Get Your Kids Reading with These Children’s Book Recommendations

My niece is preparing to start her last semester of college in a rigorous Communications program. While on an internship in Germany this summer another intern said to her condescendingly, “You need to read more books.” Let’s just say she did not appreciate his criticism.

Sometimes we come into seasons of our lives where, whether we want to or not, we don’t have the time or opportunity to sit down and read a lot of books. As a writer, I consider it part of my professional development to read as much as I can. But I am also a busy mom to five young kids. So I do the best I can. When my twins were babies, reading was a luxury I couldn’t afford. If I had a moment of quiet, hands-free time, I was either trying to clean something or I couldn’t keep my eyes open! Fortunately, seasons change and now I can carve out a little time most days for reading.

I really like to know what my kids are reading and what books are available to them, so they can expand their own universes through the ever-growing world of books. Since I am a mom and I write children’s books, I make reading children’s books a high priority. And in this season of my life, I can read a little more than I could when my kiddos were babies and toddlers. If you are not currently in a season of life where reading is an option, do not despair!

If you are looking for some book ideas for your young readers, here are a few of my recent reads, broken into categories:: 

Picture Books (great for toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners) ::

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy

This is a fun story I read aloud to all five of my kids and they were all engaged and enjoyed it. It has some repetitive phrases that they picked up quickly and includes a bit of Spanish!

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

The title is a bit of a mouthful, I know. But this book won the 2018 Crystal Kite award for our region. The author lives most of the year here in Texas (Austin). And the story is a true story about a young girl named Audrey Faye Hendricks and what she experiences as she marches for her civil rights. This is a great story to segue into a conversation with a child about race or to reiterate things you have already talked about.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

This is one of those books that you could buy for a friend as a thoughtful gift and she would also love it. It reaches people on all levels because everybody makes mistakes. It is a bit thicker than your average picture book, but there are not too many words on each page, so the story is still engaging and fun for kids of all ages. If your child is in a phase where she is getting frustrated with herself and can’t see past her mistakes, this book is exactly what she needs. {It’s a great reminder to moms, too. We make mistakes on the regular, but we can turn each mistake into something new, unexpected, and beautiful}.

Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman

This is a fun way to teach kids about history without shoving a text book in their faces. The art is very colorful and engaging as well. There are just enough details shared about President Lincoln that they are memorable without overdoing it. If you are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., or just want your child to learn more about a great U.S. President, this book is a must.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

This book does such a fantastic job of making you love everything about it! The story is very poetic and depicts some of the amazing adventures of Harriet Tubman throughout her life. Many know her as the leader of the Underground Railroad, but this book points out her roles as a suffragist, a General, a spy, a nurse, Aunt Harriet, Moses, and a conductor. The watercolored paintings perfectly compliment the poetry of each page. This is such a beautiful book.Boy reading a library book about animals.

Chapter Books {great for K-3nd grade, depending on their abilities and maturity levels} ::

Animal Atlas by James Buckley

One of my sons LOVES animals. Every time we go to the library, he is looking at a new animal book. This was his latest find. I love that it teaches a bit of geography along with zoology. Each page is loaded with lots of facts about a variety of different animals who all live in specific geographical areas throughout the world. Each map shows the different habitats that can be found in the geographical areas of the world. The photographs and illustrations are colorful, but so is the overall design of each page. The words are printed on different-colored squares, making it easy for young readers to take in information in small doses. This is a fun book for little learners!

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

This book is such a perfect combination of cute and inspiring. I love the stories of these beautiful women in history. Some of them are well-known like Maya Angelou and Oprah. Others, though, are lesser-know like Alice Ball and Raven Wilkinson. The illustrations are adorable, the character looks the same on each page, just with different clothing and hairstyles.

Dollars & Sense: A Kid’s Guide to Using—Not Losing—Money by Elaine Scott

I didn’t learn a lot about money growing up. I have spent quite a bit of time as an adult reading books about personal finance. This book is a fantastic way to start teaching kids about money before they grow up and do stupid things with their money out of ignorance. It begins with a history of money and goes on to teach how banks work and what a depression and recession are and how our economy works. There is a chapter on debt and another on sticking to a budget. Basically all the things I wish I knew when I was younger. Maybe I will make this a required reading before my kids can get a raise in allowance or something…hmmm…

Middle Grade Novels {great for 3rd-7th grade, depending on abilities and maturity levels} ::

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

The topic of this book was so intriguing to me: the Civil Rights era, but instead of the story taking place in the South like so many others do, it takes place in southern California. If you thought that the Civil Rights movement was only relevant in the South, this book will straighten you out. Quickly. The book is the story of a young Black girl adjusting to a new home in a new neighborhood in Los Angeles. Her family is wealthy and they live in a nice neighborhood, but they are not immune to the prejudices of their neighbors and housekeeper. This book is a fantastic read. If you are looking for an easy read, you will probably enjoy it, too. A little heads-up, though: the main character in the story gets her period that summer. It is not a major part of the story, but it happens. You may want to address that with your boy or girl differently.

Zacktastic by Courtney Sheinmel

This is a cute story about a boy who learns that he is actually a genie! Suddenly his whole life changes. One of the most powerful aspects of this story, though, is the relationship he has with his twin sister. This book really brings great insights into sibling relationships. The story is fast-paced and fun for everyone.

The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans

My boys LOVE this book. It is a high-action, fast-paced book that engaged my 9-year-olds and me! The main character, Michael Vey, has Tourette syndrome, but he also has an secret super power. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Michael Vey’s powers, why he must keep them a secret, and whether there are others like him. It is an exciting story that is intense, but not too mature for younger audiences. There are no sexual references or gruesomely violent scenes. It is a bit of a longer book, so I was worried that my more reluctant reader would not want to stick with it, but he was actually even more engaged with this book than his brother who typically likes to read more. If you have a reluctant reader who is looking for an engaging book, this book may just be the one for the job.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

This book is like a great piece of chocolate: you enjoy it all the way through, but you don’t fully appreciate all of its greatness until it’s gone. The main character is a ten-year-old girl who is “dealing” with life by being a self-proclaimed cynic. She loves comic books, though her mom strongly disapproves. She misses her dad who has recently taken up residence in an apartment complex and picks her up for Saturday visits. After her neighbor’s failed attempt at giving his wife a vacuum for a birthday gift, some “unexpected occurrences” begin. This story includes some fun illustrations that will be sure to engage younger readers but can also relate to older kids who may be feeling lonely or disliked.

I hope you’ll enjoy some of these books with your kids. If you do, please share your thoughts in the comments below! We’d love to hear how your kids liked them.

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Alissa is a wife to her best friend {since 2003} and a grateful mother to four boys {2009, 2009, 2010, 2012) and one girl {2015}. And if you're going to be friends, you should know she has a deep and abiding love of chocolate. She's survived infertility, IVF, two NICUs, cloth diapers, a food allergy, and so much more! In 2017, she officially began writing and publishing children's books and LOVES it! When she's not writing or picking her kids up from school, she'd like to be reading/singing/laughing/napping/traveling/crafting/learning something new. But in reality, she's probably grocery shopping/cleaning something/telling her boys to stop fighting. She lives in Katy, blogs at, and occasionally visits Instagram {@alimcjoy}, and Facebook {@alimcjoy}. She is a big believer in living life--especially mothering--with intentionality. If she's learned anything it's that accidental success is a myth: decisions determine destiny. She will also be the first to tell you she is not even close to perfect, but she's giving life her best shot one jam-packed day at a time.


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