50 Great Books for Kids That Every Home Should Have
This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share a commission.
How do you choose the best books for your children? We have a few suggestions for parents with our 50 Great Books for Kids That Every Home Should Have.
A book list is a complex organism. It seems like it should be easy enough: select the best books within a defined category.
While defining the category might be simple, defining the word great…well, that’s another animal altogether.
Who, after all, gets to be the deciding voice? (And, we state for the record that we have no aims to being that one deciding voice. We’re one voice offering some gentle guidance.)
How Do You Define a Classic?
When it comes to books, there are layers of consideration. Case in point: the word classic. Most people who are filling their libraries with books will acknowledge some effort to choose books they can call classic.
But much like the word great, the word classic isn’t so easy to nail down. In fact, it’s an ill-defined term that often encompasses what we feel more than what we can describe.
Mark Twain once quipped that a “classic” is…
“A book which people praise and don’t read.” – Mark Twain
We tend to recognize a classic when we encounter one, but we can’t always work backwards to determine how we arrived at that recognition.
What’s more, having acquired a classic is satisfying enough in the moment. Perhaps we like the magic involved? That’s no help when it comes to making future choices at relevant moments. And when it comes to choosing a book, having someone say, “Just focus on the classics” is no help at all.
How to Assemble an Amazing Book List?
As a result, assembling a good book list presents challenges.
The primary challenge was to balance the variety of excellent books out there with a numerical limit. Anyone can assemble an endless list. A helpful book list, however, has some limitations.
We limited the number to 50 and sought books that ranged across reading levels. From books that are read to pre-readers, to books that strong readers can enjoy for themselves. There are books that recognize the variety of reading levels within age groups. At the same time, all of these books can be read aloud and enjoyed as a family.
Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include every book we could recommend. There are shades of recommendations that we’ll address in future posts. We know that some of the books on this list won’t be for every child or every family. We know that there are plenty of other wonderful books, and we’d love to suggest them for specific reading preferences.
There are certainly more books for younger pre-readers that we can discuss later on. There are also great books for older readers that we’d love to share.
So stick around, and we’ll tell you about them!
Where to Start?
We have to start somewhere. And we’re starting here. We’ve begun with tried-and-true favorites, and included the books that we know — from immediate experience — are popular with children as varied in personality and tastes as children can be.
So we humbly present this list of 50 great books that every family should have. It’s possible that some will object to the selections and the first question from others might be “But what about…?” We accept this. We appreciate dialogue, after all.
You may believe us when we say that we gave this list some consideration. It was, at first, longer. Some books consciously didn’t make the cut. We reviewed; we discussed; we trimmed. A list of 50 was the limit. Some choices were favored, but we felt others had just enough edge on them.
More to the point, we’re not aiming for a perfect list: rather a starting place.
Reading is a Basic Tool
A good number of the books on the list have stood the test of time with readers. Any newer publications on the list have been included because they already have that hard-to-define essence of being a classic — and it would be unfortunate to leave them out just because they’re not yet old enough to be considered vintage.
Many of these books will be familiar to you. In fact, you might find yourself on a trip down memory lane and recall a book that you loved as a child but had since forgotten about. You might also make a new discovery of a book that will become a classic in your own family.
No matter what, you will find a selection of books that will connect with children of many ages, interests, and reading skills.
A book list is indeed a complex organism, but the goal is ultimately to inspire and encourage a healthy love for reading. As Joseph Addison said,
“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.” – Joseph Addison
Get the FREE 50 Great Books List
Click the red button below to get a FREE downloadable list of all the books on this page. The PDF is also has links to all the books, too!
Let us help you get your children started on that good life. Without further ado, here’s the list…
A Visitor for Bear
A Visitor for Bear: One of our favorite bedtime books. This precious story is about an unlikely friendship.More info →
"In an old house in Paris, that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls, in two straight lines." Thus begins one of the best loved children's books.More info →
The Snowy Day
No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child's wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.More info →
This story of a small teddy bear waiting on a department store shelf for a child’s friendship has appealed to young readers generation after generation.More info →
Make Way for Ducklings
Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston.More info →
The Little House
The little house first stood in the country, but gradually the city moved closer and closer.More info →
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Join in all the fun of the bear hunt with this magical changing picture edition of the much-loved family classic. We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. Will you come too?More info →
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the original classic by Beatrix Potter and was first published by Frederick Warne in 1902. It endures as Beatrix Potter's most popular and well-loved tale. It tells the story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor's vegetable garden!More info →
In this book, Stone Soup, three soldiers came marching down the road towards a French village. The peasants seeing them coming, suddenly became very busy, for soldiers are often hungry. So all the food was hidden under mattresses or in barns. There followed a battle of wits, with the soldiers equal to the occasion.More info →
Ox-Cart Man: "Like a pastoral symphony translated into picture book format, the stunning combination of text and illustrations recreates the mood of 19-century rural New England."—The Horn BookMore info →
Alice made a promise to make the world a more beautiful place, then a seed of an idea is planted and blossoms into a beautiful plan.More info →
Chanticleer and the Fox
King of the barnyard, Chanticleer struts about all day. When a fox bursts into his domain, dupes him into crowing, and then grabs him in a viselike grip, Chanticleer must do some quick thinking to save himself and his barnyard kingdom.More info →
When I Was Young in the Mountains
When I Was Young in the Mountains: This sweet story was a childhood favorite. Young children will love the beautiful artwork, as well.More info →
Where the Wild Things Are
One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him 'Wild Thing' and sends him to bed without his supper. That night a forest begins to grow in Max's room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are.More info →
Poetry & Other Collections
Favorite Poems Old and New
This has been our family's go-to book for poetry for two generations. Over 700 classic and modern poems written by poets from William Shakespeare to J. R. R. Tolkien, Emily Dickinson to Langston Hughes, and covering a range of favorite topics—pets, playtime, family, nature, and nonsense—ensure that there’s a poem to please every child.More info →
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers
A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers: Inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, this delightful collection of poetry for children brings to life Blake’s imaginary inn and its unusual guests.More info →
A Child’s Garden of Verses
Here is a delightful look at childhood, written by master poet and storyteller Robert Louis Stevenson. In this collection of sixty-six poems, Stevenson recalls the joys of his childhood, from sailing boats down a river, to waiting for the lamplighter, to sailing off to foreign lands in his imagination.More info →
When We Were Very Young
A classic celebration of childhood, A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young is a collection of poems that have touched the hearts of readers for more than 90 years.More info →
Tales from Shakespeare
Discover Shakespeare's best-loved plays .These tales are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's greatest plays. Charles and Mary Lamb vividly bring to life the power of Hamlet and Othello, the fun of As You Like It and the drama of Pericles.More info →
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small
Technically, there are no talking animal protagonists in this collection of stories from country veterinarian James Herriot, but these short stories are a delight to read aloud. They might even make you want to move to Yorkshire, England.More info →
The Children’s Book of Virtues
With selections from The Book of Virtues, from Aesop and Robert Frost to George Washington's life as well as Native American and African folklore, The Children's Book of Virtues brings together timeless stories and poems from around the world.More info →
The Courage of Sarah Noble
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: The Courage of Sarah Noble Book Guide!More info →
The Sign of the Beaver
Although he faces responsibility bravely, thirteen-year-old Matt is more than a little apprehensive when his father leaves him alone to guard their new cabin in the wilderness. When a renegade white stranger steals his gun, Matt realizes he has no way to shoot game or to protect himself.More info →
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.More info →
Sarah, Plain and Tall
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: Sarah, Plain and Tall Book Guide!More info →
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. Younger children will love this read aloud.More info →
A young Indian boy carves a little canoe with a figure inside and names him Paddle-to-the-Sea. Paddle's journey, in text and pictures, through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean provides an excellent geographic and historical picture of the region.More info →
If you haven't read this one as an adult, you're in for a treat. It's hilarious. Much of the subtle humor will go over a child's head, but they'll still love the funny antics and sweet characters.More info →
It's hard to choose a favorite character from Charlotte's Web. If you somehow managed to get through childhood without reading it, be sure to have a tissue nearby for the ending.More info →
The Door in the Wall
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: The Door in the Wall Book Guide!More info →
The Wind in the Willows
A charming, classic adventure story with Mole, Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad. We recommend investing in a beautifully illustrated copy for your bookshelf. Don't even think about an abridged version.More info →
In the year 1754, the stillness of Charlestown, New Hampshire, is shattered by the terrifying cries of an Indian raid. Young Miriam Willard, on a day that had promised new happiness, finds herself instead a captive on a forest trail, caught up in the ebb and flow of the French and Indian War.More info →
This classic tale continues to enchant readers of all ages! From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house.More info →
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches. Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story.More info →
The Secret Garden
Little Mary Lennox, raised in India by servants and left alone in the world after a cholera epidemic, is sent to live with an uncle she has never met in a nearly empty mansion on the edge of the Yorkshire moors.More info →
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Readers today are still fascinated by Nat, an eighteenth-century nautical wonder and mathematical wizard. Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in a sailor's world—Salem in the early days, when tall-masted ships from foreign ports crowded the wharves.More info →
My Side of the Mountain
Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude-and danger-of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.More info →
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and a hatchet.More info →
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages into a magical land with unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone read, but if you would like to explore more of the Narnian realm, pick up The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.More info →
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: Caddie Woodlawn Book Guide!More info →
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: Treasure Island Book Guide!More info →
Johnny Tremain, winner of the 1944 Newbery Medal, is one of the finest historical novels ever written for children. As compelling today as it was seventy years ago, to read this riveting novel is to live through the defining events leading up to the American Revolutionary War.More info →
Anne of Green Gables
The book recounts Anne's adventures in making a home: the country school where she quickly excels in her studies; her friendship with Diana Barry (her best or "bosom friend" as Anne fondly calls her); her budding literary ambitions; and her rivalry with classmate Gilbert Blythe, who teases her about her red hair.More info →
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met.More info →
Number the Stars
👉 Be sure to check out our accompanying guide: Number the Stars Book Guide!More info →
The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure.More info →
A Wrinkle in Time
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.More info →
Around the World in 80 Days
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne is a classic novel filled with wonder and adventure. The story begins when London native Phileas Fogg attempts to win a wager by attempting to travel around the world in 80 days. Fogg accompanied by his newly hired valet, Jean Passepartout, sets off on his adventure on October 2, 1872.More info →
Little Women is a classic tale of the four March sisters who couldn't be more different: Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy.More info →
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World
See the world in a whole new way! Acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman combines art and science in this exciting and educational guide to the structure, function, and personality of the natural world. Explore the anatomy of a jellyfish, the inside of a volcano, monarch butterfly migration, how sunsets work, and much more. An excellent book for nature journaling.More info →
Curiositree: Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature
Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature: A first introduction to the natural world that looks at the myriad ways in which plants and animals have adapted to give themselves the best chance of survival. Natural World explores and explains why living things look and behave the way they do in a series of visually compelling information charts.More info →
This is by far one of the best book lists that I have ever seen!
Thank you! We love these books, too!
Thanks for this list. There are quite a few on here I read while growing up and some I am interested in reading now. I am a grandmother now and raising two of my grandchildren. One of them is an avid reader, but the other not so much. Hopefully, I can bring some of these titles in and pique her interest in reading.
I am obsessed with good literature for both kids and grown ups! Love the list you have complied here. I have combed library sales over the last 30 years and consequently amassed quite a collection of discards from the local libraries. It’s usually the classics that get dumped first. I have a few suggestions… Alfie and Annie Rose by Shirley Hughes. Delightful stories about a young preschooler and his baby sister. The illustrations are incredible. And for your readers, don’t forget to read outloud to your kids. It’s amazing the books you can get through. Even if it’s above their reading level. My 6 year old grandson has listened to his dad read him the Hobbit not once but twice. We under estimate our kids. We really do. Blessings on your new venture – it’s sorely needed.
It’s true. We do underestimate how much a child is capable of learning!