50 Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

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Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading.

Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.

First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.

Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selections as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.

Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.

One final note: Today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.

Kindergarten

This list features books perfect for children just beginning their school careers. The books on this list are excellent read-alouds, because most kindergarteners are just learning the fundamentals of reading and need to hear wonderful words read aloud on a daily basis. Part of developing a lifelong learner is making literacy part of everyday life. Young children (and older children, too!) love to be read to, so this list leans toward books that are fun to hear aloud. You’ll also find books designed to help young ones learn their ABCs, acclimate to their new school surroundings, and navigate the challenges of childhood. 

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1. The Day You Begin

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This book begins with the words “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” These words are also the book’s premise – that sometimes, we feel different, and that is okay. The Day You Begin is a celebration of diversity as the young children in the story each realize they all feel different, but that those differences are what make them beautiful. It’s a perfect story for any children with new school year jitters.

2. The Kissing Hand

by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

The Kissing Hand is a soft story about a young racoon named Chester who worries about being away from his mother. He does not want to go to school. To help, his mother shares a family secret that comforts Chester and helps him feel safe even when he’s outside his comfort zone.

3. Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type

by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin -Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This hysterical book begins when Farmer Brown’s cows discover a typewriter. They begin writing notes requesting things such as electric blankets. When the farmer doesn’t cooperate, neither do the cows – which means no milk for Farmer Brown! This book is a Caldecott Honor Book, recognized for distinguised picture book art.

4. Chalk

by Bill Thomson (author, illustrator)

Chalk illlustrated by Bill Thomson - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Chalk is a wordless picture book about young children who discover magical chalk. Whatever they draw on the playground’s sidewalks comes to life. This is all fun and games until they draw a T-Rex, which also comes alive! Wordless picture books are great read-alouds because young children can be encouraged to tell the story in their own way.

5. The Day the Crayons Quit

by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Young Duncan opens his crayon box to color a picture only to find that his crayons have gone on strike! They are tired of only being used for one job. Blue wants to do more than color water, Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Duncan finds a clever solution to this problem that makes everyone happy.

6. Red: A Crayon’s Story

by Micahel Hall (author, illustrator)

Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Micahel Hall - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This book is a great companion to The Day the Crayons Quit. It’s about a blue crayon mistakenly wrapped in a red crayon’s wrapper. An identity crisis unfolds, and the book has a nice message about what it means to be true to yourself.

7. The Snowy Day

by Ezra Jack Keats (author, illustrator)

The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A classic that won the Caldecott Medal in 1963, this book is about a young boy who plays in a city snowfall. 

8. Goodnight Gorilla

by Peggy Rathmann (author, illustrator)

Goodnight Gorilla, written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A funny book that features sparse prose. A zookeeper locks up the zoo at night, but one of the clever animals steals his keys. The animals quietly parade home behind the zookeeper, leading to a laugh-out-loud conclusion.

9. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Another bedtime book, this one is about human mommies and daddies trying to get their dinosaur children to sleep. Children and adults alike will recognize the stalling tactics of the dinosaurs, and little ones might just learn a lesson about what a peaceful bedtime routine means.

10. The Napping House

by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

The Napping House written by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

In The Napping House, a snoring granny is too irresistable and is soon joined on the bed by a dog, a cat, a child, and a mouse. One more creature piles on and wakes everyone up! It features repetition, so children will be able to read along with you after a few iterations.  

11. Goodnight Moon

by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

Goodnight Moon written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A childhood classic that continues to be loved by generations of readers. This short and sweet poem features a little bunny saying goodnight to all the things in the great green room. Children love to find the mouse that moves to a different hiding spot on each page.

12. Goodnight Already

by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies

Goodnight Already written by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Bear and Duck are neighbors. Bear is sleepy; duck is a night owl. Goodnight Already was recognized as an E.B. White Read Aloud Honor Book, so it’s guaranteed to entertain the littles with its dry humor and fun ending.

13. Steam Train, Dream Train

by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Steam Train, Dream Train written by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A train pulls into the station, and animals of all kinds load the various train cars. Train enthusiasts will learn all about refrigerator cars, tanker cars, and hoppers. Plus, the story is written in impeccable verse which makes it a lovely book to read aloud.

14. Bad Kitty

by Nick Bruel (author, illustrator)

Bad Kitty, written and illustrated by Nick Bruel - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Bad Kitty is one of the most unique alphabet books to hit the market in years. This book goes through the alphabet four times as Bad Kitty refuses to eat her vegetables and get her revenge when her household runs out of the “good food.” It’s witty as all daylights.

15. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Get it HERE.

This is a classic alphabet book about all the letters of the alphabet climbing into a coconut tree. The words of the book are written in a rhythmic verse that is easy to read aloud and easy to memorize.

16. Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes

by Sara Gillingham (author, illustrator)

Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes written and illustrated by Sara Gillingham - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Children are introduced to the phonetic alphabet (A=Alpha), morse code, nautical flags, and more. Children can crack nautical code with a little help from their teachers and parents. The text is accompanied by geometric illustrations and information about various ships, too.

17. The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned his ABC’s (the Hard Way)

by Patrick McDonnell (author, illustrator)

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned his ABC’s (the Hard Way) written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A little red cat finds his front door wide open and runs outside. A chase ensues as animals corresponding to each letter of the alphabet join the runaway cat.

18. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

by Mo Willems (author, illustrator)

Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus written and illustrated by Mo Willems - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Author and illustrator Mo Willems wrote for Sesame Street for years and now pens brilliantly funny picture books perfect for young children. In this book, the bus driver turns directly to the reader (the child) and says, “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus.” Pigeon uses all sorts of techniques to cajole your child into letting him drive, but here, the reader is in charge.

19. The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Mouse is taking a stroll through the forest when some predators join him. To keep from being eaten by Snake or Fox or Owl, Mouse invents a story about a terrible creature known as the Gruffalo. Lo and behold, the Gruffalo turns out to be real.  

20. Llama Llama Red Pajama

by Anna Dewdney (author, illustrator)

Llama Llama Red Pajama written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Baby Llama gets anxious at bedtime when his mommy says goodnight. In the end, mama llama shows back up to reassure her baby that she will always be there.

21. Dragons Love Tacos

by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Dragons Love Tacos written by Adam Rubin, illustrated byDaniel Salmieri - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

If you ever want to lure dragons to your party, tempt them with tacos! But hold the hot sauce – this book shows what happens if you don’t!

22. The Quiet Book

by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska

The Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A book where images and text are truly melded together beautifully to support the message. This book explores different types of quiet – tense quiet moments like when you’re at the top of the roller coaster hill to softer quiet moments like a car ride in the snow.

23. Ball

by Mary Sullivan (author, illustrator)

Ball, written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (recognizing distinguished books for young readers), Ball features a dog who just wants to play fetch. When no one will play, he plays fetch by himself.

24. I Wish You More

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld

I Wish You More written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A simple book filled with good wishes for the reader. This would be as appropriate a high school graduation gift as it is a sweet book for young children.

25. Ada Twist, Scientist

by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Ada Twist, Scientist written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Ada Twist has questions, and her curiosity drives her to seek answers. An empowering text heavily focused on STEM subjects. Later books in the series feature Ada’s friends: Iggy Peck, Architectand Rosie Revere, Engineer

26. Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten written by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Students get insight into their teachers prepping away for the first day of school as they are home getting ready for the first day, too. Miss Bindergarten has 26 students, and their names start with each letter of the alphabet.

27. Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

collected by Elizabeth Hammill

Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This phenomenal book features 150 nursery rhymes. Some are classics and others come to us from far away – this book contains verses from many cultures. It is illustrated by 77 different artists, which means both the art and the verse celebrate diversity.

28. Duck Rabbit

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld

Duck Rabbit written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Litchenheld - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Is it a duck? Is it a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Young readers are encouraged to take sides – and listen to the other side, too.

29. The Dot

by Peter H. Reynolds (author, illustrator)

The Dot, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A young girl is frustrated when her art teacher tells her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” She makes an angry dot on her page and learns a little something about self expression.

30. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, written by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

How will the little mouse stop the big hungry bear from eating his strawberry? Why, share with the reader, of course!

31. Families, Families, Families

by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang

Families, Families, Families written and illustrated by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This book celebrates families of all shapes and sizes. In an era where the nontraditional family is as common as the traditional one, children love to see their particular familial combination celebrated.

32. La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for los Niños

by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for los Niños written by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Classic nursery rhymes get a modern latino twist.

33. A Ball for Daisy

by Chris Raschka (author, illustrator)

A Ball for Daisy written and illustrated by Chris Raschka - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Another wordless picture book, in this story a dog named Daisy plays with her ball until it gets ruined by a bigger dog. This won the Caldecott Medal in 2012.

34. Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak (author, illustrator)

Where the Wild Things Are written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

No book list would be complete without Where the Wild Things Are, the classic story of a young boy named Max who leaves the comfort of his home for the land of the Wild Things. Max becomes their king… but then becomes homesick for his own family.

35. Christian the Hugging Lion

by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Amy June Bates               

Christian the Hugging Lion written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Amy June Bates - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This picture book is based on the true story of brothers who found a lion for sale. They rescued him, took him home, and eventually released him back to Africa. When the brothers visited him later, the lion remembered them.

36. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie written by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

Get it HERE.

This is the first book in a series of books with the same premise. The book starts with an idea – what happens if you give a mouse a cookie? The remaining story is told circular-style in if/then statements that teach about cause and effect.

37. I Love You, Stinky Face

by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore

I Love You, Stinky Face, written by Lisa McCourt, illustrated by Cyd Moore -  Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

In this short book, a child questions whether his mother would still love him in various forms such as a smelly skunk. Of course, she would!

38. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

by Mo Willems (author, illustrator)

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

In this sweet story, a toddler accompanies her daddy to the laundromat. Her stuffed bunny gets left behind, but try as she might, the young girl cannot get her dad to realize that Knuffle Bunny remains at the laundromat.

39. Charlie and Mouse

by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

Charlie and Mouse, written by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Charlie and Mouse is a kindergarten-level chapter book. It contains four stories about the adventures of two friends. It’s a great read-aloud.

40. Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List

by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List, written by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A young girl named Astrid makes a bucket list for her dog Eli, who is getting older. In the end, it’s not the events on the bucket list that matter but the quality time the two spend together that counts.

41. Wolf in the Snow

by Matthew Cordell (author, illustrator)

Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

In this wordless picture book, a young girl gets lost in the snow on her way home from school at the same time as a baby wolf cub gets separated from his pack. Together, they help each other journey home to their families.

42. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go

by Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Planes, trains, and pickle trucks adorn the pages of this book that is all about forms of transportation. Richard Scarry’s familiar cast of characters fill the pages, and many teachers and parents will remember this from their own childhoods.

43. The Cat in the Hat

by Dr. Seuss (author, illustrator)

The Cat in the Hat written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

The Cat in the Hat saves the day when two children are stuck inside on a rainy day with nothing to do.

44. Go, Dog, Go

by P.D. Eastman (author, illustrator)

Go, Dog, Go written and illustrated by P.D. Eastman - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This book has been around for 50 years, and it’s still a classic. Single syllables and rhyming text help children learn to read.

45. How Rocket Learned to Read

by Tad Hills (author, illustrator)

How Rocket Learned to Read written and illustrated by Tad Hills - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A sweet little dog named Rocket learns to read. First, he learns the alphabet, and then he sounds out words. Children will learn to read right alongside Rocket.

46. Berenstain Bears Go to School written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Berenstain Bears Go to School written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Sister Bear is about to start kindergarten, but like most children, she has some worries. Will she like the teacher? What will she do all day? She finds out her worries are unfounded as she loves school, her teacher, and her new friends.

47. The Poky Little Puppy

by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren 

The Poky Little Puppy - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

No library would be complete without the bestselling picture book of all time.

48. Clifford the Big Red Dog

by Norman Bridwell (author, illustrator)

Clifford the Big Red Dog written and illustrated by Norman Bridwell - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

This is the very first Clifford book. Readers are introduced to Emily Elizabeth and her gigantic, beloved pup, Clifford.  

49. David Goes to School

by David Shannon (author, illustrator)

David Goes to School written and illustrated by David Shannon - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

Young David breaks just about every school rule that exists in this book – he cuts in line, draws on desks, pulls hair. In the end, after an exasperating day, he redeems himself.

50. Hello Ocean: Hola Mar

by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella

Hello Ocean: Hola Mar by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella - Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners

Get it HERE.

A rhyming book in both Spanish and English about  a young girl discovering the ocean.

Other book lists you’ll love:

  • First Grade Book Recommendations – Amy’s Bookshelf
50 must-read books for kindergarteners

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AuthorAmy

Veteran Member

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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