Wrangling your energetic kindergartener for quiet reading time at home every day can be...rough. But it’s worth doing. Why? “Reading to your kindergartener as much as possible will increase the probability of your child’s school success,” says Denise Daniels, RN, MS, child development expert and creator of the Moodsters. “It helps children’s brain development and builds key language and social skills. It also fosters curiosity and communication skills,” she adds. Yep, reading boasts an impressive list of benefits, and this is especially true if you choose the right material. Daniels says kindergartners profit most from books with themes that “help children develop morals, empathy, social and emotional learning, and resiliency skills...and expose children to diversity.” But don’t worry if you don’t have time to vet every book in the children’s section yourself—we’ve rounded up 50 books for kindergarteners that they’re guaranteed to love.
1. Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Willems
High drama, big print and plenty of humor combine in this story about navigating friendship and practicing patience. Little kids will want to hear it again and again…and that’s OK by us, because it’s truly a pleasure to read.
2. Anxious Ninja by Mary Ninh
An anxious ninja finds his big feelings to be debilitating until a friend offers up some advice on how to manage emotions and find courage. This read delivers social-emotional learning with a side of laughter—and a powerful message about peer connections that every kid should hear.
3. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
A big dose of humor in a short book about friendship. Opt for this kid-favorite about, well, dragons who love tacos, and story time will be anything but boring.
4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
This classic story about resilience and learning how to cope when nothing seems to work out right is highly relatable for readers of all ages, but especially for kindergarteners who are just learning how to keep their cool in the face of disappointment.
5. Firebird by Misty Copeland
Penned by the first African American female principal dancer in the prestigious American Ballet Theater, this gripping read tells the story of a young girl who doubts her own ability to reach the same heights that Misty has done. Throughout the book, Misty encourages her to work hard so that she can succeed—and become Firebird.
6. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Amelia Bedelia has a hard time with figures of speech (like using a pen and paper to “draw” the drapes), but kids who read the book certainly will not. The simple words make this one a good candidate for early phonics instruction and the story will make your little one double over with laughter…literally.
7. My Heart by Corinna Luyken
Beautiful illustrations take center stage in this poignant story about emotional autonomy. The hidden heart motif on every page promises to keep kids engaged in the soothing narrative, which covers the entire spectrum of feelings.
8. The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Get ready to be goofy, parents, because The Book With No Pictures will make you appear ridiculous whether you like it or not. Wildly funny and incredibly clever, this book does a bang-up job of conveying the power of the written word—and we promise your kid will never tire of reading it (or making you read it out loud).
9. I Am Enough by Grace Byers
Striking art and melodic verses deliver an empowering message on inclusivity, self-love and respect for others in this New York Times’ bestseller that brings the beauty of diversity to the forefront for young children.
10. How to Catch a Mermaid By Adam Wallace
Upbeat, cheerful rhyming makes this catchy adventure story fun and fast to read, although children will likely want to linger on each page to take in the vibrant, intricate illustrations.
11. Meet Me at the Moon by Gianna Marino
When a mama elephant has to leave her baby to “ask the skies for rain,” she reassures her little one by telling him to feel the warmth of her love in the sun and listen for it in the wind. This touching book boasts beautiful depictions of the African plains and the story, which ends with a moving mother-child reunion, is sure to soothe any child suffering from back-to-school separation blues.
12. The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers
School supplies come to life in the pages of this witty story about disgruntled crayons. This crowd-pleaser will develop your own kid’s sense of humor while nourishing the young imagination—and it’s sure to provoke laughter from parent and child alike.
13. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
The list of awards and accolades earned by this book about giving back may well be longer than the book itself. The powerful message about the common good that comes through the pages of this soulful story is enhanced by vibrant illustrations of an urban setting. This library staple is a celebration of diversity that will teach your child the importance of doing a good deed every day.
14. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma has a lot of names—too many if you ask her. Or at least that’s what she thinks when we first meet her. But by the end of the book and after a journey into the past, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela loves knowing where all of her beautiful names came from.
15. Because by Mo Willems
The lyrical prose Willems pens in this moving read is a departure from the sparse yet delightfully funny writing that characterizes many of his other children’s books, but the final product is just as exciting. This ode to the transformative power of music is accompanied by stunning illustrations—a combination that will mesmerize and inspire young readers (and pull on the heartstrings of parents).
16. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes
Got a kid with first-day jitters? This cheerful story will get her ready—and excited—for going to school. And sure, there are plenty of books that you could read to your reluctant kindergartener to let her know that it’s all going to be OK, but this one takes the message one step further by saying, ”You’ve totally got this”
17. Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson
A great introduction to chapter books, Detective Gordon is an age-appropriate and gripping whodunit adventure that kindergarteners will be excited to dive back into every day. Plus, this book also benefits from colorful illustrations from cover to cover, ensuring that even easily-distracted kids don’t lose the plot.
18. Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
A chapter book for young readers told from the perspective of a sassy, uproariously funny, and charmingly relatable peer. This New York Times bestseller has been turning out bookworms for a quarter of a century, because no one can resist the big personality of kindergarten kid Junie B. Jones.
19. The Bear and the Fern by Jay Miletsky
Banish first day butterflies with this heartwarming tale of an offbeat friendship formed between a stuffed bear and his houseplant roommate—companions who empower one another to explore their surroundings and confront their fears. The wholesome message plays out to a beautiful, rhyming tune, and the lyrics include a few prized vocabulary words for good measure.
20. I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Young kids will be thrilled by this upbeat book about a little girl who, inspired by the sounds of the city, boogies her way to the center of town. With her passion, energy and cool moves, the little girl starts a spontaneous dance party, inspiring all the kids in the city to join the fun. Chances are your little one will want to bop to the beat, too, after this charming read.
21. Kalinka and Grakkle by Julie Paschkis
With a subdued and artful dose of humor, Paschkis tells the story of a bird and a beast who just can’t understand each other’s habits and needs. Mutual acceptance is finally reached once both parties have made a tough emotional journey full of frustration and learned to listen rather than control. This light-hearted book invites laughter, while simultaneously familiarizing kindergarteners with the social-emotional learning that lies ahead.
22. Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown
Young children are introduced to poetry and culture in this book that sings the praises of Pablo Neruda, while shining a spotlight on the empathic spirit behind his work. Magical and touching, Brown’s storytelling will spark creativity, and may well inspire a new generation of poets.
23. The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie de Paola
A tongue-in-cheek narrative about a knight and dragon that have to prepare for a duel by going to the library, because neither knows the first thing about fighting. Fortunately, there’s no stand-off at the end of this fairytale—instead the knight and dragon snub tradition and decide to collaborate on a new, exciting project, which they pull off with the aid of more books and a princess librarian to guide their research.
24. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
A patient, supportive father stands by his son and helps gently guide him in this story of a young boy who has all the skills to jump off a diving board, but can’t summon the courage to walk the plank. Kids of all ages will relate to and feel validated by this book that revolves around the main character’s inner struggle and ultimate victory over his own fears.
25. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
Seuss-like in style and aesthetic, this classic book will help pre-K graduates master prepositional phrases, and the antics performed by the group of pups is basically a guarantee that the education is full of entertainment to boot.
26. Do Not Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak
Kindergarteners are known for questionable instincts when it comes to hygiene, but this book might just spare you a school year of endless illness. Written by a microbiologist with a good sense of humor, this book teaches kids all about germs (and how not to spread them) with an interactive format that makes for an undeniably fun read.
27. I Wrote You a Note by Lizi Boyd
Middle school teachers might report note passing as a problem but in kindergarten, literacy is the name of the game so no one will be upset when this book inspires your kid to practice writing letters with a classroom pen pal.
28. Pink Is For Boys by Robb Pearlman
Gender stereotypes are among the unwritten, outdated rules that can start stifling children’s self-expression as soon as kindergarten begins (if not earlier). Blow the lid off all that crap with a book that encourages boys who want to wear pink and girls who like to play basketball. Bottom line: Both sexes will walk away from story time feeling empowered to explore their interests and expand their minds.
29. Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
By kindergarten, many little ones have stopped napping and most schools don’t carve out a space in the schedule for children that want a midday snooze, so a good night’s sleep is a must. Nip bedtime drama in the bud and ease the transition to a nap-free school day with a sweet and silly book that will help your child put his nighttime fears to bed.
30. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
Looking for an age-appropriate way to address questions on sexual orientation and gender identity? This inclusive book tells the tale of a fun pride celebration and also includes helpful information for parents plus a reading guide full of LGBTQ+ history and culture.
31. Aberdeen by Stacey Previn
A series of unexpected events occur when a lovable mouse unwittingly embarks on an adventure and ends up charting new territory. But it’s Aberdeen’s efforts to find his way back home that imbue the story with a requisite degree of intrigue to keep restless kindergarteners glued to their seats.
32. My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison
Kids can be mean, which is why every kindergartener needs a primer from Paula, who has to learn some tough lessons about friendship and integrity before she figures out how to stand up to a bully in defense of her bestie Maggie. This heartwarming story is a must-read that teaches schoolyard newbies how to do the right thing as they form and navigate new relationships with peers.
33. Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison
Lively animal portraits bring the characters to life in this book that helps kids comprehend the indispensable life skill of being able to recover from a bad mood. Bernice starts off with a me-first attitude that spoils her own fun at a friend’s birthday bash, so much so that she gets carried away...literally, by balloons. With a bit of effort, she finds her way back to the party at last—and becomes the life of it.
34. The Little Red Fish by Tae-Eun Yoo
Take your child on a trip to the realm of magical realism with this Murakami-esque story of a boy who, after falling asleep in the library, sets out to explore the stacks in search of his lost little red fish. Whimsical and refreshing, this book will enthrall readers of all ages.
35. Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Three bears break mama bear’s precious seashell keepsake and embark on an epic adventure to make things right by finding her a new special shell. The rough seas leave the siblings wondering if they can make it back home safely...and if they should have, perhaps, just come clean about the accident instead. The lesson in accountability is effective without being heavy-handed, and the ending is happy, of course.
36. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat
Get back on the horse that bucked you—that’s the theme of this uplifting follow-up story that details the aftermath (and emotional fallout) of Humpty Dumpty’s famously tragic fall. Spoiler alert: Despite his morbid nursery rhyme fate, the once pitifully fragile character does indeed face his fear of heights and gets a taste of triumph in this kid-friendly page-turner.
37. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
A tale about real-life astronaut Mae Jemison, this book shines a light on women in STEM and the moral of the story couldn’t be better: “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”
38. What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada
This book revolves around a seemingly simple question, explored with an extended metaphor that sparks creativity and big thinking in small people. The answer is not so straightforward, though, and the narrative skillfully covers all the obstacles children face when taking a chance (fear of the unknown, aversion to failure, and embarrassment, to name a few). The message is spot-on and the illustrations are stripped-down in the most striking way.
39. Dear Girl by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Take a page out of this book and then read it to your daughter as a confidence-building reminder of her inherent worth. Every little girl should hear and relish this ode to the unbreachable beauty, strength and potential she has within—and this winner deserves its place on the bookshelves of boys, too, so they can grow up to be respectful men.
40. Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
Give your kid a leg up on classroom (and real world) etiquette with this playful story about a slice of cake that seemingly misplaced its manners. An amusing read that reminds children that no mistake is so grievous, it can’t be corrected with a little attitude adjustment.
41. Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
Anti-bullying themes are an understated but important component in this story of Stick and Stone and the the heroic choices they make to develop and maintain their friendship. A heartwarming message about loyalty and virtue—related with catchy, rhyming prose—this book is a major asset when it comes to encouraging the social-emotional learning that goes into any enduring childhood bond.
42. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
As soon as Sulwe realizes her skin is darker than that of her classmates, and even her own family, she struggles with self-acceptance...until she takes an eye-opening, magical journey into the midnight-black night sky. Her whimsical travels conclude with an invaluable realization: What made her feel uncomfortably different is, in fact, what makes her uniquely beautiful. The best antidote to racism comes from honest, early childhood education—consider this breathtaking book a starter course that every kindergartener needs.
43. My Magical Choices by Becky Cummings
Emotional autonomy is the solution to nearly every bout of angst (at any age) as it delivers one from boredom, frustration and the general feeling of powerlessness that so often plagues childhood. Cummings gets to the heart of the matter in her engaging book, which reads like self-help for pint-sized people, replete with alluring illustrations and a positive message to kids: You can control your own happiness.
44. That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
Shy kiddos might be inclined to hide in their shells, especially in the context of a noisy classroom with more boisterous, extroverted peers—but with a little extra nudge during reading time, even a shrinking violet can find the courage to tap a classmate on the shoulder and strike up a friendship. That Neighbor Kid throws timidity out the window in favor of a brave desire to connect and build something new.
45. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Antisocial tendencies are kind of the norm in a kindergarten classroom, which is why kids and parents alike will appreciate this cheeky story about a student struggling with competing desires. Should Penelope Rex eat or befriend her classmates? The answer is fairly obvious (and she gets there in the end) but young readers will delight in a moral conundrum that pokes fun at their own worst instincts as they learn the dos and don’ts of classroom conduct.
46. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
This beautiful story explores a dynamic that you don’t often see in children’s books: a father in charge of his daughter’s care (which includes doing her hair). Read this celebration of fatherly love and natural hair with your kid first, then check out the Academy Award-winning short film here.
47. Don’t Feed the WorryBug by Andi Green
The first day of big kid school is a big deal, so if your child is feeling nervous, help her find solace in a book. In this frank and relatable story, Wince’s “worry bug” starts off as a small thing that grows into a beast the more he frets. We’ve all been there, and it’s never too soon to give your child a head start on self-care with a story that places a premium on open communication about emotions.
48. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
A guide to help small people find their place in a larger-than-life world, Jeffers’ celebration of humanity is chock full of valuable lessons. The awe-inspiring backdrop against which the wisdom unfolds makes for a captivating read that is certain to inspire a sense of wonder in any child.
49. Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos by Monica Brown
The celebrated and supremely talented Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, is the subject of this cultural inquiry and she is examined through a decidedly kid-friendly lens, focusing on a love of living things. Pair this easy and engaging read with a trip to an art museum and your little one will feel the creative juices flowing.
50. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award winning author Jacqueline Woodson and Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López collaborated to craft this stunning children’s book that touches on the topics of inclusivity, self-esteem and the importance of human connection. Time to turn off the screens and engage in a conversation about what really matters—and as luck would have it, the script has already been beautifully written.
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