Reading Recs: Pre-School to Age 7

Here are some books we recommend to you in order to demonstrate the topics and kinds of books that are the best fit, in general, for children from pre-school age to 7 years. The comments below are from ATDP members, other readers, or excerpted from Barnes & Noble on-line. Please check your local library and school library before you run out to purchase tons of books.

ATDP readers seem to gobble up books at such a fast rate that you’d be in danger of spending all of your time purchasing children’s books. Hmmmm… on the other hand, that does sound pretty good :-). Within an age range, the order is pretty random because for every organizing principle I thought of, a dozen of other ways to organize the books came to mind.

Of course, add your favorite books to the list and recommend them to other ATDP families by e-mailing your additions.

~ Nina

A Very Brief List of ATDP Favorites
These are especially delightful for younger children—to read aloud together with family members, and for slightly older children to re-read on their own. The illustrations and fine artwork are an integral part of the story. In addition to discussing the story and its details, illustrations also provide a wonderful basis for conversations with your child. Talk with your child about what is happening in the picture, about how the illustrations add to our enjoyment of the story, and about what makes the illustrations beautiful (or scary!).

So Much
by Trish Cook
I add Cook’s new book Full, Full of Love. Sonal Patel and I adore this story of love within a large, extended family offers rhythmic language and warm, welcoming artwork that invites conversations about how very much the child who’s reading the book is loved by his or her own family, regardless of its size or composition. In addition to being recommended for its content, it is also noteworthy for its illustrations that represent people as individuals and helps to set standards for the ways in which children regard themselves and others.
The Seven Chinese Sisters
by Kathy Tucker
Sonal and I also adore this updated version of an old Chinese folk tale. It is noteworthy for its emphasis on personal strength and the individuality of the sisters. The illustrations represent people as individuals and help to set standards for the ways in which children regard themselves and others.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
by Betty MacDonald
Usually listed as silly humor, and the tales are certainly very funny; but Beverly Vandiver and I find the stories also to be an excellent vehicle for teaching children about the consequences of decisions and acts.
Wayside School
by Louis Sachar
Many good laughs and punch lines to repeat in order to get even more laughs. You really can’t laugh enough, and certainly not too much.
Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss
Of course, everything by Dr. Seuss, including my favorites, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go. “Don’t be fooled by the title of this seriocomic ode to success; it’s not ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ kid version. All journeys face perils, whether from indecision, from loneliness, or worst of all, from too much waiting.”
~ Publisher’s review
Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson
Great things happen when Harold takes his purple crayon for a moonlight walk.
The Little Engine That Could
by Watty Piper
You have to love any story that changes, “I think I can” to “I knew I could,” and we do!
Finn Family Moomintroll
by Tove Jansson
Funny (especially for an adult reading aloud) and innocent fantasies about the adventures of trolls and various unlikely creatures.
The Sky Is Not So Far Away: Night Poems for Children
by Margaret Hillert
“This magical collection of poems by a celebrated author captures some of the mystery and wonder of a child’s dreams and nighttime adventures.”
Ten in a Bed
by Allen Ahlberg
“Turns the old favorite nursery rhyme into an amusing parody of fairy tales and a take-charge heroine.”
The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
“A parable for everyone about the gift of giving and the capacity for love.” Of course, we recommend everything by Silverstein. There are now 40th, 30th, and 25th anniversary editions out of some all-time favorites.
The Bee-Man of Orn
by Frank Stockton
“An American folktale that concludes with a final, satisfying twist that says much about fate, identity, and the captivating power of bees.”
Imagine a Night
by Sarah L. Thomson
“Imagine a night when ordinary objects magically become extraordinary … a night when it is possible to believe the impossible.”
Land of Green Ginger
by Noel Langley
If your child wants to read it independently, he or she should wait until age 7 or so. However if your are going to read it aloud, right now is a good time. “It’s all here—Flying Carpets, Green Dragons, Magic Phoenix Birds, Boomalakka Wee, the dysfunctional infant son of the Genie of the Lamp, the displaced mouse who was supposed to have been a donkey, even Omar Khayyam himself. It all adds up to a fantastical tale of adventure and mayhem, fabricated by the screenwriter of The Wizard of Oz.” It’s one of Troy Harner-Brown’s favorites, and mine, too—many laughs
A Birthday for Frances
by Russell Hoban
I listed this book by name because I was just thinking about “un-birthdays” and “Chompo Bars.” But the rest of the series is equally delightful and memorable. As are the rest of Russell HobanÕs stories. Harvey’s Hideout is a must for every child who has an older sister with a, how shall we say it, very strong personality. (A member of ATDP’s first class in 1981) Abigail Lustig’s daughter Leona concurs most strongly, but as the oldest sister in her family, she didnÕt mention Harvey or his sister Mildred.


The books listed below are appropriate and ready to be enjoyed as soon as children become interested in them—and they’re chapter books! Series books permit children to meet new friends and stay with them for a while, so we made sure to include them.


Danielle’s Dollhouse Wish
by Joan Holub
A terrific series for young, independent readers. The series is about two sisters who are staying with their grandmother, who runs a doll hospital and has the power to communicate with dolls. All 6 titles are enjoyable.
Henry and Ribsy
by Beverly Cleary
Of course, we include every Cleary book. I included this title because it was the first one in the series I read when I was a kid. Yes, they already had paper. ;-)
Boxcar Children
by Gertrude Chandler Warner
I love mysteries and children love this series.
by Enid Blyton
It seems that Chiron owns the rights to the Blyton characters and will be issuing new titles over the next couple of years. As a favor to Frank Worrell and me, please read the “real” ones. There are about 400 original titles, so you won’t run out of them for a while. For younger children, begin with the much-loved Noddy series, then on to The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, and The Mystery Series, school stories such as Malory Towers and St Clare’s, fantasy tales such as The Faraway Tree, and more.
Dear America
by assorted authors
The stories are written from the point of view of a young girl living during different times in U.S. history—e.g., 1620, 1691, 1763, 1847, 1849, 1865.
Eyewitness Books Series
by Eyewitness Books
The topics of the books range from and investigation of matter to exploring the worlds of the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan peoples, and many more.
Hardy Boys
by Franklin W. Dixon
Detective series that has been enjoyed since about 1927. Frankly, as a youngster I preferred these to Nancy Drew books.
Nancy Drew
by Carolyn Keene
Nancy’s adventures have been delighting kids for 75 years. (It’s a big secret, so don’t tell … but an ATDP parent penned some of the ones from a couple of decades ago—can’t tell you when because it’s a secret and if you had a clue you’d figure it out.)
American Girl Series
by various authors
Historical fiction, including: Felicity (1760), Josephina (1824), Addy (1860), Kirsten (1904), Samantha (1904), Molly (1940).
La Senorita Emilia
by Barbara Cooney
This is a translation into Spanish of the popular Miss Rumphius. Please assist your children to read in languages you speak in your home. The books are available and it is worth your while to find all of the original stories and tales written in the language in which they were created. Recently, at 5 years, Leona, referenced above, reported in a matter of fact tone, “Mama, I only speak three languages.” I wish we all did! And more.

Of course, these are prototypes of the kinds of books that children, at this stage of their development enjoy a great deal, and the list is at best a starting point for your child. You still need to look at the books to see where and if they fit into your family’s beliefs and traditions. But even having said that, I need to ask you to consider something else.

Maurice Sendak’s and Roald Dahl’s works are among my very favorite books, even as an adult. Yet, developmentally, I’m asking you to see where they fit into your sequence of literature choices for your child. They are not to be missed, so I ask that you decide when your child should read them.

Sendak, as he intends to do, evokes real fears as children experience them. I would suggest that if you are not reading the books to or along with your child, that you wait a year or so beyond the time that your child is able to read the book on his or her own. The same caution goes for Dahl’s wonderful books. The tales that Dahl tells tap deeply into moral development and require the reader to consider the exceptions to rules. That is a very advanced developmental reasoning process. The morals of the books are both good and true, but they require a fairly sophisticated level of moral reasoning.

That brings us back to the point where we began this conversation. Please look beyond your child’s ability to read and define words, even his or her ability to use words effectively in a sentence. Please look toward your child’s level of development. Oh, and always pick the funny books first!

Here are a couple of websites you might want to review to discover additional titles of interest to your child and you:
  1. Education World’s Summer Reading ListsThere are fine lists here for students from K to grade 8. They call the list “summer reading” but the titles should be considered “pleasure reading” and read throughout the year! I don’t necessarily agree with the grade level of their recommendations so, as always, parental guidance is recommended.
  2. Of course, it is always worthwhile to look at the American Library Association’s:
    • Caldecott Medal winners (picture books for young children and all adults);
    • Newbery Medal winners (as children read more on their own);
    • and recipients of the Coretta Scott King Award (for outstanding contributions to multi-cultural literature made by African-American authors and illustrators).

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