George Bernard Shaw said “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”
One of the best and truest ways to inspire a deep love of reading in your child is to provide them with a great read that you genuinely love.
Once they've graduated from fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen, perhaps?) and picture books, young readers can move into chapter books and novels that have stood the test of time.
A great book can truly change a child's life forever. So here is our list of the best children's books and novels of all time.
We recommend doing some deeper reading about each book listed here to determine if it's a good choice for your child. Common Sense Media is a great resource for this.
40 Best Classic Children's Books To Read With Your Kids
1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Published in 1952, Charlotte's Web is a beautiful book about a pig named Wilbur and his devoted spider friend, Charlotte, who miraculously manages to save his life by writing words about him in her web. Kids of all ages will love this story about friendship and sacrifice that brings their favorite animals to life.
2. The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
The Danish master of the literary fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales are a must-read for families with young children.
His most famous fairy tales include "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Nightingale," "The Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," "The Ugly Duckling," and "Thumbelina."
3. Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
"Where the Wild Things Are is an illustrated children’s book by American writer and artist Maurice Sendak, published in 1963. The work was considered groundbreaking for its honest treatment of children’s emotions, especially anger, and it won the 1964 Caldecott Medal."
4. Velveteen Rabbit
"There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming."
- Taken from "The Velveteen Rabbit" written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson
5. Adventures of Tom Sawyer
"Whether forming a pirate gang to search for buried treasure or spending a quiet time at home, sharing his medicine with Aunt Polly's cat, the irrepressible Tom Sawyer evokes the world of boyhood in nineteenth century rural America. In this classic story, Mark Twain re-created a long-ago world of freshly whitewashed fences and Sunday school picnics into which sordid characters and violent incidents sometimes intruded. The tale powerfully appeals to both adult and young imaginations. Readers explore this memorable setting with a slyly humorous born storyteller as their guide."
6. Phantom Tollbooth
"With almost 5 million copies sold 60 years after its original publication, generations of readers have now journeyed with Milo to the Lands Beyond in this beloved classic. Enriched by Jules Feiffer’s splendid illustrations, the wit, wisdom, and wordplay of Norton Juster’s offbeat fantasy are as beguiling as ever."
7. Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
"The Tale of Peter Rabbit is the original classic by Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published by Frederick Warne in 1902 and endures as Beatrix Potter's most popular and well-loved tale. It tells the story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor's vegetable garden!"
8. Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
"The Little Prince, French Le Petit Prince, fable and modern classic by French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that was published with his own illustrations in French as Le Petit Prince in 1943. The simple tale tells the story of a child, the little prince, who travels the universe gaining wisdom. The novella has been translated into hundreds of languages and has sold some 200 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books in publishing history."
9. The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)
"The Giving Tree, a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein, has been a classic favorite for generations. Since it was first published fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein's poignant picture book for readers of all ages has offered a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return."
10. Chronicles of Narnia
"The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s books by C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950), Prince Caspian (1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Horse and His Boy (1954), The Magician’s Nephew (1955), and The Last Battle (1956). The series is considered a classic of fantasy literature and has influenced many other fantasy works."
11. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume)
"Two is a crowd when Peter and his little brother, Fudge, are in the same room. Grown-ups think Fudge is absolutely adorable, but Peter and his pet turtle, Dribble, know the truth. From throwing temper tantrums to smearing mashed potatoes on the wall, Fudge causes mischief wherever he goes!"
12. Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)
"Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse, the only novel by Anna Sewell and the first major animal story in children’s literature. The author wrote it “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses”; it was published in 1877, shortly before Sewell’s death."
13. A Bear Called Paddington
"Paddington Bear had traveled all the way from Darkest Peru when the Brown family first met him on Paddington Station. Since then their lives have never been quite the same...for ordinary things become quite extraordinary when a bear called Paddington is involved."
14. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
"Little Women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is a novel for children by Louisa May Alcott, published in two parts in 1868 and 1869. Her sister May illustrated the first edition. It initiated a genre of family stories for children. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March are raised in genteel poverty by their loving mother, Marmee, in a quiet Massachusetts town while their father serves as an army chaplain during the American Civil War."
15. Magic Treehouse
"The first Magic Tree House book was published in 1992 — introducing the world to Jack and Annie, a brother and sister who discover a magical tree house filled with books. In Dinosaurs Before Dark, the tree house takes them on their first journey, an adventure in prehistoric times. Since then, the magic tree house has whisked Jack and Annie — and lucky readers! — on many more adventures through time to different places around the world."
16. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
17. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)
"A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg Murry, a high-school-aged girl who is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O'Keefe to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet."
18. Winnie The Pooh (A.A. Milne)
"Winnie-the-Pooh is a collection of children’s stories by A.A. Milne, published in 1926. Milne wrote the episodic stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and its sequel, The House at Pooh Corner(1928), for his young son, Christopher Robin, whose toy animals were the basis for many of the characters and whose name was used for the young boy who appears in the tales as the benign master of the animals."
19. Stuart Little
"Stuart Little is a mouse born to human parents in New York City. Stuart's family helps him adapt to his diminutive size in a house made for human-sized inhabitants. Stuart rises before the rest of the family and confronts the issue of washing himself."
20. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone
"Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, also called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is the first novel in the immensely popular Harry Potter series by British writerJ.K. Rowling. It was first published in Britain in 1997 and appeared in the United States the following year under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The book’s imaginative story line about a boy wizard made it an enduring hit with both children and adults."
21. The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden, a novel for children written by American author Frances Hodgson Burnett was published in book form in 1911 (having previously been serialized inThe American Magazine). The pastoral story of self-healing became a classic of children’s literature and is considered to be among Burnett’s best work.
22. Brown Girl Dreaming
"Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world."
23. James & The Giant Peach
"James Henry Trotter lives with his two horrid aunts, Spiker and Sponge. He hasn't got a single friend in the whole wide world. That is not, until he meets the Old Green Grasshopper and the rest of the insects aboard a giant, magical peach!"
24. The Wind in the Willows
"The Wind in the Willows, book of linked animal tales by British writer Kenneth Grahame that began as a series of bedtime stories for his son and was published in 1908. The beautifully written work, with its evocative descriptions of the countryside interspersed with exciting adventures, became a classic of English children’s literature."
25. The Boxcar Children
"The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest. They eventually meet their grandfather, who is a wealthy and kind man (although the children had believed him to be cruel). The children decide to live with the grandfather, who moves the beloved boxcar to his backyard so the children can use it as a playhouse."
26. Anne of Green Gables
"Anne of Green Gables, children’s novel by Canadian authorLucy Maud Montgomery, published in 1908. The work, a sentimental but charming coming-of-age story about a spirited and unconventional orphan girl who finds a home with elderly siblings, became a classic of children’s literature and led to several sequels."
27. The One & Only Ivan
"Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope."
"Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge."
29. Number The Stars
"Lowry’s Number the Stars is a simple yet poignant novel about a young girl’s contribution to the resistance movement in Denmark during World War 11. Annemarie Johansen, a 10-year old girl living in Copenhagen, is faced with the knowledge that the Nazis are beginning to "relocate" the Jews in her city. Ellen Rosen, a neighbor and classmate of Annemarie’s, is Jewish. Through a series of small acts of bravery, Annemarie and her family help the Rosens escape into neighboring Sweden, in a boat with a false bottom, operated by Annemarie’s Uncle Henrik."
30. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
"Narnia...the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free. Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don't believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they've been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch's sinister spell."
31. Esperanza Rising
Esperanza thought she'd always live a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. She'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.
32. The Mouse & The Motorcycle
"Pb-pb-b-b-b. Pb-pb-b-b-b." With these magic vocables, Ralph the mouse revs up a dream come true--his very own motorcycle. Living in a knothole in a hotel room, young Ralph has seen plenty of families come and go, some more generous with their crumbs than others. But when young Keith and his parents check in to the hotel, Ralph gets his first chance to check out. He has always fantasized about venturing beyond the second floor, maybe even outside. Curiosity overcomes caution, and Ralph must have a go at Keith's toy motorcycle. Soon, the headstrong mouse finds himself in a pickle, when all he wanted was to ride a motorcycle."
33. Sarah Plain & Tall
"This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay?"
34. Flat Stanley
"When Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning, his brother, Arthur, is yelling. A bulletin board fell on Stanley during the night, and now he is only half an inch thick! Amazing things begin happening to him. Stanley gets rolled up, mailed, and flown like a kite. He even gets to help catch two dangerous art thieves. He may be flat, but he's a hero. This is the very first Flat Stanley adventure, updated with crisp new art."
35. Beezus and Ramona
"Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she's taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble--and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona."
36. Prairie Lotus
"Prairie Lotus is a powerful, touching, multilayered book about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend. Acclaimed, award-winning author Linda Sue Park has placed a young half-Asian girl, Hanna, in a small town in America’s heartland, in 1880. Hanna’s adjustment to her new surroundings, which primarily means negotiating the townspeople’s almost unanimous prejudice against Asians, is at the heart of the story. Narrated by Hanna, the novel has poignant moments yet sparkles with humor, introducing a captivating heroine whose wry, observant voice will resonate with readers."
37. Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry
"Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie's story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect."
38. Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great
"Who is Sheila Tubman? Even Sheila isn’t sure. Sometimes she feels like confident Sheila the Great, and other times she’s secret Sheila, who’s afraid of spiders, swimming,and, most of all, dogs. When her family decides to leave the city for a summer in the country, Sheila will have to suffer everything from long-eared dogs to swimming lessons to creepy spiders. That’s enough to drive a city girl nuts! If she survives at all, Sheila may be forced to admit that she’s no supergirl."
39. Curious George
40. The Original Mother Goose
"Mother Goose is a fictitious old woman, reputedly the source of the body of traditional children’s songs and verses known as nursery rhymes. She is often pictured as a beak-nosed, sharp-chinned elderly woman riding on the back of a flying gander. “Mother Goose” was first associated with nursery rhymes in an early collection of “the most celebrated Songs and Lullabies of old British nurses,” Mother Goose’s Melody; or Sonnets for the Cradle (1781), published by the successors of one of the first publishers of children’s books, John Newbery."
What other classic chapter books for kids should we add to this list? Email us at email@example.com.