From the time I learned to read, I was hooked. For me, reading was a way to travel outside my little world. I could explore new ideas and realities from the safety of my favorite spot on the couch. My love of reading bloomed quickly and grew rapidly as I devoured all the best children’s books, book after book.
Before long, I was also writing my own stories. Often, I was found forgoing playing with friends and avoiding sleepovers. I would rather stay up late with my flashlight, a fresh stack of paper, and a pencil. My mother basically threatened to take my books if I didn’t go outside and run amok with the other children. It was a problem, but one of the best kinds.
Even today, as a grown woman, I can get hopelessly lost in a book. I don’t have as much time to read as I would like, and I am still honing my craft as a writer. But this first love of mine, this deep longing to dive into a new story or create my own, feeds my soul. I am determined to pass on this love of reading, learning, growing, exploring, and creating to my kids, whether they like it or not! Today, I’m sharing some of the best, most loved, and most well-written children’s books for every kid.
40 Best Books for Children
Children’s Books Ages 0-2
“Moo, Baa, La La La!” by Sandra Boynton — A silly, fun, rhyming story about the sounds that animals make.
“Belly Button Book” by Sandra Boynton — A quirky story about hippos who love their belly buttons.
“On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman — A beautiful book that celebrates your uniqueness.
“Press Here” by Herve Tullet — An interactive picture book that harnesses imagination and interactivity.
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems — Hilarity ensues when the bus driver leaves the bus, and a pigeon wants to take over.
“Snuggle Puppy!: A Little Love Song” by Sandra Boynton — An adorable book written as a song to show kids how much their parents love them.
“Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA” by Jimmy Fallon — A book that will probably teach your little one how to say “dada” before “mama.”
“Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney — The charming story where a young hare and his dad take turns measuring how much they love each other.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle — Follow one hungry caterpillar through his week as he eats food after food until getting a stomachache!
“Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney — A great bedtime story about a baby llama who’s afraid to sleep alone. It teaches kids that mom will always look out for them, even if she’s not beside them.
Children’s Books Ages 3-5
“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak — A boy named Max takes an imaginative journey to a place where wild things live.
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin, Jr. — All the letters of the alphabet race up the coconut tree and find there may not be enough room.
“Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi — The subject is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s a fantastic book for potty trainers.
“The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf — Ferdinand is a different kind of bull who loves to sit under his tree and smell the flowers.
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein — A poignant picture book about the gift of giving and the capacity to love. A true must-read children’s book.
“Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin — A funny book about how much dragons love to eat tacos (but how much they hate spicy salsa).
“One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” by Dr. Seuss — A classic book filled with silly rhymes, counting, opposites, and amusing illustrations.
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff — Another classic book that’s part of the “If You Give…” series. See what shenanigans this little mouse gets up to when a boy gives him a cookie.
“Waiting Is Not Easy!” by Mo Willems — In this book, Piggie has an exciting surprise for her friend Gerald, who is struggling to wait for the big reveal.
Children’s Books Ages 5-7
“The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” by Jon Scieszka — Hilarious, unconventional, and eclectic spoofs of fairy tales that can easily be read aloud.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein — A masterful collection of poems and drawings that will have your child laughing and stretching their imagination.
“Mercy Watson to the Rescue” by Kate DiCamillo — The story of a jolly little pig who becomes a family pet. This is the first book in a series.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst — Alexander has a terrible (but sweetly funny) day.
“Ivy + Bean” by Annie Barrows — Unlikely friends become BFFs in this humorous first book of the series.
“The Book with No Pictures” by B. J. Novak — No pictures, but it does have lots of weird, funny sounds and sentences that you must read aloud (no matter how ridiculous).
“Amelia Bedelia” by Peggy Parish — Amelia Bedelia completes her maid duties all too literally, but she sure makes a mean lemon meringue pie!
Children’s Books Ages 8-11
“Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White — A beautiful book about friendship, love, life, and loss that will be a favorite for years.
“Stuart Little” by E. B. White — The story of a mouse raised by humans who goes on the adventure of a lifetime to rescue a friend.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling — Harry is an orphan living in a closet of his cruel aunt and uncle’s house when he receives the news that he is a wizard and is being summoned to an infamous wizarding school.
“Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery — An 11-year-old orphan is mistakenly sent to live with relatives on a farm, making a giant impression on the community’s residents.
“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett — A young orphaned girl comes to live with her eccentric, rich uncle and discovers a world of secrets and mysteries, including an extraordinary secret garden.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney — Greg Heffley navigates the many ups and downs of middle school life with his best friend Rowley by his side . . . until their friendship is tested.
“Ramona Quimby, Age 8” by Beverly Cleary — An entertaining novel about a third grader who deals with several misadventures, including having an annoying neighbor and getting a raw egg in her hair!
“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate — The story of a friendship between a gorilla who’s grown accustomed (and even fond) of life in captivity and a baby elephant newly captured from the wild.
Who Is (Who Was) Series by Roberta Edwards — This biographical book series explores the incredible lives of historical and modern-day figures.
Children’s Books Ages 12+
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee — A remarkable story of a girl coming of age in a world of prejudice, violence, and injustice as she watches her attorney father defend an innocent Black man for a crime he didn’t commit.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry — A young boy lives in a utopian society but soon learns his “ideal” world is not all it seems.
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins — In a dystopian society that was once North America, one boy and one girl from each district are forced to fight each other to the death until one young woman decides to fight back against the system.
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain — This story follows Huckleberry Finn as he travels up the Mississippi River, meeting colorful people and places along the way.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak — A powerful tale of a young girl surviving Nazi Germany by stealing books and sharing them with her neighbors and the Jewish man hiding in her basement.
This list is the tip of the iceberg for the best children’s books. But I believe kids should devour them before they become responsible, boring adults with little to no free time. This list can also give you a head start for getting your kiddos into reading at any age.
Which of these must-read children’s books did you love as a child? Which have you not read but hope to read to your children?