Favorite Books for Kids by Age

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When my first neice was born, I already had three daughters ages 7, 4, and 8 months.  By the time her first birthday rolled around, I had been at this parenting thing long enough to watch the small basket of baby toys grow to a house-full in the blink of an eye.

There are a million and two adorable, wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, educational, affordable toys for our kids.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends can easily go overboard buying gifts for the much-loved, precious little additions to our families.

As much as I wanted to be the cool aunt who gave the very coolest gift, I knew that flashy and cool wears off.  And I loved my sister-in-law enough to not fill her home with flashy toys.

So I started a new tradition.

Every year on her birthday, I give my niece a book with a short handwritten note inside about why that book is special.

No, I don’t get the wide-eyed, excited reaction when my gift is opened, but I know that she will be making memories as her mom or dad holds her close and reads to her.  I know that she will someday read the notes in the cover and know that Aunt Tina really loved her and thought about her.

We continued the tradition when my nephew was born two years ago.

Some years, it’s hard to think of a book to buy.  Most years, it’s hard to narrow it down!  I’ve compiled a list of titles my family enjoys so I can reference it when the birthday party invitations arrive.

If you have any birthdays or baby showers coming up and need a meaningful gift, I hope you’ll consider a book! And if you don’t, well, I thought, with summer coming up, a new book might be a great surprise for your own kiddos.  Encourage summer reading and celebrate the change of season!

Baby Shower/Birth/Infant

Neighborhood Animals from Baby Einstein is my favorite baby book.  Infants love the real photos and cartoon illustrations.  I love that the book uses complete sentences and questions.  It’s a great language builder! This one can be a little hard to find. Classics like Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are excellent too!

B is for Bear: This alphabet book is one my son enjoyed from the earliest days.  Not only does it have the alphabet and sounds, it has rhyming text and  Touch and Feel interaction.

One Year Old

You are My I Love You:  This sweet rhyming book is full of opposites that showcase the beautiful relationship between a parent and child. “I am your parent; you are my child.  I am your quiet place; you are my wild.”

Alpha Bravo Charlie: This is one of the coolest alphabet books I’ve ever seen.  Using the military alphabet and cool, military inspired illustrations, this book introduces letter sounds in an exciting and engaging way.

If Kisses Were Colors: I just adore the illustrations in this book.  Alison Jay’s gorgeous artwork is the perfect accompaniment to Janet Lawler’s metaphorical love note. “If kisses were colors, you’d have everyone of the bands of the rainbow that shines in the sun.”

I am a Bunny: This classic from my childhood has been a favorite of our family’s for years.  The simple text follows Nicholas the bunny through the seasons.  Nature’s beauty is on display in Richard Scarry’s artwork and story.

Two Years Old

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Bill Martin Jr. has a way with rhythm of words that is very engaging to preschoolers.  Everyone knows how to read along and rock with the rhythm of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  Another great way to introduce the alphabet in a story that everyone loves.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?   More of Bill Martin Jr.’s fantastic rhythm and repeat storytelling.  Children and teachers have loved Brown Bear for years.  The predictability and rhyme boosts early literacy.  The fun colors and animals are appealing to 2 year olds.

What Makes a Rainbow? This is such a cool book.  Each page features one color of the rainbow, engaging text, and best of all, a bright ribbon that stretches across the page.  At the end of the book there is a full rainbow made of the ribbons and then a pop-up rainbow to finish it off.  Very colorful and fun!

Where the Wild Things Are: A classic.  The simple, poetic text and unique artwork fascinates everyone.

Three Years Old

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus:  Three-year-olds will appreciate the hilarity of telling the pigeon “no” ask he asks again and again if he can drive the bus. Mo Willems humor can’t be beat.

Drummer Hoff:  “Corporal Farrel brought the barrel.  Private Parriage brought the carriage. But Drummer Hoff fired it off.”  The rhyming scheme of this book is very fun.

Skippyjon Jones:  What a character!  The original Skippyjon Jones is a favorite in our house for the interesting turn of phrase as well as the silly story.


Four Years Old

Olivia: Headstrong Olivia is an inspiration and a hoot!  Seeing the world through her eyes is something almost all children (and adults) can relate to.

Morris Goes to School:  My dad read this to us as kids with a goofy voice for Morris.  Continuing the tradition with my kids, they find it as hilarious as my siblings and I did.  Morris’s adventures in school are laughable.  Four-year-olds will love correcting him and seeing how he manages in a classroom built for children.

The Giving Tree:  Your child may not appreciate this as much as you do, but there’s something quite mesmerizing about the tree giving everything she has for the love of her boy.

Little Quack:  Is it a story book or a math lesson?  It’s hard to tell with Little Quack.  The counting and addition lessons are embedded in a cute story about ducklings leaving the nest.  The adorable illustrations and the sweet encouraging call of Mother Duck, “Come, little ducklings, paddle on the water with me”, have made Little Quack one I reach for over and over.

Five Years Old

Elephant & Piggie: We Are in a Book  You can’t go wrong with ANY of the Elephant and Piggie books.  Excellent as first readers and bedtime tales, this one is especially neat and will have your kids cracking up at you saying “banana!”

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon:  Molly Lou Melon is a tiny, clumsy, squeaky-voiced little girl who never lets her perceived short-comings get her down.  Thanks to the advice of her sweet Grandmother, Molly Lou stands tall in the face of a meanie at a new school and cooly handles herself with grace.  She is an inspiration to us all!

The Princess and the Kiss:  A beautiful lesson in purity couched in a sweet tale of a princess and her suitors.  This isn’t your damsel in distress tale, though! The queen reassures the princess that if a suitable husband cannot be found, the princess will live just as happily on her own with God.

The Virginia Lee Burton Treasury:  The adventures of the Little House, the Steam Shovel and more are sure to engage your little ones!

Six Years Old

Treasury of Children’s Literature: A great collection of classic bedtime tales and fairytales!  A great addition to any child’s library.

A Child’s Garden of Verses:  These lovely poems are just right for young readers.  My favorite is The Swing which I still recite every time we play on a swing set.

How do you like to go up in a swing?
Up the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantist thing
Ever I child could do!”

Charlotte’s Web: As a first novel, or a read aloud with parents, Charlotte’s Web is loved by all for it’s enduring tale of friendship and sacrifice.

Seven Years Old

the Ramona Series:  Parents and kids will both appreciate the world through Ramona’s eyes.

The Boxcar Children:  A great first novel for boys and girls alike

The Magic Treehouse Series:  These are excellent for young readers.  A magical treehouse transports children to different time-periods.

Eight Years Old

The Little House Series:  Laura Ingalls’ classic pioneer series is inspirational and engaging.

Ginger Pye: We loved this tale of intrigue about a smart little dog and the family that loves him.

Nine Years Old

Twenty-One Balloons:  Hot air balloons, exploding islands, and diamonds everywhere you look!  This is one action-packed adventure!

The Chronicles of Narnia:  A classic allegorical series for young readers.  The first three novels in the series have been turned into feature films.

10-12 Years

Harry Potter:  I recommend Harry Potter for 10 year olds so they can fall in love with the characters and setting in time to celebrate their own 11th birthday with a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry letter!

The Secret Garden: Beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt.  The Secret Garden is a great lesson on friendship and overcoming limiting expectations.

Percy Jackson: I haven’t read Percy Jackson, but my 12 year old got this set for her birthday four months ago and has plowed through the entire series!  It’s a modern twist on Greek mythology.

Anne of Green Gables:  Anne, a character every young girl should know.  I’ve only just met her this year and I can’t believe I waited this long.  I can only imagine how her spirit and poetic imagination would have inspired me as a young woman.

12 and up

By this age, you’ll need to understand each child’s individual taste and reading level.  Some 12 year olds are ready for much more advanced topics, but may not be reading on the level of those books.  Others, may be reading at a higher grade level, but too sensitive for certain subject matter.  This is a great opportunity to talk with the child in your life about what sort of books they enjoy reading.

Books are one of the very best things you can give someone.  They are quality time, imagination, adventure, and memories all wrapped up in one clutter-free item that becomes more treasured and loved as the years go on. I hope this list will get you started selecting a meaningful literary gift for the children in your life!

I’d love to hear some of your favorite children’s books.  What would you add to the list?