Classic Books That Every Kid Needs

While there are certainly advantages to reading on electronic tablets and e-readers, there’s something magical that happens when little fingers turn paper pages. Suddenly the words and illustrations within a book reveal a world of imagination that isn’t visible on the screen. We’ve gathered 15 memorable books that belong on the bookshelf of every young reader. From books describing hidden gardens to page turners about wizards and giant peaches, these stories transport readers into a world where animals talk and even the hardest life lessons are easy to understand. So unplug the tablet and introduce the kiddos to these classics that shaped our own childhoods.

wild things

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1. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
What little kid hasn’t imagine being swept away into an imaginary world where all his problem disappear? This classic book may have been written in1963, but it’s theme is still relatable to today’s young readers. Let your kiddo’s imagination soar as she follows the adventures of Max as his bedroom turns into a jungle full of wild things. Age range: 3 -5 years


2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Kids will love this world filled with magic and imagination. Find out what happens when four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, step through the doorway from their wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. While there are certainly more books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is probably the best known in the series. Age range: 7 years and up

anne of green gables

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
While the books were originally published in 1908, we bet your little ones will still delight in the young orphan, Anne Shirley’s adventures as she makes her way at Green Gables. Her feisty spirit, outspoken nature and sense of humor make Anne a great role model for young girls and teach them that it’s okay to speak up and be yourself. Age range: 9 years and up

goodnight moon

4. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
There’s a reason nearly every newborn baby is given a copy of Goodnight Moon as a gift. The engaging text (“goodnight room, goodnight moon”) along with the soothing illustrations, has kept this story a bedtime staple for generations. The simple nature of the story make it a great first book when little ones start becoming readers too. Age range: 1 and up


5. Curious George by H.A. Rey
While parents like the lessons that George’s antics teach, kids love seeing what mischief the little monkey will get into and watching him carried through the air by balloons. For a special treat, read this timeless story aloud to your kiddos and then watch the movie or a few episodes of the PBS television show. Little ones will love watching George jump from the pages of their book onto the big screen. Age range: 4 – 8 years


6. Corduroy by Don Freeman
Who can resist this sweet brown bear whose only desire is to be taken home by a friend? Locked in a department store overnight, this fun book follows the adventures of a teddy bear named Corduroy. Your kids will love this endearing story and like many of our fellow childhood peers, might even name their own teddy bear after Dan Freeman’s protagonist. Age range: 3 -5 years

cat in the hat

7. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
A list of childhood classics wouldn’t be complete without a Dr. Seuss title. And while we love so many of the stories (Green Eggs and Ham, The Grinch), nothing quite compares to the mischievous antics of The Cat himself. What kid can’t relate to Nick and Sally’s desire to meet this crazy cat, which quickly turns into mayhem with Thing 1 and Thing 2. Age range: 5 – 8


8. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s imagination and creativity will impress everyone from the youngest tots to the oldest grandparents. Find out what happens with James and his giant peach take a magical journey across the ocean. While this book is definitely not grounded in reality (giant peaches and parents being eaten by a rhinoceros), kids of all ages can relate to James’ feelings of wanting to be loved and longing for an escape. Age range: 7 and up


9. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
While this book is geared more toward the older reader, it still deserves to be on the list of classic kids’ books. Young readers will love following Mary Lennox and her adventures into a secret garden that soon changes not only her life, but the lives of the new friends she makes. We love seeing Mary’s transformation from sad to happy, and the role nature plays in that change. Age range: 9 and up


10. Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff
Originally published in a French children’s book, Babar first made an English-language appearance in the early 1930s and has since become a memorable read for so many people. The stories follow the beloved pachyderm as he befriends a kind Old Lady; goes on a hot air balloon ride with his friend, Celeste; and engages his fellow elephants to build a magnificent city.  Age range: 4 – 8 years

harry potter
11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
When J.K. Rowling wrote the sentence, “Every child in our world will know his name,” in the first chapter of The Sorcerer’s Stone, no one had any idea those words would ring so true. While kids love Harry, Hermione and Ron’s adventures at Hogwarts, we like that at the root of these books is the lesson that nothing is stronger than the bond of friendship. Age range: 7 and up

little engine that could

12. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Behind this story about the little engine who was small but mighty is the lesson that anything can be accomplished if you believe in yourself and put your mind to the task. We think this is an important lesson for all kids to learn. What better way to teach it than through the words of the beloved blue train? Today’s self-help gurus have nothing on this famous tale of motivation and positive thinking. Age range: 3 and up


13. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
In this old house in Paris all covered in vines lived the wonderful story of Madeline. Kids love the stories about this famous orphan and how her bravery helps her face fierce tigers, little mice, and even a burst appendix. Madeline’s individuality make her a classic and modern-day heroine for the younger of readers. Age range: 3 – 8 years

charlotte's web

14. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
A box of tissues is recommended to accompany this classic story of Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider, Fern, and all their beloved barnyard friends. This story is, at it’s heart, about the power of friendship and words, and how those things can truly change someone’s life for the better. Age range: 6 – 11 years

love you forever

15. Love You Forever by Robert Musch
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this simple story about the unconditional love that is always present between a mom and her little one. From baby to toddler, and from tween to teen, Love You Forever illustrates that a mother’s bond her with her kiddo will never break. Age range: 1 and up

Does your kiddo have a favorite that’s not on this list? Tell us in the comments!

– Leah Singer

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