Books are the BEST gifts! I love giving books and I love when my kids receive books. The hardest part about giving books as a gift is choosing something that the child hasn’t already read or received. There are the beloved classics, like Good Night, Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are for young kids. And so many kids have already read through the Harry Potter or Little House on the Prairie series. Nobody giving a book as a gift wants to hear, “Oh, I already have this one!” 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 it will be a new discovery for the little ones in your life!
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Choosing the “Best Books for Kids”
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 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
Read-Aloud Books for Preschoolers
Preschoolers love to cuddle up and read together. They are looking for “more to the story” at this age though 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 and 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
Bonus Books for Preschoolers (suggested by family & friends)
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)
Engaging Books for Elementary
Elementary aged kids enjoy a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction must to have engaging photos and interesting text that’s easy to comprehend.
All-of-a-Kind Family – One of my most favorite book series as a child, I devoured these stories about 5 diverse sisters living in NYC 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, Elephanits, 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, but 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.
More Great Books for Beginning Readers
Bonus Books for Elementary (suggested by family & friends)
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
Bonus Books for Upper Ages (suggested by family & friends)