A love for reading is one of the most important things you can pass down to your child.
Reading exercises the brain, reduces stress, and helps your child learn new things throughout their entire life.
But where should you start?
Classic children’s books are a great starting point to develop a deep affection for reading.
In this article, I’ll share 100 options that you and your kids will love. As an former educator, camp counselor, and parent of three, I have a knack for picking out books kids will love.
Once they’ve graduated from fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen, perhaps?) and picture books, young readers can move into classic chapter books and novels that have stood the test of time.
A great book can truly change a child’s life forever.
So, let’s dive in!
Here is our list of the best children’s books and novels of all time.
Charlotte’s Web is an charming book for kids and adults alike, with lessons about friendship and death that are timeless in their themes.
This classic children’s book follows a curious little girl named Fern who lives on a farm with her parents and siblings. She becomes friends with Wilbur, the runt of the litter from one of the local pig farms nearby.
As time goes by, the pig named Wilbur grows bigger, and Fern realizes that he will soon be slaughtered if no one buys him. The brave spider tries to save Wilbur from being killed.
Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author and poet who wrote over 150 fairy tales. His stories are known for their realism, wit, and psychological insight.
He is best-known worldwide as the writer of “The Snow Queen,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Thumbelina,” and “The Ugly Duckling.” The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales is an English translation of his complete works.
These classic stories are captivating for kids of all ages, and this edition is perfect for them because it has lots of pictures. They teach valuable lessons like dealing with bullying, what it means to have a good heart, and how to overcome obstacles.
The iconic book for young children Where The Wild Things Are follows young Max, who spends his time exploring in the forest, imagining wild animals, and being creative.
When Max dresses in his wolf suit and causes chaos in the house, his mother sends him to bed. From there, Max sets sail to an island inhabited by the Wild Things, who name him king and share a wild rumpus with him.
This book teaches lessons about friendship, imagination, and creativity.
Readers of all ages will love The Velveteen Rabbit, the story of a toy rabbit who gets worn out and shabby. because he’s been loved so much by his owner.
In fact, his owner loves him so much that he becomes real.
But when the boy decides to take him to the woods, where all old things go, it looks like this might be the end for our little velveteen bunny.
This book is great for children because it teaches them the power of love and the importance of letting go.
This classic novel tells a timeless story of Tom’s adventures with his friends in St Petersburg, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The book’s chapters are called “adventures” because they cover an assortment of different escapades that are typical to boys’ lives as they grow up along the river: such as playing pirates, going fishing, or hunting waterfowl with their guns, getting into fights, and running off from school to go swimming or attend picnics down by the riverbank.
The book offers lessons about the power of friendship, loyalty, and honesty. With all the amazing characters in this novel, you’ll be laughing out loud one moment and crying tears of sorrow or joy the next.
Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s novel published in 1961. The story tells of a bored little boy named Milo who finds a mysterious tollbooth in his room that transports him to adventures beyond his wildest imagination.
Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. Along the way, Milo realizes life is far from boring!
The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) is considered one of the best books for kids. It has been in print since 1902, and its popularity has never waned. The story revolves around a mischievous rabbit that gets into all sorts of trouble with his family, friends, and neighbors.
The book was written to entertain children, but it also teaches valuable lessons about life, such as dealing with authority figures like Mr. McGregor and Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, who are both trying to get Peter back home after he escapes from Mr. McGregor’s garden.
It will teach your child the importance of telling the truth, taking responsibility for their actions, dealing with difficult people, and forgiving others when they make mistakes.
The Little Prince is a small but mighty book that tells the story of a little prince who leaves his home to explore the world.
He meets people from many different planets and learns about their lifestyles, but he never finds what he’s looking for: someone who understands him as much as he understands them.
The book was initially published in 1943 and has been translated into over 180 languages since then.
Published in 1964, The Giving Tree is a modern classic that has been a favorite among children for over 50 years.
The picture book is about a tree that loves and gives to a little boy; then, as he grows up, the tree has nothing left to give.
This book teaches kids about giving, unconditional love, and may spark discussions about healthy relationships and what they should look like.
The Chronicles of Narnia is an epic fantasy series that has won the hearts and minds of children, adults, and scholars alike. The stories have been translated into over 30 languages and sold over 100 million copies worldwide since 1950 when it was first published in Great Britain.
The whole series, published in six years, includes “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Prince Caspian,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “The Silver Chair,” “The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle.”
All the stories follow the adventures and struggles that four kids have in an enchanted world while they go on a quest to free themselves from the evil White Witch who has cast them there. Along their journey, they learn about courage, friendship, loyalty, and bravery which help shape their character for years to come.
11. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume)
Published 1972, the book is about a fourth-grade boy named Peter. Set in New York City, the story follows Peter’s life with his younger brother Fudge, who makes life difficult for him in every way possible. The two siblings have very different personalities but share a love for their family and each other that keeps them together even when things get rough.
It is an excellent read for children who are looking to be entertained. With a humorous tone and some great lessons on growing up, this book is sure to keep kids engaged throughout the story.
12. Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)
This book is a great read for kids. It has an exciting plot and teaches children about horses. Set in England during the 1800s, the story follows the life of a horse named Black Beauty from his birth to his death. The book is narrated from the point of view of the horse himself. He recounts his life from his birth to his old age, telling how he was passed from person to person as an unwanted pet.
Black Beauty is a story that offers hope. It also teaches readers about work ethic, manners, responsibility, and the power of kindness.
13. A Bear Called Paddington (Michael Bond)
A Bear Called Paddington is a great children’s book about the adventures of a bear from Darkest Peru. The bear was found in an old hatbox on Christmas Eve and adopted as a present for an English family that had just lost their pet. Kids have loved this story all over the world for decades. The book teaches children great lessons on being polite and kind to others and taking responsibility for their actions.
14. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
If you want to introduce your kids to the world of literature, then one of the books that is a classic and will set them on their way is Little Women. If you are looking for a book with strong female characters who deal with real-life problems, this book has it all. The story follows Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they grow up during the American Civil War while trying to find their own identities outside of what society expects from women.
15. Magic Treehouse (Mary Pope Osborne)
First published in 1992, The Magic Treehouse is one of America’s most popular children’s books. Based on a series of novels, kids get to explore all sorts of different adventures with Jack and Annie from their backyard. From deep-sea diving to exploring space, this book has it all. Kids can learn many things from these adventures, including how to overcome fears, how to be a good friend when someone is feeling sad or hurt, and what it means to have gratitude in your heart, and why you should not judge someone based on appearances alone.
16. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
Roald Dahl is a well-known and beloved children’s author. His books are famous for their wacky plots, interesting characters, and hilarious dialogue. One of his most popular novels is “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.” The book tells the story of young Charlie Bucket, who lives with his mother and four grandparents in poverty. He dreams about what it would be like to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory but believes he’ll never get the chance because they’re so poor. But when one day he finds a golden ticket inside a chocolate bar while searching through trash, everything changes for him! The book teaches kids great lessons about greed, morality, and the true meaning of being happy.
17. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a great read for kids. This book explores the idea of good and evil, as well as trusting your intuition. The story follows three children named Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin who are on an adventure to find Meg’s father through time and space after missing for four years. The book tells how these three children use their intelligence and love to combat evil forces on their rescue mission.
18. Winnie The Pooh (A.A. Milne)
Published in 1962, this collection is a great read for kids. The protagonist, Winnie the bear, goes on various adventures with his friends Piglet, a small toy pig; Tigger, a bouncing tiger; Kanga and Roo, two kangaroos; Owl, an old wise bird. Every child should read this book because it teaches them about a friendship that is so pure and unbreakable. The story is one of the most famous children’s stories globally, has been translated into many languages, and can be found on shelves in every bookstore. This classic tale will make you laugh and teach you how to love unconditionally.
19. Stuart Little (E.B. White)
Stuart Little by E. B White is a children’s book about the adventures of an anthropomorphic mouse named Stuart. The story is set in New York City and begins with the birth of Stuart to human parents, George and Margret Little. The story follows the life of Stuart as he explores his surroundings, gets into trouble, has fun with his family and friends. After growing up, he eventually leaves home to seek out new experiences. Stuart goes to school with his friends and learns lessons about being kind, having empathy for others, and making good decisions. Stuart also must deal with sibling rivalry when he visits his cousin’s house.
20. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
Published in 1997, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an excellent book for kids because it has magic, suspenseful moments, and fantastic characters that every kid can relate to in some way or another. The book tells how a young wizard named Harry Potter finds out he is a famous wizard. He will be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year with his faithful friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Harry Potter is a story of overcoming obstacles and facing the unknown.
21. The Secret Garden (Frances Burnett)
The Secret Garden was written in 1911. The main character is the selfish and not-so-agreeable 10-year-old Mary Lennox who lives in India with her wealthy British family. She’s been spoiled by the family help and neglected by her parents. Mary is orphaned when a cholera epidemic takes the lives of her parents and servants, and the story becomes one of self-healing.
22. Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is made up of vibrant poems where the author shares her experience growing up as a Black girl in the 1960’s and 1970’s amid lingering Jim Crow laws and an emerging Civil Rights movement. Each poem depicts a child who is searching for her identity and place in the world.
23. James & The Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
The poor orphan James lives seaside with his evil aunts and doesn’t have a friend in the world until he meets the Old Green Grasshopper and other insect friends who live on a magical giant peach. His surreal adventures are sometimes frightening, but they’re peppered with unforgettable characters and classic literary excitement.
24. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
The Wind in the Willows is a book of animal tales that takes place in the English countryside. The stories are primarily having to do with Mole, Rat, Badger, and the rich and generous Toad, who talk among themselves and act like humans, but also have some distinctive animal features. They work together to save Toad Hall from weasels, finding adventures and obstacles along the way.
25. The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Warner)
The Boxcar Children is an accessible series about that tells the story of four orphaned siblings who create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar. They eventually begin living with their grandfather, and use the boxcar as a playhouse in his backyard. Throughout the series, they embark on a number of adventures, experience plenty of mishaps, and encounter exciting mysteries to solve. The Boxcar Children is best for ages 4th grade and up.
26. Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
A heartwarming novel from 1908 based on an old-fashioned farm in town called Avonlea.
27. The One & Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
An unforgettable novel inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla, told from his viewpoint.
28. Number The Stars (Lois Lowry)
A historical fiction book about the escape of a family of Jews from Copenhagen, Denmark.
29. Esperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
A historical fiction novel about Esperanza, a girl from a wealthy family who suddenly has everything taken away from her.
30. The Mouse & The Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
A 1965 children’s novel about Ralph S. Mouse, a mouse who can speak to humans.
31. Sarah Plain & Tall (Patricia MacLachlan)
A story about coping with change, told from young Anna’s point of view, set in the late nineteenth century.
32. Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary)
A wacky chapter book focused on Beatrice Quimby, 9, and her 4 year old sister Ramona.
33. Prairie Lotus (Linda Sue Park)
A powerful and touching book about half-Asian girl in middle America determined to fit in and realize her dreams of getting an education and making friends.
34. Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred D. Taylor)
Set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, this book is an unflinching portrait of family and self-worth.
35. Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great (Judy Blume)
Published in 1972, this classic novel is part of the Fudge series, and follows relatable Sheila Tubman.
36. Ramona (Beverly Cleary)
Another wacky chapter book focused on Beatrice Quimby, 9, and her 4 year old sister Ramona.
37. Mary Poppins (Pamela Lyndon Travers)
A classic tale about a magical nanny.
38. Peter Pan (James Matthew Barrie)
An enchanting 1911 book about a mischievous boy who refuses to grow up
39. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
An 1865 English children’s novel about a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole and into a whimsical fantasy world.
40. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
Matilda was the last long kids’ book that Roald Dahl wrote before he passed away in 1990.
41. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
A coming-of-age novel about four sisters.
42. The Hobbit (J.R.R Tolkien)
A children’s fantasy novel published in 1937.
43. The Never Ending Story (Michael Ende)
A classic tale about one boy and a book that magically comes to life.
44. The Babysitter’s Club
A beloved series that follows a group of girlfriends and their homegrown babysitting business.
45. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
A 1993 American young adult dystopian novel, set in a society which at first appears to be utopian.
46. Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene)
This classic master series follows a fictional sleuth character on a series of adventures.
47. The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)
Another classic mystery and adventure series with a group of boys as the main characters.
48. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L Frank Baum)
The classic children’s novel published in 1900 that started it all.
49. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket)
This catchy series takes readers on, you guessed it, a series of unfortunate events for three recently orphaned siblings.
50. The War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells)
A science fictions novel published in 1897.
51. Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish)
Follow this beloved fictional character in blunder after blunder, that only make her more lovable.
52. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
The beloved story of a spunky young girl and her hilarious escapades.
53. The Incredible Journey (Sheila Branford)
This heartwarming story follows a cat and two dogs who journey hundreds of miles to find their human family.
54. The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
This classic book is the actual diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl in hiding from the Nazis during World War II.
55. The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Follow the adventures of the world’s most well-known sleuth.
56. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
The classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by ghosts of his past.
57. Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Even young adults love this satirical novel about group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a world where the animals can be more free and happy.
58. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
This classic 1961 novel is about a child’s view of race and justice in the Depression-era South.
59. The Story of Dr. Dolittle (Hugh Lofting)
A magical story about John Dolittle and the crew of animals he befriends.
60. A Wrinkle in Time (Madline L’Engle)
A young adult science fiction novel about the fifth dimension and time travel.
61. Wonder (R.J. Palacio)
A powerful story about a boy with a disfigured face.
More Classic Books (Young Kids)
62. Guess How Much I Love You (Sam McBratney)
63. The Original Mother Goose
64. Madeline (Ludwig Bemelmans)
65. Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown
66. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
67. The Book With No Pictures
68. The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss)
69. Corduroy (Don Freeman)
70. Eloise (Kay Thompson)
71. The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)
72. The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
73. Make Way For Ducklings (Robert McClosky)
74. Olivia (Ian Falconer)
75. The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf)
76. Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Mo Wiliams)
77. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day (Judith Violist)
78. Press Here (Herve Tullet)
79. The Day The Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt)
80. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)
81. Love You Forever (Robert Munsch)
82. Diary of a Wombat (Jacky French)
83. Tikki Tikki Tembo (Arlene Mosel)
84. The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse)
85. A Sick Day for Amos McGee (Philip C. Stead)
86. The Little Engine That Could (Watty Piper)
87. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Laura Numeroff)
88. Everyone Poops (Taro Gomi)
89. Harry the Dirty Dog (Gene Zion)
90. Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson)
91. Whose Knees Are These? (Jabari Asim)
92. Grimm’s Fairy Tales (The Brothers Grimm)
93. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Eric Carle)
94. Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein)
95. The Light in the Attic (Shel Silverstein)
96. The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems (Donald Hall)
97. Poems to Learn by Heart (Caroline Kennedy)
98. Words With Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art (Nikki Grimes)
99. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons (Joseph Bruchac)
100. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymed (Roald Dahl)
The bottom line is this:
Reading these timeless classics together is a great way to spend quality time with your kids.
The benefits of reading are endless, and we hope this list helps inspire a love of reading in your child.
What other classic chapter books for kids should we add to this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2013, Calie Herbst, a former teacher with three little ones, saw a need for a “One Stop Shop” for family fun in Milwaukee. So she founded Milwaukee With Kids. Her goal was to find the best this city has to offer families and share it with other parents. In one place.
In 2019, she published “Exploring Milwaukee WIth Kids”, a comprehensive Milwaukee travel guide for families and kids.
She appears regularly on WISN News, Fox 6’s ‘Real Milwaukee’, B93.3, and Wisconsin Morning News. She has been featured in Medium, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, NPR, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and on CBS 58 News.
Calie is available for hosting, moderating and media appearances.