Best Children’s Books to Read Before Age 12

Children reading book with parent

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No matter the age, the value of reading with your little one is unparalleled. Research shows that any time spent reading with your child can be the most beneficial element to their development. Not to mention, making reading part of their nightly routine can provide your child with feelings of affection and love, thus building your overall relationship with your child even from the earliest stages. We recognize the value of developing a strong foundation for a child-parent relationship, so we narrowed down the extensive list of must-have books for ages 0-12 that you and your child can enjoy together. Here are some of our favorites:

Infants: 0-12 months

The Runaway Bunny: This picture book was written in 1942 and is still a must-have in your home! In this story, a young bunny tells his mom he will run away, which is preceded by his mom telling him, “If you run away, I will run after you.” No matter what the little bunny does to try to gain independence from his mom, Mama Bunny is always there to assure him she will be there to love him.

Goodnight Moon: Another favorite passed through generations. This story follows a bunny through his nightly routine before heading to bed. The pace, rhythm, and repetition will have your kiddo falling asleep before you can even finish it!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Eric Carle’s books are no doubt unique, colorful, and creative. This book is fun for kids to look at and can also be reintroduced in later years to learn about nature and how caterpillars become butterflies.

Toddlers: 1-3 year olds

Little Monsters Bedtime Book: A silly take on a monster dad reading monster rhymes to his monster children. This could be a fun one for Dads to read with their kiddos!

Hop on Pop: We couldn’t go without mentioning a Dr. Suess book because his books are an excellent opportunity to introduce rhymes. Be sure to check out the endless supply of Dr. Suess books in addition to “Hop on Pop.”

Dear Zoo: This perfect lift-the-flap book will take your reader through the story of a young child writing to a zoo to send him a pet. As the story progresses, your child is able to delve into their imagination by interacting with the book in guessing what’s behind the flap.

Preschoolers: 3-5 Year Olds

The Boy Who Lost His Name: Children love this book because it’s personalized for them and their name (don’t fret- you can change it to “Girl” as well). This story follows a child (boy or girl) whose mission is to track down their name, and while doing so, encounters various characters that help them put together their name. This adorable, individualized book makes for a great gift!

Corduroy: What could be more fun than wandering around a department store after it closes? This classic tale takes one through life as an on-a-mission teddy bear exploring its store.

Gradeschoolers: 5-8 years

Say Something!: By this age range, kids have a general sense of what is wrong vs. right. This book will empower your child to speak up when they feel their voice is needed to help make a difference.

Miss Rumphius: This heartwarming story is a celebration of nature and making the world a better place. We definitely recommend this book for curious children.

Gradeschoolers-Young Teens: 8-12 years

The Magic Treehouse Series: Most commonly, this series is ideal for children getting their feet wet in chapter books. There are numerous options to choose from, and all the stories will take your reader on a historical adventure.

Esperanza Rising: A young, once fortunate girl, is faced with new challenges and she must learn to rise above the hardships unexpectedly thrown her way. This chapter book is a quintessential lesson about difficult circumstances and how one addresses struggles in life.

Rules: A book for those kiddos who, as they get older, start to feel they are different from others. It will have them exploring differences from their peers and considering what “normal” is.

Touching Spirit Bear: This is another superb message about a young boy who must take responsibility for his own actions and deal with the consequences of his poor choices.

Reading is fascinating, but reading as a child is magical! If your means allow, books should be kept around the house and easily accessible so that kids can enter a world of imagination whenever they desire. Read aloud to your child, and make it routine. More importantly, as your kiddos get older, keep nightly reading going. Even if they don’t want to be read to anymore, that’s okay! Make a habit out of reading your individual books together at the same time.

Have fun with it, and happy reading!

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