26 Children’s Books We Love for Pre-K to 5th Grade


As my kids get older, I want our home library to evolve so that my kids stay engaged and challenged. There are so many talented children’s authors and illustrators out there that it sometimes feels overwhelming to find just the right book that’ll impart a valuable lesson to my kids while keeping all of us entertained, especially after reading it no less than 179 times.

Lucky for me, my best friend is a librarian, which means I’m always a text message away from a great book recommendation for myself and my kids. Recently, I asked her to give me a list of kid-tested and librarian-approved books for preschool and elementary aged kids. In consultation with her colleagues, she delivered a great mix of classic, popular and unique books. 

Looking for a new book to read to your infant or toddler? Choose some from the start of this list and they’ll remain cherished favorites for years to come.

What books do you love reading to your kids? Tell us about them in the comments!


Ellen Stoll Walsh, Mouse Paint


This one is great for teaching about primary and secondary colors.


Marion Bataille, ABC3D

(Pre-K – Grade 1)

An incredibly innovative pop-up alphabet book that adults will enjoy as much as children.


Mo Willems, Pigeon series, KunffleBunny, Leonardo the Terrible Monster and Elephant and Piggie series

(Pre-K – Grade 1)

Kids always request these picture books, especially the Pigeon series. They’re fun to read aloud with simple illustrations.


Drew Daywalt, The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home 

(Pre-K – Grade 2)

Clever storylines bring a box of crayons to life. Children will giggle, and witty writing will make adults want to read aloud.


Phillip M. Hoose, Hey Little Ant!

(Pre-K – Grade 2)

A clever way to teach kids about bullying, as an ant that a little boy is about to step on starts talking.

Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie  and the subsequent books in this series

(Pre-K – Grade 2)

These are always popular and lend themselves to theme crafts, snacks and baking lessons! 

James Dean, Pete the Cat series

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

Pete’s adventures introduce children to new friends in new places and are entertaining for both kids and adults.


Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Duck! Rabbit!

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

Perfect for introducing the concept of multiple perspectives and letting go of arguments.


Jane O’Connor, Fancy Nancy series

(Pre-K- Grade 3)

These books do a great job of introducing more advanced vocabulary through relatable stories.


Jerry Pinkney, The Lion and The Mouse

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

A beautiful picture book adaptation of Aesop’s fable by an award-winning illustrator.


David Shannon, David series

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

The illustrations are vibrant, and the stories are silly with very few words. 


Margaret Wise Brown, The Runaway Bunny

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

This classic was originally published in 1942. Children love the reassuring message that the mother bunny will always find her baby, and parents may choke up while reading it!


Lois Ehlert, Any of her books!

(Pre-K – Grade 3)

These books are beautifully illustrated and informative.


Doreen Cronin, Click, Clack, Moo:  Cows That Type

(K – Grade 2)

Lots of fun to read aloud to the kids, as cows learn to read and start writing demanding letters to their farmer.

Fran Manushkin, Katie Woo series

(K – Grade 2)

A great mix of vocabulary means these books keep adult readers’ attention as much as the kids, as they follow Katie through everyday adventures.


J. Novak, The Book with No Pictures

(K – Grade 2)

Despite having no illustrations, children will get a kick out of adults reading funny words like “blork” and “bluurf” because they have to read what’s written on the page.


Barbara Park, Junie B. Jones series

(Grades 1-4)

These early chapter books make reading fun as children follow the antics of the very funny Junie B. Jones.


Mary Pope Osborne, The Magic Tree House  series

(Grades 1-4)

These are fun chapter books for lower elementary school children that explore different time periods and global areas (e.g. Medieval Period, Caves, Space, the Amazon Rainforest).


Cynthia Rylant, Mr. Putter and Tabby series

(Grade 1-4)

Kids love to follow along as Mr. Putter and his cat get themselves in and out of humorous predicaments.


Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

(Grades 1-5)

Komako Sakai, a talented artist, illustrated this edition of the timeless classic.


David A. Adler, Cam Jansen  series

(Grades 2-5)

Kids love to try to solve mysteries with Cam Jansen in these chapter books.


Dav Pilkey, Dog Man series

(Grades 2-5)

This series follows the crime fighting adventures of a part-man, part-dog hero. The stories are fun and the artwork is bold and eye-catching.


Kazu Kibuishi, Amulet series

(Grades 3-7)

These graphic novels follow two ordinary children on adventures in a world full of fantastical animals and robots.


Rambharos Jha, Waterlife

(Grade 3+)

This is a wonderfully unique book, a hand-made collection of art, published by an equally awesome organization called Tara Books. The publisher works with artists (mostly from India) to hand-make paper and hand-print and bind all their books. This is an incredibly rare book-making process, which makes it a special gift that’ll foster children’s appreciation of art.


Raina Telgemeier,  All of her graphic novels!

(Grades 4-7)

The author, a local San Franciscan, uses a graphic novel format to share relatable and humorous biographical stories from her childhood.


Peter Lerangis, Seven Wonders series

(Grades 5-8)

This fantasy-adventure series follows Percy Jackson, an ordinary kid who must find seven magic Loculi to save his own life.

So what are you waiting for? Head to your local library to pick up any of these books or to get other age-appropriate recommendations for your kids. If you’d love to have a personal selection of new books for your child on a regular basis and can’t fit in trips to the library, check out the monthly subscription service, Book Tree, which is available around the Bay Area and in Los Angeles. However you do it, get books into your kids hands. As Jackie Kennedy once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

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Rebecca is the former Managing Editor for both Mid-Peninsula Moms Blog and San Francisco Moms Blog. She and her husband moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in 2008 and love raising their two children in the city. Rebecca worked for two Fortune 500 companies in a variety of HR roles before surprising everyone, including herself, and leaving her job to stay home with her kids. She's written for a variety of online parenting publications including Scary Mommy, Motherly, and YourTango, but promises that she can talk about non-parenting stuff in real life. Follow her on social media at @rlang165 and on BeckyRebecca.com.



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