The summer before children begin kindergarten is an exciting one filled with lots of anticipation. I’ve put together a list of new and old favorite books to excite children about reading.
While many stories are entertaining, I’ve also made sure to include several engaging books that will also reinforce important skills such as counting, rhyming, and alphabetical recognition needed for kindergarten.
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If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen, 2019
Rhyming text and Chris Van Dusen’s signature artwork shine in this entertaining school-themed story about a boy who dreams of designing his own school. The vivid illustrations and imaginative storyline are sure to inspire children to start planning their own idyllic schools. The other two in the series, I Built a Car and If I Built a House are must haves as well!
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman, 2006
This book is as fun to read aloud as it is to listen to. A group of enthusiastic chickens appear on each page to solve a crisis on their farm. Ranging from making dinner to getting cows out of a tree, there is no emergency too big for these impressive chickens. Each two-page spread presents a different disaster on each day helping to reinforce days of the week to young children.
The Dot by Peter Reynolds, 2003
This is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. When a discouraged girl named Vashti believes she cannot draw, her art teacher encourages her to make a simple dot. When the teacher then frames her dot, Vashti is inspired to make more artwork and creates her own gallery full of work. This deceptively simple story inspires readers to believe in themselves and gives them the confidence to make their own mark.
Dandy by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Charles Santoso, 2019
(Ages 4 and up)
Dandy is the hilarious story of a daddy lion who does everything he can to rid his pristine lawn of the invasive weed while his daughter adopts the dandelion as her new friend. This humorous and gratifying story is one that both adults and children will enjoy!
Green on Green by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicta Sala, 2020
This gorgeous new book uses elegant prose and charming illustrations to brilliantly capture the essence of each season.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The tranquil pictures follow a family through a full year highlighting beautiful elements of nature such as plants, animals, and idyllic landscapes. Readers will observe the quiet joy each season brings and perceptive children will notice that the return of spring brings a new baby, further symbolizing the idea of rebirth. This sophisticated gem is a real standout!
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, 2009
Rhyming is an important skill for new kindergarteners to know and what better way to reinforce it than by reading a book full of silly rhymes? This comical story stars four colorful, fuzzy dust bunnies who love to speak in rhyme. Prepare for giggles when one dust bunny starts blurting out some unexpectant words that break their rhyming pattern.
One by Kathryn Otoshi, 2008
This brilliant book uses numbers and colors to create a clever story about bullying and acceptance. Red is hot headed and enjoys picking on Blue. The other colors are too intimidated to help until the number One enters and teaches them all a meaningful lesson. This is one of my favorite books that is a must-read.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, 2010
(Ages 4 and up)
It’s time for bed and Little Red excitedly awaits her Papa’s bedtime stories. As he reads each classic fairy tale, the exuberant Little Red can’t help but interrupt each one with comical results. This enchanting Caldecott Honor book is a ton of fun to read aloud.
Boxitects by Kim Smith, 2020
This inspiring book takes the idea of creating with boxes and wraps it into an entertaining story with bright colors, imaginative creations, and a message about teamwork!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Meg is excited to attend maker school and further develop her impressive skills of building with boxes. When she meets Simone, a fellow boxitect, however, she becomes jealous of the new student and dismayed when they are forced to work as a team. After a failed experiment, the two engineers realize they both have something valuable to offer and they can construct something even more amazing when working together.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Instructions on how to build a “Boxitect Tunnel” and “Boxitect Castle” are included in the back for little builders.
Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor, 2020
This charming story stars a cheerful snail who bravely attempts to cross a road to reach a field of crunchy cabbages. Along the way he encounters a car, a hungry crow, and a group of impolite ants. Despite the ants’ rudeness, the snail invites them into his shell during a rainstorm and his kindness is later returned in an unexpected and gratifying way.
Full of humor, engaging illustrations, and a lovable protagonist, this feel-good story is simply delightful and a big hit with both my kids and me.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, 2019
Filled with colorful illustrations and affirming text, this playful book is sure to generate excitement about starting kindergarten. When a mother deems her son the “king of kindergarten”, he gains the confidence to face anything. With a giant smile, he listens to his teacher, shares, plays, and makes new friends. This charming story will leave readers eager to explore their own royal school kingdoms.
Fly by Mark Teague, 2019
No words are needed to understand the hilarious conversation between a mother bird and her baby in Mark Teague’s new book, Fly. When a mama robin encourages her little one to fly on his own, the hatchling comes up with several funny alternatives. This wordless wonder made both my children and me laugh at the relatable interaction between parent and child and the sweet ending always resulted in a warm
The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz ; illustrated by Dan Santat, 2012
Hi ya! This action-packed fractured fairytale puts an exciting new spin on an old classic. When an intimidating wolf comes knocking on their door, three pigs decide to train at their local ninja school to learn self-defense. When the first two drop out early, their hardworking sister saves the day. With eye-catching illustrations, tons of amusing puns, and an entertaining storyline with great messaging, The Three Ninja Pigs is a real winner.
How to Train A Train by Jason Carter Eaton; illustrated by John Rocco, 2013
Who wouldn’t want a train as a pet? A young boy helpfully describes how to identify what kind of train is the right pet for you, how to catch one, and then how to care for it. Filled with tongue and cheek humor and beautiful illustrations, children and adults will not be able to resist this clever “how to book”.
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2006
What better way to get kids excited about the alphabet than using super heroes to introduce them? Using each letter of the alphabet, a new super hero is introduced with descriptions of his or her powers. The characters are diverse and the large illustrations are completely engaging.
The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier; illustrated by Sonia Sanchez, 2018
Filled with a spunky protagonist, lively illustrations, and engaging text, you will not want to miss this fun take on the classic folktale, “The Little Red Hen”. I can’t tell you how many forts this book as inspired in our house!
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long; illustrated by David Shannon, 2003
A little boy joins a band of pirates and at first relishes in his new life without rules or vegetables, but soon realizes being a pirate is not all it’s cracked up to be. David Shannon’s illustrations shine as he perfectly captures pirate life. A fun story for any buccaneer.
1-2-3 Peas (Peas series) by Keith Baker, 2012
Keith Baker’s series about a group of anthropomorphic peas is a perfect way to introduce or review letters, numbers, colors, and seasons. In 1-2-3 Peas, flowing rhymes follow the peas as they perform comical actions as they count up to one hundred. The majority of the book counts by tens providing excellent practice for children while engaging with the captivating artwork. As an added bonus there is a ladybug that appears on each page that is fun to hunt for. I also highly recommend the other books in the series, LMNO Peas, LMNO Peaquel, Hap-pea All Year.
Saturday by Oge Mora, 2019
Caldecott Honor Winner, Oge Mora, is back with another outstanding book filled with gorgeous collage-style illustrations and a heartwarming storyline.
Ava’s mother works hard all week and Saturday is the one day they have to spend together. This Saturday, Ava and her mom are looking forward to their typical weekend routine, but are met with difficulties at every turn. With each mishap, Ava’s mother reassures her that the day will still be special. When Ava’s mother realizes that she has forgotten the tickets to a puppet show, however, she is the one who melts down. Ava in return gathers the strength to cheer her mom up and they return home to have one last adventure of the day. With stunning artwork and themes of family and resilience, there is so much to love about this remarkable story!
It Is (Not) Perfect by Anna Kang; illustrated by Chrostpher Weyant, 2020
When two adorable bears put the finishing touches on their sand castle, onlookers advise them to add more elements to make it better. The friends fastidiously build more and more components until they have a massive palace that while beautiful, can’t withstand the power of a giant wave. The bears reevaluate the flattened version of their sand castle and realize it is indeed perfect just the way it is.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
With its spare text and amusing illustrations, this engaging book makes complex topics of self-assurance and handling disappointment more accessible to children. It is also a great tool for starting a conversation on how much value we should place in the opinion of others.
If your new Kindergartener is ready to start tackling books, here is a list of stories that are perfect for emergent readers.
Dash Into Reading series by Amelia Murdock, 2017
It is rare to find an easy reader series so beautifully illustrated. Dash Into Reading is a new series of books that focus on incorporating rhyming words with a few simple site words. These books have a charming, wholesome feel to them that both parents and children will enjoy.
Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long, 2012
It is easy to see why this book won the Geisel Award for the best early reader the year it was published. Simple phrases such as “I am tall” are repeated, but the illustrations help move the story along. For example, the first chapter features a small bird stating, “I am tall.” Then a bigger bird comes along and claims, “I am tall.” Using a fun lift-the-flap feature, another bird is revealed to be the tallest, but wearing stilts. There are three short stories in all that follow the same type of clever humor that should make children giggle while they build confidence by repeating mostly simple one syllable words.
See Zip Zap by David Milgrim, 2018
This book is a good fit for children who have just learned their site words and are ready to tackle their first story.
Zip is a little, green alien, who entertains others by making items magically appear. When his brother, Bip, falls asleep watching his show, Zip accidentally zaps a monster into existence that chases the siblings creating quite the adventure.
It is amazing how David Milgrim is able to create such an entertaining story with such limited text. There are simple sentences that feature site words, rhymes, repetition, and engaging illustrations that provide pictorial clues.
The Adventures of Otto series by David Milgrim, 2002
These delightful books star a robot named Otto. They are full of action and comical illustrations that not only provide clues to the more difficult words in the text, but also make my son laugh out loud.
The simple text is mostly made up of site words and new vocabulary is added slowly and repeated often. One installment in the series, Go Otto Go (2016) won a Geisel Honor for one of the best easy readers of the year.
The Bug in the Jug Wants a Hug (Sounds Like Reading series) by Brian Cleary, 2009
Each book in this series concentrates on different vowel sounds. The two-page spreads follow the same format with a list of three words on the left-hand side with pictures underneath to help guide the reader. There is a big, bold illustration on the right-hand side of the page with one sentence underneath using the showcased words on the previous page. There is no real story here, but the use of rhymes, repetition, illustrations, and phonics makes this series a useful way for children to practice their reading skills.
Cat the Cat Who Is That (series) by Mo Willems, 2010
Using large, bolded text along with speech bubbles, an exuberant cat introduces the reader to her friends: a mouse, a duck, and a fish. When the cat comes across a strange looking alien-like creature, the narrator asks the question repeated throughout the book, “Cat the Cat, who is THAT?”, which the cat responds, “I have no idea.” After some deliberation, the cat shouts, “It’s a NEW friend!” A great start to a series for children who can’t yet read Elephant and Piggie on their own, but crave a similar type of humor.
Frog Meets Dog (Frog and Dog series) by Janee Trasler, 2020
Part of Scholastic’s new Acorn line, which combines easy-to-read text with color illustrations and engaging storylines, Frog Meets Dog is an excellent choice for brand new readers. Very simple words many of which rhyme, follow a dog who tries to befriend a trio of frogs. The action-packed illustrations contain several instances of physical humor, which will most likely result in giggles from readers. Drawing instructions and a writing prompt are also included in the back for extra fun.
For more Easy Reader suggestions, check out the below lists.