For me, one of the hardest parts of moving is sorting through my books. I love books and would prefer to keep them all, but as our new place doesn’t have the shelf space our old one did, I’m having to let some go.
This week, I’m paring down our vast collection of children’s books. But there are boxes of books I simply can’t part with, including our copies of these 50 picture books every child should read.
Some of the titles on this list were favorites my mother read to me as a child, then I read to my own children and continue to read with my grandchildren. That’s a lot of precious memories packed into 16-32 pages per volume!
For a free printable version of this list, scroll down. This is by no means exhaustive, and I have other favorites not on this list (some of which are now sadly out of print). But this off-the-top-of-my-head listing (in no particular ranking order) makes a great starting point for anyone looking to begin or augment a home library for their little ones:
50 Picture Books Every Child Should Read
- The Napping House by Audrey Wood – Grandma, grandchild, and assorted family pets pile on the bed for an afternoon nap.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – Will this little critter ever get full?
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss – True story: The same thing happened to me, but with green beans. You never know what you’ll like until you try!
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. – A long parade of colorful animals spy one another.
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney – “To the moon and back!”
- Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers – I love the sentiment in this book, which presents babies as unique blessings to marvel over rather than heavy burdens to shoulder.
- Miss Suzy by Miriam Young – This tale of a displaced squirrel was my favorite as a child.
- All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon – The world’s a big place just waiting to be explored, as this book so beautifully illustrates.
- Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman – A family of picky eaters concocts a special dish as a surprise for Mom.
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff – Actions have consequences!
- Snowmen at Night by Caralyn and Mark Buehner – You might be surprised over what happens while you’re sleeping.
- I Love You by Jean Marzpllo – This rebus poem is one of the first books my children ever read on their own.
- Freight Train by Donald Crews – These colorful illustrations and simple text have universal appeal — an especial favorite of my boys!
- Oh, Were They Ever Happy by Peter Spier – A sparsely-worded but hilarious story told almost completely in pictures. Just hope it doesn’t give your children any grand ideas of their own!
- I Love You as Much by Laura Krauss Melmed – A sweet book for bedtime before hugs and kisses goodnight.
- Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr. Seuss – “An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury – It’s all fun and games until you find what you’re looking for!
- V is for Vittles by Greg Paprocki – My grandson adores this western-themed alphabet board book.
- Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey – Our family tries to pick blueberries every summer, and this book is the perfect read to accompany our trip to the farm.
- The Story of Ping by Majorie Flack – A little lost duck learns an important lesson.
- Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold – “One day Wilma woke up green and, much to her surprise, she sat up on her bed and croaked and started eating flies…”
- When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant – Recollections of the simple pleasures of country living.
- Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss – Like most of my own children, that Mr. Brown is one talented noise-maker!
- The Day the Teacher Went Bananas by James Howe – My kids love this story of a gorilla who was mistakenly sent to a classroom instead of the zoo.
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey – The story of a mama mallard who decides to move to the Boston Public Gardens with a string of eight ducklings in tow.
- Home Sweet Home by Jean Marzollo – East or West, home is best.
- The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant – An elderly woman with a penchant for assigning names to inanimate objects hesitates to give a name to the stray dog who shows up daily at her gate.
- Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison – All the farm animals know how to settle themselves for the night — just as the child must learn to do, too.
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton – Mike and his steam shovel prove the value of hard work, ingenuity, and determination.
- Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – This soothing, repetitive storybook always put my little ones fast to sleep.
- Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel – Another family favorite about two young brothers who’ve got each other’s back.
- Eighteen Cousins by Carol Hogan – As a girl who grew up with more cousins than I could count, this out-of-print book always resonated with me.
- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood – The king so thoroughly enjoys soaking in a hot tub, how will his courtiers ever get him out again?
- Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann – When a police dog named Gloria starts accompanying Officer Buckle on his safety talks, the audiences start sitting up and paying attention!
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. – The letters of the alphabet scramble up the trunk of a coconut tree to play in its branches.
- My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston – A school teacher dreams of traveling the world.
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – a stuffed bunny learns about love and about nursery magic in his quest to become real to the boy who owns him.
- Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire – A spotted creature with an amazing talent tries to prove he deserves a place in the zoo.
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats – This classic picture book perfectly captures the mystery and magic of winter’s first snowfall.
- Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino – A funny rhyme full of motherly descriptions gets readers guessing what kind of animal is being addressed.
- Time for Bed by Mom Fox – Another sweet story for winding down before bed.
- The Magic Fish by Freya Littledale – A morality tale about greed and contentment.
- Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw – When sheep take the wheel, all sorts of troubles ensue.
- A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry – An imaginative listing of all the wondrous things a tree is good for.
- Owl Moon by Jane Yolen – This book always sets me in a mood to go owling.
- Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson – My boys especially enjoyed the books in this series by C.W. Anderson about a young boy and his horse.
- Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion – When there isn’t enough room for the little spotted dog under the shade of his family’s beach umbrella, he looks for a more resourceful way to cool off.
- Harvest Home by Jane Yolen – Many hands make light labor, especially when it comes time to take in the crops.
- Corduroy by Don Freeman – The story of a stuffed bear with a missing button and the little girl who loves him.
- Parts by Tedd Arnold – A young boy with a touch of hypochondria lets his imagination get the better of him.
That’s it for now. Did I leave off any of your favorites? Chime in with your recommendations in the comment section below. And for children who’ve not yet learned that reading is its own reward, download our free Reading Rewards Print Pack. It will help motivate them to do more reading, just for fun.