You might say the books you read when you were a child are some of your fondest memories growing up. You may even go on to say these tales you enjoyed with loved ones or by yourself contributed to the person you became as an adult. Either way, it’s a solid truth that reading to children and spending time with them creates a bond that can last for a lifetime. When you’re ready to begin your literary journey with the little one in your life, start with these time-tested classics.
1. Not all spiders are bad.
If you’re looking for a tale that warms you heart—and softens your feelings toward arachnids—give Charlotte’s Web a try. Written by E.B. White of Stuart Little fame, this wholesome story follows a little girl named Fern who saves a runt piglet named Wilbur. While spending time in the farm’s barn, the lonely pig befriends Charlotte, a spider who made sending secret messages on the web cool before the internet even existed. Using her stealthy web skills, Charlotte would create uplifting messages for Wilbur, proving that even potentially creepy eight-legged creatures have some endearing qualities.
2. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to being brave.
When you’re the youngest and smallest girl living in a Catholic boarding school in Paris, you have to look out for yourself, even if it means going on mysterious adventures. Fortunately, the heroine of the book Madeline follows this life rule and doesn’t disappoint. Written and illustrated in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans, this popular tale portrays the life of Madeline, a courageous 7-year-old who goes on hilarious adventures, including running off to join a traveling carnival.
3. Let your imagination run wild with this book.
When it comes to children’s books, it doesn’t get much better than Where the Wild Things Are. Enter the world of Max, a little boy who wears a wolf costume and was sent to bed without dinner after he caused havoc in his house. Max’s bedroom is mysteriously transformed into a jungle environment and he finds himself sailing to an island inhabited by monsters known as Wild Things. Max becomes the king of the Wild Things but begins missing his family and eventually returns home, where a surprise waits for him.
4. Be appreciative of every gift you get.
If you’ve ever received a birthday present you didn’t like, you may learn to value it after reading this book. The Indian in the Cupboard, written by Lynne Reid Banks, shows that even seemingly disappointing gifts can turn into something great. Omri’s friend gives him a plastic figurine of an American Indian for his birthday. Disappointed, Omri stores him in a cupboard that can only be locked with a skeleton key owned by his great-grandmother. The toy comes to life and Omri discovers a new best friend who he attempts to hide and keep as his own. Teach the kid in your life about not judging a book by its cover with this sweet story.
5. Confusion and hilarity make this a kid favorite.
Introduce your little one to the delightful world of a gal who takes everything literally—and ends up creating hilarious disasters because of it—with the book Amelia Bedelia. Coming from a family who takes everything at face value, protagonist Amelia does the same. She works as a maid for a wealthy couple and constantly misunderstands their instructions. Fortunately for readers, this confusion creates a variety of entertaining encounters for which Amelia is usually forgiven after she treats her unintentional victims with a tasty dessert. Go back to your own childhood with this classic story.
6. Entertain even the most energetic kiddos in your life with this inquisitive character.
What could be better than a mischievous monkey who lovingly drives his human companion crazy while getting into all sorts of trouble? After reading Curious George, the youngsters in your life will probably agree on the answer: not much. The popular series begins with a story about how George, a monkey who lived in the jungle, was taken to America by the Man in the Yellow Hat. Naturally curious, George can’t help but find himself in a variety of sticky situations, from which he always comes out on top (and with a valuable lesson).
7. If you give a child this book, prepare for some giggles.
Hold on to your cookies—and milk—because this book gets little ones laughing in a hurry. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, is a silly tale about a mouse who starts off by asking for a cookie but ends up getting a lot more. The first of the If You Give… series, this sweet book contains an easy-to-follow, circular tale that children of all ages are sure to enjoy. And just like kids, this mouse shows that if you give him an inch, he’ll try to take a mile.
8. Expand your child’s sense of culinary adventure.
If you’ve never been asked if you like green eggs and ham, are you even a kid? Ensure that the kids in your life don’t have to ask themselves that question by exposing them to the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham. The book follows Sam I Am as he pesters his pal into trying this less-than-tasty-sounding treat. The list of possible places and people Sam suggests he could try it with grows longer and longer until his friend finally gives in. Show children that trying something new can lead to fun food adventures with this silly story.
9. Meet an unbearably cute mother and son duo.
The bond between a mother and son is one of the strongest connections there is, no matter what your species. Read about a perfect example of this type of genuine, innocent love in Little Bear. Like most youngsters, Little Bear loves to go on lots of exciting adventures, like flying to the moon and playing in the snow. And fortunately for him, Mother Bear is always there to provide warm clothes, a hot meal, and lots of love. Strengthen your own bond with your little one by sharing this story together.
10. We predict a story that’s funny with a chance of silliness.
Imagine looking outside and discovering food is falling from the clouds instead of rain. Would this situation make you happy or leave you covered in a mess? Perhaps you can decide after reading Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to your favorite kiddo. Written by Judi Barrett, this edible weather story is sure to delight and spark the imagination of the little one in your life. Would blueberry rain drops be fun, or would hamburger hail be even better? Ponder the possibilities with this fun story.
11. Classic fairy tales get a new twist.
What happens when you take classic children’s stories and give them a postmodern edge? The answer is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Narrated by Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, the story features Little Red Riding Shorts, Chicken Licken, and other characters that may seem familiar—but not entirely. Take, for example, the eponymous Stinky Cheese Man, a riff on the Gingerbread Man who stays away from people for fear they will eat him. In reality, however, no one wants to get near him because of his offending odor. Silly and fun, this entertaining tale is sure to please.
12. Be careful what you wish for.
Sometimes, having the power to wish for whatever you want isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Teach the kids in your life this valuable lesson by sharing the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Sylvester is excited to find a magic pebble that can make his wishes come true. Unfortunately, he ends up making a wish that comes with lots of consequences. After maneuvering through all the challenges, he finally makes it home to his loving family with some new adventure-filled memories and lessons learned.
13. Children’s books don’t get much more classic than this.
A stuffed rabbit is given to a little boy for Christmas. Because the bunny isn’t as fancy as the child’s more modern toys, the toys give him the cold shoulder. The lonely rabbit wants to become real and does so through his owner’s love. Written in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit has delighted children for almost 100 years. Introduce the kids in your life to this timeless tale that proves love conquers all.
14. Guess how much you’ll love this book.
What do you get when you combine the love of a father and son with a little healthy competition? The answer is Guess How Much I Love You. Little Nutbrown Hare wants his dad to guess how much he loves him. When his dad asks, he wants to show him. He says he loves him as wide as he can reach and as far as he can jump. The problem is, Big Nutbrown Hare loves Little Nutbrown Hare just as much and is able to show him better. Watch as this cute duo tries to one-up each other when discussing just how much they care for each other.
15. Make learning manners fun.
Your favorite little one will have the best manners on the block after you read Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book. Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, and other characters discover the importance of manners in this beloved story that was written in 1973. The friends learn the appropriate way to behave in school, the importance of following safety rules, how to share, and more in this easy-to-understand story. Help your child learn the best way to react to everyday situations as you enjoy this book together.
16. A wardrobe can be full of adventure.
The first book in the series The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, written by C.S. Lewis, will take you back to your childhood as you share this magical story with your youngster. Set mostly in Narnia—a land filled with talking animals and mythical creatures—the book tells the tale of four English children who were relocated to an old country house due to wartime evacuation. The youngest child discovers a wardrobe in a closet that magically transports her to Narnia, and she eventually takes her siblings along. Discover adventure and witness the special bond between siblings in this fantasy book.
17. This book keeps on giving.
One of the most thought-provoking children’s authors of all time, Shel Silverstein (who penned classics like A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends) created another iconic book with The Giving Tree. This story begins with a young boy and a tree who develop a close relationship. The story follows the span of the boy’s life, beginning when he was a child until he is an elderly man. Watch how even though the relationship changes over time, the tree’s love never wanes. Help your tyke understand the importance of giving with this sweet book.
18. What do you see?
Help your little one learn about colors and animals with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Geared toward toddlers, this picture book asks various animals what they see. Brown Bear, Red Bird, Purple Cat, Blue Horse, and others talk to each other and take the reader on an educational adventure as colors and the meanings of objects are explored. With colorful and unique illustrations by Eric Carle, this popular story inspired three spin-offs: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
19. Explore the power of love with this classic.
The bond between a boy and a dog is tested in one of the most difficult ways possible in the heartwarming story of Shiloh. Marty, a young child, finds a dog with whom he instantly makes a connection. He wants to adopt it, but unbeknownst to him, the dog already has an owner who isn’t kind to anyone—especially his pets. The dog, Shiloh, runs away to be with Marty, who then has to keep Shiloh hidden and safe. See just how far Marty will have to go to save Shiloh—and if the two can stay together.
20. Here is where your child’s imagination can grow.
Written by Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows is a gripping story about the love between a child and his animals. When Billy has finally saved up enough money to purchase two dogs, he becomes a caring and dedicated owner to pups Old Dan and Little Ann. Soon, the threesome becomes the best hunters around. They face tragedy, however, and must learn how to carry on while still honoring the past.
21. Even the smallest among us can handle big adventures.
When you’re a child who looks like mouse, was born into a human family, and is growing up in New York City, it’s safe to say you’re probably used to a little adventure. Pass on the meaning of friendship, family, and love to your little one by sharing the book Stuart Little. Thoughtful and shy, Stuart lives with his parents, brother, and the pet cat and is always looking for his next great adventure. When his best friend disappears from her nest, it is up to him to find her. Get ready for belly laughs and entertainment reading about this clever character.
22. Say goodnight to bedtime struggles with this story.
Introduce the child in your life to gentle and soothing poetry with Goodnight Moon. Written by Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon has reached many generations and continues to be a favorite of both children and adults. This story features a little bunny who is tucked in bed and ready to fall asleep. But before he can, the bunny has to say goodnight to everything in the room, including socks, a picture, and the moon. Help your little one wind down, relax, and get ready for bed with this calming book.
23. The little one in your life is sure not to forget this book.
Forgetful days happen to the best of us, but you may prevent your child from having too many by reading the book I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter is having trouble remembering everything he is supposed to do one day. He forgets to turn the water off in the sink, he forgets to bring his lunch to school, and he even forgets to put on his rain boots. Have fun reading about Little Critter’s blunders while teaching your child about responsibility.
24. Connect with your youngster by sharing this 8-year-old’s story.
Life in an 8-year-old’s world can be tough; just ask Ramona Quimby. Join her as she navigates through life and overcomes some pretty major challenges in the book Ramona Quimby, Age 8. While her parents are at work and school, Ramona is under the care of Mrs. Kemp. Along with having to behave while under the caretaker’s watchful eye, Ramona must also find the strength to juggle challenges in her life, like riding the school bus and dealing with kids at the play yard. Show a child you know who is experiencing these situations that they’re not alone with this fun book.
25. Be true to yourself.
Help your child learn the importance of being themselves and feeling comfortable doing so with The Story of Ferdinand. Once upon a time, there was a young bull who was misunderstood. Instead of butting heads and playing with the other bulls his age, he preferred his own company, especially when under a tree, sniffing flowers. When Ferdinand accidentally steps on a bumblebee, he runs about wildly and is mistaken for a fierce bull. People who observe this are convinced he’ll do well in the bullfighting ring, so they take Ferdinand away to compete, but what he does shocks and disappoints the crowd. Teach your child a valuable lesson with this endearing tale.
26. You’ll both love this book forever.
Watch a relationship between a mother and her son evolve in the touching book Love You Forever. The boy is an energetic and sometimes exasperating baby when the book begins, and his mother is always there to care for him and sing a nightly lullaby in which she promises to love him forever. As they both get older, their relationship evolves, and even after he moves out, she still visits his room to sing the song. As time goes on, the boy is able to carry on the tradition of the lullaby with his own child. Create a new tradition with the kid in your life by reading this together.
27. Oh, the lessons this book can teach the child in your life.
When the going gets tough, looking at the bright side is a helpful way to get through it. Teach the child in your world a positive approach to addressing life’s ups and downs with the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! With his signature style that combines humor, rhyme, and easy-to-understand language, Dr. Seuss creates a story that just about anyone can benefit from, regardless of their age. Toddlers, children, teens, and even adults can appreciate the message this tale delivers.
28. The bears in this book know the real joys in life.
Get to know the members of a lovable bear family who are always there for each other in The Berenstain Bears and The Joy of Giving. The holidays are coming, and Brother and Sister are getting excited about Christmas and all of the presents they are going to receive. During the Christmas Eve pageant, something unexpected happens, and the little bears learn all about the joy you can experience in giving. Teach your children this valuable lesson that can extend into a variety of aspects in their lives, not just during the holidays.
29. Borrow this book and you won’t want to give it back.
The Clocks aren’t your average family. In addition to living underneath the kitchen floor of an old English country manor, they are also miniature. Go inside their small world in the book The Borrowers. Parents Pod and Homily and daughter Arrietty comfortably reside in this small space that is decorated with minuscule furnishings they “borrow” from the average-sized people who live above them. Their secret existence is safe until Arrietty is spotted upstairs. Find out the fate of the tiny family with this imaginative book.
30. Mice and rats join forces in this tale.
When Mrs. Frisby—a widowed mouse and mother of four—finds herself with a terrible problem, she learns that there are others out there who are willing to lend a hand in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The family must move to their summer quarters or else they likely won’t survive. The trouble is, one of the Frisby babies is sick with pneumonia and must not be moved. When Mrs. Frisby fears all hope is lost, the rats of NIMH—an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures—come to her aid. See how Mrs. Frisby is able to return the favor to the rats in this Robert C. O’Brien classic.
31. Increase your child’s appetite for learning.
With vivid pictures and an educational, yet entertaining, story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has crawled its way into the hands of young and old alike since 1969. As the title says, this green caterpillar is hungry. Ultimately, he takes readers on a tour of his culinary journey over the course of six days. On the seventh day, the caterpillar is done with his feast and surrounds himself in a cocoon. Two weeks later, he emerges as a beautiful butterfly who is ready to begin a new journey. You and your little friend can count how many apples, strawberries, plums, and other foods this fuzzy caterpillar devours.
32. You’re never too young to help.
Meet a 10-year-old boy so talented at solving mysteries that even his local police department needs his help in Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective. With a knack for trivia, Leroy (aka Encyclopedia) Brown solves neighborhood mysteries while running his own detective agency. Encyclopedia’s dad, the town’s police chief, also relies on his son’s uncanny ability to figure out some of the most baffling crimes. Collect evidence and clues hidden in the story to channel your own inner detective and see if you can solve the mysteries too!
33. Don’t waste any more time before sharing this story with your youngsters.
Imagine entering your kitchen for a midnight snack only to find yourself chatting with your eccentric neighbor about a supposed phenomenon, the very name of which causes your mother to faint. Well, that’s exactly what happens in the opening of A Wrinkle in Time. Meg and Charles Wallace, the children of two scientists, go on an adventure with a classmate to find their father, who went missing when he began to research the scientific concept of a tesseract (or a wrinkle in time). Find out if the family is reunited and if this interesting theory is true in this thought-provoking book.
34. Word is this book is the best ever.
Help the kiddo in your life learn to read, identify objects, and work on letter and word recognition with Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. This bright and colorful book has hundreds of clearly labeled objects you and your aspiring reader can go over together. And with cute characters to help introduce the items, youngsters are sure to enjoy this classic book, which has sold millions of copies worldwide.
35. It’s a safe bet your day will get better after you read this book.
Think your day is bad? Chances are it doesn’t compare with what goes down in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Alexander knows he’s in for a troubling day when he wakes up with gum in his hair. The hits just keep on coming as he encounters problems at school and back at home again. Let the special child in your life understand that bad days come and go, but they can get through them and even come out with a smile on their face.
36. All pigs (and kids) should be themselves.
Olivia is a very special pig. She’s not afraid to showcase her talents (or lack thereof) and stand up for what she believes in, and she is always there to lend a helping hand to her family. Learn more about this sassy pig and follow her adventures in the book Olivia. Never one to blend in, Olivia loves to wear clothes that make her stand out, especially if they have a splash of red. She also likes to follow her dreams, even if they get her in trouble. This top-notch picture book features author Ian Falconer’s minimalistic drawings that typically only contain the colors black, white, and red. Teach the importance of being happy with yourself and not being afraid to reach your goals with this fun book.
37. You won’t want to keep this book a secret.
When orphaned Mary comes to live at her uncle’s house on the Moors, she discovers it is full of mysteries and secrets, including a hidden garden she wants to bring to life in The Secret Garden. Uncomfortable in this 100-room mansion in which her uncle stays locked inside and she hears the sound of crying at night, Mary finds solace in a secret garden. Surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key, the girl must figure out a way to get inside and restore beauty to the enchanted space once again.
38. Never underestimate the power of helping.
Help can come in some of the most unexpected forms from the most unexpected people. Such is the case in The Family Under the Bridge. Armand, a man living on the streets of Paris, befriends a mother and her three children who are also homeless. Reluctant to become friends in the first place, Armand overcomes his uncertainty and grows closer to the family. He invites them to share his living space under a bridge during the Christmas season and ultimately vows to find them a permanent home. Discover the power of helping others by reading this inspirational story.