Common Sense Media has some great common sense tips for many of your "back to school" questions.
Check them out here:
Back to School Topics
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Newbery Books for Best Children's Literature
Caldecott Medal Books for Excellence in Children's Illustrated Books
Sibert Medal Books for Excellence in Children's Informational Literature
ALA Children's Notable Lists
What Should I Read Next?
NoveList is a complete resource for fiction and nonfiction pleasure reading!