Teachers and librarians have long recommended reading to your children. Some even suggest reading to your baby in utero. We’ve already offered suggestions of books for preschoolers, and next is the best books for kindergartners. But, with so many titles it’s hard to narrow it down.
Cecilia McGowan, president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), tells Parentology, “Parents are a child’s first and best teacher. And the first and best teacher is one that sits with the child, reads to the child, and talks to the child in their native language or in English.” This is the first step to having an engaged reader, she explains.
ALSC has a committee that selects the best children’s books for that year and places them on a “Notable Children’s Book List.” Melody R. Frese, the chair of the Notable Books Committee tells Parentology that during their four rounds of nominations and extensive board discussions, they select books based on eight criteria.
- literary quality
- the originality of text and illustration
- clarity and style of language
- excellence of illustration
- the excellence of design and format
- clarity of organization and accuracy of information
- the subject matter of interest and value to children
- likelihood of acceptance by children
“Make reading an enjoyable and happy experience. It shouldn’t be a punishment,” McGowan says to Parentology. “It should be a joyful part of each day. Establish a time each day to do the reading. Make it so that your child is asking for that time to read every day.”
Here are some of McGowan and Frese’s favorite reads from this year’s list.
Preparing Them for the First Day
These stories with vibrant illustrations help soothe first day of school jitters, address appropriate behaviors, and encourage kids to love their classroom.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
Frese explains that The Day You Begin is great for encouraging children to be okay with feeling and looking different than everyone else. In this storybook, one little girl finds herself taking the first few steps into a brand-new world where she’s surrounded by unfamiliar faces with a unique background.
Kerascoët’s I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness is an inspiring story for children who are afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves and their classmates.
Barnes’s storybook is a great introductory-read for kids who are making their way to their first day of kindergarten. This kid’s first day of school turns out to be royally fun.
Let the Children March is a story about a young participant in the children’s crusade shows the world—and young readers—how to stand up for one’s beliefs and make a change.
Acceptance & Diversity
ALSC has been focused on encouraging the incorporation of more diversity in books. “We were involved in We Need Diverse Books campaign, helping publishers understand that we can’t have books that are just white children in a suburban setting,” McGowan explains. “We must represent everyone in our communities. We are working on this, and we are getting better at this every year. We need books in every language, we need books representing people of color and LGBTQ.”
These tales about acceptance and cultural diversity make a great introduction for children starting school.
Morales’ captivating tale is about a mother and son discovering how they fit into their strange new country by visiting a gorgeous public library. (Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Book)
Julián Is a Mermaid is a story that binds a generational-divide and highlights the power of acceptance. Julián finds himself with three mermaids on the subway that inspire him to make his own costume and reveal his inner self to his understanding grandmother.
These tales of tradition help children appreciate their cultural ties at an early age.
McGowan says that Alma and How She Got Her Name is a good story-time book. The story is about Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, who thinks her name is way too long. So, her father tells her the story of where it came from and how her name can help her figure out who she might be. (Caldecott Honor Book)
Jenkin’s story is about four-year-old Gertie, who wants to help her sisters make the Hanukkah latkes, but she’s just too little. Kids will time-travel to 1912, on the Lower East Side of New York City, and read-along as they learn about the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah.
Mommy’s Khimar is a beautiful story about a young Muslim girl who loves her mom’s khimars and uses all her senses to describe their beauty.
When Omu makes a delicious-smelling dinner, neighbors stop by to sample soup until the pot is empty. (Caldecott Honor Book)
Teaching: Hardship & Loss
Blackall’s story is about a lighthouse keeper and his new wife, who raise their family and survive the hardships and joys of life offshore in this lovely, idyllic picture book. (Caldecott Medal Book)
The Rough Patch is a compelling story about how the state of Fox’s garden mirrors his grieving process as he mourns his best friend. (Caldecott Honor Book)
Books for Kindergartners — Sources
Books for Preschoolers
ALSC: Notable Children’s Books – 2019
Cecilia McGowan, president of the Association for Library Service to Children
Melody R. Frese, chair of the Notable Children’s Books Committee