By the time they reach kindergarten, kids have read enough books to have strong opinions on which they like. And, as is often the case, they tend to like the same books they’ve already been enjoying. But thanks to exposure to new themes at school, your kindergartner is ready for bigger and better things than just following along during bedtime stories. In kindergarten, they can start to help read some of the books themselves, and have the capacity to make up their own stories. That means that the best choices to have in your home library will be books they can pretend to read, books that can help them learn to read at higher levels, and books that they really can read.
“What you as a parent should ensure is that your child’s book experience is joyful, interactive, and engaging,” Dr. Richard Gentry, internationally acclaimed education consultant and the author of Raising Confident Readers, says. “Read together every day for a few minutes or as long as the child is interested, and don’t ever criticize your child’s book choices. At this age, your goal is to bond with the child and build a child’s love for books and life-long reading.”
Other experts agree on the importance of the books you choose during your child’s first year at school. “How you interact with your child and books is as important as the books themselves,” says Tim Shanahan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools. “Keep it fun.”
With those qualifications in mind, here are Gentry and Shanahan’s top seven picks to add to your at-home collection of kindergarten-friendly books.
By Shel Silverstein
A good “pretend reading” fare includes simple picture books and books that are easily memorized. The Giving Tree is both of these things. It promotes finger-point reading and is an enjoyable story for those times your independent kindergartner allows you to take the reins and read one of Silverstein’s most beloved stories aloud to them.
By Esphyr Slobodkina
“Beginner books” and “I can read it myself” books are real hits during this age because they make a child feel independent and smart. And although these are rarely great books — they don’t have the best-drawn characters, or the highest quality language —“5-year-olds love them,” Shanahan says. “A wonderful book that you can’t read isn’t worth as much as a dull one that you can.” Caps for Sale is a perfect example of a story that will make your child feel like they are reading — because they can read it thanks to the repetition and patterns in the text.
By Drew Daywalt
There’s a reason why this story, which imagines what would happen if all the colors in a box of crayons stage a walkout, is a number-one New York Times bestseller, Amazon’s 2013 Best Picture Book of the Year, a Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2013, Goodreads’ 2013 Best Picture Book of the Year, and a winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award. It’s hilarious, it’s entertaining, and it’s smart.
By Mo Willems
You don’t have to rely on Aesop’s fables to act as “moral of the story” books for your young one. This book is the modern-day version of the ever-popular cautionary tale — and any child who has ever had a favorite toy will identify with this tale.
By Roald Dahl
It’s important for kids to get comfortable with bigger, more intense reading — even if it’s them just listening to you reading to them. Introducing classic chapter books with bigger plot lines and more complex characters is going to get your kids excited to read these types of books by themselves sooner rather than later. Dahl’s tale of the young boy who finds himself on an adventure with the inhabitants of the titular stone fruit is excellent for just that.
By Dan Santat
In this Caldecott Medal-winning tale, Dan Santat takes kids on a rollicking ride, featuring a time travel trip to Grandmother’s. Most kids can relate to the fact that time spent in the back seat of a car feels infinite. And stories that your child can relate to not only make them feel connected but in a roundabout way teach them empathy and emotional intelligence.
By Pamela Duncan Edwards
“Kindergartners need to figure out how to sound out words so books that focus attention on letter sounds, alliteration and rhyming can be a big help,” explains Shanahan. Stories like this alliterative tale smirking and self-important slug who’s climbing a slippery, suspect slope, in spite of animals trying to sabotage and stop him.