40 Books Every Child Should Read

As the Half Pint Library book drive draws to a close, we are reminded once again of the importance reading plays in a child’s development.  It is a fact that children who live in a print-rich environment are much more likely to learn how to read on schedule and have a bigger and better vocabulary.

Did you know that children’s books actually contain 50% more rare words than primetime television (or even college students’ conversations)? As essential as early literacy is, the wealth of children’s literature that we have available to choose from can be overwhelming. So we consulted with our HPB Bibliomaniacs and asked: What do you consider to be some of the best children’s books ever written? And without further ado, here are 40 Books Every Child Should Read:


Does anyone else have the unquenchable desire to raid the children’s section of your local Half Price
for The Poky Little Puppy, Where the Sidewalk Ends and There’s a Monster at the End of
this Book
?! I sure do.

Remember, the 2012 Half Pint Library book drive ends on Saturday, March 31. Please donate a new or
gently used kids book, and help share the love of reading with children in need.

How many of these books do you remember reading? What’s your childhood favorite?

— Julie

73 thoughts on “40 Books Every Child Should Read

  1. Can you by any chance know the name of a book I loved as a child? It was about a man who wore a stack of hats all of the time, that's all I can remember; oh, and the fact that there was this monkey in one of the books that scattered them all in a tree.Thanks.

  2. I'm not sure what age range you are looking for, but Charlotte's Web is a classic not to be missed book as far as I am concerned!!!

  3. I would say to add the books "Misty of Chincoteague" by Marguerite Henry, "Freckles", by Gene Stratton Porter, "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George, and "The Melendy Quartet" by Elizabeth Enright.

  4. So many of these were my favorites! I loved everything that Beatrix Potter, E.B. White, Eric Carle, and Shel Silverstein wrote. The Giver, The Secret Garden, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day were three of my childhood favorites. I could go on and on about the books in this list, but then I'd be here all day. Thanks so much for sharing these. It took me back!

  5. Asilee: Are you thinking of THE THREE HAT DAY? About a man who wears multiple hats and how he falls in love with a woman who runs a hat store?

  6. I agree with most of your choices, but I would also add something by Beverly Cleary, who wrote many classics, including "Henry Huggins." Also, I'd add "Scuffy the Tugboat" of the Golden Books best books.

  7. Any book by Arnold Lobel – Frog and Toad Together was a Newbery Honor book. His gentle humorous stories of friendship are timeless. My favorite book as a child was Little Women.

  8. This brought me back to my childhood and how much I LOVED most of these books. My absolute favorite book when I was a kid was the BFG (the big friendly giant) by Roald Dahl. I must have read that book two dozen times. I want to go any buy all of these for my two year old twin nieces who LOVE books so when they are old enough to sit through or read the longer ones they will already have them. I will always be the aunt who gets them each a book for their birthday (an something else) no matter how old they get. I also get them each an ornament every year for Christmas, so when they are old enough to have their own Christmas tree, they will have ornaments for it (I have an aunt who did this for me and as an adult I really appreciate it).

  9. Definately "Caddie Woodlawn", "Nobody's Girl", Little Women", "Black Beauty", "Mischief in Fez", The Happy Hollisters and The Ice Carnival Mystery", "Maida's Little Shop", "Heidi", "Uncle Wiggley", "Little Britches", unabridged Hans Christian Anderson, ….yes, so many good stories! Never missed having TV.

  10. Seriously, ,"Thomas the Tank Engine" is on here, but not "The Little Engine That Could" by Watty Piper? Must have been a mistake.

  11. The Poky Little Puppy was my very favorite as a kid, and a friend JUST gave me a copy of it last week. I was so excited to get that book! She also gave us Make Way for Ducklings and Green Eggs and Ham.

  12. The book with the man that wore the hats and the monkeys that scatter them is called, "Hats for Sale". 🙂 Happy reading!

  13. I teach Kindergarten. If I could, all I would do all day is read to the kids. I LOVE childrens' books. For the older child, Anne of Green Gables is the BEST! BEST, BEST, BEST!

  14. I can't remember the name of the book but it is generational and and repeats the phrase "I'll love you forever , I'll love you for always … I get emotional when I read it with my grand kids. but I can't remember the title.

  15. Mr. Popper's Penguins was always a favorite at our house. I was also extremely happy when my 22 year old son asked me to pick up a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for his own 2 year old….the tradition continues!

  16. D Connett, the book you are referring to is on the list. Love You Forever is the name of it. It is definately a timeless must read for children and adults.

  17. More great reads: Somebody Loves you Mr. Hatch, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and my most recent favorite.. The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis…

  18. I can't believe you would include Stuart Little before mentioning Charlotte's Web! It must have been an oversize :-). Also, can you tell me where you got that stat abt children's lit containing 50% more rare words than TV or adult conversations? I would love to be able to use that!

  19. Dr Suess, Sneeches, and Oh the Places you will go. Love your choices. Some I haven't read to my Grand son, so very excited to pick up and read.Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful childrens author as well, Edward Tulane I think is the one we love, but she writes so many very good ones.

  20. Astrid Lindgren should be on this list. She's best known for "Pippi Longstockings" but my all time favorites are "Ronja, the Robber's Daughter" and "The brothers Lionheart"… Children's novels that shape you for life!!

  21. Such a great list! My favorite is "Guess How Much I Love You"…a gift to my husband when I became pregnant…and his favorite is "The Little Prince" and a baby gift from my aunt and cousins was a package of their favorite books which included "Cordoroy" and "Good Dog Carl" (not on your list). Children's books were "date" books when I dated my hubbie…we went on picnics and I read to him…love the illustrations and happy endings. Our favorite was "Wind in the Willows".ps my son and I now hang out at your store…he reads, I shop, our house overflows with books and we like it that way!Lynnea

  22. One of my favorite children's books is Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. A must read and a great read-aloud

  23. D Connett – you're thinking of " I'll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch – another favorite of his for me is "The Paper Bag Princess"

  24. I hope that people realize that when you show Skippyjon Jones that they should also consider the other Skippyjon books, and all of the Pidgeon books, and the Bear books. My favorite Bear book is "Bear Stays Up for Christmas". I like it a lot better than "Bear Snores On". And, my coworker teaches the book "Pidgeon Eats a Hotdog" each year. Or is it "A Hotdog for Pidgeon"? Anyway, that one is her favorite of that series. Read the ones listed and consider using them as a guide.

  25. It's so hard to make a complete list of all the best children's books. There are so many and tastes vary of course. I would like to add "The Quiltmaker's Gift", "Tacky the Penguin", and "Tikki Tikki Tembo"

  26. In answer to the very first comment about he story of the man with many hats. The book is "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins." It's one of my children's favorites too.

  27. Cannot believe someone else has heard of and read The Happy Hollisters. I have the entire series and couldn't wait for the next book to come in the mail. I too do not like Skippy Jon Jones.

  28. Cannot believe someone else has heard of and read The Happy Hollisters. I have the entire series and couldn't wait for the next book to come in the mail. I too do not like Skippy Jon Jones.

  29. Thanks for posting all of these great book titles I have a two year old and we are always seeking new titles to read as a family. Many of the above titles I loved as a child and had forgotten about, so this post is a lovely reminder. :)A quick query….I loved "The All of a Kind Family" series as a child. (My grade three teacher read them to our class throughout the year). Copies seem to be very hard to come by now. Does anyone else have wonderful memories of these books? If so, where did you purchased them?

  30. For older kids, I would add the entire "Harry Potter" series! I always loved the "Little House" series. How about "Beezus and Ramona," "Cat in the Hat," "Junie B. Jones"? I also loved "The Stone Doll of Sister Brute" and "Bread and Jam for Frances." Glad to see "Where the Wild Things Are" and "James and the Giant Peach" on the list!

  31. I loved the Carolyn Haywood books. My favorite was "The Oldest, the Youngest, and the One in the Middle." Another was a book my dad bought for me and I bought for my son, "Stories that Never Grow Old". It is a collection of a number of wonderful stories.

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