Top Books for 5 Year Olds
Books are capable of taking us to foreign places, teaching us new things, and helping us to empathize with characters that might think and behave differently than we do. Children’s imaginations are always constantly running wild, so why not give them somewhere to direct that creative energy and curiosity? Around the age of five, children are starting to be able to sound out basic words for themselves. Reading with your child statistically yields greater academic success and higher reading comprehension skills. Try one of our ten favorite books, all listed below. Some of these classics are such fun that we think you’ll enjoy them, regardless of if your little one is reading along!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
For beginner readers
Easy to read - simple sentences
Teaches some parts of speech and sentence punctuation
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Most Magnificent Thing
- The Night Before Kindergarten
- Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry G. Allard, Jr.
- The Little Blue Truck
- The Star Wars Little Golden Book Library
- There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System
- Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean
- Ten Magic Butterflies
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
10 Best Books for 5-Year-Olds Reviewed
1. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
For beginner readers
Easy to read - simple sentences
Teaches some parts of speech and sentence punctuation
A bit pricey - might be better purchased as a Dr Seuss set
Flaps can be fragile and easily torn in the board book version
The Green Eggs and Ham is a very easy read, perfect for beginning readers. Let kids follow the antics of Sam-I-am as he presents a variety of objects in rhyming fashion that are even made more appealing by the use of wonderful illustrations.Read more
The sentences are relatively simple and the words used are those that most 5 year old kids are already very familiar with.
A classic that never goes out of style - Dr Seuss! Used for children for years to teach reading in simple sentences and rhyme, Green Eggs and Ham is a real winner for young people.
The colorful illustrations make the reading exciting and fun, plus the play on words is sure to tantalize the brain.
Can be read to very young children just starting to read to introduce them to the Dr Seuss series, or for the 5-year old and up to master sentence structure, parts of speech, and sentence punctuation.
2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Simple illustrations in black & white
Teaches of the human emotions
Concept of book is simple and straightforward
Text is easy to read and interesting
A classic that never goes out of style
Message can be deemed controversial
Book is small and short in the reading content
It’s a tender story of a tree and a boy whose relationship is cut short because the boy has already grown up to become a man. It’s a moving parable and how things in nature tend to be the giver of all things that man needs.Read more
Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a classic that can be handed down through generations of readers. Even though the message in the book is short, its meaning is clear and to the point. A fantastic gift for any young reader!
There’s a hint of sadness yet fully aglow with consolation. These emotions can be labeled by 5 year olds and help them appreciate some of the more common feelings associated with parting from a special ‘friend’.
While the message of The Giving Tree may seem abstract to some, young kids can readily understand what is being conveyed, thanks to the wonderful use of words that are very common.
Always a superb baby shower gift and also for young readers looking to explore and develop their world of books. With it s simple black and white drawings, The Giving Tree conveys all of the human emotions on a level understandable enough for a five year-old to enjoy and appreciate.
3. The Most Magnificent Thing
Teaches patience and perseverance
Tells of the importance in accomplishing goals
Clever use of verb usage in threes
Could be challenging for very young readers because of word choices
Does have a slight negative emotional side in some parts of story
A young girl thinks she’s got all figured out. However, after repeated failures, she’s beginning to get frustrated and really angry. Only after some encouragement from her dog to take a walk did she return to her project with renewed enthusiasm and vigor, helping her to accomplish what she has set out to do.Read more
Five year olds can easily relate to our girl in The Most Magnificent Thing and they also get to learn about the concepts of perseverance and creativity.
The Most Magnificent Thing tells of an emotional girl that is helped by her dog in accomplishing her goals. The story tells of how to triumph over one's emotions and persevere when life becomes difficult.
Not your usual happy-go-lucky children’s book, but it does have an important message to tell.
The unusual part of the book is that the verbs in the sentences are in threes, making it a challenge for young readers and an interesting draw to the story for repeated readings.
4. The Night Before Kindergarten
Great teaching tool for kids going into kindergarten
The illustrations are fun and inviting
Follows the same format as The Night Before Christmas
Fun to read
The part about “crying moms and dads” might be a bit sad for kids
The Night Before Kindergarten is seriously the cutest little book that has ever been written about starting elementary school. With the same premise as The Night Before Christmas, author Natasha Wing tells a heartwarming story about some little kids who are just so excited to start their new school.Read more
It takes you through the nightly routine as well as an entire day in kindergarten and is sure to put a smile on any child’s face and calm any fears about their new big steps.
This book is no holds barred when it comes to the truths about starting kindergarten. It’s a fun story that shows kids that there’s really nothing to be afraid of when it’s time to start school but doesn’t make kindergarten out to be an otherworldly fairyland, either.
Julie Durrell’s illustrations are simply captivating and like something off of a Saturday morning cartoon show, which will a child’s attention and be a delight to them every time they turn the page. It’s a great book for any kid who is going into kindergarten and needs a little push!
This book so accurately tells of the excitements and occasional worries that many kids have when starting kindergarten.
5. Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry G. Allard, Jr.
Teaches the lesson of appreciating what you have
Relates the fact of respecting adults and teachers
A classic story since 1977 and still appealing
A great addition to the child library to read over and over again
Misbehaving children in story may be copied by readers
Children under 7 or 8 may be understand the storyline
We’ve all been there. We’ve all shown disrespect for a particular teacher only to regret our actions when a mean teacher replaces her. Miss Nelson is Missing! is a sad yet fitting reminder that we need to show our appreciation to those that we really value.Read more
Five year olds may not understand the message, but the caricatures and wash illustrations, while these are hilarious, can drive home the point.
Miss Nelson Is Missing! Is not the typical children’s book, but it has been around for a long time since 1977. A good story for reading with an adult, who would explain how the disruptive children in the story are very bad and not to be idolized.
Miss Nelson is Missing! is a reminder to one of the saddest facts of life – we don’t know what we’re missing until it’s gone. Kids can surely learn from the book and hopefully gain better appreciation of what needs to be done.
This story teaches children that adults should rightly be respected. Another valuable lesson of the book is that you should appreciate what you have because you may lose it and be sorry. In this case, it is their wonderful teacher, Miss Nelson.
6. The Little Blue Truck
Lots of animal pictures and noises
Rhyming words to help children remember patterns of letters and sound
Cute, friendly little protagonist
Board book is made of thick cardboard; won’t bend, break, or cut little fingers
Lessons on kindness and acknowledgment
Some of the words are a little longer and may frustrate young readers at first
The Little Truck loves to drive by all of the rolling fields around him and honk hello at his farm animal friends. This darling book is largely a sight and sound book, with plenty of chances to practice animal noises and work on identifying them by their names and pictures. The prose all appears in rhyme schemes, helping children who are learning to read to sound out the words and work on recognizing similar patterns in letters and sounds. While most of the book can be used to categorize and practice sorting animals and their noises, the ending turns quite sweet when a big mean dump truck drives by and ignores everyone, only to be stuck in the mud. When he honks for help, the farm animals pretend not to have heard him. But the Little Blue Truck can see how scared he is, and that he needs help, and races to the rescue.Read more
The rhyming is fun and consistent throughout. There are lots of onomatopoeia's to have fun with, and plenty of different animal friends to sort through. The Little Blue Truck always does the right thing and encourages children to follow his lead in that regard.
When the Little Blue Truck also gets stuck, his animal friends pitch in to help both cars out of the mire, and everyone learns the importance of showing kindness and lending a helping hand.
The whole story is wrapped up with a cute morality message about being friendly and helpful.
This book is great for beginning readers still working on tricky letter combinations and sounds. Reading the book aloud together provides your child with ample opportunity to practice sounding words out, as well as identifying animals.
7. The Star Wars Little Golden Book Library
From a trusted, reputable book series
Is a set of 6 books included for a fantastic price
Retells 6 of the first saga episodes in language easy for children
Minimizes the violent scenes of the stories
Not easy to read for beginning readers
Stories are summaries of the movies, may be hard to follow along
Every young kid has a favorite Star Wars character. With the Star Wars Little Golden Book Library, episodes I to VI of the saga are ingeniously rewritten for the young reader. Illustrations are provided to help in the understanding and appreciation of the story line. It’s just perfect for the young Jedi apprentice or the follower of the Dark Side.Read more
Although the wording may not be for the very young or beginner reader just yet, these books are great for parental/child bonding, especially when reading just before bedtime together.
Little Golden Books have a great reputation for publishing wonderful children’s books, and this series of Star Wars episodes is no exception. It is sure to please any little Star Wars fan with its colorful illustrations and scenic adventures of the movie
The whole set includes the first six episodes of the movie for a fantastic retake on the milder version of Star Wars action.
The way in which the Star Wars saga has been rewritten in language that young kids can truly understand is exceptional. At any rate, they’d be able to expand their vocabulary and come to terms with different words of ‘galactic’ origin.
8. There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System
From the well-known Cat In The Hat book series
Teaches beginning astronomy to young children
Fun with rhyming verse
Not of Dr Seuss usual quality
Can be too complicated for very young kids (wording may be difficult)
Dr. Seuss has tackled one of the great cultural anomalies of our day: the declassification of Pluto as a planet. If you’re in the Millennial, Gen X, or Baby Boomer generations, you probably remember the fateful day back in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union took away Pluto’s planetary title. It was a decision that rocked internet culture and that many of us still dispute today. (No one wants Pluto to feel left out. It was good enough to be a planet back then, it’s good enough to be a planet now.) Despite this (mostly comedic) outrage, the schooling system is teaching the planets in accordance to the 2006 revision. Dr. Seuss has, in response, also revised his classic: “There’s No Place Like Space.”Read more
What better way for your little one to engage in the learning of our solar system than with The Cat In The Hat!. Very young children will love the pictures and being read to with this book, but may not yet be able to read it through on their own. It is a fantastic book for children to grow up with at the start of their young lives.
This fun Seuss-ian space adventure features The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Dick, and Sally. Together, the group explores the (now) eight planets in our solar system, all with the usual rhyme scheme and silliness that is a trademark of Dr. Seuss. Ta Ta, Pluto! We miss you already.
The There’s No Place Like Space is a great introductory book to astronomy. Presented in a straightforward, albeit simplistic manner, and complemented with superb illustrations, the book might as well be your kid’s key to becoming an astronomer.
The great illustrations make learning about the planets enjoyable and fun, while the rhyming verse adds to the adventure
9. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean
Teaches about colors
Positive message throughout
Children can get bored easily because of simplicity
Format can be seen as too simplistic
Pete doesn’t really care where he steps his brand new white shoes on. Be it over blueberries, strawberries or any other big mess, as long as he is able to show it off, then he’s all good. I Love My White Shoes is more about the different colors that appear every time Pete steps on something rather than his white shoes itself.Read more
Pete the Cat is a lovable carefree feline whose main aim is to teach young kids about the colors of different objects. And if you download a grooving song, the interaction your kid gets will be simply phenomenal.
The overall message of not letting your spirits get dragged down is a great lesson for kids even a at young age.
The wonderful illustrations really help make this children’s book a real must for the home library.
Learning colors from Pete The Cat can be fun with this book because he gets all sorts of things on his white shoes. With the sing along songs, your child will simply love this story and make a habit of repeating the story over and over.
10. Ten Magic Butterflies
Appropriate vocabulary for new readers
Helps teach math in an exciting, colorful way
Lots of cute, magical characters
Paper is a little thin, so watch out if tiny hands like to “help” turn the page
Mix a little bit of math with a whole lot of magic and what do you get? The answer is this gorgeous book by Danicka McKellar, with illustrations by Jennifer Bricking. Join ten flower friends as they make a wish and each then turns into a butterfly! The book is a clever way to help children understand different ways of grouping numbers to add up to ten.Read more
These are some of the building blocks that help create a solid foundation upon which children can begin to grow and understand more advanced mathematical principles. The book also features an adorable caterpillar who wishes that he could be a butterfly too.
If you have a little one that shuts down at the sight or sound of math, this is a sneaky, loving way to help them along. The pictures are beautifully illustrated and rich with color. The allure of magic keeps young ones enthralled.
And the story flows well, is silly and fun, and features great turns of phrase, sounds, and vocabulary that will stimulate your child’s mind--and their mouth too, once they’re reading them aloud!
Math can be a difficult subject. There seems to often be a divide between children who love literature, and those who love numbers. This book combines both in a fun, magical romp. We give it extra points too, as it’s written by a female math whiz, and we know how exciting it can be for young girls to see themselves represented in STEM fields.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Not all books were created equal when it comes to reading comprehension and vocabulary levels. It’s important to stock your child’s shelves with books that are accessible to them but still challenge their skills and give them room to grow. By the age of five, most children are learning and will learn to understand stories and be able to retell them in simple terms and broad strokes, recognize letters and letter-to-sound matches, understand how to read print, begin to write stories with readable sections, and begin to write and read words they use or hear and see frequently. They’ll still need mom and dad’s help, but they can begin to sound out some parts for themselves.
These books are written to be accessible to young children. The subject matter is relevant to them, the characters are ones they find interesting and relatable, and the words are ones they begin to recognize and they may even be able to read some aloud themselves. Additionally, the lessons taught in each story may be ones that are applicable to conflicts they are facing and learning to resolve at their age.
Reading can and should be fun! All of the immense benefits it provides are wonderful and certainly make mom and dad feel better, but your child probably isn’t going to enjoy those benefits for long if they don’t have fun while doing it. Children gravitate towards activities that excite them and make them feel good. They will return to and repeat behaviors that bring them some sense of joy. So let reading be joyful!
These books are imaginative and entertaining. Some of them include rhyme schemes, for which some children show a preference. The stories are interesting and have enough nuance and subtext that kids can read them several times over without getting bored. Each time they hear the story, they grow to understand it more fully. Other books have wacky characters or outlandish plots that children seek out again and again.
Stories come in many shapes and sizes. Children tend to prefer highly imaginative narratives wherein the life lessons are clear but also decorated by silliness or sentimentality. It’s common to see talking animals in children’s books, and humans that live in odd worlds or make illogical decisions. To children, the world is still very large and very full of possibility. They also appreciate illustrations that are expressive and colorful.
We’ve made sure to pick books that will stimulate kids’ imagination. These stories will keep their little minds excited and open. A child’s inner critic is silent. Failure and rejection haven’t yet violated their sense of play and wonder. They’re divergent thinkers; “should” and “shouldn’t” have a lot less power over them than adults. Part of this can be neurologically explained: the frontal cortex is the part of our brain that reigns over logical skills like problem-solving and following the rules. This starts to develop more fully in our early 20s.
Little ones still see a great deal of novelty in the world and tend to feel and act in extremes. As such, books for their age range cater to stakes that feel high to them and stories that are less bound by reason and rules.
We naturally read and digest information at a quick rate when we’re navigating the world. Think about how you go about your day: the signs you read, the e-mails, text messages, food ingredients, schedules. Even if you don’t intend to study literature and even if you don’t find the time or much enjoy reading as an adult, it’s a valuable skill that you rely on just to get from dawn to dusk. Helping children to establish the fundamentals of reading comprehension early on can make them more comfortable with the task and set them up for success not just in school but also in their daily lives.
Children who do learn to read for fun show other increased skills as well. Studies find that they communicate better, are more confident, have a larger vocabulary, retain more general knowledge, and show a deeper understanding of and empathy for other people and cultures. While they’re young, they’re still soaking up knowledge quickly and eagerly! We’ve tried to pick books that will broaden their horizons and help them learn moral lessons they find accessible.
Five year old kids already understand that sounds make words. Your child may already be able to identify words that begin with the same sound as well as words that rhyme. For instance, your kid may already be fond of playing simple word games or rhyming games blurting out cat, bat, hat, mat, and fat. He or she also knows that the sentence, “Mommy makes marshmallows” have words that begin with exactly the same sound. They also know the sounds of the different letters that make up the English alphabet and they can almost always associate these sounds with the corresponding letters. That is why it is important to keep on teaching kids the letters of the alphabet including how each one sounds. This is critical as 5 year olds can learn to combine these different sounds to form words. For instance, putting together “c”, “a”, and “t” produces “cat”.
By this stage, children are now learning to use connecting words as well as words that explain. For instance, they already know when to use the words “but” and “when”. They also know words that help them explain what they feel such as “upset”, “confused”, and “delighted”. By this age, your kid may already be showing signs of knowledge about the relative position of things such as the use of the words “between”, “below”, “above”, and “behind”. They can also start using words that attempt to explain how their brain is working, such as “remember” or “don’t know”. He or she is also beginning to understand and use more action words so he or she can explain himself or herself a lot better. The thing is that 5 year old kids generally understand more words than they actually can use.
Other Factors to Consider
Books are stories, and narratives are how we learn a lot of lessons in life. It’s not just letter sounds and rhyme schemes your child is absorbing when they pick up a book; it’s the message and themes presented as well. Relatable protagonists are a key element to many children’s stories. Whether the main character is a human, animal, or animated object, they need to possess traits that we the readers, and especially children, will feel connected to and understand. Diversity and representation help them to feel heard themselves, as well as to recognize and listen to others that might be different than they are. As such, we tried to provide options for books with themes centered around kindness, compassion, sharing, self-confidence, and other important moral principles. Reading stories together about things like standing up for yourself and showing compassion to others even when they might not seem like the deserve it gives you the chance to have important conversations with your child about the ways in which we all conduct ourselves in the world.
Choosing the right book for any kid requires an understanding of their unique developmental skills. It is clear that no two kids are alike. Some can read like adults as early as 3 years old while there are also some that may already be teens yet do not have the faculties for reading yet. The language development of children is inherently tied to their early childhood experiences as well as the overall maturity of their cognitive structures.
he level of comprehension of 5 year old kids greatly varies and is largely dependent on their vocabulary and mastery of the language sounds. Some kids already fully understand certain words and they can use these exceptionally well. However, most kids at this stage do not fully comprehend yet complicated ideas such as “at the same time” or “likewise”; although they will already begin understanding some figures of speech such as “couch potato” or even “pull one’s leg”. The great thing about a five year old is that he or she can now follow simple directions even if it requires more than two steps to accomplish the task. As long as the direction is structured in a manner that the kid understands, he or she will be able to follow multi-step directions. However, kids of this age typically perform the action of the first word that they hear first. So, you have to be especially careful when constructing your sentences and make sure to put the word that you want your kid to listen to ahead of the other words. For example, instead of saying “Before we go, get your jacket first” you may want to say “Get your jacket before we go.”
You will be amazed at how kids of this stage are progressing. Their speech and language development are already advancing at a steady pace. They can now meld two simple sentences into one. They can also structure their sentences either in the active or the passive voice; although you simply cannot expect them to explain the difference between these two. At 5 years of age, children are known to use longer sentences that contain up to 9 words. Some really proficient kids can even do more than 10 while others, 9 may already be asking too much. Additionally, don’t expect your kid to be grammatically correct all the time. Mistakes are bound to occur and it is your job to make sure to correct these early on. What’s worth noting is that 5 year olds can already talk about things within a particular time frame. Their concept of past and future is now beginning to take shape.
Because of the increasing knowledge of 5 year olds in constructing sentences as well as their inherent skill of conveying their feelings and thoughts, they are now very fond of telling stories. However, it’s either the information they provide is incomplete or simply too much. Their stories may not have meaningful endings or these don’t make sense at all. Nevertheless, they are already appreciative of the ideas of other people and might actually use whatever information they obtain from others to make their own storytelling more convincing. This is very important as it gives them the foundation for developing their conversational skills. This also lays the foundation for their pragmatic skills.
It really is amazing to see what the first 5 years of life can do to a child, especially in terms of his or her ability to communicate. Five year olds are now more talkative than ever and can already express their own views of the world. It is for this very reason that helping them read matters. The things that they read can help them expand their vocabulary and further sharpen their knowledge of grammar and correct English usage.
Some call it age appropriateness but we prefer to go for a child’s developmental level as an indication of his or her readiness for a particular activity. It makes perfect sense. Since language development is heavily predicated on a kid’s knowledge and skill of speech sounds particularly those produced by the letters of the alphabet, if a 5 year old kid still cannot distinguish the difference between the sound of the letter “C” and the sound produced by the letter “Z”, then it doesn’t make sense to choose a book that requires the reading of words that begin with such sounds. It is thus, imperative that you assess first your kid’s developmental abilities and try to compare it with the requirements of the book.
Check what your kid will be learning from the book.
It is very important to look at the value of the book, often based on what your 5 year old should be developing. If he or she is having problems with the sounds of letters, then maybe a return to the alphabet is a must. How about something that will expand your kid’s vocabulary and even comprehension?
Reading is a critical component of speech and language development in kids, especially 5 year olds. It provides them with the foundation for the continuing development of the many areas of language including speech sounds, grammatical markers, pragmatic skills, literacy, concept development, vocabulary, questions, and listening skills. But the more important question is how to choose the right book for your 5 year old kid. Here’s how.
Five year olds can still benefit from toddler books and early preschool literature. They still love bedtime books as well as read-alouds especially if you have a knack for making fun sounds to make the storytelling more engaging than most. Some experts believe that chapter books are now ideal for children of this age as it is neither too long nor too short for their attention span. The important thing to understand is that 5 year old kids love going through stories over and over. So even if they’re done reading, you can expect them to be heading for their books many times over. Here are some books that are just great for kids of this age.
Books about familiar objects as well as experiences such as those written in nursery stories and even Mother Goose books.
Books that are written in a particular rhythm as well as excellent repetition of words. Rhyming words are important, too.
Picture books with excellent character development as well as compelling storylines.
If your child is able to read independently, books that are written in a straightforward manner, using words that are very familiar to your kid are important. These are often termed ‘easy readers’.
Nonfiction, informational books can also help especially if you have a child who’s particularly interested in something.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Would these books be okay for older or younger children?
If the child is deriving some education, pleasure, or enjoyment from the book, then it is a win-win situation that will encourage learning no matter the age.
q: Do any of these books come as a set?
Certainly the Dr. Seuss books and the Star Wars series can be purchased as a set. You can check with booksellers to see if any of the other authors bundle their children's books into sets also.
q: Should a five-year-old child be reading these books on their own?
These books are appropriate for the five-year-old to be reading on their own; however, that is largely dependent on the personal reading experience of the child and how often they do read. A child that reads quite frequently will be more advanced than one that does not read often, of course.
q: Are these books available only from online sellers?
No, regular bookstores in your area should carry all of these books as they are quite popular and have been in print for many years, especially the Dr. Seuss books.
q: What if my five-year-old cannot read these books?
With practice these books should be appropriate for any average five-year-old to read. Some of the books may have a few advanced words, but with help from an adult, this should not pose a problem.
q: What if my child only looks at the pictures, but does not read yet? Would these books be okay for them?
Yes, of course. Any reading time or storytelling time with your child is quality time well spent. You may think that your child is not reading the words, but they are sure looking at them while you read them and that is the beginning of reading.