It is so important that we get our children exciting about reading. Studies have shown that children who read alone or with their parents do far better in school than children who do not. However, with so many children’s books on the market, it’s hard to know what books to buy.
So to help you build the perfect library for your kids, we’ve compiled a list of 20 classic children’s books that have helped get children interested in reading for decades.
Recommended for ages 3-8
Corduroy is a story about an adorable teddy bear that lives in a department store. After a little girl’s mother refuses to buy Corduroy for her because his overalls are missing a button, Corduroy comes alive that night and goes exploring to find it.
Though he never finds his button, the girl returns with money she saved herself and buys him. At home she replaces his button and they become the best of friends. Corduroy is great a story about looking beyond appearances and accepting people for who they are on the inside.
Recommended for ages 2-4
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a beautifully illustrated story about a caterpillar that eats his way through the week. The caterpillar eventually ends up very fat and with no appetite left. He then builds a cocoon around himself and emerges a beautiful butterfly. This beloved picture book teaches young children about butterfly metamorphosis, counting, and the days of the week.
Recommended for ages 5-9
Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a story about a little boy named Alexander that is having a tough time. In the morning he wakes up with chewing gum in his hair, he has a terrible day at school, and at night nothing seems to be going right for him.
Alexander gets to the end of the day to learn from his mother that all kids have bad days sometimes and he feels better about everything. This is a great book for teaching children how to deal with their feelings and that some days will just be bad days.
Recommended for ages 1-4
Goodnight Moon is a sweet poem about a little bunny trying to delay his slumber by saying goodnight to everything. The lulling rhythm of the poem and subject matter makes this the perfect bedtime story. The book introduces young children to poetry and teaches children about colors, rhymes, counting, and how nighttime fears are usually just their imaginations.
5. Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed By Eileen Christelow
Recommended for ages 2-8
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed is a great book based on the classic nursery rhyme. The book takes children through the nighttime ritual of these funny little monkeys such as brushing their teeth, putting on their pajamas, and say goodnight to their mother.
However, once they are in bed, they get restless and start jumping. Just like in the classic rhyme they fall off and bump their heads. Luckily mama monkey comes into help them and all five monkeys learn an important lesson about going to sleep at bedtime. This book teaches children about counting and the importance of listening to their mom.
Recommended ages 4 and up
Where The Wild Things Are is a gorgeously illustrated book about a little boy Max, who after dressing in his wolf costume and tearing around his house, he is sent to bed without supper. In his room he imagines a wonderful jungle where he can be free to play with other beasts however he wants.
Though this freedom is fun, he soon starts missing his family and decides to go back home. When he gets there he finds a warm meal waiting for him. Where The Wild Things Are teaches children many lessons about how it’s okay to be a little wild sometimes, how parents will always forgive their children, and how imagination is a powerful thing.
Recommended for ages 6-10
The Giving Tree tells the story of a friendship between a female apple tree and a little boy who can communicate. When he is young, the little boy plays on the tree and eats her apples. As he grows up the tree suggests he sells her apples to make money, cut her branches to build a house, and her trunk to build a boat.
Finally, the boy becomes an old man and the tree says she has nothing to offer but a stump, which the old man responds he just wants a place to sit and relax. At every stage of generosity, the paragraph ends with the sentence: “And the tree was happy.” The Giving Tree teaches children the value of appreciation and the importance of selfless giving.
Recommended for ages 3-8
Madeleine follows the story of a little girl named Madeleine and her classmates at a private school. Madeleine is a precocious girl who after a series of adventures suddenly finds herself in need of surgery. When the other students come to visit her after her surgery to offer support and love, they are so impressed with her bravery they want to have surgery too. Madeleine is told through adorable prose and teaches children how to be brave when they are really scared and to show compassion when others are hurt.
Recommended for ages 2-5
The Poky Little Puppy follows the story about a litter of puppies that decide to sneak out and explore. One puppy decides to not follow his siblings and instead takes his time and pokes around. When their mom finds out they have escaped scolds them for breaking the rules but since the poky little puppy was able to sneak back in, he is rewarded extra dessert.
This happens again until one night the other puppies realize his plan and fill the holes so he cannot get extra dessert. The pokey little puppy teaches children counting, how to recognize other animals, and how even sneaky children can get in trouble for being bad.
Recommended for ages 2-6
This simple picture book has no plot. Instead it asks the reader to identify the different animals on the pages. The process is repeated until all the different animals are identified from one another. This wonderfully illustrated book teaches children how to identify different colors and animals and teaches them sequencing skills.
Recommended for ages 3-7
The Snowy Day is an award-winning story about a young boy named Peter waking up to snow. Peter explores the snow-covered landscape and finds himself in a magical winter wonderland. He makes snow angels, plays with footprints, and even tries to keep a snowball for the next day. The book is gorgeously designed with a mixture of collage and watercolor. The book teaches children to use their imagination and to explore their surroundings.
This classic Dr. Seuss novel is a staple in any kid’s library. The main character Sam-I-Am pesters an unnamed character to try green eggs and ham. The same character refuses over and over, insisting he does not like green eggs and ham no matter what the scenario.
Finally, Sam-I-Am convinces the character to try the green eggs and ham, and the unnamed character loves them. The book deploys fun and quirky rhymes to engage your kids and teaches them that they’ll never know if they like something if they haven’t tried it.
Recommended for ages 3-6
Harold and the Purple Crayon follows an imaginative four year old who decides to go for a walk late at night. There he realizes the world is empty so he uses his imagination and a trusty purple crayon to draw everything he needs.
Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great bedtime story because after his adventures, he draws himself a home with a bed so he can go to sleep. This wonderfully clever book teaches children to define reality and use their imagination to overcome problems.
Recommended for ages 2-8
The Rainbow Fish is a beautifully illustrated book that contains foiled images. The story tells of a fish, with iridescent scales named Rainbow Fish. One day a smaller fish asks him if he could have one of his scales and Rainbow Fish refuses. After seeing his selfish behavior none of the other fish want to play with him anymore. So he goes to an octopus for advice.
The octopus tells him he needs to share his beauty. So he returns to his friends and gifts the small fish his scale to then realize how wonderful it feels to share. He’s so exciting about sharing he soon gives all of his friends a scale. The Rainbow Fish teaches children that sharing is not only important but feels good.
Recommended for ages 3 and up
Guess How Much I Love You is a story about two brown rabbits that use bigger and bigger measures to quantify how much they love one another. The smaller rabbit thinks that he can show the big rabbit that he loves him more by demonstrating just how much.
However, every time the bigger rabbit shows the little bunny that his love has no boundaries. This sweet story teaches children that there is no limit to how much their parents love them.
Recommended for ages 4-8
Love you forever tells the story of a relationship between a son and his mother. As the child grows up, the mother sings a sweet lullaby to him at every stage of development from baby to teenager to adulthood. When the mother starts to get old and sick, the son returns to her to sing the same wonderful song.
Finally, when the mother passes and the son has his own child, he sings the same lullaby to her. Love You Forever teaches children that no matter what age they are their parents will always love them.
Recommended for ages 3-6
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is a circular tale that starts off with a little boy giving a mouse a cookie. The mouse then asks for a glass of milk and a straw and napkin and so on, until finally it comes full circle to the mouse asking for a cookie again. This funny story teaches children cause and effect, as well as what moms go through on a daily basis.
Recommended for ages 1-3
Pat the Bunny is a simple book that uses a variety of textures from soft fur to sandpaper to engage children in learning. This is a wonderful, interactive book for babies and toddlers uses touch and feel to teach them to explore the world through sensory skills.
Recommended for ages 3-8
Are You My Mother follows a baby bird as he tries to find his mother. He asks all manner of things like dogs and hens, to planes and boats if they are his mother to no avail.
Finally after asking a car who snorts at him, the little bird begins to cry and his mother appears to comfort him. Are You My Mother is a fun read along book to teach children how to identify different things and that things may be similar but they are not always the same.
Recommended for ages 3 to 6
Close Your Eyes is a wonderful bedtime story about a mother tiger trying to get her son to go to sleep. However, the little boy doesn’t want to closes his eyes because he doesn’t want to miss out on life.
His mother reassures him that if he goes to sleep he will have amazing dreams. This calming story helps reassure children that it’s okay to relax and go to sleep at bedtime.