When it comes to reading, kindergarten students are learning the sounds made by each letter of the alphabet and how to put those sounds together to pronounce short words. Because of this, grade-level books for kindergarteners are not just read aloud anymore! Many books are also meant for children to read along and practice their new skills.
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Our Favorite Kindergarten Books
Our list of Top 20 Books for Your Kindergartener includes both classic and modern works and a range of appropriate reading levels. Each offers some combination of academic practice, value lessons, and exploring a child’s world. They are also just plain fun! Mix and match to build a great library for your kindergartener.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
When a mother bird’s egg starts to jump, she hurries off to make sure she has something for her little one to eat. But as soon as she’s gone, out pops the baby bird. He immediately sets off to find his mother, but not knowing what she looks like makes it a challenge. (Beginner Books, Penguin Random House)
Children will have fun seeing the bird ask many different animals if they are his mother, and will hope that he finds his mother in the end!
Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
Gerald and Piggie meet a new snake friend who wants to join in a game of catch. But don’t you need arms to catch? (Disney- Hyperion)
Children learn how to include others regardless of their differences in this humorous story.
Curious George by H.A. Rey
George meets his friend, the man with the yellow hat, and begins the life of mischief and adventure so beloved by generations of readers. (HarperCollins)
While many children have already been introduced to Curious George by both books and television, let them get to know the lovable monkey from the very beginning of his adventures!
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place-a pigeon! But you’ve never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate. (Disney-Hyperion)
Recipient of the Caldecott Honor, this book gives children interactive fun as they yell “No!” every time the pigeon comes up with a new reason as to why he should be allowed to drive the bus. Kids learn that we can’t always get our own way.
The Foot Book: Dr. Seuss’s Wacky Book of Opposites by Dr. Seuss
Explore all different kinds of feet, from fast to slow, front to back, big and small, and learn about opposites! Dr. Seuss’s rhymes will delight young readers and help them discover the world around them, starting with their own bodies! (Random House Books for Young Readers)
While the target audience of this book is more the pre-K crowd, it can provide Kindergarteners with confidence in their emerging reading skills and also reinforce the somewhat tricky concept of opposites in a fun and engaging way.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Gerald is a giraffe who simply can’t dance. Try as he may, his long, spindly legs buckle whenever he starts to boogy. Every year he dreads going to the Great Jungle Dance – until one night when he finds his own special music… (Orchard Books)
Children will learn that it’s ok to do what you love even if you do it differently than someone else.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (Author) and Axel Scheffler (Illustrator)
A mouse is taking a stroll through the deep, dark wood when along comes a hungry fox, then an owl, and then a snake. The mouse is good enough to eat but smart enough to know this, so he invents . . . the gruffalo! As Mouse explains, the gruffalo is a creature with terrible claws, and terrible tusks in its terrible jaws, and knobbly knees and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of its nose. But Mouse has no worry to show. After all, there’s no such thing as a gruffalo. (Puffin Books)
Kids will love the amazing illustrations and the clever wit of the mouse. Is there really no such thing as a gruffalo?
Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Boy and fly meet and so begins a beautiful friendship. Er, and so begins a very funny friendship. Using hyperbole, puns, slapstick, and silly drawings, bestselling author/illustrator Tedd Arnold creates an easy reader that is full of fun. (Cartwheel Books)
Introduce kids to the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor recipient and first book in the Fly Guy series. A fly and his friend Buzz have funny adventures described with engaging illustrations and simple text.
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty (Author) and Mike Boldt (Illustrator)
Frog wants to be anything but a slimy, wet frog. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit. An owl? But when a hungry wolf arrives—a wolf who HATES eating frogs—our hero decides that being himself isn’t so bad after all. In this very silly story with a sly message, told in hilarious dialogue between a feisty young frog and his heard-it-all-before father, young readers will identify with little Frog’s desire to be something different, while laughing along at his stubborn yet endearing schemes to prove himself right. (Dragonfly Books)
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. (Candelwick)
A Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor recipient, this book written in simple dialogue will encourage children to use their predictive ability…and even adults will laugh at the ending!
Kindness Makes Me Stronger by Elizabeth Cole
Spending a time on grandparents’ farm little Nick meets new friends – funny animals that don’t behave nicely. Having faced a great challenge our little hero manages to teach his new friends the power of kindness, caring and compassion. (Elizabeth Cole, Go2Publish LLC)
Part of the author’s World of Kids Emotions series, this book teaches respecting others and offering both empathy and kindness.
Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
Does any child like to go shopping? Not Llama Llama! But Mama can’t leave Llama at home, so off they go to Shop-O-Rama. Lots of aisles. Long lines. Mama is too busy to notice that Llama Llama is getting m-a-d! And before he knows it, he’s having a full-out tantrum! (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Llama learns from very patient Mama that being together can make even everyday events enjoyable. As with all the books in this series, the story is told in rhyme.
The Maggie B. by Irene Haas
In a beautifully constructed story, a little girl’s wish to sail for a day on a boat named for her” with someone nice for company” comes true. (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Students will enjoy sharing in a dream world of a boat that belongs to a girl for a day, with beautiful illustrations.
May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice de Regniers (Author) and Beni Montresor (Illustrator)
One day, a small boy receives a very special invitation—the King and the Queen have invited him to the castle for tea. He accepts, with one question: “May I bring a friend?”
“Any friend of our friend is welcome here,” says the King. But their guest’s friend turns out to be someone they never expected! (Aladdin)
A classic that is also a recipient of the Caldecott Medal, this book will still capture children’s imaginations.
No, David! by David Shannon
David is a beloved character, whose unabashed good humor, mischievous smile, and laughter-inducing antics underline the love parents have for their children–even when they misbehave. (Blue Sky Press)
Winner of the Caldecott Honor, this book heralds back to the author’s first book he wrote at the age of five! Many children will identify with David getting in trouble, but will be encouraged by the message of unconditional love.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes story by Eric Litwin, illustrated and created by James Dean
Pete the Cat goes walking down the street wearing his brand-new white shoes. Along the way, his shoes change from white to red to blue to brown to WET as he steps in piles of strawberries, blueberries, and other big messes! But no matter what color his shoes are, Pete keeps movin’ and groovin’ and singing his song…because it’s all good. (HarperCollins)
The first in the Pete the Cat series, the song that accompanies the story can be downloaded to increase the fun. Children will enjoy Pete’s unwavering optimism as his shoes change colors.
Richard Scarry’s Best Little Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, and Goldbug guide children on a point-and-learn journey through the words around them. (Golden Books)
While this book does not contain a story, it is full of vocabulary that children will associate with detailed pictures of familiar things in their world.
T. Rexes Can’t Tie Their Shoes by Anna Lazowski (Author) and Steph Labaris (Illustrator)
Follow a hilarious alphabet of animals, and see all the things they can’t do but kids can—from doing gymnastics to flipping pancakes to playing a xylophone. Along the way, young readers will learn that it’s okay if they can’t do everything; they can still have a LOT of fun trying. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)
This book reinforces the alphabet by matching the first letter of the animal with the first letter of an activity they can’t do (bees can’t ride bicycles).
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This all-time favorite not only follows the very hungry caterpillar as it grows from egg to cocoon to beautiful butterfly, but also teaches the days of the week, counting, good nutrition and more. (Eric-Carle.com)
Even though this book initially targets the younger crowd, kindergarteners will be excited to begin reading some of the words that go along with familiar pictures.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night. “Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.”
And Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when it’s time to go back to school and she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realizes that school is too much fun to waste time worrying! (Greenwillow Books)
Although a back-to-school story, children will also find this book encouraging that they need not waste time worrying.
Making Your Own Kindergarten Reading List
There are way more than 20 good books for your kindergartener to read. You have what it takes to add to your child’s reading list or to even make one on your own! Just consider ability, interest, and values when choosing books for your child; read on to see how!
Kindergarteners are just learning how to combine letter sounds to read words. This can be incredibly exciting, but also challenging. Some sounds and blends are harder than others! Some children will be off and running with their newfound skills; others will need a little longer to practice those harder combinations. Offering a range of reading levels is the key to maintaining the confidence of both types of readers.
If you’re not sure about your child’s reading level, masterygenius.com provides assessment services to help you understand your child’s abilities. They also offer resources to help your child succeed.
Most books have been “rated” by either publishers or reviewers as being level-appropriate for a certain range of ages or grades. Just take note of these ranges when making your selections. These ranges may be found on book covers, publishers’ websites, or book-seller websites.
A book is considered “below level” if the child has not only mastered the skills required for reading that book but has moved on to new skills. Since kindergarteners are just learning to read, there really aren’t very many books that are truly below-level for them when it comes to the words.
If a book is rated, for example, as being more appropriate for 2 to 4 year olds, it’s more likely because of the interest level of the book than the difficulty level. The kindergartener may just now be able to read the word “cow” below the picture of the cow, but he may be bored by the exercise if there is no story involved.
On the other hand, it can also be exciting for the kindergartener to look at the old books of his toddlerhood and realize that he can actually read the words now! For this reason, such books can be an encouragement for kindergarteners that are taking longer to grasp their reading lessons. Grappling with more familiar books will be easier for them and build confidence.
The average level of reading ability is grade-level ability, meaning the child reads books at a level of difficulty expected of him for his current age or grade. The child would likely receive average test scores on assessments that measure basic reading skills and reading comprehension. Grade-level books allow children to work on their emerging reading skills at a comfortable pace. Such books for kindergarteners include both read-aloud books that introduce more difficult words, and read-along books containing several words that the kindergartener can read by himself.
On the other end of the ability spectrum, some children can read above level. Books should be offered that challenge these children, but care should be taken to limit the number of these books to avoid introducing frustration. Aim more for gentle challenge just beyond their current skills. For kindergarteners, offer a few books that are in the 1st to 2nd grade range. Offering such books can also whet the curiosity of the grade-level reader.
The kindergartener loves stories about animals and other children that are having adventures and learning new things. Simple humor is appreciated. But as we all know, each child is different and will have their own unique list of “favorites.”
Adjust to Gauged Interest
There is a valid argument that children can’t know what they like or dislike until they’re exposed to it. While true, the key is to adjust to these revelations as they are discovered. If the student reads the first book of the Pete the Cat series and is bored to tears (even though you think it’s hilarious), move on to another series. Key takeaway: don’t buy a whole series at once!
Stopping is Allowed
Know this: your child doesn’t have to finish a book if it is clear he is not interested. For the kindergartener, this may mean reading the book aloud instead of having him read along, or just looking at the pictures. You could even have him make up his own story! Be more concerned about nurturing a love of (or neutral sentiment toward) reading than worrying that you are enabling quitting. While you can’t let your child quit every book, do allow him to stop if his dislike is strong. Alternatively, you can change your approach to the book.
Empower the Child
What is one great way to make sure your child’s interests are being valued? Have your child help you make the reading list! Show your kindergartener pictures of book covers, or real book covers at the library. You may be surprised at what sparks his curiosity.
While most of us want our children to experience both classic literature and more modern works, modern literature has a much broader range of social perspectives than was typical in the classics. Even the classics are not immune in the rapidly-changing forum of public opinion.
How are you to approach the goal of having your child’s reading list be in sync with your values?
Decide on Priorities
Let’s face it – few books are going to adhere exactly to your value system, even in the kindergartener’s realm! The infractions may be as mild as a character’s snarky attitude toward authority or as serious as straying from one of your core moral paradigms. Decide what you will tolerate and what you will reject.
Some take no chances and read all of their children’s books first. For kindergarteners, this would be a fairly easy endeavor. However, parents who may not have either the time or inclination to do this can still safeguard their child’s reading list by reading reviews.
Reading book reviews will give you a general idea of the book’s main plot and perhaps implied lessons. Read a mix of both professional and lay reviews. Professional reviews will give you a broad idea of the book’s message, while lay reviews are more likely to tease out points of contention. If a book contains something that you wouldn’t approve of, someone else of your opinion has probably already found it and has voiced disapproval.
When your child reads a book that contains different values, decide how to approach any resulting conversation. Will you proactively discuss the issues before your child even reads the book? Will you wait to see if he has any reaction or opinion of his own? Some parents view exposure to different values as a valuable lesson in itself. It can be an opportunity to teach the child how to navigate a world of vast opinions that will differ from his own.
Equipped with the considerations of reading ability, interest, and values, let’s not forget to also have fun building a reading list for our child! The exercise can bring back good memories while also introducing us to new and exciting adventures.