When teaching younger students to read, one of the best things you can do for them is read aloud to them and with them. A recent study (2015) showed that reading aloud is far superior in building literacy skills than simply talking to children. With so many options available, how do you separate quality literature and stories from garbage? We’ve done the work for you and have put together several Wholesome Book Lists to make choosing easier on you. In this portion of the series, we’ll address early readers (K to 1st) and books that may appeal to children in that age group.
Wholesome Books for Kindergarteners:
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – A classic story, the picture book version makes for a perfect read-aloud for young children. Be careful which version you get, however. Obtaining a hard copy from the library or bookstore is highly advised unless you’re able to preview a free version before reading it to your children.
- Toys Go Out – This book is part of a trilogy of books whose main characters are toys that living in a little girl’s bedroom. The book centers around the adventures these toys go through (think Toy Story with a slight spin).
- My Father’s Dragon – This cute tale focuses on a character named Elmer who runs away with a backpack full of random items. He runs away to rescue a baby dragon and the only hope he has at doing so is if he can get past a group of wild animals!
- Catwings – This humorous series is about four cats with wings. As you can imagine, the mischievous adventures they have keep little ones giggling for a while!
- Lady Lollipop/Clever Lollipop – This funny story (and its sequel) tell the tale of an eight-year-old who receives a pig for her eighth birthday. While in the process of trying to makeover the pig, the princess receives quite a makeover herself! Be sure to check out both books.
- SuperDuper Teddy/Busybody Nora/New Neighbors for Nora – Kids love hearing stories about people their own age, and that’s part of what makes this series enjoyable for kindergarteners. The main character, Teddy, is four years old and has a job feeding his neighbors’ cats. The kids all live in the same apartment building in New York City and have true-to-life adventures your kids will love hearing about. While it’s hard to find these books in print, they are available on Kindle.
- Little Jewels (collection) – This collection of books has many books each with a wholesome theme. They’re all Biblical and feature the adventures of numerous Mennonite children. The illustrations are sweet and simple and the stories are absolutely heartwarming. Since these books are published by Rod & Staff, you may not find them on Amazon but definitely check eBay. At only $3.50/book, they’re definitely well worth the money!
- Mrs. Noodlekugel – This funny book tells the tale of a babysitter who is able to make gingerbread mice come to life! Filled with charming adventures and witty happenings, this book will keep the attention of kids regardless of their attention span. Want more? Be sure to look for the sequel Mrs. Noodlekugel and Drooly the Bear.
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle – This is yet another tale of the humorous adventures of an elderly lady. Since the chapters are a little long, you may want to work up to this book if your kindergartener is young.
- Anna Hibiscus (series) – This lovely series stars Anna, a young African girl, and her family and tells about their adventures in Anna’s home country. This would be a perfect book for introducing young children to modern-day Africa when you’re studying the continent or during Black History Month (February).
Wholesome Books for First Graders:
- Barkus – Nicky’s uncle gives her Barkus as a gift when he goes away on a trip. Barkus is able to attend school with Nicky, participate in a doggy birthday party, and make a new (kitty) friend! Find out what else Barkus is able to do in this cuddly tale about friendship and loyalty.
- Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy – Friends Wallace and Grace happen upon Jasper, a lost puppy. Since Wallace and Grace are expert detectives, they know just what to do. They start asking Jasper questions trying to get to the last thing Jasper remembers happening. In the end, they’re able to return Jasper home.
- Our Principal is a Frog – A clumsy magician accidentally turns the school principal into a frog. As dedicated to his job as this principal is, he continues running the school – even though he looks like a frog. Your kids will be delighted to hear how this story turns out!
- Gooseberry Park – This is the tale of a bat who likes junk food and her dog friend. Throughout the story, the bat and dog try to help their squirrel friend Stumpy find her babies. The characters go on adventures that are both hilarious and heartwarming, and your kids are bound to love it.
- Ginger Pye – This lovely book is about a boy who saved up all his money (for a grand total of $1) to buy a puppy. Unfortunately, the puppy goes missing. The boy in the story is convinced his puppy has been stolen and enlists the help of the whole neighborhood in finding the pup.
- Ivy + Bean – This cute series is perfect for early readers but also makes for a great read-aloud to younger kids. In spite of their differences, Ivy and Bean become fast friends and kids enjoy following them along on their adventures!
- George’s Marvelous Medicine – This hilarious book by Roald Dahl has the usual zany happenings for characters Dahl is known for. In this tale, a young boy whips up a magical mixture to turn his grumpy grandma into a sweet old lady. Something goes wrong and instead grandma becomes super tall. The solution? Recreate the mixture and try again. Only, the boy cannot remember exactly how much of each ingredient he used! As you may imagine, this turns into quite a funny tale.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – A well-loved treasure by Roald Dahl, this book chronicles a day in the life of winners of a chocolate bar contest. For their prize, the winners get a one-day tour of the chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka. But, with the prize comes surprises for the winners. All but one kid past Wonka’s chocolate factory test.
- Emil and the Great Escape – This book, written by the author of Pippi Longstocking, tells the story of Emil and his parents, baby sister, farmhand, and maid. Emil’s adventures get him into all kinds of trouble, but he always does what he does with a kind heart. This story is a great way to teach kids that having the right attitude about something doesn’t always mean it’s okay to do that something – especially if it’s going to land them in trouble.
- Amelia Bedelia – Amelia Bedelia has some zany adventures, sure. But, do your kids understand why she has them? It’s because she does exactly – literally – what she’s told! Her antics are enough to help any child appreciate puns and wordplay. You’ll remember just why you used to love these books as a kid when you read them to your child!
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Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.