50+ Classic Books All Kids Should Read

Today I want to talk about the books we’ve loved since childhood. There are certain books we remember fondly – books that we read over and over – that bring back memories of lying under a tree or huddled in bed reading late into the night, or maybe curled up on the couch on a dreary, rainy afternoon.

I am raising readers. I read with my daughters every day. Now that Tee is five, she’s becoming more and more confident in reading independently, but there’s something special about the time we spend reading together. It’s not just about hearing a story. It’s being part of a tradition that goes back generations, parent to child, passing along stories and memories and the love of reading.

50+ Classic Books All Kids Should Read

There are a few books that hold an extra special place in my heart. Some of these books I managed to hold onto throughout the years, and some I bought again and tucked away in anticipation of sharing them with my own daughters. Here’s my list of must-read books:

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone. I’ve always loved Grover, and the surprise ending makes me smile every time. Hubby bought me a new copy when we were first dating, and I love reading it out loud to my girls in my best attempt at a Grover voice.

Where the Wild Things AreWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I always felt a lot of empathy for Max. And it wasn’t just the story I loved, but the illustrations too. “Let the wild rumpus start!”  

The_Paper_Bag_PrincessMud Puddle and The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Canadian author Robert Munsch’s storybooks are fun to read and fun to read aloud. These are two of his earliest and my favourites to read with my daughters.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard. I secretly had a soft spot for Miss Viola Swamp the substitute. A fun story for school aged kids!

The Secret World of OgThe Secret World of Og - Pierre Berton by Pierre Berton. I always wanted a playhouse like Penny, Pamela, Peter, Patsy, and the Pollywog. I can’t even remember how many times I read this book as a kid, but I’m sure my kids will love it as much as I did.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner) by A.A. Milne. My father used to read these books to me as a child, and I bought a copy before I was even pregnant for the first time. Tee is practicing her reading right now with these stories. Oh bother!

The Twits by Roald Dahl. I always got a kick out of the pranks the twits pulled on each other. A great rainy day story!

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. What kid hasn’t wondered what’sthe best way to eat fried worms?

Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang

Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler. Funny and clever, this imaginative story teaches that kids are important too.

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. Every kid desperately wants something they don’t have. I remember being enchanted by the idea of making potions as a kid after reading this.

The Wind in the Willows The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Another story my father used to read to me. Mole and Rat and Toad became good friends of mine!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Tee’s fearlessness and sense of adventure remind me of Pippi. I know she’ll love these stories as much as I did.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett. My parents bought this book for me when I was about six, and I couldn’t put it down.

A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I still reread this book and the rest of the series once in a while. My girls aren’t old enough for this one yet, but I can’t wait to introduce them to one of my favourite novels.

Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books – Andrew Lang collected hundreds of fairy tales and curated them into a dozen books, coded by colour (The Blue Fairy Book, The Red Fairy Book, etc.) I was so into fairy tales in elementary school, and I remember borrowing all of these over and over from my school’s bookmobile (remember those?).

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The first fantasy book I ever read, this one lead to a lifetime love of fantasy and science fiction.

That’s it for my list, but then I asked some of my readers and fellow bloggers to chime in with their favourite books from childhood that they’re sharing with their children.

The Poky Little Puppy“My grandmother used to read The Poky Little Puppy (by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren) to me until the pages started falling out of my childhood copy. I bought a new copy last week for her to read to my newborn son the adventures of that curious little puppy. The look on her face when I gave it to her was priceless and watching her read it to Jasper will be one of my favorite memories.” – Jess P.

“Everybody loves to see an underdog succeed. Anne of Green Gables (by L.M. Montgomery) is a Canadian classic for very good reason. The feisty, eccentric, red-headed Anne Shirley is an unforgettable character who finds a place in your heart and stays there forever. It was my favourite story as a preteen and I saved the entire collection of books for my own kids to read now. I might just read them again myself!” – Joann from Woman in Real Life

Green Eggs and Ham“There were 3 books I loved as a child. Good Night, Little Bear (by Richard Scarry), Green Eggs and Ham (by Dr. Seuss), and Love You Forever (by Robert Munsch). Every night my parents would read these 3 stories to me I remember them so well as a child definitely a happy moment in my life and I have these books that I share with my children to even though they have their own favorites we are making our own new memories together.” – Amanda R.

“Any of the Robert Munsch books: Love You Forever, Mortimer, Thomas’ Snowsuit, The Paper Bag Princess. I love his writing style and used to read them all the time. I have just started reading them with my 18 month old. She doesn’t sit for the whole thing, but loves looking at the pictures.” – Jenn B.

Harold and the Purple Crayon“I think one book to not miss is Harold and the Purple Crayon (by Crockett Johnson). It definitely was one that I remembered when I was going through books for my kiddos… They’re growing up a bit so now I have introduced The American Girl Books to my daughter as well as Judy Blume’s The Fudge Books.” – Amanda from Beyond Attachment Parenting

Love You Forever and Good Dog, Carl (by Alexandra Carl) which is a picture book so I’ve always made up my own story. As a kid and now to my children.” – Haley A.

The Thingumajig Book of Manners“One of my favorite books was The Thingumajig Book of Manners (by Irene Keller). I vividly remember reading it and I can’t wait to snatch it from my parents’ house to share with my girls. I also remember taking to with me on babysitting jobs because the kids loved it! On a weird note, I just looked it up on Amazon to make sure I spelled it right and it’s insanely expensive! I may have to ask my mom really nicely if she’ll give it to her sweet granddaughters.” – Keara B.

Charlotte’s Web (by E.B. White) was one of my favourite books growing up. At 2.5, my eldest is still a little too young for the book but much to my delight she LOVES the movie! I’m so excited to read the book with her before bed when she’s a little older.” – Jen from Living in His Way

Charlotte's Web“Lots. Little House on the Prairie series (by Laura Ingalls Wilder). I still cry every time Jack the bulldog gets swept away in the river, even though I know he survives. Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia (by C.S. Lewis) – I’m about to start reading it to my middles tomorrow… We love reading around here. It all started with my sister who used to read to me. She also taught me how to read by teaching me from her lessons every day after she came home from kindergarten. She was five or six and I was three. She read out loud to me all the way up until she was in high school.” – Julie K.

The Trip To Panama by Janosch holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I read this children’s book when we were dating and later, he used it to craft a scavenger hunt that ended in a proposal. Now we have a four month old son we read the same book to. I can’t wait to tell him how important that story has become to me and hope he treasures it as he grows up as well.” – Alicia from Snowstorm Blog

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear about your favourite book from childhood that you love sharing with your kids!

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  • You have a great list here, I still have a few of the Little Golden Books packed away somewhere, I should actually pull that box from storage, I can just imagine there is some awesome books from my childhood in there that I can pass onto my grandchildren!!

    • I had a big collections of those Little Golden Books too. I bet your grandkids would love to snuggle up for story time with you and those classics!

  • Thank you, Olivia for sharing this list! I was always curious about Canadian (or North American) children’s classics that I can add to my favorites (not translated to English) to read to my kids. It’s hard to know what is good time tested book, when you didn’t grew up in a particular culture and our school concentrates too much on the licensed… junk (like Pokemon book for beginner readers with half the book being the names of the creatures even I can’t read).

  • Wonderful list! I was raised a reader (and still love reading) so I can proudly say I have read (and love!) most of the books on your list!

    A wrinkle is time, though, is not one I know! I will have to look for it though

  • I love to read and its because my Mom read to me every night and as I got older I would read to her. Everyone should take the time to encourage their children to read. It only takes a few minutes a day. Thank you for this great list!!

  • Love the list!! I have been reading a few chapter books to our kids from the Little house on the Prairies series. Next I would like to get them into Anne of Green Gables. 🙂

  • This is such a great list. My son is taking after my husband and me and loves books. I’m hoping to continue to cultivate that in him and this list is a great start for ideas. Thanks for the post!

  • Great list. My lo is not interested in books at all! Well besides trying to rip the pages out. I can’t wait for when he is a little older and we can have story time. Two of my favorite books to read in grade school were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches, both by Roald Dahl.
    We have been slowly reading The Wizard of Oz, a book I never read as a child so I am quite enjoying it!!

  • I love this list! So many of both my favourites and ones I’ve enjoyed with my kids (at 3 and 5 obviously not all of them yet 🙂

    I’d add the Gruffalo – we went through about 2 months where it was the hands down favourite at bedtime. Munsch’s Boo! Book was also a winner.

    As for me, I’ll always have a soft spot for The Monster at the End of this Book 🙂 My three-year old discovered one from the library called “Rabbit and the Not So Big Bad Wolf” that she loved – same sort of idea…

  • Is “Alligator Pie” by Dennis Lee enough of a classic? If so, I would certainly add it to the list! I remember some of the poems from grade 1 and 2 extremely well…I ended up memorizing the titled poem just from re-reading it! My toddler is such a fan of the book (and his other works) that I now have more Dennis Lee poems memorized than I can count. She memorized her first complete poem at age 2.5 — Antelope, a Canteloupe (a quatrain by Dennis Lee).

  • My children love books by Dick King-Smith. I do too. I don’t understand why they’re not more popular. Babe the Gallant Pig was published in 1995. I think 20 years is long enough to call it a classic. 😉 My kiddos also love other books by King-Smith like Pigs Might Fly and Ace. We have yet to read The Water Horse, but I think they’d really like it too.

  • I love to read and I read a lot of this list to my children ,now I are their parents are reading to my grandchildren .Great list I am saving this list

  • I keep a list and I sent one to my son .I gave my 12 year old grandson all my Longmire books ,he loves them