We all want our children to be good readers, right? Sometimes kids don’t love reading for various reasons and this poses a challenge. It’s possible that getting them started with the right book can help ignite their imagination and their love for reading.
We’ve collected a list of resources to help support you in your search for good books, to get your child started in reading and to help them continue! As always at Caldwell, we defer to the parents in deciding which books to introduce to your child. These lists and resources are meant to be a place to start, and you can winnow out what does not fit for your child or your family.
Common Sense Media has an excellent list of 50 books all kids should read before they turn 12.
They also have book suggestions (you can even select the genre) for each age of a child.
Educator and Global Teacher Prize winner Nancie Atwell curates a list of books recommended for children by the children at her school every year. The list is broken down by age and includes many familiar and not so familiar titles. But all are kid approved!
If you haven’t read Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart and/or Honey for a Teen’s Heart we would commend these resources to you. These books have two parts - the first part discusses the importance of reading and explores different genres, the question of censorship, and the elements of a good book. The second part is a curated book list.
While we wouldn’t endorse every book this site recommends, readbrightly.com has some book lists and helpful articles like this one that features kid-approved books for struggling 2nd and 3rd grade readers and a list of 6 good graphic novels (my 8 year old boy enthused about these!)
What follows are some of our suggestions for you, too!
Read Alouds for Pre-K and Kindergartners
A is for Annabelle
By Tasha Tudor
My aunt gave me this ABC book when I turned five, and my five-year-old daughter loves it. Anyone who has read Tasha Tudor knows how sweet her illustrations of a by-gone era are.
When a Line Bends, A Shape Begins
By Rhonda Gowler Greene
Illustrated by James Kaczman
Admit it…reading a book that teaches shapes is just painful. This one, however, is fun and engaging.
The Snowy Day
By Ezra Jack Keats
Peter, an African American boy, explores his neighborhood after the season’s first snowfall.
The Seven Silly Eaters
By Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Grab any book you see illustrated by Marla Frazee. Parents of children who won’t eat this or that will find this book terribly amusing.
Katie and the Sunflowers
By James Mayhew
Katie enters the scene, quite literally, of the world’s great paintings in a series that introduces your child to famous artists and their works.
For Early Readers
The Elephant and Piggie series
By Mo Willems
These books are fun and hilarious with short but expressive sentences.
By Jane O’Connor
Nancy has a larger than life personality and adores all things fancy. She always dresses extravagantly, wearing tutus, ruby slippers, fairy wings, and fuzzy slippers. Nancy loves using big fancy words such as "iridescent", "ecstatic", and "extraordinary" and anything in French. Très bien!
The Cookie Fiasco
By Dan Stantat
Four Friends, three cookies, and one big problem.
Frog and Toad are Friends series
By Arnold Lobel
Classic stories about friendship.
By Else Holmelund Minarik
These lovely stories are deceptively simple. They also work great as read-alouds.
For Second and Third Graders
When transitioning from early readers to chapter books, the key is to allow your new reader some freedom. Let him or her choose based on their interests. Even if it’s silly or seems frivolous, your child is still learning to love words and stories.
The Magic Treehouse series
By Mary Pope Osborne
In this series, there is a book on every subject and an adventure for every reader!
The Magic School Bus series
By Joanne Cole
If you’ve heard quite enough questions about how this works or how that is made, this series is for you. Get your kid to read to you and you just might learn something new!
Where the Sidewalk Ends
By Shel Silverstein
Poetry can be daunting for adults and much more so for kids. This collection of funny poems are easy to memorize and stay with you long after childhood.
The Boxcar Children series
By Gertrude Chandler Warner
Four orphaned siblings, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden make a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar before being reunited with their grandfather.
Henry and Mudge series
By Cynthia Rylant
You can’t go wrong with stories about a boy and his dog.
For Fourth and Fifth Graders
This is a great age to introduce such classic series as The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. But there are so many other books for your 10-11 year old to love.
The Indian in the Cupboard
By Lynn Reid Banks
The first of five gripping books about Omri and his Iroquois Indian toy, Little Bull. For Omri, it is a dream come true when the plastic American Indian he locks into an old bathroom cupboard comes to life.
The Little Prince
By Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you haven’t read this beautiful book, do so immediately. Then let your 4th or 5th grader borrow it.
The Little House in the Big Woods
By Laura Ingles Wilder
Everyone is familiar with the Little House Series and may consider these to be “girl books.” The first book in the series proves that thinking wrong. There is a bear, hunting, danger and adventure. Also a lesson in making butter in a sheep's stomach. What’s not to love?
The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster
Often described as “The best book ever” by young readers, this classic is full of fantasy and adventure.
Island of the Blue Dolphins
By Scott O’Dell
A survival story that I credit as the reason I love to read today.
Book Series for Middle School Students
Readbrightly.com has a list of 13 books 9 - 12 year old boys love. I have found this to be true! My sons in this age range have read all of these books and raved about them. At a time when screens vye for their attention, it's especially important to continue introducing books they enjoy.
A few of our family’s favorite series:
Ranger’s Apprentice series
By John Flanagan
Fantasy adventure based on the journey of Will, the 15 year old protagonist who learns he has been chosen to be a Ranger’s apprentice and must be trained to be a protector of the kingdom.
Five Kingdoms series
By Brandon Mull
Cole and his friends realize the spooky house they’re in is actually a portal to another world. As kids are taken into this world, Cole must figure out how to rescue them and get back home.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
By Rick Riordan
This exciting series follows Percy Jackson and his friends as the characters from his Greek mythology book come to life, leading to a range of adventures and tales of derring do.
The Wingfeather Saga
By Andrew Peterson
The story chronicles the transformations and adventures of the Igiby family as they discover secrets of their family history and try to flee the evil occupants of their country and reclaim their place in the world.
Anne of Green Gables
By Lucy Maude Montgomery
A prim and elderly brother and sister send for an orphan boy to help them with their farm. But when he arrives, he is a she - Anne Shirley, the dreamy red-haired girl who quickly becomes the child they cannot imagine life without.
Classics for High School Students
There are so many books worth reading, we couldn't possibly do justice to a list of classics. Here are a few that are just difficult enough, but engage the imagination and appeal to a young adult's developing sense of moral responsibility.
By Robert Louis Stevenson
A coming of age story in which Jim Hawkins, an innkeeper’s son, finds himself enlisted in the hunt for treasure with Long John Silver, an infamous pirate. Ultimately, he has to depend on his wits to survive.
To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
This beloved American classic set in Macomb County, Alabama during the Depression is a story about a small town dealing with the issues of class and prejudice. Scout Finch, 8, and her brother Jem, 10, learn lessons about love and humanity from their father Atticus and from other memorable characters. Winner of the 1961 Pulitzer prize.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain
One of the pre-eminent coming of age tales. Huck Finn runs away from home and takes Jim, a man who has escaped enslavement, with him. Together they sail down the Mississippi River on a raft and experience dangers and adventure along the way.
By Charlotte Brontë
The novel follows the story of Jane, a seemingly plain and simple girl who has many obstacles to overcome in her life - her cruel Aunt Reed, the grim conditions at Lowood school, her affection for Mr. Rochester, her employer. With sharp wit and courage, Jane perseveres.
A Separate Peace
By John Knowles
A friendship forms between two boys attending a New England boarding school during World War II. Gene, smart and socially awkward, draws the attention of Phineas, an athletic and outgoing boy. The two become friends, but war and rivalry lead to a tragic accident.
The Scarlet Letter
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Set in 17th century Massachusetts, a young married woman living in a Puritan colony becomes pregnant and refuses to name the father. Hester Prynne, the strong heroine of this American novel must endure prejudice and hypocrisy from a society who demands she be punished by wearing a scarlet letter "A" upon her dress.
Happy reading! May it enrich your child's life!