Fifty Great Books to Read With Kids

Posted by Jade on April 26, 2014

"Again! Again!" If you've ever read a book to a child, you've heard that demand. It turns out that the little ones know what's good for them. Children whose families read together enter kindergarten with measurably stronger language skills, which makes them more likely to succeed throughout their school years. One of our favorite nonprofits, Reach Out and Read, delivers early literacy intervention to 4 million children and their families annually via pediatricians in exam rooms nationwide. During checkups, doctors hand out free books for children to take home and keep, in effect prescribing reading aloud.

In honor of Reach Out and Read's 25th anniversary, we've asked them to share a recommended book for each year that they've been in existence. And we're supplementing their already stellar picks with our own list of Goodreads members' top-rated books for each year! You can also vote for your own favorites on Goodreads Listopia!

25 Years of Children's Books
Reach Out and Read Goodreads
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
by Paul Galdone
4.10 stars

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault
4.15 stars

Caldecott award-winning illustrator Paul Galdone's fairytales are a treasure. The rich language and repetitive phrases help develop language skills, while the story encourages children to face their fears, even if you're the littlest billy goat of all. Goodreads member Krista says, "This was the first book I heard my children 'read' to themselves. The easy rhythm of the words following through the alphabet is very memorable and just plain fun to say."
What Do You Do with a Kangaroo?
by Mercer Mayer
4.07 stars

Oh, the Places You'll Go!
by Dr. Seuss
4.32 stars

Mercer Mayer's tale is a perfect chance for adults to engage a child in the story by asking: "What would you do if you came across an ever-growing crowd of rambunctious critters?" This technique, called "dialogic reading," is a great way to encourage children to solve problems and use their imaginations. Goodreads member Tatiana says, "While subbing this afternoon, I had the privilege of reading [this] to the smart 2nd grade class. They've read it before; it's one of their favorites. The narrative offers inspiring rhymes on graduating into real life and the struggles and triumphs that await you there."
Brave Irene
by William Steig
4.15 stars

If You Give a Moose a Muffin
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
4.15 stars

Can Irene save the day during a storm? This is a wonderful tale of resilience with a delightful character—a great book to share with a child in need of a boost of courage. Goodreads member Austin G says, "Children will love reading about the entertaining adventures of the young boy and his new moose friend....the story teaches children the importance of friendship, creativity, and responsibility."
Good-Night, Owl!
by Pat Hutchins
4.07 stars

The Rainbow Fish
by Marcus Pfister
4.11 stars

Owl just wants to sleep, but new animals keep arriving at his tree. Will Owl ever get to sleep? This is a cumulative tale, where naming the animals is a fun game as you get your child ready to go to bed, just like Owl. Goodreads member Hannah Edwards says, "The Rainbow Fish is about a fish that is different from the others; he has shiny scales and no one else does. After refusing and being 'selfish,' the rainbow fish eventually ends up sharing his scales with the other fish and makes friends with them, which creates happiness within."
by Kevin Henkes
4.29 stars

by Janell Cannon
4.21 stars

This is the story of a little girl with an extraordinary name she loves, until others start to tease her. The kind words and actions of a teacher give Chrysanthemum and her classmates a new perspective. This book teaches children about the power of words to hurt and heal, and how one person can make things right. Goodreads member Linda says, "Sweet story about a young bat who loses her mother after they are attacked by an owl and is subsequently adopted by a family of birds. It delightfully demonstrates how diverse creatures can coexist. The illustrations are lovely and luminescent."
Noisy Nora
by Rosemary Wells
4.00 stars

Guess How Much I Love You
by Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram
4.34 stars

How noisy can one child be?! Nora can be quite noisy, but it's when she is quiet that her absence is noticed. This is a terrific book to reassure every child that, noisy or quiet, he is loved. Goodreads member Megan Carr says, "Two hares discuss how much they love each other using the world around them to measure....The art is simple, the words are simple yet meaningful, and it is just the sweetest story to read to a little one at bedtime (or anytime)!"
Time for Bed
by Mem Fox
4.13 stars

Officer Buckle & Gloria
by Peggy Rathmann
4.13 stars

Gentle watercolors and repetitive rhymes make this collection of animal babies and their parents settling down for the night a perfect way to ease children into sleep at the end of a busy day. Goodreads member Kym Machovina says, "The way Officer Buckle's dog, Gloria, steals the show is funny and captivating....I highly recommend this book for its message of resolving hurt feelings and misunderstandings, the importance of teamwork, forgiveness and safety, safety, safety."
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
by Mem Fox
4.41 stars

Falling Up
by Shel Silverstein
4.31 stars

One little boy with a great big name, one elderly lady with a long name, and one wonderful friendship until Miss Nancy starts to forget. It is Wilfrid who helps bring back Miss Nancy's memories in this loving story about friendship and a kindness that has no boundaries. Goodreads member Ashlyn says, "I chose this book because I love reading riddle, joke, and poem books and making it funny puts the cherry on top....This book is not all fun and games. Sometimes you have to 'read the pictures' to understand the poem."
Mouse Paint
by Ellen Stoll Walsh
4.12 stars

The Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
by Simms Taback
4.16 stars

Learning about colors and how to create new colors is fun in this adventure of smart mice using paint to evade the cat. Goodreads member Typhani says, "This cleverly illustrated version of an old folk favorite will delight children. Each page is full of details and humorous asides, from the names of different types of birds, to a recipe for spider soup, to the rhyming asides from the spectating animals."
I Went Walking
by Sue Williams
3.90 stars

A Bad Case of Stripes
by David Shannon
4.21 stars

As a child goes walking in this vibrantly illustrated book, he is joined by a succession of animals. Each animal is only partially shown, offering readers the chance to guess which creature might next be following the little boy. Goodreads member Typhani says, "[This] lighthearted fantasy...explores the impact of peer pressure and social conformity on the young protagonist Camilla Cream, a lima bean enthusiast who doesn't want to be teased for her passion."
Babyfaces: Smile!
by Roberta Grobel Intrater
4.00 stars

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin
4.20 stars

Babies love to look at other babies, and this collection of full-page photos of cheerful tots is a perfect first board book to share with your baby. Goodreads member Laima says, "The drawings are funny and the story is outrageous. What young child doesn't like funny animal stories?! I'm not surprised that this book earned a Caldecott Honor."
by Nicola Smee
3.94 stars

by Ian Falconer
4.14 stars

Come along for the ride in this happy board book of a growing list of riders on a patient horse. Goodreads member Gregory Beard says, "As picture books go, you can't do much better than the thoroughly charming Olivia. The young pig is sure to endear herself to you with her winning personality and excess of sass."
Over in the Meadow
by Ezra Jack Keats
4.13 stars

The Three Pigs
by David Wiesner
4.13 stars

This classic rhyme by Olive Wadsworth is matched by Keats' timeless artwork. The rich vocabulary, rhyming, and repetition help children develop their language skills as they enjoy what goes on over in the meadow. Goodreads member Jean says, "Wiesner's retelling of the story with a very creative twist, coupled with the beautiful artwork, make this book a must-have for a good children's collection."
Hush! A Thai Lullaby
by Minfong Ho
3.87 stars

Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson
4.22 stars

Rich illustrations fill this simple story of a mother trying to shush the creatures—from lizards to elephants—so that her baby can sleep. Amid the growing number of animals in need of shushing, it turns out that it is the mother who needs to sleep. Goodreads member Jean says, "During the harsh moments of winter, several small creatures discover the warm cave of a hibernating bear....This is a fun look at winter's cooped-up days, at cooperative survival, and diverse friendships."
by Jez Alborough
4.07 stars

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
by Mo Willems
4.29 stars

Bobo just wants a hug but no one seems to understand him. It's not until he reaches his mother that Bobo get what he needs. Children can follow the story by looking at the expression on Bobo's face. Hug provides a great opportunity for you and your child to talk about what he would do to help Bobo. Goodreads member Lacey Ellison says, "A picture storybook about a persistent pigeon who constantly begs, pleads, whines, and yells in an attempt to get the reader to allow him to drive the bus while the bus driver is out."
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes...
by Annie Kubler
3.61 stars

Kitten's First Full Moon
by Kevin Henkes
4.05 stars

Roly-poly toddlers play this familiar game of naming body parts in this playful board book that will have young readers mimicking the actions on the pages. It's fun from head to toe! Goodreads member Sunhi says, "This is an adorably illustrated and sweet story of a kitten that just wants the bowl of milk sitting in the sky...if your child is also obsessed with the moon, it might be a nice break from Goodnight Moon."
Owl Babies
by Martin Waddell
4.17 stars

Llama Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney
4.25 stars

Where's mommy? When's mommy coming back? Children (and parents) undergoing separation anxiety can empathize with the three little owl babies fretting over their mother's whereabouts. Mommy, of course, returns to her relieved and delighted babies. Goodreads member Ale says, "One of the best bedtime stories to read to a little one. It lets us know that being afraid of going to bed and not having your mommy there with you is OK. It's how we handle the situation—that's what counts."
How I Became a Pirate
by Melinda Long
4.04 stars

by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann
4.01 stars

Jeremy Jacob joins Braid Beard's merry band of pirates and cheerfully embraces a life with no bedtimes, table manners, or tiresome rules, but then he realizes that pirates don't get tucked into bed or have bedtime stories read. Goodreads member Alli says, "This book is not only pink, it is hilarious and filled with amazing pictures inside. [It] is obviously [geared] toward girls because of all the pink, but the little catch with her little brother is a very creative and interesting way to intertwine boys into the pink book."
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?
by Eric Carle
3.88 stars

Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine
4.41 stars

Of course a kangaroo has a mother, too—just like you! Animal babies and their mothers are featured for you and your baby to name and match together. And the other thing about the kangaroo's mother? She loves him just like your mother loves you! Goodreads member Alli says, "I loved how Ellen Levine made this story extremely dramatic and breathtaking...I was really moved by Henry's loss of his family...and I was so amazed at how Henry escaped slavery by mailing himself in a box to freedom because that idea sounded so ingenious and risky."
Lola at the Library
by Anna McQuinn
3.90 stars

Splat the Cat
by Rob Scotton
4.08 stars

What is Lola's favorite day? It's the day each week when Lola and her mother visit the library. There are story hours and books galore to choose and take home to read. Share this cozy story about the joys of sharing books with the preschooler in your life. Goodreads member Jean Brodahl says, "Amazing illustrations that just pop off the page, the cat's hair is amazing, and the story is excellent! Such a great book for kids starting school...we will read it at the beginning of school every year now, I'm sure! "
Bunny My Honey
by Anita Jeram
4.01 stars

The Lion and the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
4.24 stars

A tender story of a lost little bunny being sought (and found) by his mother. Look for the delightful details in the illustrations, such as the mother's ears sticking up in the grass or the bunny's face peeking out from among the ferns. This is a great book to read to a child in need of a little reassurance. Goodreads member Jackie "the Librarian" says, "This is a really wonderful wordless telling of the Aesop's fable, with the lion and the mouse both depicted with real character and humor. I love Jerry Pinkney's watercolors, and the way he populates his pictures not just with the title characters, but a delightful assortment of animals from the African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya."
by Kristine O'Connell George
3.57 stars

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
by Eric Litwin
4.42 stars

This charmingly illustrated board book celebrates books! See what a book can mean to a young child as he takes his favorite book with him everywhere. You'll recognize scenes from your own home in this joyous story of a boy and his book. Goodreads member Ellary says, "It's hard to tell if it's Pete's glass-is-half-full outlook on life or Mama's rendition of "I Love My White Shoes" to the tune of "La Cucaracha," but Pete's amusingly messy journey with his once-white shoes is a heartwarming story not to be missed."
Eating the Rainbow: A Colorful Food Book
by Rena D. Grossman
4.21 stars

I Want My Hat Back
by Jon Klassen
4.37 stars

Good eating habits start early. In this board book filled with colorful photos of children enjoying a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, readers will find a great introduction to healthy eating. Goodreads member Maciek says, "I am happy to report that I Want My Hat Back is a total hoot and I had a blast reading, especially because it had a delicious twist ending which I did not expect and which is likely to amuse (and surprise) both the big and the small."
Lullaby Moon
by Rosie Reeve
4.12 stars

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
4.04 stars

Follow mother mouse and her baby through their day until it is time to say good night. The illustrations in this book are filled with cozy moments perfect for you and your baby to end your busy day together. This is a good story for teaching children the sequence of events and that we all must rest. Goodreads member Kevin J. Doyle says, "A young girl finds a box of yarn that just never seems to run out. She knits lovely sweaters for herself, her friends, her dog, her friend's dog, the buildings in her town, the cars in her town, the trees in her town, and more and more."
Little Owl's Night
by Divya Srinivasan
3.82 stars

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt
4.41 stars

Do you live with a night owl who struggles with the idea of having to go to bed? Little Owl enjoys his life in the woods at night alongside his friends, as insects hum and frogs croak, but he wonders what happens during the daytime while he sleeps. Through this book, children will enjoy learning about what happens after dark when they are tucked into bed. Goodreads member Dani says, "The creative premise, the charming illustrations, the hilarious individual letters from the crayons-on-strike all served to make this gamble from the library a book we're now buying for our favorites shelf."

What's your child's favorite bedtime book? Tell us in the comments or add it to this list!

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen Anything at all by Julia Donaldson Sharing A Shell, The Snail & The Whale, Zog, Tabby McTat, The Smartest Giant, A Squash & A Squeeze, Room on The Broom, not to mention Stick Man, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, The Highway Rat. The woman is a genius.

message 2: by Barbara (last edited Apr 28, 2014 02:09PM) (new)

Barbara My favorite picture book read-alouds while teaching were the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and Thomas' Snowsuit by Robert Munsch. (Show the illustrations after reading the page for the best results.) More recently added was There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea by Jennifer Ward, with its very funny illustrations. For a scary treat, my students often requested The Tailypo: a Ghost Story by Joanna C. Galdone. Must be read with a "spooky" voice!

message 3: by Tara (new)

Tara "Press Here" by Herve Tullet, "The Little Mouse, Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear" by Audrey Wood, and pretty much anything by Robert Munsch, especially "Alligator Baby" and "Smelly Socks".

message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy I miss Cynthia Rylant's "Mr. Putter and Tabby" books, "Goodnight Gorilla", and Richard Scarry's "Best Word Book Ever", which is the best book for spontaneous reading... both my children learned to read their first words from that book.

message 5: by Judi (new)

Judi Caplan There are so many wonderful, magical children's (and adult) books to read and share. Some of my favorites are:
At Mary Blooms
Good Night Owl
James Stevenson's Grandfather Books
John Burningham
Holly Keller
James Marshall
The Talking Eggs
Tina Schart Hyman
Lisbeth Zwerger
Mr Magnolia
Wanda Gag's Grimm and More Grimm
Millions Of Cats
Warwick Hutton
Twelve Dancing Princesses by Le Cain
How The World Got Its Color
Happy Winter
Sleepy Bear
Good As New
Odette A Bird In Paris by Fender/Dumas
Quilts In The Attic
Teeny Tiny
Oh A Hunting We Will Go
Anita Lobel
Arnold Lobel
Do Not Open
Miss Rumphius
Kate's Quilt
William's Doll
Sleeping Ugly
A Special Trade
The Story Book Prince
Dorin And The Dragon
Clementina's Cactus
One Hunter
Thump Thump Thump
Lucritia The Unbearable

These are just some of my MOST favorite "friends." They have served
me, my children and many children that I know and have known very well!

message 6: by Kristen (new)

Kristen anything at all by Nancy Tillman for bedtime... and anything by Sandra Boynton for Silly Fun anytime. :)

message 7: by Ming (new)

Ming this is the most diverse posting I've seen on GR. but I do hope it continues and improves. we truly need more diverse books. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

message 8: by Judi (new)

Judi Caplan Ming wrote: "this is the most diverse posting I've seen on GR. but I do hope it continues and improves. we truly need more diverse books. #WeNeedDiverseBooks"

message 9: by Judi (new)

Judi Caplan I love the art of Children's Literature. The list given was only a partial one. I could go on forever!
I think that all genres of good literature is a gift to mankind. I love to share my favorites!

message 10: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Brown Oh yes I love reading children books. The stories are refreshing everytime your read. Hey people if you like to put up your short stories for a global story contest then there is one ongoing at Tallenge- It's free to enter. Winner gets $100. Do check it out!

message 11: by Ming (new)

Ming 'In response to the controversy that erupted last month over the lack of diversity in its schedule, BookCon has added a panel titled “The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks” to its programming lineup.' (GR, and what will you do? can you do better than one panel?)

message 12: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Sigman I love to read The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan by Beatrix Potter. The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan by Beatrix Potter My kids loved it, my niece loved it, and I think it's the best story Beatrix Potter wrote.

message 13: by Ming (new)

Ming and We Need Diverse Books at:


message 14: by Miranalini (new)

Miranalini I love reading Indian Comics which are immensely creative and entertaining

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