Books are the gift that keeps on giving! I love giving books and appreciate when my kids receive books. Encouraging reading is one of the best things we can do for our children. Whether you are gifting a book for the holidays or supplying the kids with summer reading material, these are some of the BEST books for kids!
This post originally published Oct 27, 2017 and has been updated and republished with a new date.
Choosing the Best Books for Kids
The hardest part about giving books as a gift is choosing something that the child hasn’t already read or received. Nobody giving a book as a gift wants to hear, “Oh, I already have this one!”
There are the beloved classics, like Good Night, Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are for young kids. So many kids have already read through the Harry Potter or Little House on the Prairie series. The only way to know before gifting is to ask the child or parent.
I’ve created a list of the 100 best books for kids that might be off your radar. Perhaps you’ve heard of these titles or maybe even read them as a child yourself. But these books may be a new discovery for the little ones in your life! Most of these titles are clickable with a link that will direct you to Amazon for easy shopping.
What Books Are Really the BEST?
A few years ago my eldest son got stuck on reading a comic book series. Again. And again. Not that there’s anything wrong with the series. There are some that will say to let kids read whatever interests them because at least they’re reading.
However, I liken some books to “junk food”. Sure, they’re light and easy to read. They go down easy. But then, where’s the substance? What are you reading that’s making you learn or grow? We all enjoy a little junk food but if that’s all your diet is, you’ll need to round it out with MORE.
Not every book has to be life-changing but finding books that literally move your child and make them think, those are the diamonds in the rough!
I took my son to the bookstore and showed him a few of my favorite books that I knew he’d enjoy. He started on the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen and was completely absorbed with the story. I was able to say, “Told you so!!” As a result he’s been taking bigger stretches on his book choices.
Each of the books suggested in this article are my family favorites. They have been read and owned by my own children, stand the test of time and are age-appropriate. I’ve also included BONUS BOOKS that were suggested by friends as their family favorites!
Best Books for Babies and Toddlers
I’ve been reading to my kids since they were newborns. Text can be minimal to allow you to riff off the pictures and simply talk to your little one and make up your own story. Or choose a book with a fun rhyme that will help your toddler pick up words and rhythm. I always choose sturdy board books for babies and toddlers.
Look, Look! – The black and white contrasts with minimal text, making this perfect for newborns.
Jamberry – One of my very favorites, with tons of detail and wonderful read-aloud rhyme.
Time for Bed -A bedtime book (or two, or three!) is a baby and toddler must. This one is gentle and sweet.
More Great Books for Babies & Toddlers
Bonus Books for Babies and Toddlers
The bonus sections are some additional books that were suggested by friends and families as the best books for kids!
- I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean!
- On the Night You Were Born
- Bear’s Busy Family
- My Heart Is Like a Zoo
Read-Aloud Books for Preschoolers
Preschoolers love to cuddle up and read together. They are looking for “more to the story” at this age. It’s a great way to talk and discuss what you’ve read. A fun read-aloud with fantastic pictures and rhyme is always welcome too!
When The Wind Stops – For that preschooler who wants to know, “Why?”, this book about days and seasons, beginnings and endings is gorgeous and perfect.
“The Way I Feel” Library – My mother-in-law bought these for my eldest son when he was young. They were such a Godsend when he was struggling with emotions. We’d snuggle together, read and discuss. I’ve kept them in our library for the other kids too, they are such important books.
Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales – So you may have read Peter Rabbit before, but what about Jeremy Fisher, The Tailor of Gloucester and my favorite, the Tale of Two Bad Mice? These soft illustrations and story lines are ideal for preschoolers (Wow, do those little animals get into mischief, kids LOVE that!)
Other Books We Love for Preschoolers
- Read With Dick and Jane – Jump & Run
- Quick As a Cricket
- Mix It Up!
- The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
- Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business
- Llama Llama’s Little Library
- Sheep in a Jeep
- Mother, Mother, I Want Another
Bonus Books for Preschoolers (suggested by family & friends)
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
- Good Night, Little Dragons
- The Prince Won’t Go to Bed!
- Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Great Books for Beginning Readers
Beginning readers tend to waffle between wanting to read a little and still wanting to be read to. I’m suggesting a mix of beginning chapter books, longer read-together chapter books and picture books. Many beginning readers still find pictures very important to the story experience.
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon – This was the first read-aloud chapter book I read to my boys. It’s a fantastic story of imagination, wit and creativity. My kids have read it alone to themselves again when they were solid readers.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch – My youngest son pulled this off the shelf recently and his teenage brother gushed, “I LOVE that book!” The sentiment about seeing & caring for others is sweet (even when it’s not Valentine’s Day).
Mr. Putter & Tabby series – I can admit it. Whenever we get a new Mr. Putter and Tabby book I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement about what silliness will happen with this creaky old man and his elderly cat. They are so fun to read! And how many books for little kids celebrate the elderly?
Other Wonderful Books for Beginning Readers
Bonus Books for Beginning Readers (suggested by family & friends)
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Complete Series
- Iggy Peck, Architect
- The Lorax
- Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Engaging Books for Elementary
Elementary aged kids enjoy a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction must have engaging photos and interesting text that’s easy to comprehend.
All-of-a-Kind Family series- One of my most favorite book series as a child, I devoured these stories about 5 diverse sisters living in New York City at the turn of the century. So much charm and spunk, you’ll love each character. It also is a fantastic series about Jewish culture and holidays.
DK Eyewitness Books – There’s a DK Eyewitness book for just about every topic on Earth!! Seriously, if your child has an interest in something whether it be castles in Ireland, sportfishing, elephants, astronomy or the American revolution, you can find it. And they’ll love these amazingly detailed books with tons of images.
My Side of the Mountain Trilogy – I never knew there was more than one book after My Side of the Mountain. My son found them and was so absorbed by the continued story line. My Side of the Mountain is followed up by On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain.
Who Was book series – Take a deep-dive into these kid-friendly autobiographies including Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Walt Disney, and Jane Goodall. Don’t overlook the other books in this series that discuss historical events, including What is the Constitution, What Were the Salem Witch Trials and Who Were the Navajo Code Talkers?
More Great Books for Beginning Readers
Bonus Books for Elementary (suggested by family & friends)
- Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done
- Smile and Sisters: The Box Set
- Nancy Drew Diaries Supersleuth Collection
Kids reading in the upper age category crave compelling story lines that transport them to a different part of the world, an old (or future) era or a completely new realm. I tried to choose titles that my own tween/teens didn’t read with their class at school.
The Cay – I read and reread this book a dozen times growing up. I just loved the story of this castaway boy and the man he’s been lost at sea with.
The Gary Paulsen Collection – I’d read Hatchet (the first in this collection) and had recommended it to my son. He’s since read the entire collection in the series as well as many other Gary Paulsen stories.
Rebecca – This is a classic but unlikely that your teen has ever read or even heard of it. Filled with intrigue, mystery and secrets, it’s a page-turner!
Other Must-Read Books for Upper Ages
- Cabin on Trouble Creek
- Warriors Box Set: Volumes 1 to 6: The Complete First Series
- Julie of the Wolves
Bonus Books for Upper Ages (suggested by family & friends)
- Brotherband Chronicles (7 Book Series)
- Inheritance Cycle 4-Book Paperback Boxed Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, In)
- I Survived Collector’s Toolbox
Looking for More
Black History Month – Top resources from black voices with details on teaching kids about black history all year long.
Need a Bookmark? – Try making one of these whimsical handmade bookmark crafts including these painted and Cricut personalized wooden bookmarks.
Books for Kids – FREE Summer Reading Printable
Now that you have a list of books for kids, write them down on this printable. Set a goal with the kids and offer an incentive for completing their reading list! A fun goal could be a special outing, a treat or even better, a new book!
Thursday 27th of June 2019
I cannot agree more with you! There is nothing I like to give more than a good book (and receive them too!). For my very first baby shower instead of cards I requested that everyone bring a book for the baby and sign the inside like a card. There is nothing more important in my family than reading (and reading together). I think a book that definitely needs to be considered a great gift for families is "The Dyno Dinosaur Family Presents: Waves of Kindness" by Sharida McKenzie (https://dinosaurfamily.wordpress.com/). It is a beautifully illustrated picture book that focuses on the Dyno family and the simple acts of kindness Sister Dinosaur (Dora) can do to spread waves of kindness to the community, friends, and the environment too! My favorite line in the book is when the family is saying goodnight to Dora and her parents ask "What did you do to make the world a better place today?" I ask my children that every night now! And it doesn't have to be something big! It can be something as simple as asking a new child at the playground to join in or putting away their toys. I think I might love this book as much as my kids. Happy Summer!