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a classics reading list from pre-reader to young adult readers

This classic reading list by reading age, is a great way to start your child reading good literature, no matter what his or her age or interests. It's not the definitive list (there isn't one, really) but for those days when your child just hasn't a clue what would be good to read, this list will come in handy.

Pre Readers | Early Readers | New Readers
Young Readers | Young Adult Readers

Pre Readers

1. Pat the Bunny
by Dorothy Kunhardt (Golden, 1940)
Rare is the toddler who hasn't stroked the snowy fur of Dorothy Kunhardt's bunny. So common is the sweet little book, in homes, preschools and libraries, the experience simply seems universal.

2. Dr Seuss's ABC
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960)
When Random House reformatted Dr. Seuss's ABC's in 1997 as a little board book, the transition couldn't have been more natural. It makes learning the ABC's as natural as, well, ABC.

3. Hop on Pop
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1963)
Learning the joy of rhyme was never more fun than in Dr. Seuss's classic HOP ON POP. Silly became an art form through the words of Theodore Geisel and books like HOP ON POP.

4. Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever
by Richard Scarry, (Golden, 1963)
Richard Scarry created a tender new world when he brought Lowly Worm, the Cat Family and hundreds of other animal characters to life. This big book uses his world to illustrate the basics of ours.

5. Go, Dog Go!
by P.D. Eastman (Random House, 1961)
Concepts of motion aren't always easy for a toddler to grasp. They seem to appreciate only moving and moving faster. GO, DOG GO! helps expand the possibilities with whimsical flare.

6. The Touch Me Book
by Pat and Eve Witte (Golden, 1961)
Pat and Eve Witte celebrate a toddler's need to touch in order to experience, via the fur of a puppy, rubber bands, sticky tape, a sponge and six other tactile activities.

7. Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Clement Hurd (HarperCollins, 1947)
When Margaret Wise Brown first saw GOODNIGHT MOON published half a century ago, she said she hoped to create the first book for toddlers based on their real lives rather than fantasy. In doing so, she opened the door to truth, even for very young readers.

8. Where's Spot?
by Eric Hill (Putnam, 1980)
Eric Hill couldn't have known Spot would become such a literary icon when he first brought the pup to life. But children everywhere connect to the dog's wide eyed wonder, and probably always will.

9. There's a Wocket in My Pocket
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1974)
Once again, Random House brought this book home to the readers who would love it most when it reformatted and released THERE'S A WOCKET IN MY POCKET as a little board book in 1997.

10. I Am a Bunny
by Ole Risom, illus. by Richard Scarry (Golden, 1963)
The first in a series of animal books by Ole Risom, I AM A BUNNY simply helped young readers explore the life of an everyday rabbit.

Early Readers

1. The Poky Little Puppy
by Janette Sebring Lowrey (Golden, 1942)
In recent days, THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY has gone through some evolutionary changes. Some stories based on the classic straggler have modernized the pup's look and the text's literary style. But for my money, stick with the original for grace and pup-lovin' fun.

2. Tootle
by Gertrude Crampton (Golden, 1945)
Gertrude Cramptom took very young readers inside one of their favorite wonders ---a locomotion or train --- in this classic choo-choo of a tale.

3. Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1960)
What can be said about GREEN EGGS AND HAM that hasn't already been said? Dr. Seuss is a master at crafting originality, and a whiz at verbalizing fun.

4. The Cat in the Hat
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1957)
First graders might lament the length of THE CAT IN THE HAT. It IS long from a 6-year-old point of view. But they will read it, and love every page. And they will be proud of having tackled something monumental when the task is done. Such is the magic of Dr. Seuss.

5. Fox In Socks
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1965)
When my daughters were small, we played a rhyming game --- fox, socks, locks, pocks, clocks --- challenging one another to add to the whimsical chain. Judging from books like FOX IN SOCKS Dr. Seuss must have played it too.

6. The Little Engine That Could
by Watty Piper (Platt & Munk, 1930)
I think I can, I think I can...recommend this inspiring classic for all very young readers. The text is slightly challenging and the theme is ideal. Empower your little reader with THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.

7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle (Philomel, 1969)
Eric Carle's brightly colored VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR eats apples and apples and apples and leaves, and learns a lesson or two along the way. No classic list would be complete without it.

8. Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins, 1964)
Maurice Sendak essentially captured the nature of bedtime fears and the power of conquering the same when he wrote and illustrated WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. And children will always recognize the truth.

9. Saggy Baggy Elephant
by Kathryn and Byron Jackson (Golden, 1947)
Being different is never easy for young children. But books like Kathryn and Byron Jackson's SAGGY BAGGY ELEPHANT help them feel a little less alone.

10. Tawny Scrawny Lion
by Kathryn Jackson (Golden, 1952)
Again, in TAWNY SCRAWNY LION, Kathryn Jackson empowers kids who seem different and educates those who remain within the mainstream abstract "normal" realm.

New Readers

1. Winnie-the-Pooh
by A. A. Milne, illus. by Ernest Shepard (Dutton, 1926)
Reading A.A. Milne's classic WINNIE-THE-POOH isn't something most 8 to 10-year-olds will do in public. But when the lights are low and the bed covers are pulled back, it's a remarkable experience for these budding readers and their parents to share.

2. Where's Waldo
by Martin Handford (Little, Brown, 1987)
WHERE'S WALDO is relatively new as classics go. But because I believe Martin Handford single-handedly opened the door to book time for so many reluctant readers, he is wholeheartedly included on this list.

3. The Magic Locket
by Elizabeth Koda-Callan (Workman, 1988)
Elizabeth Koda-Callan's sweet book of dreams and friendship was a winner even without the inclusion of the gold-toned locket. But packaging the book with the chain and bobble brought the magic home.

4. The Mitten
by Jan Brett (Putnam, 1989)
THE MITTEN is often seen as a holiday classic, but the gentle grace she has crafted on each page goes far beyond seasonal glory. The illustrations are breathtaking and the story is timeless.

5. The Story of Babar
by Jean de Brunhoff (Random House,1937)
Babar, the Elephant King and his friend Madame bring an elegance to children's literature that is very likely without equal --- even if it is hard to find an elephant tailor in real life.

6. Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!
by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1975)
It's remarkable to know that Theodore Geisel can not only write for very young readers, but can tickle the imaginations of older kids, as he does so well in OH THE THINKS YOU CAN THINK. The man's brilliance was endless.

7. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Numeroff, illus. by Felicia Bond (HarperCollins, 1985)
The New York Times isn't blind to Laura Numeroff's talent. They took notice when Harrison Ford and Glenn Close used a line from IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE to illustrate the dangers of meeting terrorist demands in the 1997 film, AIR FORCE ONE. I love the book for much simpler reasons, and your kids will as well.

8. Curious George
by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin,1973)
CURIOUS GEORGE is every child beneath their struggling composure. And every child loves the impulsive little monkey because he goes where they almost never can, and learns their lessons for them. CURIOUS GEORGE will always be a favorite.

9. The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, 1985)
Chris Van Allsburg has been honored with awards, literary accolades and praise from his illustrious professional peers --- and with good reason. THE POLAR EXPRESS, like his other books, captures a delicate magic in both text and rich illustration.

10. The Velveteen Rabbit
by Margery Williams (Avon/Camelot, 1979)
If being loved makes things real, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT is one of the most "real" books ever crafted. There is something about the spotted bunnies journey that every child can understand.

Young Readers

1. Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins,1974)
The poetry featured in Shel Silverstein's WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS strikes a nerve when it comes to young reader funny bones. He is humorous without trying too hard, tender without being overblown. Young readers appreciate that balance and Shel Silverstein's style.

2. Bunnicula
by James Howe (Avon/Camelot, 1980)
The mystery and adventure of BUNNICULA --- a rabbit and his forest friends in search of missing fudge --- might sound simplistic to adults. But children, even reluctant readers have embraced the story as a recipe for young reader fun.

3. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
by Beatrix Potter (Frederick Warne, 1902)
More classic rabbits to capture young reader imaginations in THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT. Beatrix Potter's rabbit families are remarkably human without losing their animal charm. Her stories are just as grand.

4. Charlotte's Web
by E.B. White, illus. by Garth Williams (HarperCollins, 1952)
E.B. White has captured the essence of friendship and loyalty in his story of the pig Wilbur and Charlotte, his unlikely arachnid friend. Generations have been grateful for his skills. Generations to come will doubtless follow suit.

5. The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint Exupery (Harcourt Brace, 1943)
Learning to appreciate what you've got is a tough lesson to learn, regardless of age. That same concept, expertly illustrated in Antoine De Saint Exupery's THE LITTLE PRINCE, makes this a book for all ages.

6. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl (Knopf, 1964)
When this Roald Dahl classic was made into a motion picture (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) it experienced a renewed popularity. But the sometimes dark lessons learned in the original book are what have made the story a classic.

7. The Indian In the Cupboard
by Lynne Reid Banks (Avon/Camelot, 1982)
Again, Hollywood gave Lynne Reid Banks their ultimate nod when they made THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD into a full-length feature film. But the timeless story of imagination and personal responsibility are the real magic here.

8.Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
by Eleanor Coerr (Dell, 1979)
Death and lasting recollection are complex topics both expertly covered in Eleanor Coerr's classic young reader novel, SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES. It is tender literature at its finest.

9. The Incredible Journey
by Sheila Burnford (Bantam, 1984)
Disney recognized the spirit of THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY and made the animal tale of survival and loyalty into a full-length feature film. The book covers the topics with even greater finesse.

10. James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl, illus. by Nancy Burkert (Puffin,1988)
Clamation effectively brought James and his insect family to life just two years ago, thanks to the magic of Disney and PIXAR productions. But the root of brilliance was always alive in Roald Dahl's sometimes dark young reader novel.

Young Adult Readers

1. The Outsiders
by S.E. Hinton (Dell, 1968)
Gang violence and the emotional impact that follows were explored even in the late '60's by famed YA Author S.E. Hinton and her classic book, THE OUTSIDERS.

2. Shane
by Jack Schaefer (Bantam, 1963)
"He rode into our valley in the summer of '89, a slim man, dressed in black. 'Call me Shane,' he said. He never told us more." So begins Jack Schaefer's classic tale of a mysterious cowboy.

3. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume (Dell, 1972)
Judy Blume is considered the queen of feminine teen-aged self examination, and proves it in ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME MARGARET. It is a simple, on target story of growing up a girl in America.

4. Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls (Dell, 1974)
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS follows a young Ozark boy through his childhood and the acquisition of two beloved hound dogs. Together, they experience danger, adventure, love, and sorrow.

5. The Catcher In the Rye
by J.D. Salinger (Little, Brown, 1951)
J.D. Salinger captured a place in YA literary history by telling the story of a troubled 16-year-old and the two-day emotional bender he experienced after being expelled from prep school.

6. A Wrinkle In Time
by Madeleine L'Engle (Dell, 1973)
Madeleine L'Engle A WRINKLE IN TIME was awarded a Newbery Medal in 1963 and combines theology, fantasy, and science via a story of time travel, the love of a family and the classic battle between good and evil.

7. Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell (Dell, 1971)
A young Indian girl abandoned on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, survives 18 years of solitude and discovers her own courage and self- reliance.

8. The Black Stallion
by Walter Farley (Random House, 1977 OP)
When young Alec is stranded on a tropical island, he finds his best and most loyal friend is a wild, remarkable stallion. Together, they build a friendship that lasts a lifetime.

9. Sounder
by William H. Armstrong (HarperCollins,1972)
SOUNDER is Armstrong's classic story of a black sharecropper, his family, and their loyal dog.

10. Fallen Angels
by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 1988)
Walter Dean Myers captured a slice of history and heart wrenching truth in FALLEN ANGELS, a story set in war torn '60's-era Vietnam. Young Perry discovers volunteering for a tour of duty in 'nam will prove infinitely more challenging than college --- especially considering the black soldiers are asked to face down the most dangerous of encounters.




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