30 Unforgettable Books Every Parent Should Read To Their Kids Before They Grow Up
The comfort and nurturing one-on-one attention from parents while reading together encourages children to form a positive association with reading and books. Books have always played an important role in my son’s life, even before he was born. I read all sorts of marketing and self-improvement books, as well as fashion and computer magazines to the baby in my tummy, hoping it would help him (or her) grow familiar with my voice and the different sounds of the words being read.
Reading (together and independently) continues to be a part of our daily lives. It helps us unwind after a full day of classes, meetings, and activities. Books encourage us to feed our minds and share our individual understanding of the same book (this helped my child learn that different people can interpret one idea in many different ways). In our household: reading is valuable.
And with the help of my now 13 year old, Joshua, what originally started as a quick list of “15 books every parent should read with their kids,” quickly grew to a collection of 30 Unforgettable Books! It brought back plenty of fun memories for us, and I hope it does the same for you!
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A heartwarming story of selfless love and the many relationship changes we go through in the different stages of our lives.
It’s an excellent tool to encourage discussion about generosity & gratitude based on the giving nature of the tree, and other ways the boy could’ve shown his appreciation for the gifts he received from her throughout his life.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
One Sunday morning, a caterpillar hatched out of a tiny egg… and he was very hungry! He eats his way through the days of the week and eventually transforms into a beautiful butterfly!
The bold, colorful pictures and simple, easy-to-follow words helps with learning the days of the week, and the metamorphosis of the butterfly is so much fun for little toddlers to kindergarten-aged children!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr & John Archambault
A told b, and b told c, “I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.” A super fun story for children learning their alphabet!
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A story about a pilot stranded in the desert, who one morning, awakens to find a little prince standing before him. This extraordinary little person teaches the pilot the secret of what is truly important in life.
I highly suggest grabbing Katherine Woods’ translation which beautifully captures the essence of the original story. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
A fun book of poems filled with just the right amount of imagination, fantasy, and cheekiness! The cute and goofy illustrations are matched marvelously with each entry!
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
When a book is about a lovable pig and a wise spider becoming BFFs, you know you have a classic in your hands! Charlotte’s Web is a heartwarming story with a brilliant mixture of humor, playfulness, and life lessons.
I suggest you keep a box of tissue on hand and be prepared to cry a river.
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This is a story about Max, a boy who gets sent to his room without supper for not respecting his mother’s many requests to behave. His room transforms into a crazy jungle before he finally encounters the wild things, becomes their king, and gets a feel of what it’s like to have everything his way. The illustrations are to die for!
Great lesson in taking ownership of one’s actions and emotions. Younger children may need explanation that this may have been a way for the frustrated boy to take a very imaginative “time out” to better deal with his anger and confusion.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” is the familiar song repeated over and over by a mother to her son as he’s growing up. The roles are finally reversed when it’s the son’s turn to rock his old mama to sleep, making you realize how quickly time flies.
Although my 13 year old continues to appreciate the message in the book, he has asked me to refrain from climbing up a ladder into his window when he’s grown. “Mom… if I see a ladder up against my window, I’m calling the cops. Nothing personal – you just never know these days.” Bummer… Anyone in the market for a 24′ aluminum ladder?
The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
A Dr. Seuss CLASSIC! Sure, it’s about two kids who are home alone and bored out of their minds. Kids who weren’t taught not to open the door to strangers (a cat in a hat of all things!) and invite them to wreck the entire place! But this isn’t a “lesson in life” book, and the way the words are put together makes helping children learn to recognize words and sounds all the more fun!
Green Eggs And Ham by Dr. Seuss
“I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.” Not only does the book strengthen reading, speaking, listening, and comprehension skills through fun phrases and fantastic illustrations; it teaches the reader not to be afraid to try new things, because you never know what you can achieve, or the wonderful things you’ll discover unless you TRY!
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
A beautiful story of a stuffed toy rabbit who so badly wants to be real. Filled with powerful lessons about love, life, and the passage of time.
Keep a box of tissue handy for this one too. I have tears in my eyes just thinking back to the story.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Yes, another wonderful collection of poems from Shel Slverstein, the master of whimsical poetry and humorous sketches! Always a great experience for all ages.
The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett JohnsonAdvertisingAdvertising
“One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” A delightfully imaginative adventures of Harold, who uses his purple crayon to transform his bedtime into a circus, balloon rides, and even a trip to Mars!
Not only is this book wonderful for first time readers, it also encourages young children to use their imagination to take them wherever they want to go!
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Judy Blume was my favorite author when I was in the 3rd and 4th grades, so I was excited to share some of her books with my son when he reached that grade level! Fourth Grade Nothing is a fun and entertaining story about the relationship between Peter (the 4th grader) and his brother Fudge.
The book opens several opportunities to discuss issues that arise between siblings, as well as with friends and cousins for children without siblings.
The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater
When a seagull with a can of bright orange paint “dropped the can right over Mr. Plumbean’s house”, the neighbors who all live in identical brown houses are in an uproar over the resulting big orange splot! Mr. Plumbean is asked to paint over the splot, but instead adds more color, splots, and personality. But one by one, his neighbors also begin to express themselves by painting their own homes.
An excellent book that celebrates each person’s individuality, and encourages appreciation of others’ uniqueness!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Classic story about our hero, Charlie Bucket, along with four other children who wins a tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory! Filled with fun, adventure, and more candy than you can ever imagine!
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
A young boy who lives in a polluted world visits the “Once-ler” who shares with him a tale about how that world became that way because he ignored the advice of the Lorax.
Dr. Seuss skillfully uses the story as a warning to protect our earth from the dangers of pollution and mindless progress that hurts our environment. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” What a wonderful lesson for children and grownups alike… that positive change starts with YOU!
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin goes out on a quest through space to search for Meg’s father who went missing while working on a mysterious project, “Tesseract.”
Filled with wonder, adventure, and discoveries, readers experience the struggle between good vs. evil in the universe; as well as lessons in relying on the strength found within ourselves, and working together as a team.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Does this story even need an introduction? It’s Peter Pan, the boy who can fly and never ages! Read about his adventures as the leader of the Lost Boys, living in Neverland among fairies and mermaids, and fighting pirates!
It’s a classic!
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Perfect book for all ages entering a new chapter of their lives. It encourages and celebrates the potential everyone has to fulfill their goals and dreams… because, “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
What’s not to love about this story? An inspiring book about a little blue train who offers to help a broken down train. Despite her size, she gives her all in order to deliver toys to the boys and girls who are waiting on the other side of the hill.
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde
A statue of a privileged prince, with the help of a little bird, gives assistance and comfort to the poor families in the town he stands in, by sacrificing himself. The prince the the little bird’s generosity is finally rewarded in heaven.
Such a sad story, but with a very beautiful lesson in morals and compassion.
Aesop’s Fables by Aesop
Famous tales that teach simple truths, including The Tortoise and the Hare and The Goose Who Laid the Golden Eggs. The book is filled with lessons that can be applied to every day life, by all ages.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
The Rainbow Fish is arrogant and selfish, therefore has no friends. As the story progress, he learns that: 1) who he is on the inside is more important than his appearance or his possessions, 2) no one should be judged based on their appearances, and 3) sharing what you’ve been blessed with won’t decrease your happiness, but instead, multiply it!
I highly suggest you pick up the full, hardcover version over the board book edition, as the meaning of the story somehow gets lost in the board book.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Four siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, steps through a wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. Narnia has been frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the White Witch… until the Great Lion, Aslan, returns to make a change!
The movie was awesome, but don’t skip out on the book… it’s even better!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is being raised by his terrible aunt and uncle who try to keep him from learning he’s really a wizard. Change begins when Harry is summoned to attend a school for wizards, where he finds himself inside a mystical world he never knew existed, and closer to his own noble destiny.
My son and I read the book together, then watched the movie. It was so great sharing with each other how we imagined the story as we read it, then watching how it was played out in the movie!
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Claudia and her brother Jamie decides to run away to a place that’s comfortable and beautiful… the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City! Once settled in, they embark on a quest to find the truth behind the mystery of an angel statue, possibly by Michelangelo, recently acquired from a remarkable old woman named Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
So the tiny town of Chewandswallow has food dropping out of the sky, three times a day. From hamburgers and mashed potatoes, to soups and orange juice rain; all which they gobble up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Until something went very wrong and the food grew larger, causing damage to the town and leaving the townspeople to fear for their lives!
You’ve probably seen the animated film already, but don’t miss out on this hilarious book. It’s a classic!
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood after being expelled from school… again. It’s there that he learns that he is a demigod: half human, half immortal. The kicker? His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea! But even before Percy has time to let this all sink in, he’s sent on a crazy mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
This is currently my son’s FAVORITE series. He tells me he can read the books over and over again while waiting for the next book in the series to be released!
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
There is something very calming about this book. Similar to a gentle chant or comforting mantra, it’s very effective in helping your child relax and unwind… and kids absolutely love reciting the story by heart!
The story also helps encourage acknowledgement and gratitude for what we have around us: from mittens, kittens, and mush; to our sky, air, and even nothingness. My son received this as a gift for his very first Christmas and it still sits in his bookshelf today!
There you have it: 30 books I highly recommend (in no particular order) for all parents to read with their young kids. I apologize if I missed your favorite; only books I’ve personally read with my child were included so that I could recommend them with confidence. What are your favorites? What other books would you include? share in the comments below!
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