These Are the Best Children’s Books to Encourage Their Love of Reading

"Please, Baby, Please" is relatable for parents and engaging for kids

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A wonderful way to bond with your children at any age is by reading together. Whether that means reading a board book to a baby, a picture book to a toddler, a sight word story to a new reader, or reading next to an independent reader, it’s all so important. Plus, reading aloud to children teaches them about the real world and helps stimulate their imagination.

Reviewed & Approved

"Please, Baby, Please" by Oscar-winning director Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis is a simple, wonderful book about everyday activities that babies do. For an LGBTQ+-friendly book, we recommend "Julián Is a Mermaid".

As reading specialist Gina Chung Fortt, MEd, says, “reading a variety of texts provides a model for how we can best communicate and build our background knowledge so that we can make connections and continually learn.”

When buying children's books, look for stories with a purpose, or something your child can relate to or is interested in, to help encourage their love of reading. We carefully considered material, age recommendations, quality, teachable moments, and reading level when reviewing products.

Here are the best children's books for the kids in your life.

Best for Toddlers: Please, Baby, Please

Please, Baby, Please

Source: Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

"Please, Baby, Please" ranks high on our list because it's a simple, wonderful book that goes through the various everyday activities babies go through. They’ll love hearing the story over and over again, and the repetition in the text is helpful for young minds as they learn what to expect. Showcasing a Black family doing everyday things is a bonus to add some diversity to a book collection.

Best LGBTQ+: Julián Is a Mermaid

Julian Is A Mermaid

Jessica Love

An award-winning picture book, this story features a young boy who would love to dress as a dazzling mermaid. With an important focus on self-love and celebrating individuality, this book is heartwarming and will help kids (and adults) foster acceptance and understanding.

Best in Spanish: Que Cosas Dice Mi Abuela

Que Cosas Dice Mi Abuela

Amazon

Families raising bilingual babies will appreciate that this story uses a grandmother’s traditional Spanish sayings to teach manners to her young grandchildren and their friends. Set in the backdrop of a regular day, parents appreciate that the sayings teach positive lessons and morals, while kids will love the lively illustrations.

Best for All Ages: Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex

Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex

Source: Robert Neubecker

There’s so much to love about this silly story about Linus, a vegetarian T. Rex, and Ruth Ann, the girl who knows everything about dinosaurs. In addition to a fun story that promotes acceptance, eagle-eyed kids will enjoy seeking and finding a pair of velociraptors that are hidden on every page of the book. 

Best Classic: The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand

Source: Audrey Penn

Full of kindness, empathy, and compassion, this book is a favorite of kindergarten teachers and will help any kid going through a childhood transition. When the young raccoon in the story is scared of going to school, his mama finds a way to let him know she’s always with him, even when they are apart. Use this classic as the first day of school helper, and your kiddo will be armed with a helpful tool.

Best for Diversity: black is brown is tan

black is brown is tan

Source: Arnold Adoff

Published in 1973 and showcasing an interracial family, this book still holds up as a wonderful model of a diverse family doing everyday things. Written in poetic verse, kids will love hearing this story read out loud, and it is a wonderful way to open up a conversation about diversity and representation with young kids.

Best New: A Little Book About Racism

A Little Book About Racism

Source: Jelani Memory

Thank this little book for taking a huge topic and making it sized just right for young kids. This important board book gives a simple and clear explanation of just what racism is and how to identify it. While it is a board book, consider it a great starting point for any age child.

Best Life Lesson: The Great Fuzz Frenzy

The Great Fuzz Frenzy

Source: Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Kids will learn the importance of community in this silly story. A group of prairie dogs is living harmoniously when their life is interrupted by a mysterious greenish/yellowish thing (also known as a tennis ball). Fear turns from delight to greed as the prairie dogs' way of life is challenged. A good read-aloud, this book will instill some beneficial lessons and give you lots to talk about.

Best Funny: Grumpy Bird

Grumpy Bird

Source: Jeremy Tankard

A fun and original story, this book is silly and also helps kids recognize and accept their emotions. The colorful illustrations will delight kids, and it’s hard to resist the cute bird who eventually learns to shake off his grumpies.

Best for Confidence: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Source: Todd Parr

Instilling an important lesson is easy with this sweet story that’ll help kids build confidence and embrace life’s happy accidents. The book follows kid-friendly experiences while showing the benefits of taking a chance, trying something new, and embracing life, even with mistakes.

Best Read Aloud: The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit

Courtesy of Amazon

This funny book imagines what would happen if all the colors in a box of crayons “quit” for the day. Written from each color’s perspective, it’s a fun read-aloud since readers can add personality to each crayon’s monologue.

Final Verdict

Little ones will adore the rhythmic tone of "Please, Baby, Please" and it'll likely become a bedtime favorite (view on Amazon). For a clever pick that will have your tot laughing all the way to the last page, "The Day the Crayons Quit" (view on Amazon) will be as fun to listen to as it is to read.

What to Look for in a Children's Book

Quality

When you're browsing at the library or bookstore, think about your child’s experience while reading. As a reading specialist, Gina Chung Fortt says she “looks for books that have relatable characters, events or themes with engaging illustrations. I especially look for books with flowing language, simple and not overly complicated or flowery.” You want the writing to be compelling so your kiddo wants to read more. 

Teachable Moments 

Reading is one of the four pillars of literacy, which also include writing, speaking, and listening. No matter what age your child is, use a reading experience to further a conversation. Fortt shares that “strong readers engage with text and then have the language to talk about it and write about it and listen to others share about it.”

The simple act of talking about a book, asking questions, or sharing feelings provides so much to their understanding of themselves and the world around them. In addition to bonding, “the questions we ask, the conversations we have, the thinking aloud about the book—we are providing context and understanding," Fortt explains.

Reading Level

As kids get older, they will learn to be independent readers and should aim for “just right” books geared toward their individual levels. Fortt reminds parents: “Don’t be too quick to drop reading aloud to your kids! There are endless titles (not just chapter books, but even picture books) that might be 'too hard' for your child to read independently but by reading them aloud to your child you are building background knowledge, higher-order thinking, exposure to new vocabulary, and promoting new levels of comprehension.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is reading important for children?

    Literacy is one of the most significant predictors of academic achievement. Reading aloud to children beginning in infancy can boost their vocabulary and pre-reading skills as well as help to cultivate a positive attitude towards reading. Beyond the measurable academic benefits of reading, the activity can engage children so that they can entertain themselves independently, or create parent-child bonding opportunities.

  • How often should kids be reading?

    Educator recommendations range from 10 to 30 minutes a day. Ask your child’s teacher how much time or how many books per day might be helpful for their development, or simply use common sense and encourage your child to spend more time reading than on their devices.

  • How do I encourage my child to read?

    Letting children choose their own books at the bookstore or library can be a helpful way to build their enthusiasm around reading. Modeling healthy reading habits—see how much Mom loves to read?!—can also help get kids excited about sitting down to read whether, it’s a picture book or young adult page-turner.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of an 11-year-old son, an 8-year-old son, and a 4-year-old daughter. One of the joys of watching your children get older is having them read the stories they loved to their younger siblings (and it counts as reading time for homework: win-win!).

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Reading with your child. Reading Rockets.

  2. Hanover Research. Early skills and predictors of academic success.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost.