There is no other audience as rapt and attentive to storytelling than children. Most children love books. It’s the ability of their little imaginations to become engrossed in the story and the characters. With the right books, they can share in adventures, visit enchanted castles, and bask in wonderful experiences. There are a lot of great children’s books out there on the shelves and they cover a wide range of age groups. Some of these books are classics with lots of pictures. Others are for older readers. If you don’t already have a library in your children’s room, you might be thinking “What are some great children’s books for my kids to read?” To help you out, here is a list of some great children’s books along with brief descriptions. There are too many books to this list justice so we’ve narrowed it down to just twenty books that your kids should definitely read.
Books For Younger Children
Younger children prefer books with more pictures than text. These are the type of storybooks we usually read to our children before bedtime or on a rainy afternoon. Many of them are the classics that we grew up with. Here are some great books for younger children.
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – A classic story and winner of The Caldecott Award, this book is about a troublesome boy named Max. Max wears a wolf costume and won’t mind his mother so he is sent to bed without his supper. Max decides to use his imagination to change his bedroom into a forest and take a boat across the ocean. He finds the land of the Wild Things and becomes their king but soon realizes that he misses his mother. So leaving the Wild Things behind, he sails back to his own bedroom.
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor – More of a girl’s book than for boys, this book is still very whimsical and fun for everyone. The story is about a young girl named Nancy who loves all things fancy and believes that the more you have, the better it is. She dresses up in frilly outfits with lots of beads and sparkly things, complete with a tiara. In the story, Nancy is determined to try to teach her family how to be as fancy as she by accessorizing their wardrobes.
Olivia by Ian Falconer – This charming story, which is now a syndicated cartoon, is about a young pig named Olivia. She is an energetic young lady who spends her time bouncing from one activity to another. She paints, dances, sings, builds things, and her favorite food is cupcakes.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – A very educational book for young children that has wonderfully simple illustrations with die cuts in the pages to encourage counting. The story, told in a simple narrative, is about a young caterpillar who spends all of his time eating various leaves and other foods. At the end, when he has had his fill, he spins a cocoon around himself and finally emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg – This holiday book about a boy and Christmas is a classic. It was even adapted into a computer-animated movie. The story is about a boy who isn’t sure he believes in Santa Claus and Christmas. So one night a train, the Polar Express, comes through town and takes him and several children to the North Pole to meet Santa. The boy receives a special gift from Santa, a silver bell, and his faith in Christmas is restored.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – This whimsical book is about a young girl in Paris named Madeline. She lives in a home with 11 other girls and other the care of a kindly lady named Miss Clavel. Madeline is not the best behaved of all the girls in the house but is still endearing. One night she wakes up with an appendicitis attack and has to be taken to the hospital. She has her appendix taken out and is given so many gifts that the other girls start to cry that they want their appendix out, too. There are more books in the Madeline series, too.
Curious George by H.A. Rey – This is a whole series of books that I think we all grew up on. They all follow the adventures of a young monkey named George who is very curious about things around him. The Man in Yellow is his friend and keeper. In all the books, George sometimes lets his curiosity get him into trouble. This is a wonderful series for young children to learn to read.
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson – There have been a lot of variations told on this story but this is the original classic book told by Hans Christian Anderson. It is about a swan egg that gets mixed up with duck eggs. The baby swan is raised with the ducks and is considered awkward and ugly. But the swan grows up to be beautiful and elegant. A very moral story about growing up and being different.
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett – This is a great book about a town called Chewandswallow. Chewandswallow doesn’t have normal weather like other towns. It gets weather three times a day, at breakfast, lunch, and supper. Instead of rain or snow, they have food falling from the sky. But the portions of food keep getting larger and soon wreak havoc in the town.
Books For Older Children
These books are for older children who have already learned to read. These are of varying degrees of difficulty but all are great books that I recommend your children check out. Here are some suggested books for older children.
The Mad Scientist Club by Bertrand R. Brinley – A classic book about the innocent but mischievous nature of boys. Set back in a time when boys hung out in clubhouses and came up with wild ideas (you know, before television and video games), the book follows a group of seven boys, one of whom is a genius. They have a lab above a hardware store in the town of Mammoth Falls and spend their days coming up with inventions and schemes that ultimately get them into trouble.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – Another timeless book. This is the story of a young pig named Wilbur who lives on a farm and befriends a spider named Charlotte. Through the course of the story, they realize that Wilbur is destined to be sent to the meat market. In order to save him, Charlotte spins a spiderweb above the barn door that says “Some Pig”. This convinces the farmer and others that Wilbur must be extraordinary and the ploy saves Wilbur’s life. But in the end, Wilbur loses Charlotte when she dies after she lays her egg. The story also includes several other barnyard animals who give Wilbur various bits of advice. Despite the tear-jerker ending, this is still a great tale.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Without a doubt one of the most successful series of books in history, the story follows a young orphan boy named Harry who finds out he is a wizard. He is sent off to Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards where he makes his share of friends and enemies. The main story behind the books is the return of the evil wizard Voldemort who is set on conquering the wizard world and how Harry Potter is the only person capable of stopping him.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – As long as you don’t mind the main character actually being a criminal, this is a great series of books. Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old boy who is the heir of the Fowl family criminal empire. He is the greatest criminal mind the world has ever known. The book mixes modern technology with faeries and magic and turns everything on its ear. Artemis learns of the existence of faeries and decides to try to find their large hidden treasure. With the aid of his big servant named Butler, he goes after the treasure and ends up in a chaotic struggle with the magical beings. And it turns out that Artemis actually has a conscious, despite being a criminal.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – Probably the best book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. This book introduces us to four brothers and sisters, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy. They are sent to the country to stay with a professor and end up traveling through a magic wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. There they discover that the evil Witch rules Narnia and has the land trapped in permanent winter. The children learn they are part of a prophecy to rid the land of the evil Witch along with the help of Aslan, a mysterious and all-powerful lion. This great book is full of Christian symbolism and moral decisions.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket – This series of books may seem a bit bleak but are very funny and whimsical. The story is about the Baudelaire children who are orphaned and sent off to live with the gaunt Count Olaf. The Count is after the children’s family fortune and uses many threatening methods to try to get it. The three children use their own unique gifts to outwit (or outbite) the wicked Count to save themselves and their family fortune.
Holes by Louis Sachar – In this book, a boy named Stanley is mistakenly accused of a crime and sent to a juvenile detention center in the middle of the desert. There the boys are force to dig holes as a form of punishment. But the warden of the center is actually using the boys to try to find a long lost treasure that is buried in the desert somewhere. The book has a very engaging plot and heavy overtones of friendship.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimen – The book is about a young boy named Nobody who is raised in a graveyard by the ghosts and haunts that live there. The story starts out with the murder of the boys parents. Nobody is still a baby and escapes through the fence and into a nearby graveyard. He is found by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a nice couple who happen to be dead. They take the baby in and raise him among the graveyard’s inhabitants. They teach the boy about the world of the living and the dead. Meanwhile, the killer is still after the boy and it is up to the graveyards residents to protect him. The book can be a bit dark and morbid at times but is very suitable for most ages.
The Goosebumps Series by R. L. Stein – Goosebumps is Stephen King-style stories for kids. This is a series of books about ghosts, monsters, and other horror stories. They are written is a way that is suitable for children so I doubt it will give them nightmares. But the books are very fun and nothing permanently bad every really happens to the characters. If your kids don’t mind a good ghost story, these books are for them.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney – This book originally started out as a webcomic about a young teenage boy’s life. It follows the mundane adventures of a boy named Greg and is accompanied by simple, cartoon drawings. The book covers all the usual obstacles for a teenage boy such as popularity, girls, and other aspects of teenage life. What really makes it hilarious is the story is told in a sort of deadpan manner while the cartoons are drawn in a funny, comic strip style.