Best Books for a Children’s Home Library

Seth Mullen advocates home libraries to give children a jumpstart in reading in his article Home Libraries Give Children a Headstart. Some parents may wonder at this advice, given the availability of public libraries. Others may agree in principle but feel that a home library is an expense that fits in the luxury column of their budget. The good news is that an excellent children’s library does not have to be large or contain new books. Just make sure the books it does contain are carefully chosen.

What do you need to consider when starting a children’s home library?

  1. All books are not equal. Obtain books whose words are rhythmic and draw kids into their sounds.
  2. Obtain classic stories in their original editions, or in editions created by known authors and illustrators. Avoid poorly written post-movie editions written as add-on sales tools.
  3. Choose varied genres so the child will get a rounded education while reading. Include some easy biographies, some science and nature books, some poetry, some stories.
  4. Avoid TV show spin-offs with the possible exception of PBS show spin-offs. Most of these books are sales tools, not children’s literature. The writing quality is seriously deficient.
  5. While hardcover books feel nice, they cost a fortune compared to paperbacks. You can create a much less expensive library with paperbacks. Thrift stores are a fantastic source for paperbacks in like-new condition if you are disciplined enough to sort through the many to find a few and to say no to books in good condition that don’t fit your buying criteria. Another relatively inexpensive source of books is Scholastic paperbacks, offered through schools. Check to see if Scholastic has a local distribution outlet near you; those outlets have occasional sales with exceptionally low prices.
  6. Avoid the temptation to stock your child’s library with every book with a glitzy cover or shaped like a truck that draws her or his attention when you’re browsing in stores. Quality literature should be your goal. Let them borrow the show books from the public library.
  7. Pay attention to the artwork. High quality artwork helps draw children into the story.
  8. Make sure your children’s library contains a book of easy home science experiments that use common household items and a cookbook with pictures. Books that foster action are books kids will want to read. Reading them also helps children with sequencing and following through.

By the time your children are established readers, they’ll want to choose their own books. If you’ve gotten them started on quality children’s literature, they’ll have a solid foundation for doing so.

Here’s a list of a few tried and true favorites for pre-readers and beginning readers to consider for your start-up library:

Jamberry by Bruce Degen 
Big Book of Things That Go by DK Publishing 
Ten in the Bed by Penny Dale 
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Stephen Guarino 
Let’s Go Home, Little Bear by Martin Waddell 
Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik 
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss 
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss 
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss 
Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Cynthia Rylant 
Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake by Cynthia Rylant 
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin 
Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin 
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina 
Rapunzel retold by Paul O. Zelinsky 
Rumpelstiltskin retold by Paul O. Zelinksy 
The Amoeba Hop by Christine Lavin 
Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop by Chris Raschka 
The Jazz Fly by Matthew Gollub 
Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola 
Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie De Paola 
The Tanya Treasury by Patricia Lee Gauch 
Tanya and the Red Shoes by Patricia Lee Gauch 
Dream Snow by Eric Carle 
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle 
You Be Good and I’ll Be Night by Eve Merriam 
Blackberry Ink by Eve Merriam 
The Moon was at a Fiesta by Matthew Gollub 
The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett 
The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges 
Mouse TV by Matt Novak 
Selections from the biography series of David A. Adler 
Selections from Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia 
Selections from the See How They Grow series by DK Books