Colder days are upon us, and the outdoors is not quite as welcoming. But as the dark comes early, so does the opportunity to cuddle up with our children in a favorite spot and explore the timeless treasure of great books.
At LePort, we are big believers in the power of literature. Beautiful, inspiring literary works help children become voracious readers who look to books for enjoyment as well as education. Whether it’s a 3-year-old enraptured as a teacher reads to her, a 5-year-old reading to a younger child, or a group of 8-year olds engaged in animated discussion about a read-aloud character, we love seeing our students discover the joys that await them in the pages of a good book.
As a parent, you can help your child discover the joys of reading. In looking for that perfect gift this holiday season, we offer up the list below of favorite books, from simple picture books for toddlers and younger preschool children, to more elaborate stories for older primary students, and beginning chapter books that elementary students can read by themselves.
This is our third holiday book list, and we plan to make it a yearly tradition! You can help us by sharing your favorite books for this age group in the comments: maybe you’ll see them in next year’s list.
P.S. If you aren’t yet sold on reading out loud daily to your child, or want an even broader range of book recommendations, check out reading advocate Jim Trelease’s web site. He has free excerpts from his Read-Aloud Handbook with helpful advice, and lots of ammunition on why reading aloud is so important. Or check out our reading blog post series: start with Reading for Happiness, which will, we hope, get you excited to read every day.
Picture books for infants and toddlers
Busy Chickens – by John Schindel
Beautiful color photographs in this board book will help children learn about chickens – both familiar and fancy – and their behaviors: squawking, perching, leaping, and more. Lots of feathery fun for the whole family!
Carrie and Carl Play – by Lois T. Smith
Carrie and her brother Carl love playing games together and with their parents. Little ones will have a great time peeking behind the flaps and finding ways to have fun with objects around the house.
Carry Me (Babies Everywhere) – by Rena D. Grossman
Rhyming text and cheery color photographs introduce children to the ways in which babies travel – in baskets, blankets, and in a parent’s arms, while highlighting the parent-child bond across cultures. Available in multiple languages.
I Am a Little Giraffe – by Francois Crozat
You and your child can explore the lives of giraffes in their natural habitat, in this volume from the “I Am a Little Animal” series. The realistic artwork and endearing first-person text will help your child develop a life-long respect for these magnificent animals. Worth exploring all the titles in the series!
Roadwork – by Sally Sutton
Lovers of construction vehicles will be delighted by this story of the machines and people who work together to build a road. Clever rhyming with onomatopoeic words will have your child asking for this book again and again! (Spanish and English versions available)
Grandpa and Me – by Karen Katz
It’s so much fun to make a pizza with grandpa when all the ingredients are hidden behind flaps! Karen Katz’ adorable illustrations in bright, vibrant colors keep even the youngest children engaged.
Sleepy Time – by Gyo Fujikawa
The bedtime routines of children are contrasted with the sleeping habits of animals through lulling text and endearing artwork. A calming book for winding down after an exciting day.
Tubby – by Leslie Patricelli
A young toddler enjoys bath time with the help of mom and dad (who end up soaked!) in this sweet little book with cheerful pictures and simple text. Be prepared for lots of giggles and repeated readings!
How Artists See Jr. (Horses) – by Colleen Carroll
Young children love artwork, especially when introduced as part of a theme. “Horses” is part of a series that also explores works of art featuring dogs, trains, and babies. Each book includes a “Parent Guide” with questions that mom and dad can ask to encourage conversation.
Picture books for early preschool
Off We Go to Mexico – by Laurie Krebs
A family of five travels through Mexico, discovering its rich customs. Barefoot Books offers both Spanish and English versions, with rhythmic text and colorful illustrations. The English version has Spanish/English vocabulary on each page so everyone can learn new words!
The Animal in Me (is very plain to see) – by Laurie C. Tye
Full-color photographs by renowned wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen and intelligent text help children imagine what animal they most resemble when they feel tired, hungry, sleepy or playful. A great way for little ones to explore their emotions while they learn about nature.
One Monday Morning – by Uri Shulevitz
A little boy is stuck inside on a rainy day, and makes up a whimsical story about being visited by an ever-growing royal court. The repetitive nature of the text will enchant children, as will the delightful pictures and charming characters.
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? – by Steve Jenkins
This interactive book helps children learn about the many amazing things animals can do with their body parts, including legs, mouths, and of course, tails! The illustrations in cut-paper collage helped the book earn a Caldecott Honor.
Five Trucks – by Brian Floca
Sparse text and beautifully rendered artwork allow much room for conversation in this book about the important work of airport vehicles and their drivers. Featuring ordinal numbers (first, second, etc.) counted forwards and backwards, unlike most counting books.
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands – by Kadir Nelson
A young boy and his interracial family celebrate diversity and community in an inspiring picture book that highlights the interconnectedness of people and nature. One of America’s most-loved songs, interpreted through a child’s world-view.
The Snowy Day – by Ezra Jack Keats
The wonder and possibility of that first snowfall is seen through the eyes of a child in this classic of children’s literature. It was the first children’s book to feature an African-American child as the lead character, and is delightfully illustrated in collage form.
I’ll Follow the Moon – by Stephanie Lisa Tara
On a serene, quiet sandy beach a baby sea turtle breaks free from its egg and begins the journey to find its home and its mother. Simple words, gentle rhythm and calming illustrations make this a wonderful bedtime story.
Adele & Simon – by Barbara McClintock
Set in early 20th century Paris, this engaging “I Spy”-style book follows Adele and her forgetful little brother, who loses all his belongings on the way home from school. Children will pour over the intricate pen-ink-and-watercolor images in search of Simon’s missing gloves, scarf, crayons, and knapsack!
The Colors of Us – by Karen Katz
Celebrate the differences and similarities that connect all people, as seen through the eyes of a little girl who begins to view her familiar world in a new way. Seven-year-old Lena and her mother observe the variations in the color of their friends’ skin, viewed in terms of foods and objects found in nature.
Picture books for later preschool and early elementary
The Boy Who Drew Birds—by Jacqueline Davies
Young John Audubon came to America alone, expected to help manage his father’s farm. His love, however, was birds. This is the story of a boy scientist and artist who asked questions and persisted at his craft until he discovered the answers to the riddle of where birds spend their winters.
Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas—by Cheryl Bardoe
Mendel is the largely unacknowledged founder of modern genetics. This is his story—the story of a poor boy who was curious about how traits get passed on from parents to children, and who became a scientist. A great introduction to science based on careful observation and experimentation, accessible to elementary children.
When Jesse Came Across the Sea—by Amy Hest
A heartwarming story of a Jewish orphan from Poland who gets sent off to the US as a young teen. A great introduction to America’s immigrant history—and to pursuing your values in the face of obstacles.
The Brooklyn Bridge—by Elizabeth Mann
A wonderful story of dreams being made reality through persistence over many years. A father, a son, a mother and wife all play a role in this inspiring story, which will also expose budding engineers to the power of this fascinating profession.
Thunderbirds—by Jim Arnosky
A wonderful book of inspiring paintings of birds large and small, along with short text that captures the author and scientist’s fascination with these amazing animals. A good introduction to birding and nature observation.
Erika-san—by Allen Say
A Japanese-American girl graduates from high school and lives her dream of teaching English in Japan. Beautiful illustrations and a wonderful way of bringing out the fascination of cultural differences make this book special (like all of Allen Say’s works, which are very worth exploring!).
Mailing May—by Michael O. Tunnel
This is an incredible but true story of a five-year-old girl who gest shipped as a parcel on a train to visit her grandma. A great introduction to history!
Wilma Unlimited—by Kathleen Krull
A sickly, premature African-American child whom nobody even expected to live achieves the impossible. After her leg is deformed by polio, she persistently works at strengthening it, and ultimately wins three Olympic gold medals for the United States. A true, inspiring story of courage and spunk!
Dandelions—by Eve Bunting
A sweet, beautifully illustrated story of pioneer life on the prairie—and a sweet gesture with which a young girl brightens her mother’s day.
Chapter books for read aloud in primary and independent reading in elementary
The Secret Garden—by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A spoiled orphan must live with her distant uncle in a Scottish castle. The castle harbors many mysteries—a hidden garden, disquieting sounds. When the girl finds out the secret, she gains friendship, and matures out of her spoiled past. A benevolent old-time best-seller.
A Mouse Called Wolf—by Dick King-Smith
A young mouse discovers his musical talent, and with it helps the elderly lady in whose house he lives. This sweet story succeeds at interweaving musical terms—and at exposing children to the world of an elderly person living alone.
The BFG—by Roald Dahl
A rollicking, fantastic adventure with lots of language play, sure to be a favorite with elementary students. Expect a lot of laughing out loud!
Little Horse—by Betsy Byars
A great very first chapter book for readers who have mastered all their phonograms and are ready to tackle a chapter-level read. It’s a sweet story of a horse who gets lost, and experiences quite a different world on her journey.
The Knight at Dawn—by Mary Pope Osborn
This is book #2 of the Magic Treehouse series—a great set of early chapter books. In each book, siblings Jack and Annie explore a different place, in a different time. A great way to enjoy reading, build background knowledge and become curious about faraway places and distant times.
Lafcadio – by Shel Silverstein
Follow the adventures of Lafcadio, a comical lion who becomes an expert marksman but loses his true identity in the process. Shel Silverstein’s mastery of language and witty style (get ready for puns!), humorously introduce life lessons while stretching imaginations. Best as a read-aloud book!
The Cricket in Times Square – by George Selden
Chester Cricket arrives in Times Square and meets Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat. Together, they embark on many adventures and make friends with a boy, who gives Chester a new life. As suspenseful as it is heartwarming, this book will enthrall both children and adults!
Masterpiece – by Elise Broach
Eleven-year old James and his buddy, an artistic roach named Marvin, get caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This dynamic mystery will have readers cheering for both boy and beetle! Black & white pencil drawings add to this novel’s charm.
Pippi Longstocking – by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and thoroughly delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. Pippi’s high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, while her generosity has made her a hero to children for generations.
A Pizza the Size of the Sun – by Jack Prelutzky
Discover a poem that’s read backwards, a never-ending poem, and a collection of funny characters who don’t take themselves too seriously. A humorous and creative collection of poetry that appeals to children’s love of all things outlandish.
While we will continue to recommend only products we personally use with our own children or in our classrooms, LePort is piloting an affiliate program with Amazon.com. Items placed in your Amazon cart directly from the above links earn LePort Schools a commission of up to 8%, which we donate to our Support LePort scholarship fund. We hope to offer a similar program from other vendors in the future. To learn about other ways you can contribute – or how to apply for a scholarship for your child – please click here. Together, we can spread Knowledge for Life to children across America.