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25 Classic Children’s Books To Read With Your Kids (2021)

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.


1. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)

Charlotte’s Web is an excellent book for kids and adults alike, with lessons about friendship and death that are timeless in their themes. The story 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 spider will try to save Wilbur from being killed. 

 

2. The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

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 are all stories that children love to read, and this edition is perfect for them because it has lots of pictures. They teach many valuable lessons such as dealing with bullying, what it means to have a good heart, and how to overcome obstacles.

 

3. Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)

The story follows young Max, who spends his time exploring in the forest, imagining wild animals, and being creative. In one of his adventures, he gets transported to an island where all these creatures exist, and they are not friendly at first, but soon they become friends with him. This book teaches many lessons about friendship, imagination, and creativity that we can apply to our own lives today.

 
 

4. Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams)

The Velveteen Rabbit is a story of a toy rabbit who gets worn out and shabby. He’s been loved so much by his owner 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 how important love can be and how even if they are loved their whole life long, there will always come the point when they must let go.

 

5. Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)

Tom Sawyer is one of the best books for kids. It tells a 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 has lots of 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.


6. Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

It is a children’s novel published in 1961. The story tells of a bored little boy named Milo who finds himself in a strange land called the Kingdom of Wisdom, ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged and Queen Anthrapas the Wise, where words can be used as magic spells. The book teaches kids about words, providing them with rhymes for each letter of the alphabet.

 

7. Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)

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. 


8. Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exuperty)

The Little Prince is a 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 but has been translated into over 180 languages since then. This makes it one of the best books for kids because it teaches children how to understand others.


9. The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)

Published in 1964, The Giving Tree 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 that even though giving your time and efforts can be exhausting at times, it may be worth it in the end because they are appreciated by someone else. This book helps teach children empathy because they will learn that sometimes they have to share their resources so other people can benefit from them. 

 

10. Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

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.

 

More Books To Explore:

  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The One & Only Ivan
  • Matilda
  • Number The Stars
  • Esperanza Rising
  • The Mouse & The Motorcycle
  • Sarah Plain & Tall
  • Beezus and Ramona
  • Prairie Lotus
  • Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  • Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great
  • The Original Mother Goose
 

Reading classic children’s books together is a great way to spend quality time with your kids. The benefits of reading with them are endless, and we hope that you will take the opportunity to find some good reads for all ages in our list above.  

What other classic chapter books for kids should we add to this list? Email us at hello@mkewithkids.com.

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