Skip to content

Carla S. - November 30, 2020

Best 100 Children's Books of All Time 

iteracy starts young, with parents reading books to their little ones at bedtime.

This time-honored tradition helps build language skills. The best kids books and stories for little ears are simple, captivating, and relatable to small children. Some focus on life skills like eating vegetables and toilet training, while others take aim at calming fears of monsters.

The Best Children's Books for Babies and Toddlers

It is never too young to begin reading to children. The best books to start with for babies and toddlers are durable board books with few words. With such a limited vocabulary, reading is mostly about looking at pictures for the youngest readers.

1. Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
2. Hello Hello by Brenden Wezel
3. From Head to Toe by Eric Carl
4. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
5. Peekaboo Baby by Nina Laden
6. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
7. Where Is Baby's Belly Button by Karen Katz
8. Love You Forever by Sheila McGraw
9. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
10. My Big Animal Book by Roger Priddy

The durability of board books is important at this age. Little fingers can be very hard on paper pages. Many of these books delight all of the senses. They offer different colors, textures, and patterns to explore. As these little ones grow, they will become increasingly interested in having stories read aloud.  

The Best Children's Books for Preschoolers

Preschool-aged children have a developing attention span and transition from board books to easy stories with short sentences. Literacy skills developed at the preschool and kindergarten age include mastery of sight words and phonetic sounds.

1. Corduroy by Don Freeman
2. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess
3. The Day the Crayons Quit
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
5. The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
6. Harold and the Purple Crown by Crockett Johnson
7. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess 
8. The Prince's Bedtime by Joanne Oppenheim
9. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
10. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Preschoolers seem to enjoy a mix of having stories read to them and looking at the pictures in the book, and 'reading' independently. Colorful illustrations are the most important at this age. 

The Best Children's Books for Beginner Readers

Beginner readers in preschool and early elementary may still be learning sight words or maybe progressing to sounding out unfamiliar words and self-correcting with context clues. These readers can handle a few short sentences at a time.

A big milestone between these beginner books and moving on to longer chapter books is gaining fluidity in reading or not sounding stiff and robotic when reading aloud.

1. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback and Rose Bonne
2. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
3. The Frog and Toad Collection by Arnold Lobel
4. The Lorax by Dr. Suess
5. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
6. Winnie the Pooh by Ernest Shepard
7. Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff
8. Curious George by H.A. Rey
9. Dancing Dinos Go to School by Sally Lucas
10. Ice Cream Soup by Corey Tabor

As kindergarten and early elementary students begin to learn to read, they will quickly progress through the difficulty of books. At first, beginner readers need simple books with single words or a string of sight words. Within a year, these same readers have typically progressed to short chapter books. 

The Best Children's Books for Early Elementary Students

Early elementary students in first through third-grade benefit from both independent reading and group reading. Teacher-led storytime is still a staple in most classrooms, as well as are bedtime stories at home with mom and dad. But readers in this age group are ready for a little more variety in storylines.

1. Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type
2. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
3. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
4. Diary of a Wombat by Bruce Whatley
5. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren 
6. Arthur's Nose by Marc Brown
7. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Felicia Bond 
8. The Berenstain Bears Collection by Stan & Jan Berenstain
9. Silly Milly by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
10. 100 Shoes by Bronwen Davies 

The Best Children's Books for Independent Readers

As young readers build better literacy skills, the need for more complex storylines grows. These young readers between 2nd and 4th grade progress to beginner chapter books. The biggest focus at this stage of development is expanding vocabulary and comprehension. While most children naturally outgrow storytime, listening to others read aloud in a group is still a valuable learning tool.

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
2. Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall
3. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
4. Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl
6. Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren Castillo
7. Monster and Boy by Hannah Barnaby
8. Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
9. Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay
10. Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felecita Sala  

The Best Children's Books for Simple Lessons

Children's storybooks spark the imagination in a way that simple conversation does not. With colorful illustrations and relatable stories, they become a great tool for teaching lessons to young children. Many great books serve this purpose, from calming bedtime fears to encouraging toilet training. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
2. The Potty Book for Girls/Boys by Ron Berry
3. Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
4. When Monsters Come Out to Play by Samantha Foster
5. Back to School, Mallory by Laurie Friedman
6. The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton
7. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
8. I Am Human by Susan Verde
9. The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber
10. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
11. My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook
12. Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
13. Pink Tiara Cookies for Three by Maria Dismondy
14. Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks
15. Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni
16. I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt
17. Makeup Mess by Robert Munch
18. The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff
19. Zip, Zip Homework by Nancy Poydar
20. No, David! By David Shannon 

The Best Children's Books for Illustrations

Half of the mark of a good children's story is the quality of the illustrations. Younger children learn how to be imaginative, and pictures that indulge the senses bring a story to life. Some children's book authors do their illustrations, and others hire them out. Either way, you often find that both the author and illustrator receive top billing when recognizing the creator of a children's storybook.

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by John Tenniel
2. The Animal Boogie illustrated by Debbie Harper
3. The More We Get Together by Celeste Cartwright
4. The Number Circus by Sylvie Mislin
5. Jojo and the Food Fight by Didier Levy
6. Dump Truck Disco by Skye Silver
7. My Friend Robot by Sunny Scribens
8. Just Like Brothers by Elizabeth Baguley
9. Jimbo the Farting Robot by Momo J Pug
10. King Stork by Howard Pyle

Young readers like toddlers and preschoolers rely on the illustrations to enhance the story experience. As readers get older, the pictures become gradually less important and the focus shifts to building literacy skills like phonics and vocabulary. 

Best Children's Books for Phonics Development

If your child struggles with certain aspects of learning to read, some books are just better than others. The foundation of good reading skills is good phonetics. That means that your child understands the sounds that letters make and how they are combined to form words. For supplemental practice on phonics development for beginning readers, take a look at these titles.

1. Each Peach Pear Plum by Allen and Janet Ahlberg
2. Four Fur Feet by Margaret Wise Brown
3. "I Can't," Said the Ant by Polly Cameron
4. More Bugs in Boxes by David A. Carter
5. Six Sleepy Sheep by Jeffie Ross
6. Alphabears by Kathleen Hague
7. Buzz Said the Bee by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
8. Fox in Socks by Dr. Suess
9. The Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein
10. What Rhymes with Eel by Harriet Ziefert 

Best Children's Books for Building Vocabulary

For good readers that seem to easily master literacy skills, the next step is to build vocabulary skills. Reading alone tends to build good vocabulary skills simply by exposure to more words presented with context. Avid readers naturally have a better vocabulary than those who do not read. Whether your child is learning English as a second language or is a native speaker, all children can benefit from a well-developed vocabulary.

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
2. James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl
3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
4. Swiss Family Robinson by Joanne D. Wyss
5. Bears in Beds by Shirley Parenteau
6. Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Birdwell
7. The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
8. Thesaurus Rex by Laya Steinberg
9. Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis
10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling 

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Children's Books 

The children's section of the library or bookstore can be very overwhelming. There are hundreds of titles available. There are plenty of well-known mainstream titles and many less-heard of books. There are also those rare finds that are independent of mainstream marketing but deliver on an impressive story. How do you filter out the flops and find the right books for your child with so many options at hand?

Match Interests with Your Child

The most creatively written and illustrated book will fall flat if your child isn't interested in the subject. We all have things that we like, more or less, and there is a good chance that you probably already know what your kid is into, so start with that. There are dozens of books about monsters, trucks, princesses, or magic.

Check Out the Illustrations

Since most young children cannot read and those that can are still developing their reading skills, good pictures will make or break a children's books. Look for a book with plenty of illustrations, balanced with some text so that your child can be immersed in the images while you read the story.

Explore More from Your Favorite Authors

Authors have a distinct style that is likely to be found across all of their works. If your child enjoyed the rhyming repetition in a Dr. Suess book, find more titles from the original author. The tongue-twisting poems from Shel Silverstein are in Where the Sidewalk Ends but did you know that this author has at least a dozen more books to explore?

Does the Text Seem Interesting?

Not all children's authors have the tongue-twisting style of Dr. Suess, nor should they. Read a few pages from a book you are considering. If the text doesn't flow easily or inspire interest, it is best to put it down and move onto the next. A well-written children's story will use age-appropriate words with a sprinkling of more difficult vocabulary words. It is important that your child can infer the meaning of more difficult words from the story. 

The Takeaway on the Best Children's Books

Reading is a lifelong skill. Good reading and comprehension skills will serve an individual well in all areas of life. Reading stories is where literacy begins, from attaining better grades in all school subjects to presenting a polished, professional appearance in adulthood.

As children grow older, poor reading skills can hold them back socially and professionally. In modern society, with abundant access to education, poor literacy can be very embarrassing. Many parents choose to begin reading stories with their little ones as soon as they can hold their heads up. Reading begins with picture books and progresses to words, full sentences, and then blocks of text as the reader's skill grows.

Choosing entertaining books, and that match the reader's skill level is important towards fostering a love for reading that will encourage continued development of literacy skills as your child becomes an independent reader. A library membership or a well-stocked bookshelf can give your little one plenty of options to choose from.