Any children’s book you desire is right at your fingertips on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. Click, click, purchase. As your eyes gloss over in your search for worthy books, let me help you find the ones worth buying.

I’m the kind of mom who thinks kids can never have enough books. My kids have shelves of children’s books crowding their playroom, bedroom, my room, dining room…you name the room, it has books in it. Several years ago, I realized that it might be beneficial to have a better system for buying my kids’ books.

I’ve come up with a few important keys to finding books my family cherishes. This usually goes without saying, but kids should enjoy the books they read! If we can teach them something in the process, that’s where the magic happens.


“Why do I want my kids to read so much?”

I think deep down, we want our kids to love reading because we want them to be sharp, bright, creative, successful… And a little bit like us. What else is important about books? Certain messages, values, and lessons? Beautiful pictures? Popular characters?  

(Side note: There’s no shame in answering “yes” to any of those questions! Both my children and I did fall prey to some of the more popular characters. If you know someone who can resist a cute little pig in a red dress and with a British accent, I’d like to meet them.) 


“What values do I want to teach my kids?”

I’m going to tell you the specific books my kids respond to, but the secret ingredient to any list of books is you. Your kids are going to benefit most if you choose their books.

Start by writing a list of 4 or 5 main values you feel passionate about. After you look at my examples below, you’ll understand how to use your list to weed through the stacks.

Of course, all of us animal lovers want our kids to cherish animals. I specifically chose books in which poignant animal characters frolic across each meaningful page. I recommend throwing in a few fun facts when you see pertinent details on the pages – “Look, the bears are going fishing! Did you know grizzly bears actually eat a lot of salmon?” And as you know, educational books about animals will also help fuel your child’s appreciation for them.

Below are some animal-related recommendations based on the lessons I want to teach. My values are pretty broad, so I think you’ll find some common ground here.



Lesson example 1: Treasure and respect animals

We’re all animal lovers here, so let’s start with that one. We want our kids to share the thrill, the fascination, the magical feeling we get from our passion for animals. Below is my recommendation for younger children. I finish up the article with a great find for older kids.

Recommendation: I am a little books by François Crozat. Imagine if baby animals could talk, explaining where they live, what they eat, and what they love to do. That’s the premise of this beautifully illustrated series! Teach your little ones the basics about various animals from dogs to tigers. You and your children will both fall in love with these books and the tiny animals telling their stories.


Lesson example 2: Play well with others

If there was ever a lesson that kids need to learn at a young age, this is it. Kids need to learn how to play well with others. This lesson translates to sharing, empathy, reducing bullying and a lifetime of inclusivity and acceptance.  Which I think we can all agree the world can use a little more of, especially now.

Recommendation: Franklin the Turtle (and friends) to the rescue! Created by Brenda Clark and Paulette Bourgeois, this cute little critter teaches our kids all about individual challenges that we might face. Franklin and his friends navigate these encounters through acceptance of others’ individuality, and through them we are introduced to the concept of loving people and animals for who they are. Among his best friends are Snail (who he happily gives rides to, but admires for his unique strengths) and the sweet and talented Badger (who uses crutches to help her get around).


Lesson example 3: Revel in your imagination

It is easy to get lost in the sea of books about manners, sharing, school, and endless other basic life lessons that are impressed upon children. But it is magical to find a book that engages creativity and sparks imaginations.  Whether we are 5 or 50, reading allows us entry into a magical, often incredible universe. 

Recommendation: Beverly Donofrio and Barbara McClintock’s book Where’s Mommy? sets imaginations ablaze like wildfire. This book was gifted to us by my sister, and my daughter has loved it since she was a baby. The enchanting tale is of two best friends: one human and one mouse who live in the same house and are determined to keep their friendship a secret to protect it. The message is beautiful, but the illustrations are what really light up a child’s eyes. Scattered throughout the pages is the side-by-side juxtaposition of the little mouse’s home and the little girl’s home. Who wouldn’t be entranced – adult or child – by a world where a thimble could be transformed into a teacup or bottle caps into dining room chairs? 




Lesson example 4: Learn to be kind and caring

A big part of picking a children’s book is finding one that your child will enjoy and want to read until the pages are worn from turning. If kids are like sponges, think of the opportunities we have to shape their beautiful minds.  Each time we read them a book we are given a golden chance to impart a few pearls of wisdom. 

Recommendation: Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Berenstain Bears are treasure troves for these pearls, and a classic from my own childhood that I always knew I wanted to share with my kids. Nestled deep in Bear Country, this lovable family makes you want to snuggle them right off the page. And, more importantly, each of their books carries with it a vital but basic message – the very messages of sharing, kindness, patience, bullying, too much television, and the joys of the great outdoors. What’s more, the colorful and thoughtful illustrations appeal to adults, too! Which is great because trust me, your kids will be asking to read these books over and over (and over) again.


Lesson example 5: Become passionate about learning

The following books helped me realize the importance of non-fiction books to a collection. There are inspiring magazines and nonfiction “how to” books at the library, too. I’ve heard my fair share of “she’s too young for that,” and “that’s for older kids.”  But I am of the mindset that there’s no harm in exposing your kids to extra information. Best case scenario? You raise a little genius. ;  )

Recommendation: Ranger Rick’s Zoobooks I have to give my husband credit for this one. When our first daughter was only one, he excitedly signed her up for a subscription. They are not the typical fiction books or board books you see one year old babies perusing. Yet he was adamant that the detailed illustrations and photography, interactive activities, and pages and pages of information on various animals were introduced to our daughter. Every once in a while, my husband would devotedly take one of these magazines from the shelf and read to her about ducks, insects, snakes, or dinosaurs. When she was almost 4, she began revisiting the books and learning all over again.




I think we all hope that if our kids love books, it will help them become the inquisitive, knowledgeable, curious, and intrepid individuals we want them to be.

Moral of this story? Don’t get overwhelmed. Develop a system. Choose books that mean something to you and your kids. And as always, enjoy the process.

At the end of the day, you want your child to run to their favorite reading corner, pick up a book and think to themselves, “reading is fun!” 


Main photo credit: Danielle Rutter




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