Finding your child transfixed by a book’s unbreakable spell is something every parent dreams of. When it finally happens, you want to do everything in your power to ensure books continue to keep a tight grip on your kid’s attention. That’s why it’s so important to line the shelves of your home library with great reads your kids will not only get lost in, but that also open doors to new worlds they never could have imagined.
Teachers are pros at curating amazing collections of books for the kids they teach, so I chatted with a few to find out which titles they recommend parents have at home. In general, they recommend that you try to collect a variety of book genres for your home library, including fiction, nonfiction, comic/graphic, and classic books (for classics, start with these timeless chapter books). But they also gave me nine specific book picks — some individual titles and some series — that they say you shouldn't pass up.
These home library picks will hold your kids’ attention with engaging storytelling and help them develop a deeper understanding of resilience and strong character. For more ways to build your home library inexpensively, check out these $5 favorite reads. You can also stock up with these great boxed sets kids can’t put down.
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1. How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen (PreK-K)
A laugh-out-loud story about love and prehistoric pals, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You is a must-have for early readers (here are more expert-approved books for beginning readers). “This is a wonderful book to read with little ones at home,” says Amanda Smith, a mom and teacher in the Montessori program at Latta Elementary in Latta, South Carolina.
Even when little dinosaurs are naughty, this book shows them that they are loved — and is a sweet way to end the day with a bedtime story. If you can’t get enough of the laughs found in favorites like this one or How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs?, check out this comprehensive list of How Do Dinosaurs books.
2. BOB Books by John R. Maslen and Bobby Lynn Maslen (PreK-2)
Often the first books children learn to read on their own, BOB Books were created by a teacher and feature carefully-chosen letter sounds, words, and short sentences. “These are wonderful books for children just learning to read,” Smith says, and adds that she has several sets of of BOB Books at home. Learn more about the BOB Books here!
3. Pete the Cat: 5 Far-Out Books in 1 Box! (PreK-3)
No home library would be complete without Pete the Cat hanging out on your shelves. “Many of these books have a great lesson within the story but are also entertaining,” says Smith. This box includes Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana, Pete the Cat: Pete’s Train Trip, Pete the Cat: Scuba-Cat, Pete the Cat and the Surprise Teacher, and Pete the Cat’s Groovy Bake Sale. Have a major Pete fan on your hands? You can also get a Pete plush to go with the books!
4. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss (PreK-3)
"Today is your day. You're off to great places! You're off and away!"
It’s not just for graduations: Reading this classic book is a wonderful way to remind children about the importance of hard work — and the fact that they can be whatever they want to be, says Smith. It explores the highs and lows of life, plus the importance of perseverance. For more timeless reads for your home library, check out these classic picture books.
5. Refugee by Alan Gratz (Grades 3-7)
Perfect for children with a passion for historical fiction, this book tells the story of three refugee children from three different times in history who go on harrowing journeys. “Gratz does a beautiful job weaving the lives of these three refugees together in their common strength and resilience in the face of adversity,” says Katie McCrary, a 7th-grade English and language arts teacher at Rugby Middle School in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
6. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Grades 3-7)
An uplifting, accessible read that teaches kids about acceptance and the importance of being kind to one another, Wonder tells the story of a boy with a facial deformity who goes to public school for the first time. Smith says it’s a favorite of hers, especially for older elementary students. Younger students (ages 4 to 8) will enjoy the picture book edition of the book, We’re All Wonders.
7. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Grades 5-7)
In this middle grade novel about brotherhood and family, twin brothers and basketball players must come to grips with growing up on and off the court — and realize that breaking the rules can come at a terrible price.
“Often students find poetry challenging to understand,” says McCrary. “But with this book, the author finds a masterful way to engage students in the rhythms and pace of the poetic language he uses throughout the story.”
In general, McCary suggests parents look for books and stories with main characters children (particularly older children) can connect to. “One of the most challenging yet important lessons for a middle school student to learn is how to persevere through adversity and be resilient,” she says. “When recommending books to students, I always consider how a student could empathize with the protagonist, as well as what they could learn about resilience from the story.”
8. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass (Grades 8-12)
McCrary says she is always on the lookout for a great series her students can dig into, and right now, it’s The Selection Series. The Selection is the chance of a lifetime for 35 girls who get the opportunity to live in a palace and compete for the heart of Prince Maxon, but for America Singer (who is secretly in love with a boy in a caste below her), it’s a nightmare. “My students get sucked into the dystopian world and love the way Cass intertwines a high-stakes competition with the romance of a love story,” says McCrary.
9. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Grades 9-12)
This coming-of-age classic explores difficult themes, including violence between teen gangs and its consequences. “This powerful story about friendship and empathy for those who may be different than us helps students realize that at our core, we are all human,” says McCrary. A favorite of teenagers and parents alike, The Outsiders is just as relevant today as it was when it was written over 50 years ago.