17 Books Every Child Should Read by the Age of Twelve

In a previous blog post, we explained that reading makes up an important part of your child’s cognitive, emotional, and social development. Reading also fosters improved communication and logical thinking skills. It boosts concentration and overall IQ. Finally, it stimulates imagination and teaches tolerance.

These things probably all sound wonderful to you—and they should. But how can you promote the love of reading if your child thinks of it as homework or a chore? Simple. You choose stories that your child will love.

Below, we’ve given you a list of beloved stories that any child can enjoy. Find your child’s age group, then select the book you think he or she would enjoy most.

Ages 1–4

Your preschoolers or young kindergartners may enjoy the following.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Author: Bill Martin

Illustrator: Eric Carle

This picture book combines playful rhymes with bright, simple illustrations. It will delight any small child.

The Cat in the Hat

Author and Illustrator: Dr. Seuss

No list of children’s books would be complete without Dr. Seuss. Read any of his works to your child, delighting in the fun rhymes and imaginative illustrations.

Goodnight Moon

Author: Margaret Brown

Illustrator: Clement Hurd

This book follows a little bunny who says goodnight to all the things nearby. The soothing rhythm in this book will make it a favorite bedtime story.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Author and Illustrator: Beatrix Potter

The antics of naughty Peter Rabbit will not only entertain your child, but teach a lesson about the importance of obedience.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Author and Illustrator: Eric Carle

Like Eric Carle’s other work on this list, this book features bright illustrations. You’ll both be delighted by the caterpillar that eats tangible holes through the paper. Children also get to learn about a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly.

Where the Wild Things Are

Author and Illustrator: Maurice Sendak

You may have seen the film associated with this story. It follows Max through his magical journey to a faraway land where fantastical creatures live in a forest.

Ages 5–7

When your child’s reading skills advance, choose longer books with more involved plots.

The Giving Tree

Author and Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

This book offers your child an introductory look into philosophy and social responsibility. It recounts the story of a tree who loved a young boy and gave to him selflessly throughout the years of his life.

The Little Prince

Author and Illustrator: Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A pilot in the desert meets a young prince who fell to Earth from an asteroid. The little prince meets many characters along the way, including a fox, and they all teach him valuable lessons. This tale will also teach your child about philosophy and social responsibility.

Pippi Longstocking

Author: Astrid Lindgren

Illustrator: Michael Chesworth

Pippi Longstocking creates quite a stir when she becomes Tommy and Annika’s new neighbor. She has crazy red pigtails, a horse on her porch, an overgrown garden, and no parents around to oversee her comings and goings.

Ages 8–10

Some children can move on to chapter books before this point, but if they haven’t already, they should start with the books below.

Charlotte’s Web

Author: E.B. White

Illustrator: Garth Williams

Children love the story of Wilbur the pig, who overcomes his bleak future with the help of a spider, Charlotte. Instead of becoming Christmas dinner, he becomes a beloved and fantastical icon.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling

Introduce your child to one of the most important pieces of our cultural zeitgeist with the first installment of this beloved series.

The Magic Tree House Series

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Two children, Jack and Annie, use a magic tree house to free a powerful sorceress, become Master Librarians, and save four ancient stories. They go to many fantastical and historical lands in the process.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Author: Lemony Snicket

Join the three Baudelaire orphans as they try to find out what happened to their parents and escape the clutches of the evil Count Olaf.

The Tale of Despereaux

Author: Kate DiCamillo

A small mouse shouldn’t want to become a knight, but Despereaux does. Let your child accompany him on his adventures as he saves the kingdom and rescues a princess.

Ages 11–12

By the time your children enter fifth and sixth grade, they can move to more advanced reading.

The Hobbit

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Every child who loves fantasy and magic will enjoy The Hobbit. This story will take your child on a journey with Bilbo Baggins, a small hobbit creature who overcomes impossible odds as he helps a group of dwarves reclaim their kingdom.

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

This 1868 classic has delighted readers of all ages since its publication. It follows the story of four sisters who explore family ties, dreams, and growing up.

A Wrinkle in Time

Author:  Madeline L’Engle

If your child hasn’t experienced science fiction yet, A Wrinkle in Time provides a safe, imaginative foray into this new genre. Meg Murray and her friends meet some extraterrestrial strangers who take her on a secretive journey to find her father, who went missing while doing top secret work for the government.


Help your child foster a love of reading by introducing him or her to these books. You’ll build a lasting relationship and create a lot of joy along the way.


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