The Best Children’s Books: A Guide to Classic and Modern Favorites

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Adventure down a rabbit hole and into the world of the most loved children’s books of all time. From classics like Dr. Suess to new favorites about brave mice, here are the top 10 best children’s books to read together. 

Father reading to son.
Father reading to son. Photo credit: Yayimages.

Developing a love of reading at an early age is vital to early childhood development and can empower children to learn. It also helps create bonding time not on a digital device with parents and kids over bedtime or storytime routines. 

Thousands of books could top our list of the best books for children, but these are the 10 best because of their timeless appeal and moral messages. These definitive stories are loved by children and will continue to be adored by generations to come, much like our collection of the best fantasy book series for adults. 

Books and a coffee cup on a windowsill

List of the Top 10 Children’s Books

1. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss

“The Cat in the Hat,” written by Dr. Suess, is one of the most beloved children’s books. It tells the story of a mischievous cat who shows up on a rainy day to entertain a brother and sister. With vivid illustrations and fun rhyming verse, “The Cat in the Hat” is a classic storybook for children, with fun, easy-to-understand lessons on cooperation, responsibility, and trust.

2. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White 

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White is a treasured novel that teaches the importance of friendship, compassion, and loyalty. The story is woven around a young pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, who work together to save Wilbur’s life. With beautiful and touching illustrations and a captivating storyline, “Charlotte’s Web” is a must-read for children, as it teaches them the immeasurable values of friendship and kindness.

3. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll 

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll is an enduring story cherished by children and adults and one of the best books for children on our list. It tells the story of Alice, a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole and discovers a magical world filled with strange and wonderful creatures. With whimsical characters and an imaginative plot, it weaves a story about curiosity, courage, and adventure for every child. 

4. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling 

The first of a seven-series book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling, is a fantasy novel that captures the imagination of readers, young and old. It tells the story of Harry Potter, a boy who discovers he is the son of two magical wizards who is recruited to attend a school for magic and embarks on a quest to solve his parent’s mysterious death. With its captivating characters and thrilling plot, it weaves messaging on courage, friendship, and loyalty; “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is a favorite for children worldwide. 

5. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle 

Designed for the youngest readers, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle is a darling children’s book about a caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly. It follows the caterpillar’s journey as he eats various fruits and vegetables, gradually growing larger and larger. It has vibrant illustrations, a playful story, and easy-to-follow text encouraging children to chime in; “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is a fun and colorful storybook. 

6. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak 

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak is a beloved book that explores the power of imagination. It follows Max, a young boy sent to his room without dinner, where he creates an imaginative world full of wild creatures. With its imaginative illustrations and exciting story, “Where the Wild Things Are” is an exciting book for any child. It has important lessons about being creative and unconditional love, even when we want to be a wild thing. 

7. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein  

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is a masterpiece that explores the power of unconditional love. It follows the story of a boy and his relationship with an apple tree, who lovingly provides apples, branches, and eventually the whole of itself for him throughout every stage of his life. With touching illustrations and a meaningful message, “The Giving Tree” is an essential children’s book that teaches important lessons about the dangers of selfishness and the benefits of generosity and selflessness.

8. “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown 

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown is a timeless children’s book about a young rabbit saying goodnight to his bedroom. This story follows the bunny as he wishes goodnight to various objects in his room: from kittens and mittens to bowls of mush. “Goodnight Moon” is an uncomplicated and fun children’s book with simple lessons about gratitude, soothing illustrations, and gentle rhymes. 

9. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis 

Step through a wardrobe and into the magical world of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. This eight-book enchanting fantasy series follows the adventures of four siblings in a magical land. It tells the story of their quest to save Narnia from an evil witch and introduces readers to memorable characters, including talking animals and mythological creatures. With captivating stories, adventure, and themes of courage, the books in “The Chronicles of Narnia” are one of the best series of stories for children to read. 

10. “The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo 

“The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo is an exceptional children’s book about a brave mouse with big ears. It follows Despereaux as he embarks on a daring quest to save a princess, and through carefully selected words, it teaches readers important lessons about courage, friendship, and loyalty. “The Tale of Desperiaux” is one of many of DiCamillo’s excellent stories that weave bittersweet yet beautiful lessons for both children and adults. 

Family reading together.
Family reading together. Photo credit: Yayimages.

The Benefits of Reading with Kids

Fostering a love of reading at a young age can benefit children with improved reading and language skills and a better understanding of different cultures and worldly views. In addition, it helps improve imagination and creativity and can help children develop skills to empathize with others. Reading also helps attention and focus while developing problem-solving skills in a fun way. 

Reading with your children can be fun and a great way to pass the time on long road trips. It can be an affordable or even free activity if you look into programs at your local library or online homeschooling programs. Also, check out Free Comic Book Day at your local comic shop. It can also be rewarding to revisit the cherished lessons in these stories from a new perspective. 

Mother and daughter on the floor while child paints.
Image source: Depositphotos

With this selection of the best books for children, and the hundreds more out there, encouraging a child to read can be exciting and fun. Their skill level increases more rapidly than the turning of the pages, along with their confidence and imagination. The hardest part is picking which story to start with first. 

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