The best books for kids combine an engaging narrative with important lessons about life. Many children’s books teach lessons about playing fair and being honest. The best of these books inspire kids to grow into the best person they can, rather than giving a lecture. These are the books that kids and parents love most.
Finding these books can be a real challenge. Some stories might be too simplistic, while others will not appeal to them no matter how hard parents try. We gathered some of the best children’s books of all time that inspire kids with their stories and relatable characters. They also provide great life lessons. Here they are:
Books for Kids that are Packed with Important Life Lessons
Although important, the greatest books for kids should not just be full of valuable lessons. For a book to be effective, it needs to engage children and naturally draw their attention. They need to relate to the characters and their actions.
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
Although highly criticized when it first appeared, this children’s book is one of the most successful. It’s also one of the most appreciated of its kind. The short story focuses on Max, a young boy punished by his parents. Max dressed in a wolf costume and mischievously ruined his mother’s evening.
During that night, Max’s room is mysteriously transformed into a jungle. The little boy reaches a strange island inhabited by malevolent beasts. Max successfully tamed them and becomes their king. But soon, Max realizes he is lonely in this new and strange world. Thus, he decides to return home, where a hot dinner is waiting for him.
Where the Wild Things Are teaches children to accept, but control, their wild and dark impulses. It makes them think about the consequences of their actions. It also emphasizes how important family and parents’ love are. The story shows how different entities and people have different reactions and impulses for the same feelings and actions.
But above all, this children’s book should be used to discuss the differences between imagination and reality. How imaginary beings and thoughts cannot physically harm us, but cause a lot of distress that can be avoided. How time is subjective – especially in dream worlds. And how, sometimes, things are not what they seem to be. Although controversial, Where the Wild Things Are definitely is one of the best books for kids.
Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit
Also known as How Toys Became Real, The Velveteen Rabbit tells the heartwarming story of a stuffed toy rabbit. The toy wanted to become real more than anything in the world. Even though he was not his owner’s first choice, the little boy loses one of his favorite toys. So one night, his grandmother gives him the rabbit to sleep with. The two became inseparable ever since, which re-lights the little rabbit’s hope to one day become real through the love of his owner.
However, the little boy gets sick with scarlet fever, which requires his room to be disinfected and all his possessions – burnt. The velveteen rabbit is stuffed in a sack together with all the other toys and books in the boy’s room. During that night, the rabbit sheds tears over his cruel destiny as a toy. Suddenly, out of the wet ground, a magic fairy flower emerges and turns the velveteen stuffed rabbit into a real rabbit.
The story is about unconditional love. It teaches children to look for a deeper meaning in their day-to-day lives and to appreciate the people around them and their belongings. The Velveteen Rabbit can be used to discuss self-consciousness as a disruption and a stumbling block. It is also a great icebreaker for talks about teasing, bullying, and negative thoughts or emotions that can have long-term effects on a child’s psychological development. The Velveteen Rabbit is a timeless emotional rollercoaster for children and adults alike.
Among all books for kids, this story and its lessons will stay with you for a long time, even if read during adulthood.
E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web
By far one of the most famous children’s novels, Charlotte’s Web is the story of Wilbur, the runt of a pig litter that has been raised by a loving girl. After being sold to another farm and suffering from loneliness for a while, Wilbur befriends Charlotte – a barn spider that was touched by his distress and suffering. The spider smartly saves Wilbur from slaughter by weaving messages about the pig on her web and making him famous among locals.
Unfortunately, after laying her eggs and doing her best to save Wilbur, Charlotte does not survive – which greatly saddens the now-famous pig. He continued to guard Charlotte’s unhatched babies hoping they will keep him company and he will offer them protection. After hatching, however, most of them leave Charlotte’s web in search of their own life. But the three smallest remain – the “runts” of their own litter – and their subsequent generations continue to live on Charlotte’s famous web.
The story itself is extremely resourceful and opens up an unlimited number of discussions. Friendship is the leading theme of this novel, together with its ups and downs. The idea that animals have feelings and lives of their own is another prevalent theme, and so is mortality. Perseverance, praise and admiration, or changes in our bodies as we age and their effects are also easily approachable after reading this novel. It definitely is one of the deepest books for kids of all ages.
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka, the famous chocolatier, opened up his factory’s doors to five children and their guardians. The story focuses on Charlie Bucket, one of the five lucky children who also has an unfortunate financial situation. The other four children quickly find their demise or are simply ejected from the dream-like factory because of their greed, impetuousness, addiction, or other traits that are frowned upon by Willy Wonka.
The whole experience turns out to be a contest that was meant to decide the next owner of the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Therefore, Charlie and his family are finally free of their poor financial situation and continue to live their lives in the chocolate factory.
Vices, right and wrong, punishment, and absurdity are the main motifs of this book for kids. The duality of human nature, although not universally valid, offers a great opportunity for an in-depth talk on good and bad. The idea that wealth does not make a person better is the most prevalent theme of this book. However, this should be discussed with great care, since the opposite is a natural conclusion that should be avoided. Another go-to interpretation in one of the most famous books for kids is that bad deeds, character flaws, and ill-thought-out actions will often have well-deserved consequences.
Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is the story of a little boy named Alexander. Alexander seems to be followed by bad luck everywhere he goes. The series of unlucky events starts as soon as he wakes up and continues throughout his day. It lasts until he is back in his bed again. It was featured on the Reading Rainbow series and is one of the best books for kids of the last century.
The terrible, horrible events that make up for one of Alexander’s worst days so far are extremely relatable to children. Being misunderstood and scolded by a teacher or parent is terrible. B being deserted by a friend, not receiving the window seat, or finding out about a new cavity can be horrible. These things are bad enough to ruin a child’s day by themselves. However, all these happen on the same day. Alexander feels an intense negative emotion that he never felt before and decides to move to Australia.
The book ends with Alexander’s mother explaining that some days simply are like that. She tells him there’s nothing we can do but gather ourselves and start over again tomorrow. It might not have been the answer Alexander was looking for, but it definitely was the answer he needed.
This book can be used to discuss handling negative emotions: Frustration, rage, anger, sadness, and disappointment are the most perceptible. There are times when Alexander chooses to deal with his problems on the inside, and times when he chooses to express his mood out loud. Violence and mistakes are also explored in this book, which is overall a great lesson for children and parents alike.
Special Mention: Anything by Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel is one of the most popular children’s author in the U.S. With a remarkable and seemingly boundless imagination, Dr. Seuss created books for kids of all ages that are funny, full of meaningful lessons. And most importantly, the characters and their dilemmas are extremely relatable to children.
The matters he references in his work are extremely diverse. Politics, race, religion, prejudice, or environmentalism are just a few of the subjects Dr. Seuss indirectly discussed in what are considered by many the best books for kids of all time. Books like The Lorax, Yertle the Turtle, Oh the Places You’ll Go, The Cat in the Hat are all classic first readers. And How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a holiday must-read for children of all ages.
However, we want to also mention that finding the best books for kids is hardly enough to properly educate your child. Always read the book in advance to make sure it is appropriate for your kid’s age. You may also want to prepare a few topics that you want to explore in-depth while reading the book together.