The best books for 5-year-olds depend a lot on the individual kid, but they should all take into account the big changes under way in a 5-year-old’s life: The start of school, new friendships and an evolving relationship with parents that can make for a tumultuous and transformative year. The best books for 5-year-olds will hook into their daily emotional experiences and reflect their lives right back to them. These books for 5-year-olds will ensure they remain interested as both the narratives and the ethics of the characters grow more complex. And as your 5-year-old strikes out to learn to read by themselves, they’ll be happy to have stuff they might actually be able to start practicing (with a little help from mom and dad).
The Best Books for 5-Year-Olds
When Sarah leaves for her first day of school on the city bus, her pet turtle, Truman, grows worried as his impossibly long day alone stretches on. Jean Reidy's tale of courage in the face of the new operates as a warm-hearted tale but also shows kids the power of metaphor: As Sarah ventures out into the city toward school, Truman begins his own arduous parallel journey across the living room. Both Sarah and Truman are quiet and thoughtful creatures, and their story offers a sweet, pensive atmosphere in which to ponder friendship, feelings of aloneness and the rewards of adventure.
Kindergartners, like the dragons in this book, are likely to be averse to certain foods. And the chaos presented when the dragons get a hint of spice is both catastrophic and ultimately redeeming. It’s an easy read with funky illustrations and a disjointed style reminiscent of how kids tell stories, which makes it a real crowd-pleaser.
This is a book about cows that can type and a very frustrated farmer who wants them to stop. The strangeness of Farmer Brown's farm and the shenanigans of the barely anthropomorphized animals will give kids a certain thrill. That’s particularly true for kindergartners who are willing to engage in rebellions as recognizable as that of the typing cows.
'The Rainbow Goblins' is a tale of mythic proportions and has the air of Kipling's 'Just So Stories.' The book follows a group of color-feeding goblins who catch and drain rainbows on their way to their biggest score yet. But things don’t work out. The illustrations are rich and entrancing and the story is dark and strange. No wonder alt-rock group Primus turned it into a theme album.
In kindergarten kids become very curious about pet ownership and the stories that cater to that narrative have a tendency to be saccharine and unhelpful. 'A Fish Out of Water' came out of an era when kids had consequences, and when one kid feeds his goldfish too much it quickly becomes a local emergency. The urgency and pathos are palpable and the stakes are high. It’s the perfect pet prep book.
Parents who are concerned that their kids could get swindled by hucksters should introduce them to the manic and persuasive main character of 'Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.' There’s plenty of opportunity for interactive call and response and kids will thrill at frustrating the pigeon on every page.
When Jamie Lee Curtis wasn’t being chased by Michael Myers, she found time to pen a pretty great book about self-esteem. As kids get into the kindergarten classroom for the first time, they just may need the confidence boost the book offers on every easily rhyming page.
The classic 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' needs no explanation or experimentation to make its weird food weather easier to swallow. The falling flapjacks and meatball rain are simply presented as meteorological mysteries and the book is so much better for it.
Max is a kindergarten hero and the Wild Things are deeply indicative of the kind of friendships kids build with one another. Every page of 'Wild Things' is affecting, emotional, and perfectly tuned to the temperament of 5-year-olds. It’s also a quick, easy read before bedtime.
Bob Books don’t present the most interesting narratives, but that’s not the point. The point is that they are incredibly easy first books for kids who are just starting to read. The feeling of accomplishment after a kid polishes off a Bob Book on their own will be apparent in their massive grin.
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