Friends, I am so, SO excited about this post! I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, but I just had to collect all the information and double-check things first before sharing it all with you! If you don’t know already, Bjorn and I are HUGE fans of books and reading. I always thought I loved to read a lot, until I met my husband. Bjorn is probably the most busy person I know, but also the most productive lifelong learner I know. He’s always intentional with his time and despite all he’s involved in, he’s still able to read his stack of books on his bedside table! 🙂
Reading With Your Child
Needless to say, since we both love to read so much, we’re happily introducing our daughter Sophie to books, and we’re working to foster in her a love for reading and learning. She already has a pretty good attention span for listening to stories with us. Bjorn and Sophie are working through a children’s nonfiction book on castles and forts right now 🙂 and I like to read her stories from Winnie the Pooh! She also has a couple “soft books” that she plays with, too.
I’m not going to make this post all about WHY kids should read books, because I think we all have a pretty good understanding of that at this point. 🙂 …But since I’m an elementary teacher, I have to say this: reading books and having a print-rich household are INCREDIBLY important when it comes to children’s academic and other kinds of growth! Reading books with kids and to kids does wonders for their vocabulary, processing, attention, and all other facets of literacy. Even the fact that you’re sitting with your child, investing time in them, cuddling, and giggling together or learning together – it’s so crucial. I think it’s actually totally irrelevant if you yourself don’t like to read. Or if you don’t consider yourself a lifelong learner. That doesn’t matter. Don’t deprive your kids of all the benefits of reading simply because you’re not interested. Out of love for your children, read with them!! Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. 😉
The books I’m sharing today are a combination of children’s books that I grew up with, and some of our favorite books that Sophie has on her bookshelf! I’m listing books that I have a strong emotional tie to, or that I feel are top-notch literature or are otherwise valuable for a child to read (an important lesson, good rhyme scheme, etc.)
We get the majority of our books slightly used on Amazon, so I’ll be linking to Amazon, even though you can find these titles elsewhere. Our collection will continue to grow over the years, but these are some of the very best ones. Enjoy!
55 Must-Have Books For Your Child’s Library
These are not in order of preference. I will put 3 stars (***) next to the titles of my top 10 picks in this list, though! And I’m going to go ahead and do the extra work of putting photos in this list, because I personally do judge a lot of books by the cover 😉 so I want you to see them, too, as you evaluate which ones you may want to get!
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. An informative, fun book about a baby fruit bat.
Greyling by Jane Yolen. A story about a selchie (a seal transformed into a human) who lives with a lonely fisherman and his wife. This story has a beautifully wistful, more serious quality to it.
Lass by Roland Gebauer. This is about an adopted sheepdog and how she learns to trust her new owner.
*** Only One Woof by James Herriot. Umm, need I say more? James Herriot is literally my favorite author. And he wrote this book for kids. So go buy it. 😉 I like how the flow of the book actually mimics the way he structures his chapters in his books for adults – it’s just a bit more kid-friendly in terms of length and vocabulary. But it still has a really sweet story that shines through. A feel-good, thoughtful book.
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. Just a clever, sweet book. And surprisingly funny! I mean:
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Such a heartwarming story about how stuffed animals become “real.”
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall. This book is such a unique, beautiful peek into what life was like for a man and his family in 19th century rural New England. It follows them throughout the seasons in a lovely, poetic way. And an added bonus: the illustrations are by Barbara Cooney, who you may know from the book “Miss Rumphius!”
Mr. Putter & Tabby Walk the Dog by Cynthia Rylant. This book cracks me up! It has a repetitive quality to it, and it brings back all sorts of funny memories of adventures my sister and I had while petsitting!
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. This one is such a classic. And my sister’s name is Madeline so that made it even more fun to own when we were growing up. 🙂
The Patchwork Lady by Mary Whittington. This story is about an eccentric young woman who is getting ready to have company over. It gives you a unique look into the whimsical way she thinks and runs her house. It’s a sweet story with a more old-fashioned feel.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. A special story about a mama duck and her babies, and how people watch out for them.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. I’ve always liked this one, for its message as well as its pretty illustrations (with foil stamping). 🙂
Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Another great fish story! I like this one even more than “The Rainbow Fish.” I used this story back when I was student teaching. It has some great messages and applications…plus the watercolor-type illustrations are gorgeous.
*** Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Drumroll, please! …If I had to choose my favorite children’s book, as in, my very favorite one…this would be it! Barbara Cooney did a phenomenal job with this one – both with the story and the illustrations. The message is so heartwarming and every page is stunning just to look at! This one definitely needs to be on your bookshelf at home.
Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats. This one is a fun counting rhyme about different animals and insects.
The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. This is a neat story about an apple tree throughout the seasons. It’d be a good book to bring out in autumn before going apple picking!
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young. This one’s based on an Indian tale, and has a great message about different perspectives and looking at the big picture!
Seven Little Rabbits by John Becker. Here’s another good repetitive counting book! In this story, 7 little rabbits get tired and one by one, find a place to sleep. 🙂
Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman. Norman is a doorman at a museum. He likes to turn mousetraps into sculptures! It’s a sweet story written by the author of “Corduroy.”
*** You Belong Here by M.H. Clark. I LOVE this one so much!! It has gorgeous illustrations and such a lovely poem and message throughout. This book made me cry when I was pregnant with Sophie and I first heard it. It’s what inspired the DIY Custom Poem Canvas in Sophie’s room. Here’s a snippet from the book:
The trees belong in the wild wood
and the deer belong in their shade,
and the birds belong so safe and good
and warm in the nests that they’ve made
And you belong where you love to be,
and after each day is through
you will always belong right next to me
and I’ll belong next to you
You are a dream that the world once dreamt
and now you are part of its song
That’s why you are here,
in the place where you’re meant
for this is right where you belong.
It’s just the perfect book for a parent to read to their child!!
Children Just Like Me by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley. I LOVED this one growing up!! It’s a nonfiction book where each page highlights the life and culture of a particular child. The authors visited families in countries all around the world and interviewed them about their daily life, photographing their home, food, and more! It’s fascinating, and I think it really expanded my horizons as a kid. It was published to coincide with UNICEF’s 50th anniversary. And while searching for this book, I just found out they have a newer one!!! (The book I grew up with came out in 1995 and it’s awesome, but the new one just came out in 2016! How fun!)
Baby Beluga by Raffi. Raffi songs are always fun, so it’s nice to have a book on hand that allows you to read the song aloud!
All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. A gorgeous picture book about growing up and the love of a family.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. I grew up with this one. It’s about a donkey who makes a wish and it has surprising results. Eventually, he’s reunited with his family. It has a good message about gratitude.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. An Eric Carle book is a must for a children’s library! This one is a classic.
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola. This book is hilarious! It follows a knight and a dragon as they each train and practice to fight each other….only to realize later on that they really don’t feel like fighting each other after all!
The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer. This story will melt your heart! Nothing is sweeter than a puppy wishing for a boy for Christmas…and finally getting one!
*** The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. This is also a must-have. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read with your children every night before bed! And it’s true – the way the author writes it, every story points back to Jesus. The overall gospel message is threaded through seamlessly. I wish this book had been around when I was a little kid!
*** Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. I grew up with these stories, but Sophie received this book from my friend, Emily! I reread it again recently and some parts were so funny, I cried because I was laughing so hard! This book is a classic; it’s witty and sweet and very well done. I think all kids should grow up reading about Winnie-the-Pooh.
The Golly Sisters Go West by Betsy Byars. I always brought this book with me when I was nannying or babysitting. Its several chapters are full of goofy moments for two sisters who are performers in the Wild West. Kids like to read along with this one.
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. This is an awesome one to bring out around Christmas time. It follows the story of a little lamb who could never keep up with the herd and instead had to stay in the stable one night…and a young woman came in and had a baby. The lamb got to help keep the baby warm (and it turns out, the baby was baby Jesus). It has such a sweet message about how we each have a special role in the world.
*** My Father’s Dragon (3 Story Set) by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I love love love this book! 🙂 I’m linking the 3 story set here, because it’s not as fun to just buy the first book. You’ll want to have all 3 stories because by the end of the first story, the adventure is just beginning! These 3 stories aren’t too long, but they certainly are amazing! I read this story to my 3rd graders back when I was a classroom teacher, and they all loved it so much! (I even had a stuffed animal dragon that is the exact dragon in the story! Every day after recess, I’d draw a name and that student would get to hold the baby dragon during read aloud time.) We had wonderful discussions about Boris, the baby dragon, and the main character, Elmer. It’s a heartwarming tale of rescue, adventure, and friendship. This is definitely a must-have book.
Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara. This book is part of a whole series about famous people. I like how these stories tell about the lives of famous people, starting with them as children with a dream!
When The Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow. This is such a poetic, gorgeous book. A little boy asks his mother at the end of the day: “Where does the wind go when it stops?” and she explains to him the cycle of life – describing where water goes after it rains, and so on. This book has a beautiful, peaceful feel to it. It’s the perfect bedtime book. 🙂
*** Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. I love this story! My friend Emily got this for Sophie and I was blown away by it! It has lovely illustrations and such a special, true story. Plus, it involves some history and WWI, which is an added bonus for our history buff household! 🙂
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. Sophie got this one for free last October when she trick-or-treated at a local library! 🙂 It ended up being such a darling book!
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan Brett. Jan Brett is a wonderful author, and her books are always so beautifully done! This story is so sweet.
The Alley Cat’s Meow by Kathi Appelt. This is so cute! It’s a feline version of a night at a jazzy dance club. 🙂
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. SUCH a classic. This was one of my favorites when I was growing up, so I’m looking forward to reading it with our daughter! Another great E.B. White book: Stuart Little!
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. / Eric Carle. I love the repetitive, circular feel of this book. Repetition like this is great for young readers! And the fun illustrations are easy to follow along with, allowing kids to “think ahead” and predict what the next sentence will be!
*** Little House 4-Book Box Set: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read and reread these books when I was a child. They’re written so well, and tell meaningful (and adventurous!) stories from a time long ago. These are definitely a must-have.
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I actually have somewhat mixed feelings about Dr. Seuss. 🙂 His books sure are fun, but they’re not that deep. However, I feel like every child should read some Dr. Seuss books growing up, even just because of the goofy situations and fun rhyme schemes. At one point, as a babysitter, I had this one memorized! I also would recommend “The Foot Book” as another fun Dr. Seuss book.
The BFG by Roald Dahl. When I was in 5th grade, my teacher read this book to us as a read aloud book after recess. We all thought it was so funny! Roald Dahl is incredibly clever. There is a lot of made up grammar and language in this story, which may confuse quite young readers, but it sure is a fun one full of adventure, fantasy, and sweet friendship.
*** On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga) by Andrew Peterson. Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot recommend this series enough! Bjorn and I enjoyed this series so much! (We read the books out loud to each other in the car on longer trips.) The author, Andrew Peterson, is a gifted singer and songwriter too, but he is probably one of the most inventive and witty authors I’ve ever read! Bjorn and I were blown away by the fantastical world in these books, with so much laugh-out-loud humor but also so much deep, deep emotion and meaningful messages. I feel like I’m on a campaign to get everyone to read these books!! This is the first one in the series, but don’t stop there. There are some more intense elements of these novels (things like fighting, suspense, or some scarier moments), so they’re probably not meant to be read to 1st graders, but it’s up to you to read ahead and determine what’s best for your child. But the Wingfeather books are so, so good!!
*** The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis. In a similar vein as The Wingfeather Saga lies The Chronicles of Narnia! I grew up with these. C.S. Lewis writes them so brilliantly. The language (vocabulary level wise) is a bit more tricky for really young readers, and there are some intense elements (as is often the case when good fights evil!) but it offers an incredible message.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This is yet another adventurous book about darkness and light! I read this one aloud to my 3rd grade class as well. They LOVED it. It’s the tale of a little mouse who fell in love with a princess, and will do anything to keep her safe from the evil rats. But there are multiple other little stories interwoven throughout the book. It’s a beautiful book with great vocabulary, too. Kids may need to ask about what some of the words mean, but they’ll hang on every word.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Anne is such a vivacious, relatable character! The way she processes things and looks at the world is so unique and beautiful! I love so many quotes from this book.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. A hilarious read about farm animals who get ahold of a typewriter and begin making demands!
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. This is a beautiful, poetic story about a young girl who goes searching for owls with her father one winter night.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This book follows the often-silly adventures of Rat, Mole, Badger and goofy Mr. Toad along the river. “The Wind in the Willows” was originally published in 1908, but it’s far from being forgotten!
DK Eyewitness Books. Something Bjorn and I discovered after we were married is just how much each of us had loved the DK Eyewitness books growing up!! They’re super informative, and you can find DK books on a huge variety of topics. Bjorn has already read a couple of them with Sophie! (I think they learned about Ancient Greece already!) I love the pictures, the layout, and the interesting captions found throughout. These are a great way to get your kids into nonfiction reading, whether they’re old enough to read the captions, or just look at the pictures and follow along as you read.
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques. This is the series that made Bjorn fall in love with reading back when he was a 5th grader. 🙂
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. I love this story! Sweet, lovable Frances is a picky eater who only likes to eat bread and jam! Will she only eat bread and jam forever?
But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton. Hilarious!! My friend Jordan gave me this one. It cracks me up every time!
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.Such a sweet story about how a mother’s love will always follow her little one!
**I want to note that children’s literature is everyone’s literature. Some of the best books I’ve ever read – the most poetic, most heartwarming, most well-done – have been in the children’s genre. So even if you don’t have a child yet, I wouldn’t discount these books. They’re important and amazing!
** If you don’t want to spend a ton of money on books, I understand. It can add up. But that’s why there are libraries! And you can find awesome books at garage sales and other places. You just have to be motivated to get to the library, or look for the books that are out there! Like I mentioned earlier, we get most of our books on Amazon, and unless I’m getting a gift for someone, I usually look for used books that are in good condition.
What are YOUR favorite children’s books? What are your kids’ favorite books to reach for? I want to hear what you’d add to this list!