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50 "Must-Read" Children's Books

By building your children's library, you can demonstrate the importance of books in your life--and for less money than you think.

50 "must Read" Children's Books

By building your children's library, you can demonstrate the importance of books in your life?—and for less money than you think. Pick up lightly used books at garage sales and second-hand stores. Ask for books as gifts. Get involved at your local library. My own recommendations? Based on my years as a Montessori teacher, plus 28 years of reading to my 11 kids, these are time-tested favorites, all still in print. You might even find some of your own childhood friends here.

Birth?-3 Years


  • Best Word Book Ever, Richard Scarry, 1963 (Golden Press)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin, Jr., 1967 (Holt, Rinehart & Winston)
  • Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina, 1940 (W.R. Scott)
  • Chicken Soup with Rice, Maurice Sendak, 1962 (Harper Collins Children's Books)
  • Good Dog, Carl, Alexandra Day, 1985 (Green Tiger Press)
  • Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, 1947 (Harper Collins Children's Books)
  • The Lost Sheep (first of a series), Nick Butterworth, 1986 (Multnomah Press)
  • "More More More" Said the Baby, Vera B. Williams, 1990 (Greenwillow Books)
  • Noisy Nora, Rosemary Wells, 1973 (Dial Press)
  • On Mother's Lap, Ann Herbert Scott, 1972 (McGraw-Hill)
  • Pat the Bunny, Dorothy Kunhardt, 1984 (Golden Books)
  • Read-Aloud Bible Stories, Volumes 1-4, Ella K. Lindvall, 1982 (Moody Press)
  • The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown, 1942 (Harper)
  • Shoes, Elizabeth Winthrop, 1986 (Harper & Row)
  • The Toddler's Bible, V. Gilbert Beers, 1992 (Victor Books)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle, 1979 (Collins Publishers)


3?-5 Years


  • Bedtime for Frances, Russell Hoban, 1960 (Harper)
  • The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss, 1957 (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Corduroy, Don Freeman, 1968 (Viking Press)
  • Giant Steps for Little People, Kenneth N. Taylor, 1985 (Tyndale House Publishers)
  • Go, Dog, Go, Philip D. Eastman, 1961 (Beginner Books)
  • Ira Sleeps Over, Bernard Waber, 1972 (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Max Lucado, 1992 (Word Publishers)
  • The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper, 1976 (Platt & Munk)
  • The Little Red Hen, various authors since 1942
  • Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans, 1963 (Viking Press)
  • Make Way for the Ducklings, Robert McCloskey, 1941 (The Viking Press)
  • Millions of Cats, Wanda Gag, 1928 (Coward, McCann & Geoghengan)
  • Noah's Ark, Peter Spier, 1977 (Doubleday)
  • Peter's Chair, Ezra Jack Keats, 1967 (Harper & Row)
  • The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, Jane Thayer, 1958 (Morrow)
  • The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister, 1992 (North-South Books)
  • Stone Soup, Ann McGovern, 1986 (Scholastic)
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963 (Harper & Row)


5?-7 Years


  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst, 1972 (Atheneum)
  • Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, 1948 (Viking Press)
  • A Chair for My Mother, Vera B. Williams, 1982 (Greenwillow Books)
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends, Arnold Lobel, 1970 (Harper & Row)
  • George Shrinks, William Joyce, 1985 (Harper & Row)
  • Goops and How to Be Them, Gelett Burgess, 1968 (Dover Publications)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson, 1958 (Harper)
  • The Hole in the Dike, retold by Norma Green, 1974 (Cromwell)
  • Least of All, Carol Purdy, 1987 (M.K. McElderry Books)
  • The Little House, Virginia Lee Burton, 1942 (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Little People in Tough Spots: Bible Answers for Young Children, V. Gilbert Beers, 1992 (Oliver-Nelson)
  • Ox-Cart Man, Donald Hall, 1979 (Viking Press)
  • People, Peter Spier, 1980 (Doubleday)
  • The Story about Ping, Marjorie Flack, 1933 (The Viking Press)
  • The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf, 1938 (The Viking Press)
  • The Year at Maple Hill Farm, Alice and Martin Provensen, 1978 (Atheneum)


?Barbara Curtis





Q & A


We've been working on reading for months?and our daughter still doesn't get it. What am I doing wrong?


Early childhood educator Dr. Mary Manz Simon says, "The most common mistake parents make is expecting reading to happen overnight. Until a child is really ready, it won't.
"The other common mistake is spending money on supplementary reading aids. Save your money! Instead, read front page headlines of the daily newspaper with your child. Give her a crayon to circle all the times she finds the word ?God' in the church bulletin. For her birthday or Christmas, buy a subscription to Ranger Rick, Cricket, Clubhouse Jr. or another good children's magazine. Help her read the back of the cereal box. That's all reading. And that's all good."



No matter what book I choose, my son says it's "boring."


Be patient, and be willing to let your son choose his own reading material. I couldn't believe that my own son, who just days before had said that reading was "boring and a waste of time," sat for more than an hour paging through a comic book we found at a used book store. That night he wanted to read the entire book, suggesting on his own that "I read a page and you read a page." The next day he was willing to spend his own money on another copy.
One resource for helping your son find books that interest him is "Make Way For Books." This newsletter, $10 annually, is published by Christians dedicated to bringing together parents, teachers, young readers and high-quality books. This resource offers recommendations, reviews and ordering information. To order the newsletter, call (888) 622-MWFB.



My neighbor's kids read a lot, but she says they had to sell their TV in order to get them to cooperate. Do we have to sell the TV?


Some TV in a balanced day is all right. Mary Leonhardt offers these suggestions: Limit television viewing to the living room. A TV in the kitchen or your child's bedroom is too accessible. Consider doing without cable. With fewer channel choices, your child may find reading a more appealing option.



How can I pack more reading time into our harried schedule?


You don't need more time, just redeem everyday activities by adding reading. My son asks if he can read the grocery list at the store, crossing off the items as we put them in the cart. A friend has her children research a vacation spot, checking out books on places they'd like to go, reading up on those places, finding the hotels. Kids love to receive letters?and then are motivated to write back. Enlist several friends or relatives to write to your child. Ask your child if she'd like to send a "secret coded message" to a friend, then help her develop a simple code and do the letters. Put little notes in lunch boxes. All these make reading fun, useful and exciting.



?Sandra Byrd



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