I love books. In fact, I obsess over them at times. We’re 38 days into the new year, and I’ve already read 30 books (not counting kids’ books). It may be a disease.
Be that as it may, this love of books has led me to spend a LOT of time reading to my children. A while back (a long while–I’ve spent most of my free time reading in the past few months), I posted a list of must-read books for the under-six set; I thought it was finally time for my next installment. After much pondering, I settled on eight authors who have written one or more truly wonderful books for kids in the early elementary years, roughly ages 6-8. I referenced my favorites of their books, and I’ve separated these into picture books and chapter books, with stories getting progressively longer/more difficult in each category. Enjoy!
- Elephant and Piggie books – Willems
Willems has dozens of Elephant and Piggie books, and they are all worth reading. The best thing about these books is that they are early readers (first grade level) that won’t make you want to smack your head into a brick wall. They are cute stories that address friendship, bullying, sharing, fears, individuality–lots of great topics. Should I Share My Ice Cream? and We Are in a Book! are some more introspective favorites; my favorite silly one is There Is a Bird on Your Head.
- Anything Amelia Bedelia – Parrish
Parrish’s hilarious Amelia Bedelia character is great for kids who are just becoming aware of the complexity of language. While some of her mistakes are ones that haven’t stood the test of time, others–such as the mystery of why we dust a room (instead of un-dusting it)–are still worth pondering. Understanding how language works makes for better language users, and humor is a great test of your linguistic genius.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Viorst
Because it’s nice to know that everyone has those days. Need I say more?
- My Father’s Dragon – Gannett
This classic book is absolutely delightful. Little Elmer faces every problem bravely and solves them in brilliantly creative ways. I didn’t think the other books in this series were as strongly written, but this first one is a gem. The only drawback to this is that I have yet to see a copy that is not written in a cramped font on yellowing pages. My kids wouldn’t touch it on their own, despite being capable of reading it, so I had to use it as a read-aloud.
- Ramona the Pest – Cleary
This story offers a perfect way for kids to see the humor in real life, to gain a little distance from frustrations they are likely facing themselves. By watching Ramona struggle with school, friends, and fears, kids gain the sense that they are not alone in their struggles and can see a bit of the bigger picture.
- Charlotte’s Web & Trumpet of the Swan – White
E.B. White is another of those must-read authors of children’s literature. Both of these imaginative classics promote friendship, loyalty, and creative problem solving. Charlotte’s Web is canonical, but my kids and I actually like Trumpet better, in part because it lacks the heavy death-focus of Charlotte.
- Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder
This book is so perfectly written to children at this age. Laura is about five years old during this book, and her narrative is filled with things that interested her at that age–the types of games she played with her sister, household chores she helped with, times she got into trouble. It’s a great portrayal of pioneer life. Wilder’s subsequent books focus on her life as she aged, and the tone and contents of each book are geared toward readers of a similar age to hers; Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and Farmer Boy are also worth reading at this age, the others are really aimed at slightly older children but are still enjoyable.
- Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner – Milne
Brilliantly and beautifully written, these books capture something precious about childhood–those golden days when your imagination can take you anywhere. My youngest child loves these books so much that he’s had me read them aloud to him at least five times and has now moved on to reading favorite portions to himself on a regular basis. And despite all this reading and re-reading, we’ve not tired of them yet. (I still can’t get through the Pooh Corner story about Owl’s house falling down without laughing.)
**After compiling this list, I’ve realized that Willems is the only contemporary author included. This was not by design; I simply pondered all the books I’ve read with my children and picked the ones I felt were exceptional for some reason. I think my lists for older kids will include more recent books.