Recommended Reading: Books for Under 12

Finding good books for young kids can feel challenging sometimes. There's so many options! Here's our favorites.

My family and I LOVE reading. They say it only takes 1000 books to have a “library” .. so we have a well-stocked library of ~ 3000 books (give or take a few). About two-thirds of our home library are fiction books, with something for everyone here. And about half of our books are books for under 12!

My kids and I put together our list of our favorite books for all ages. So if you’re looking for something new to read (or read-aloud), check out our list!

For Toddlers

First, our favorite small-child book author is the great Sandra Boynton. She’s written dozens of fun, rhyming stories that appeal to parents and toddlers alike. My youngest recommends her favorite series “Little Pookie”, and her absolute favorite book of this series is Spooky Pookie, a Hallowe’en themed story that always makes her giggle.

If you pick up a few of these books, check out Boynton’s songs too! Many of her stories have been put to music, including Pajama Time, and T-Rex (with guest singer Samuel L Jackson!)

For Early Readers to read themselves

As much as I love reading to my kids, I also love stories they can “read” to themselves too. And those stories need to have rhyme, rhythm and repetition. So.. I turn to the classic books by Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown and Robert Munsch.

Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop, Go Dog Go, and Fox in Socks are perfect early-reader books. They are almost sing-song in their rhythm and repetition, making them as easy to remember as nursery rhymes.

Margaret Wise Brown’s classics The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and It’s Spring offer gentler rhythms and more story-like reading, but still have the same simple language and repetitive structure as Dr. Seuss. The pictures are also artistic and attractive, without being cartoonish.

And who doesn’t love Robert Munsch, with his humor and fantastical stories? Mud Puddle, I need to Go, Jonathan Cleaned Up and (my personal favorite, even if it’s a bit creepy lol) Love you Forever keep the same repetitive, easy-to-“read” story that kids can relate to, even if it’s a bit silly.

Picture Books to read aloud

One of my favorite activities is cuddling up with my kids and reading a good story. So when we find an author that creates stories we like, we tend to get more from them.

Some of our favorite series to read aloud are: the Berenstein Bears, Amelia Bedelia, The Magic School Bus, Miss Bindergarten, Fancy Nancy, and Old Mother West Wind.

For Fluent young readers

We’re not huge fans of books based on TV characters, but I’m a believer in “whatever gets them reading” is a good book. But my girls wanted to mention their favorites: Pinkalicious, Strawberry Shortcake, Paw Patrol, and Curious George.

Personally, I love giving my girls older books like Poky Little Puppy, The Taxi Car, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I also love the Little Miss/Mr. Men series for emerging readers.

For Early Chapter readers

Once my girls are ready for chapter books, we have lots of choices. The older series Rainbow Magic and Animal Ark are fun stories that help kids get into chapter books without getting overwhelmed, with large print and simple stories. There’s also the Geronimo & Theo Stilton books to help them develop their reading comprehension. And the newer series Owl Diaries are dramatic without being too mature.

I also like giving my kids chapter book stories that branch off our picture book favorites — like the Berenstein Bears‘ chapter book series, or the young Amelia Bedelia chapter books.

Graphic Novels for young readers

One of my girls is dyslexic, so we found that graphic novels are some of the most accessible reading material for her. And I love it! Here are a few of our favorite early-reader graphic novel series:

Bad Guys — we can’t wait for the movie!!
Hilda the Troll

We’re not big fans of Captain Underpants or Stick Cat, but they might be more appealing to boys.

Chapter Read Alouds: Books for under 12

As my girls have grown, it’s been a pleasure to introduce them to some of my childhood favorites. We like all kinds of books here — from high fantasy like Pawn of Prophecy (David Eddings) to historical fiction like Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to science fiction like The Stainless Steel Rat is Born (Harry Harrison) or comedy like Beware the Fish (Gordan Korman).

I read aloud books that can be problematic too, like Little House on the Prairie series, or The Secret Garden, so that we can have conversations about racism, ableism, colonialism, and sexism.

Chapter books for under 12

I love encouraging my children to read, and they read a wide-range of books. We have few restrictions, mostly related to age & maturity. Some stories simply need to wait until they are of an age to be able to understand the material, and some things need to wait till they are ready to discuss certain concepts.

For my under 12 crew, I encourage my kids to read classics like Swiss Family Robinson (with notes about historical views sometimes being inappropriate today from me), older books like The Black Stallion or Misty of Chincoteague series, historical fiction such as the Canadian Flyer or Dear Diary series, fun interactive books like Encyclopedia Brown, and newer fiction like Artemis Fowl.

Whether you want books to share with your kids or books to hook them into reading for themselves, there’s always a book out there for everyone. My kids have different interests and tastes than I do, but that’s ok! I’ve been encouraged to branch out from my typical reading so I can find books for each of my children — and I’ve found some gems I wouldn’t have looked at otherwise.

What books would you add to this list?

Finding good books for young kids can feel challenging sometimes. There's so many options! Here's our favorites.

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