We all remember what it was like to get a new book as a young child, the excitement of getting a chance to visit a new world – dive into a new adventure – and lose ourselves in our favorite stories. Getting the chance to give those kinds of experiences to a new generation is one of life’s best gifts.
Over time, though, some children’s books have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Some are historically significant, others have captivated generation after generation the same way no matter how much else has changed, and others can reignite that fire of creativity and imagination in children and adults – reading differently, but somehow still the same as we return to these books time and time again.
To help you find some of these books for kids (or maybe rediscover forgotten favorites you’d love to share with the children in your life) we’ve put together this quick list.
Best Books For Your Kids IN 2020
Where the Wild Things Are
Easily one of the all-time favorites when it comes to books for children, this story follows a young boy named Max that unleashes the little monsters we all have inside of us at that age – slipping into a world of imagination where these monsters live, going on adventures, and escaping the sometimes dull aspects of reality.
At the same time, the book returns us to the grounding of our real-world relationships and the value of family. After all, when Max gets back from his adventures he finds his mother made sure to save him dinner!
Following a sudden tumble into the “real world” after being attacked by an owl in the middle of the night, this book takes us through the life and times of what’s become the world’s favorite little fruit bat.
We get to see how the title character is adopted up by the occupants of the birds nest she just happened to fall into, learns about their lives and their experiences along the way, and get to go through an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs – but mostly ups – that have made this title a favorite for more than 25 years.
It’s tough to imagine any list of top children’s books not including Charlotte’s Web, a book that PBS has selected as one of America’s Top 100 Most Loved Novels as well as one of the Great American Reads of all time.
From the same author of Stuart Little (another amazing children’s book) we get to experience life in the barnyard through the eyes of several different characters, but most specifically through Charlotte the spider. The book focuses on the relationship between Charlotte and the other animals and a tiny little pig named Wilbur that just wants a friend.
One of the more emotional children books on this list, there’s a reason why it has so much staying power regardless of everything else in our world that’s changed along the way.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
We could pile a mountain of books miles high with Dr. Seuss titles that are perfect for children, but of all the different options out there this has to be one of the best choices for children of all ages – as well as some adults that are going through some big life changes.
Dr. Seuss takes us all through a funky adventure of life’s ups and downs, filled to the brim with his special sense of humor and spirit of encouragement that you just don’t get anywhere else. Sure, some of the other Dr. Seuss books are maybe a little more famous than this one – Green Eggs and Ham, for example – but this is the title that continues to resonate with children of all ages.
While the book can get a little bit sappy and a little bit melancholy in parts it balances things out pretty perfectly with the mantra of “there’s always fun to be done”.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Though it’s not a bad idea to make sure that the children your life get the entire series of The Chronicles of Narnia if you’re only going to get them one book in this amazing fantasy run the second entry in the series – this one – is a great place to start.
For more than five decades, this book has been pulling people into the fantasy realm of Narnia, a land filled with magic, adventure, danger, excitement, sadness, and most of all hope. This title cements the idea of sacrifice and unconditional love in a way that is easily relatable and infinitely memorable.
The illustrated editions are some of the best in this title’s history, giving children a glimpse into the wilder side of Narnia while letting them fill in the rest of the blanks with their imagination.
Her Right Foot
A very modern entry into this list that has so far been filled top to bottom with classics, this book originally was published a couple years ago but has quickly established itself as one of the top children’s books of all time.
The story centers around the Statue of Liberty and everything that she represents, not only to the people of America but to the people around the world that see her as a real symbol of freedom and the American Dream.
This book has been described as a love letter to America, a poignant message that’s at times beautiful, moving, funny, sad, and emotional – encompassing everything that makes our nation and our connection to the global community so great.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
Written by the daughter of the 42nd president of the United States, Chelsea Clinton, this children’s book takes a close look at incredibly influential and important women throughout history (particularly US history) that have helped to change the trajectory of our world with their actions, their hopes, and their dreams.
13 individual women are highlighted throughout this storybook, telling the tales of their struggles, their challenges, and there will to overcome – and processed – in a way that is easily engaged by children.
Beautifully illustrated, wonderfully told, and educational all at the same time this is also one of the best modern children’s books out there today and certainly one that deserves to be shared with children around the world as a symbol of hope, determination, and love.
Published several years ago, there may not be a more universally decorated and beloved children’s book to have come along as far as this one.
Starting with our main character August Pullman describing himself this way – “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” – and then taking us through an emotionally charged journey with the kinds of twists and turns you never would expect from a children’s book, there’s a reason why this title spent so much time as a number one New York Times bestseller.
Not only that, but the book has gone on to influence quite a bit of our pop culture now.
Wonder has helped to inspire what’s now been described as the Choose Kind movement, has been optioned into becoming a major motion picture, and has even been turned into a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel that’s already breaking sales records itself, this is a story that children won’t want to put down – and a story you’ll likely find yourself swept up into if you sneak a peek between the covers, too.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Spinning things back in time quite a bit, this book was originally written and published in 1865 by author Lewis Carroll and hasn’t been out of print ever since.
Just as a frame of reference, this means that the book was published (in the United Kingdom) in the same year that the American Civil War was being fought – and it continues to be a perennial bestseller, fan-favorite, and beloved story till today.
You simply don’t have that kind of staying power without having something important and valuable to say. And you don’t have those kinds of legs as a children’s book unless the story is compelling on an emotional level, so much so that children today relate to this story as much as they did over 150 years ago. Read more science fiction books here.
One of our favorite children’s books that tackles some of the harder parts of growing up, especially getting new friends, building new relationships, and how hard it can be to find your real friends – and how much the struggle is worth the effort – Real Friends is another great modern children’s book that deserves to be shared widely.
A multiple Book of the Year award winner since it was first released, Real Friends is very fresh, very funny, and not afraid at all to dive into some of the more challenging topics of being a kid these days that other children’s books never considered to cover or just weren’t willing to go there.
At the root of the story is an interesting relationship between two girls that have been best friends since they were very young, but are now starting to notice that their relationship is changing a little bit as they drift apart. There’s a lot of emotion packed into this story but the payoff is fun, funny, and worth the ride.
This story is pretty unique in that it is told entirely from the perspective of an ancient oak tree living in the woods, discussing everything it has seen, everything it has experienced, and everything that it has sadly watched come and go.
It’s amazing how the author can tap into our emotions through this kind of perspective, helping to broaden our perspectives while allowing children to see life through a different lens.
While not the longest children’s book by any stretch of the imagination it is intended for slightly older children (maybe of middle school age) that are looking to grow their reading abilities into something a little longer, something a little more robust, and something with a little bit more plot that’s willing to deal with more complex subjects and issues without going overboard.
My Side of the Mountain
A story of a real adventure that grabs you right from the very first page and will not let go until the very end, this book details the story of a young boy that gets fed up with life in New York City and decides to run away to the mountains and live life on his own.
Definitely feeding into the thoughts all young people have about escaping everything they know and trying something brand-new, with absolutely zero fear of failure – and no real idea of how they are going to make it happen – this book is a wild ride that highlights the importance of perseverance, shows the value in stepping out of your comfort zone, and illustrates just how much we all depend on one another even when we are left entirely to our own devices in the wilderness.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
While not exactly bedtime reading by any stretch of the imagination, this amazing diary from a young Jewish girl hiding from the Germans when her family fled from their home in Amsterdam is something that everyone – child and adult alike – needs to read.
Over two years (right up until they were betrayed to the Nazis they were hiding from) the entire Frank family – and another family – lived inside of a secret space and old office building. And details their day-to-day lives and schedules, challenges, special moments and memories, and the result is something that will change the way anyone looks at the world from that moment on.
Certainly intended for more mature audiences and older children, this is still a kid book that you want to make sure finds its way into the hands and a reading list of children close to you. The life lessons and values in it are priceless.
The Hobbit: 75th Anniversary Edition
Another of the books that would have been absolutely impossible to leave off of this list, a lot of people are big-time fans of the Lord of the Rings series of books written by J.R.R. Tolkien (especially recently thanks to the relatively modern movies that just came out) but serious fans of this author know that The Hobbit is where everything started.
Following the adventures of Bilbo, Gandalf, and a team of dwarves looking to take back their ancestral home – and uncover a pile of treasure – it’s not hard to see why this book (and others were written by J.R.R. Tolkien) is considered to be the most influential fantasy book of all time.
The Giver (Giver Quartet, Book 1)
Now 25 years old, The Giver was an immediate bestseller when it was first released and has finally been bestowed with the title of “modern classic” – which it deserves entirely.
Considered to be one of the most influential books of this most recent generation, a book that’s been placed on reading lists in colleges and universities around the world (and translated into more than 40 languages) – as well as made into a major motion picture – this story follows the life of 12-year-old Jonas who seemingly lives in an idealized world of conformity.
Jonas loves everything about the world around him until he starts to notice some hairline cracks that grow into huge chasms. His life – and his world – will never be the same again at the end of this story and neither will the lives or worlds of the kids you share this book with.
Be sure to check out our article on ways to get free books for kids to see if any of the books are available for free.