focused and motivated. Her love for chess allows opportunities for new friendships, successes, and self-confidence. A great read that will resonate with many children and their families.
Always Clementine written by Carly Sorosiak
Clementine is a lab mouse whose intellect is more than the scientists bargained for. She escapes from the lab and surprises her new human friends with her quick acquisition and skill at chess. Set among a backdrop of chess, there are multiple themes, including friendship, animal cruelty, empathy, and kindness. This is a cute, quirky book that will appeal to animal and chess lovers alike.
Chess is a game of intellect, critical thinking, problem solving, and fun! Grab a board, a book or two, and an opposing chess player, and get started. These books will “check” the right boxes for anyone interested in learning chess, improving their game, or reading about others who share their love chess.