20 Fantastic Books for Kids Learning to Read

Here is a list of excellent books for parents, teachers and librarians to share with kids who are learning to read.

As a parent, my main goal when reading aloud to my kids is not to teach my kids to read. Instead, my main goal is to share my love of reading with my kids in hopes that they too learn to love books. I want my kids to become lifelong readers and have no interest in sacrificing that goal in the interest of teaching them to read a little sooner.

To ensure that reading remains fun, I do not make my kids sound out words that they are not interested in sounding out or read books that they do not want to read (unless a sibling picks them out). I believe that if kids enjoy story time and have access to good books and adults who enthusiastically read books aloud to them, they will learn to read when they are ready.

That said, here are 20 books that my kids enjoy and have helped them learn to read. I hope that your kids enjoy reading these books too!

For teaching kids the sounds letters make:

Creature abc by Andrew Zuckerman. Alphabet books can be valuable for teaching kids the sounds that letters make — but only if they are fun to read! Creature abc is fun; it features amazing animal photographs and an entertaining format. On one page is a letter (e.g. “Aa”) and a photograph of an animal’s body part (e.g. an alligator’s hand). When I read this book, I make the letter’s sound, and my kids guess what animal they will see on the following page. For more alphabet book recommendations, see 7 Awesome Alphabet Books. Ages 1+

Puddle’s ABCs by Holly Hobbie. Puddle’s ABCs is another fantastic alphabet book. It contains a story in which Holly Hobbie’s adorable character Puddle teaches his friend Otto the letters of the alphabet and how to write his name. This story conveys the excitement of learning to read and write and encourages children to begin looking more closely at words. Ages 2+

I Spy Letters by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick. While I do not love I Spy Letters, my kids’ enthusiasm for this book suggests that it is worth reading. Most pages feature two large letters surrounded by pictures of a variety of items that start with the two letters. Kids can figure out which of the items begin with each letter. Ages 2+

For teaching kids to sound out entire words:

Charlie Parker played be bop by Chris Raschka. A fun rhyme about Charlie Parker and be bop that includes simple words in big, bold letters that kids can sounds out. Many of the “words” in this book make no sense, so kids are forced to work on sounding them out. E.g. “Be bop. Zznn. Zznn. Lollipop. Boomba. Boomba.” Ages 1+

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. On one hand, First the Egg is a simple concept book that is perfect for toddlers. On the other hand, Seegers’ visual trickery also entertains older kids who are learning to read. This is a great book for teaching kids to sound out words because it highlights a word on each page. When reading “First the EGG, then the CHICKEN,” it is natural to slow down and sound out “EGG” and “CHICKEN” for you child. Ages 1+

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. While author Robert McCloskey did not intend Make Way for Ducklings to be an early reader, he chose names for the eight ducklings in this story that are perfect for your budding reader to sound out: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack and Quack. Once your child has mastered the duckling names, she can try reading the captions. Ages 3+

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills. In this sweet story about a yellow bird teaching Rocket the dog to read, kids are encouraged to learn to read and given the opportunity to sound out words one letter at a time. E.g. “D-I-G” and “W-I-N-D”. Ages 3+

Curious George: Curious About Phonics by Catherine Hapka. A set of 12 simple stories featuring Curious George. Each book introduces readers to a couple new sounds. These books are more challenging for emerging readers to read themselves than the Bob books (which progress very slowly from one story to the next), but they are more fun! Ages 3+

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Along with Hop on PopGreen Eggs and Ham is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books for emerging readers. This book’s repetition can get old: “That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!” However, when my kids request this book incessently, I know that this is a sign that things are clicking in their little brains; they are beginning to associate the words on the page with the words they hear me reading. Ages 4+

First stories for kids to read themselves:

Hug by Jez Alborough. I cannot recommend Jez Alborough’s books about Bobo highly enough! These books (Hug, Tall, and Yes) star a lovable chimpanzee and are told with a handful of easy-to-sound-out words. Reading these books has given my kids a lot of confidence. Ages 2+

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. A humorous story about a gorilla that escapes from the zoo and lets out the other animals. This book is nearly a wordless picture book but does use the words “good night.” Good Night Gorilla has been a hit with all three of my kids. Ages 2+

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. Like Hug and Good Night Gorilla, Orange Pear Apple Bear is told with only a few words: orange, pear, apple and bear. Kids will learn to use visual cues to help them read this book. Ages 3+

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Hop on Pop begins with words that are accessible to a child who has never sounded out words before: “UP PUP Pup is up…” Each page of Hop on Pop contains a stand alone joke, so your new reader is immediately rewarded when she is able to sound out a few words. In our house, I save Hop on Pop until my kids are ready to read the first few pages by themselves with a little effort. Then, they have the opportunity to decipher the text without having already memorized it. Ages 4+

Wordless picture books:

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. A Ball for Daisy has a simple plot that is fairly easy for first time readers of wordless picture books to understand. Chris Raschka convincingly conveys Daisy’s emotions when her ball is first destroyed and then replaced by another dog. Ages 3+

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage. A walrus escapes from the zoo and hides from a zookeeper in a variety of funny places. This is my 5-year-old daughter’s favorite wordless picture book, and I can understand why she loves it. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite childhood books: The Moose is Loose by Mike Thaler in which a moose escapes from the zoo and hides from a zookeeper in a variety of funny places. Ages 3+

Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids find magic sidewalk chalk at a playground. When they begin drawing, their pictures come to life. Ages 4+

Flotsam by David Wiesner. David Wiesner skillfully tells a fanciful tale about a boy who discovers an underwater camera washed up on a beach. When the boy develops film from the camera, he is amazed to discover where the camera has been. Ages 5+

For kids who have begun reading independently:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems. Be sure to take a look at Mo Willems entire series of Elephant and Piggie books if you have a new reader. With humor and fantastic illustrations, Willems keeps kids engaged while telling stories with simple vocabulary. Ages 4+


Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. A collection of five, often-humorous, short stories about two best friends Frog and Toad. Frog and Toad Together has well-developed characters; lovely, muted illustrations; and stories with creative, quirky plots. See also Frog and Toad Are Friends, Days with Frog and Toad, and Frog and Toad All Year. Ages 4+

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. In I Want My Hat Back, a bear searches in vain for his lost hat. Readers will realize before the bear that they have seen the bear’s hat. This story’s humor will entertain 1st and 2nd graders. Ages 5+

You may also be interested in:

Pinterest: Learning to Read

This entry was posted in Ages 2+, Ages 3+, Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

101 Responses to 20 Fantastic Books for Kids Learning to Read

  1. Judi Jaques says:

    Children will show a great interest in books if you engage book reading and interaction with books with them. Young children who haven’t yet learnt the skill of reading will still enjoy flipping through interactive and imaginable books with bright colors and a lot of humor.

  2. FirstStepReading.com is a great program to teach a child to read.

  3. Adrianne says:

    Animalia is also an excellent one to help with letter recognition.

  4. web gia re says:

    Thanks for sharing a great list, Amy.

  5. 1tour says:

    I say this as a fervent atheist – That looks amazing.

    Joe Kubert art would probably have made sure I paid more attention at Sunday School and veered away from the questions like “If I die, will I go to the same heaven that my dog goes to?”

    To be fair, they dealt with that fairly diplomatically by telling me that it wasn’t going to a problem I would have to deal with.

  6. Cheryl Smith says:

    I never make kids read the words that they are not interested in either. They lose the love of reading if they struggle too much. Reading should be enjoyable and if it’s not they could lose out on so much.

  7. These sound great. I find it a struggle to find books for the very earliest of readers that are not deathly boring. I mostly just have my daughter sound out words or sight-read words that are in books that are otherwise way beyond her reading level but it would be great to have her read a whole book herself! By the way, it was nice meeting you at KidLitCon!

  8. Thanks for sharing a great list, Amy. Lots that we’ve read already and lots of new suggestions!

  9. C.D. says:

    Lovely books, I’d like to be a child again to enjoy them! Thank you for sharing,
    Artphalt (http://artphalt.wordpress.com)

  10. Hug is my little boys favourite story followed by Tall! One of his first words was ‘Bobo’ and he reads it to himself pointing to Bobo and saying his name. We’ll have to try some of your other suggestions when we go to the library this week.

  11. What a great blog–so glad I found you via TragicSandwich.com! I’m a 40+ year-old mom of toddlers/preschoolers, and I compiled this list of “Twelve Over Forty”-twelve great kid’s books over forty years old on my blog, superherounderpants.com: http://superherounderpants.com/2011/10/30/the-literary-superheros-list-of-olde-reads/

  12. Tiffany says:

    Dr. Seuss books make a great bonding time for parent and child. As a young adult, I still love pick up Oh The Places You’ll Go everytime I see it at the bookstore.

  13. Kip Soton says:

    Reblogged this on Kip McGrath Southampton's Blog and commented:
    Thanks for these great suggestions.

  14. Jude says:

    Some great books there. Let me add Blueberries for Sal, The Mitten, Caps for Sale, and The Runaway Bunny.

  15. Sarah Harris says:

    I agree that teaching them to love reading is the most significant part and specifics will follow. My son is now 11 and just competed in Battle of the Books – like the Olympics for Readers an loved it! I love that my kids are as excited to dive into good books as much as new video games. I can’t wait to check out the rest of your site!!

  16. Your objective of reading your child is what we try to instill in our Kindergarten students at our school. It’s nice to know that our goals in school are carried out at home as well. Your children are lucky to have you.

  17. frivolousfluffy says:

    I was so happy to see Frog and Toad in your list. They were my son’s favorites. My husband read to him every night and did different voices for each character. Before he was four years old, our son was reading to us. And even today, at 26, he still goes to the library almost every week. Thanks for that memory.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks for sharing this nice memory. My dad was asked to read a favorite picture book to a group of college students not too long ago, and he chose a Frog and Toad book. He asked if I thought it was a good choice (this was pre-book blog), and I said “yes, of course.” We both have fond memories of reading the Frog and Toad books when I was a kid.

  18. Monica says:

    Nice selection! I loved some of these books as a kid and some of them even more as an adult! It took a kiddie lit class in college to open my eyes to the beauty of children’s picture books. I remember studying some of the books on this list. Nice post!

  19. hangryhippo says:

    This is a great list. I work with kids who are just learning to read, and you’re absolutely right–instilling the love of reading in them is much more important than right now understanding the nuances of reading (like getting every single word right). Thanks so much for sharing!

  20. Meenakshi says:

    Thank you ever so much for sharing this! I am a mother to a one-year old, and your blog is a great resource. I used to love some of those books when I was growing up. I remember the duckling story and who doesn’t love Dr Seuss?

  21. AWAIS VASSI says:

    so cute littel girl so cute

  22. Anonymous says:

    Great list thanks

  23. My child loved I Want My Hat Back

  24. Great list. My 4 yr old is currently a mini book addict which is great so I keep giving him books to keep him interested.

  25. pregnancyhealthtips says:

    Look great books-especially How Rocket Learned to Read-My daughter would love that one

  26. I’m not a parent, teacher or librarian but I want to introduce my nieces and nephews to the joy of books and reading. For one of my young nieces, I plan to buy a special book for her birthday each year. I hope she will grow up to enjoy reading as much as her aunt does.
    Books are very special and there are some great suggestions here. :) Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  27. Lovely list that throws up such wonderful options to pick up for the children over the summer. Thanks! Am sharing a link to this on my blog http://www.sharmanatasha.com

  28. Dreamz Infra says:

    Good… great list of books

  29. I am from New Zealand and we have some fantastic authors here. All six of my children have loved Margaret Mahy, especially A Lion in the Meadow, also The Witch in the Cherry Tree. Lovely words, great imagination, and cope with being read ad nauseum, Also very good, the Lynley Dodd books – Hairy Maclairy from Donaldson’s Dairy and his friends. Rhyming stories, very catchy, plenty of room for sound effects. And for slightly older children, Captain Abdul’s Pirate School by Colin McNaughton always gets the children chuckling. We have many other favourites, but those really stand out.

  30. Claudia says:

    I think it’s awesome that you included wordless picture books on this list. I think such books are undervalued a lot of the time, when in reality they can be used with children who want to “explore” the book by pointing out objects and having the adult tell them the word or tell them about the object, or with (maybe slightly older?) children who would enjoy putting their own words to the story.

    Excellent post!

    • Have you run across “Amanda’s Butterly” by Nick Butterworth? One of my most favourite wordless picture books!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks! I plan to write a booklist solely of wordless picture books. I find wordless picture books challenging to read with the kids, but I love watching my daughter reading them to herself now. They are valuable for developing other reading skills aside from sounding out words.

  31. workingmommawithababy says:

    Love this list! I am a reading fanatic and always looking for suggestions to get my little one interested in reading, too. Thank you!

  32. A woman's expression says:

    This is just what I was looking for, thanks for sharing this book list

  33. triptracker says:

    I have a whole stack of I Spy books in my classroom and they still love them even in middle school. Great post and great books on your list

  34. mackerelskies says:

    Good advice! I absolutely learned to read from being read to – nobody even knew I could read until I was already doing so. My mom loves to tell the story, because basically I claimed I could read something, my parents said “dude, no you can’t” and I said “dude, totally can” and proceeded to read whatever it was to the both of them. They tested me on a couple of other things and that was that – I went into kindergarten already having won half the battle. I have fond memories of Make Way For Ducklings and many, many Dr. Seuss books. I also fondly remember “There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book.” And later on, when my mother read classics such as The Secret Garden to us when we went to bed. Not to mention the glory of eventually getting to choose (to some extent) my own books – Choose Your Own Adventure books filled with little torn pieces of paper where I’d bookmarked every choice in order to go back and try again when I was finished the one path (I bet Frost would have loved CYOA books) – and the full set of Nancy Drews which a relative was kind enough to gift me with – and on and on in a glorious never-ending discovery of new stories – which I continue to this very day, on which I currently have 39 books checked out of the library, and let’s not even talk about the newest ones I got from the used bookstore the other day. ;)

    Uh… in short, what I’m saying is “teaching the love of books is most definitely a great way to encourage more reading!”

    • Amy says:

      My son was the same way. I had been reading to him, sounding out words, and pointing to words as I read them, but I had no idea what he was or was not picking up. One day, I didn’t have the time to read a brand new book that he’d received as a present, and he broke out and read it with expression and everything. He had just turned four. My daughter is now five, and I do not know how close she is to reading independently. I don’t quiz her or ask her to sound things out too often. However, when I see how much she enjoys books, when I hear her “reading” books in her bedroom when she’s supposed to be sleeping, I am completely confident that she will read in due time.

  35. This is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
    ♥ Love and light ♥

  36. dearfriends says:

    I’m so glad that they Freshly Pressed your blog! I want to read more, as I am a writer of children’s stories–it’s always good to know what kids respond to. Thanks, Barb

  37. Revel says:

    Thanks for this list — it helps to hear book recommendations from other parents/kids’ book readers, since it’s impossible to test drive them all.

    Here’s one to add to your list for ages 3 and up (but my daughter’s two and it suits her fine — I think the age thing is rather arbitrary): “The Letters are Lost” by Lisa Campbell Ernst. It’s a story of a full set of block letters that disappear from their box, one by one (something all parents can relate to), and the reader sets out to find them, one by one. Each illustration has plenty to discover but is not overwhelming. This one is on frequent rotation here.

  38. joycebowling says:

    Great post, I teach first grade and am always interested in finding new books to read to my students! Have you read The Pout Pout Fish? An fun book that the kids always enjoy!

  39. PragmaticMom says:

    These are all such great picks. I have read many of them but now I want to read the rest that I haven’t. Chalk is on my list … thanks!

  40. Excellent! I was just looking for more books. My son (age 5.5) has just exploded into reading. As in, Bob books were hard a couple months ago, and now he’s trying to read my mail half successfully. He has been enjoying the “Fly Guy” books. I think he’d like “I Want My Hat Back.”

    Thanks for the list!

  41. lijiujiu says:

    Excellent post.
    Great list of books! And this is really a good work. I appreciate your efforts behind that. As a monther, thanks for sharing.

  42. Jennifer Willms says:

    This is a wonderful list! We have many of them, but I’m looking forward to getting more. A recent acquisition of ours, Flotsam, is really growing on me, and I am enjoying all the wordless books more than I used to. They used to be a challenge (in a difficult way), but now it’s a fun challenge. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not nearly as sleep deprived as I used to be…

    • Amy says:

      Thanks, Jennifer! Honestly, wordless picture books are still not my favorites to read aloud. I sometimes try to get my kids to read them to me instead. I always stick a few wordless picture books by my 5-year-old daughter’s bed along, and she seems to really enjoy reading them to herself during rest time.

  43. You can’t go wrong with any Dr. Seuss books. They’re all amazing!

  44. preschooluniverse says:

    I love Creature ABC. The photos are amazing!

  45. jmsabbagh says:

    It was nice to read all those book choices.Beautiful job.Best regards.


  46. rynnasaryonnah says:

    Hello there! I’m a preschool teacher and I find this list really useful – I haven’t heard of most of the titles you’ve listed but I’ll definitely look out for them now. Unfortunately where I work, the kids are thought to read using this reading programme called GINN. I don’t really like it. At the end of a term, they can read twelve books from the series but not “real” books. =(

  47. hcfbutton says:

    That’s a fantastic list. My current favorite new kids books are: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and the Scaredy Squirrel series. Scaredy Squirrel is awesome because it also shows planning, and how to talk about what you’re afraid of, and how to embrace life when it doesn’t go your way.

    Happy Reading!

  48. pezcita says:

    I don’t have kids yet, but I can see how choosing the right early readers is really important. Even some of us adult book lovers remember disliking the first books we read for school because they were “dumb” or “dull” or out of touch with reality. I’m glad you found a way around that problem!

  49. Katie H. says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions! I requested many of them from the library, and look forward to seeing which ones would be good additions to my first-grade classroom.

    • Amy says:

      My son is a 1st grader and loves all books by Mo Willems, Orange Pear Apple Bear, the Frog and Toad books, First the Egg, and I Want My Hat Back. He learned to read when he was little, but these all still entertain him. Also, be sure to take a look at the Geisel Award winners if you have not done so already. The Geisel Award has been given out since 2006, and the list of award winners is perfect for a 1st grade classroom full of kids who have just begun to read independently.

  50. I found some titles and authors I had not heard of before. I love the blogging community! Thanks for sharing!! My kids’ and my favorites are listed here: http://futureflyingsaucers.wordpress.com/book-recommendations/

  51. Kathy Trau says:

    Hi Amy-What a great list of books-as well a website! Put your hand to your brow and be on the lookout for Alphabetty on the horizon (she’ll be the one sporting a full length dress sporting the alphabet!) Alphabetty and her Alphabet Adventure was really written to blend whimsy with early reading skills. Look for her in the Fall of 2012…….I think you’re going to love her!

  52. Anonymous says:

    A couple of posts back I spotlighted fave picture books. I see some are on your list as well. I love introducing books to young readers!
    Happy Pages,

  53. Naomi says:

    Thanks for compiling such a great list! As a mother of a beginning reader and a librarian who recommends books to other beginning readers, I think you’re right on the money with your suggestions. I’m keeping this list as a handy reference for new readers.

  54. knucklefish says:

    I’m an elementary literacy tutor, and my early readers love the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. After they read through the book on their own, we take parts and read it together!

  55. librarina says:

    I love the “Flip-a-Word” series of easy readers by Harriet Ziefert. My son started reading like crazy once he caught on to the concept of “letter families.” I recommend these books all the time to beginning readers at my library and the parents/grandparents always report back that their kids loved them too.

  56. Love these suggestions. Thank you. And also – love that idea that reading books is about enjoying books, not about sounding out every word and making it work.

  57. Nicole says:

    Every kid has to read “Frog and Toad!”

  58. meganchapple says:

    I think the Hungry Caterpillar’s always good. I’ve brought it as a present for two kids now and I sneakily have a read through them as well to remind me of my childhood

  59. Angela Muse says:

    Green Eggs and Ham was the first book I learned to read! Great list!

  60. samacwns says:

    I shelve the Mo Willems books all the time! They are soooo cute!! And I remember reading and loving Frog and Toad, and the Doctor Suess. :D

  61. When I teach kids to read, I hand them a book and a cattle prod and ask them “Which one do you want to get to know?”
    That’s the reason they don’t let me parent any more.

  62. nazarioartpainting says:

    I am a big fans of short stories. I remember my first book: ” Erase una vez bajo los Yagrumos by Angeles Pastor” It is a Spanish book from a Puerto Rican author. I still have that book I love it.

  63. Robyn says:

    wonderful list, I’m pinning several of these books

  64. jonahstowe says:

    This is a great list! My daughter and I have already enjoyed several of these, but she’s on the verge of being ready to start sounding out words herself. We’ll have to get our hands on a few of these to get started.

  65. A co-worker and I performed two Mo Willems stories at a preschool this morning. Those books are perfect for early readers.

    I recently read A Ball for Daisy-what a wonderful way to tell a story!

    Thanks for the post, this is a great resource for early literacy :)

  66. lascarletcat says:

    I vaguely remember reading these…may I recommend Sweet Dreams Stories? I don’t know if it’s still out there, but that’s how I learnt to read when I was really tiny.

  67. Britney says:

    This is a great list! I really need to pick up some new books to help my daughter learn what the abc’s look like.

  68. styleggirl says:

    This is amazing! I used Dick and Jane too… Great Blog :-)

  69. What a great blog! :) I’m an avid collector of children’s books, so your blog is a great resource, not just for finding books I love but for my two sons as well! Thanks so much for sharing!

  70. stern786 says:

    No way! Do not let your kids read Frog and Toad! It is the most boring book ever! I really did not enjoy it. Now, on the other hand, Good Night Gorilla was an amazing book! Altogether, a very nice list. I always loved Hop on Pop, too. Great post!

    • mindbde2soul says:

      To each their own. I loved Frog and Toad and many of my students did too. Especially when they tried to fly a kite.

  71. I love Mo Willems, especially when working with special needs and younger kids. The pigeon books are so marvelously interactive.

  72. This brought back so many memories…my kids are now 9 and 12, so it’s been a while since I’ve thought about these wonderful books!

    Hop on Pop is my all-time fave. I could recite it from memory if asked.


  73. jaqbuncad says:

    Here from the Freshly Pressed page – love these suggestions! I wanted to mention, though, that my kids found the concept of Chalk to be a little distressing; they were all right for the first bits, but the way the creatures wash away in the rain freaked them out a little. Still, I’m looking forward to picking up some of the others (Good Night Gorilla looks great; they love animals).

  74. Mary says:

    Great list! So glad to see Charlie Parker Played Bebop included.

  75. Perogyo says:

    What a fabulous list of books! I am going to order Hug right now for my beginning reader son.

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