Asking me to pick my favorite book is excruciating for my brain. I have so MANY books that I love, and for different reasons. Of course, new favs are at the ready in my mind, but then I’ll remember an old beloved story and well….So this list is my top 5 fiction favorites in each age group TODAY. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a different list. Still, you can’t go wrong with any of these. They are absolutely wonderful! And if you bought them all, you’d have an amazing start to a home library for your kids.
Ages 10 mos.-2 years
This group is wiggly and often won’t sit still for reading, but these books have proven to be winners for all my kids. All books in this category have a G rating (see my rating system here).
· Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
· Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
· The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Bernard Wescott
· The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
by Don & Audrey Wood
· Anything written by Sandra Boynton
(Okay, I know that’s a cheat, but it’s absolutely true—toddlers LOVE her books!)
Many preschoolers still don’t sit still for long, but they can now appreciate an actual story a bit better. And they’re beginning to understand humor, which makes it fun to read to them—oh the giggles! Continue to read them the books on the toddler list. They’ll appreciate them at a whole new level. All books in this category have a G rating.
· The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
· Five Little Monkeys books by Eileen Christelow
· Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman
· Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
(This one works for toddlers, too, but the preschoolers get the humor.)
· Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
I’ve delineated this group from preschool, because some kids are ready for longer, more complex stories sooner than others. There’s overlap here, and quite frankly, my trying to put ages on these is like trying to pin Jello to the wall. So know your kid; play with the categories; and above all, make reading a fun experience! All books in this category have a G rating.
· Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
· Corduroy by Don Freeman
· Curious George books by H. A. Rey and/or Margret Rey
· Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
· Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
This age is magical! They love picture books and can now appreciate stories with irony and plays on words. They are learning to read, so I’m including my favorite Easy Readers. AND they’re beginning to enjoy chapter books too—both on their own and ones you read aloud, so I’m including those as well. All books in this category have a G rating.
· Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
· Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
· Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack
· No Jumping On the Bed by Tedd Arnold (and its sequel No More Water in the Tub)
· Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
· Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish
· Crocodile and Hen: A Bakongo Folktale by Joan M. Lexau
· Dust for Dinner by Ann Turner
· Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant
· Zack’s Alligator by Shirley Mozelle
These are not in alphabetical order like the rest of the list. I sequenced these based off of reading difficulty.
· The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo
· The Littles series by John Peterson
· Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
· The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
· Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
(This is a series too, but in my opinion, the first book is the only one worth reading.)
There is a wide disparity among kids in this age group, both in reading level and in ability to handle more challenging content. I’m delineating between upper elementary and middle grade (though technically they cover approximately the same age range). In my list upper elementary kids read better than primary, but not as well as middle grade. The books in this section are also “safer” than those below. You can still read this group picture books if you choose with care, so I’ve included those as well. All the picture books in this category have a G rating; the chapter books have a PG rating.
· Lyle and the Birthday Party by Bernard Waber
· Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson
· Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
· Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Illustrated by Ted Rand
· When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest
· Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
· The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
· Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabbenstein
· The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
· Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
Designated "middle grade" because they are in the middle--somewhere between elementary chapter books and YA. All books in this category have a PG-10 rating, though sensitive kids may need to hold off until 13.
· The Giver by Lois Lowry
· The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
· Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
· Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
· The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Kids mature during these years and are able to handle increasingly challenging content. The ratings for this list are included beside each title. A couple straddle even my own categories and require parental discretion.
· Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling PG-10/13
(I know most people classify this book as Middle Grade, and I would probably agree, but the later books in the series get pretty dark, so I have put it here—since most kids don’t want to wait several years before being allowed to read the whole series. Obviously, you are the best judge of your child.)
· The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien PG-10/13
· To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee PG-16
· The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy PG-13
· A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith PG-16