8 Best Books For First Graders Update 05/2022

When most kids start first grade, they start to learn how to read on their own. Leigh Fox, a Brooklyn Public Library children’s librarian, says that parents and caregivers should keep reading to their first-graders even as they learn to flip through the pages on their own. Because their abilities and interests in reading can vary so much at this age, Fox “highly encourages” them to keep reading aloud. The best way to get kids excited about reading and make it a positive experience is to read them a wide range of stories and formats, says Fox. Longer chapter books, nonfiction, graphic novels, and picture books are all good choices. “The five-finger test” is a good way to choose books for 6- and 7-year-olds who read on their own, says Carly Lemire, the head of youth services at Blackstone Library in Branford, Connecticut. This way, you can be sure you’re picking books that will help young readers gain confidence. “Open a book to any page and have your child read that page. Then, do the five-finger test.” This book might be too hard for them if they can’t understand five or more words. You should either pick something easier or read it to them until they’re ready to read it on their own.

First-grade books should be about things that the kids enjoy, no matter how silly the story might be. That’s what our experts agreed on, no matter how silly the story might be. Children’s librarian Maggie Levine says that “any book that a child likes to read will help them become a lifelong reader.” There’s no need to wait until their school library is full to choose books that show kids from different races and cultures, says Kazz Alexander Pinkard, the executive director of Hit the Books, an after-school nonprofit in Harlem, New York. People need to see them, he says. We also talked to Fox, Lemire, Levine, Pinkard, and five other librarians and teachers about their favorite books for kids in first grade. This helped us narrow down the field. As you keep reading, we’ll show you what they think are the best books for 6- and 7-year-olds to read. They include books that are easy to read, early chapter books, and even some of the most popular ones that they say are the best.

Best books to read to a first-grader

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

Four of the people we talked to, including Lemire, Faith Ward, Rouhama Garelick, and Emily Levitt, said that Willems’s picture book about a grumpy pigeon is a good one to read aloud to a first-grader, and that it’s a good one to start with. Many kids at this age act like the pigeon, and Levitt likes how the bus driver character breaks the fourth wall to make the story more interesting for the reader. “I think it’s great for this age because the concept is crazy and the story is funny.” Both the parent and the child will be able to understand Pigeon’s pleas to drive the bus. It has all the ingredients for a great book for first graders. If you want to read something written by Mo Willems aloud, even though only half of our experts chose this title, most of them told us to read it aloud. This moved this book to the top of our read-aloud list. Lindsy Serrano, a librarian at St. Francis School in Kentucky, says that Willems’s use of eye-catching graphics paired with simple text in different sizes “helps to show different emotions.”

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

First-graders will love Andrea Beaty’s picture book about a young scientist. Four of our experts said it would be great to read aloud to them, and it’s the third book in a best-selling series. Levitt, who told us she likes the book’s “up-close look at the scientific method and good representation of children of color in STEM,” says that “Ada always asks questions and experiments.” Also, Brooklyn Public Library librarian Yesha Naik and a professor at Bank Street College of Education named Mollie Welsh Kruger all said that they thought Ada Twist would be good for the class they teach. There’s also a Netflix animated series based on Ada Twist, which has made her a big star in the eyes of many kids.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The book about a boy who loves mermaids also comes from four of our experts. Naik, Ward, Lemire, and Serrano all think it’s a good book for kids. During story time, Naik likes how the book “defies male expectations and stereotypes.” Serrano says she uses the book because it “defies male expectations and expectations.”

Dog Man: The Supa Epic Collection: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man #1-6 Box Set)

People who work at the Brooklyn Public Library say that the Dog Man series by author Chris Pilkey is a great set of books for young kids to read as they get older. Pilkey is the same person who came up with the popular Captain Underpants series. They all say that first-graders love Dog Man because it has a big-kid feel and is a little bit funny. Though most first-graders can’t read these books on their own, graphic novels like these are very popular at this age, says Serrano, and they’re also a fun way to get kids excited about reading! A book about Dog Man called “exciting boundary-pushers for younger kids” by Goldstein is a good one for that.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Another book first-graders find hilarious is The Book With No Pictures, which was written by The Office star turned kids’ author B. J. Novak and came recommended by Levitt and Serrano. Devoid of illustrations and designed to be read aloud or in groups, this book is popular because it’s full of onomatopoeia and alliteration, forcing the person reading it to say silly things. Levitt likes that it teaches vocabulary while encouraging children to use their imaginations. Serrano says that when she reads it at story time, “kids are rolling on the floor laughing.”

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

There were two people who recommended this book: Welsh Kruger, who wrote a lot of books, and David Lemire, who wrote many books. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is also one of the four winners of this year’s Irma Black Award, which is chosen each year by first- and second-graders from all over the world. We don’t eat our classmates. Because kids at that age like humor, Welsh Kruger says that in the last few years, books like this and Novak’s have had “a bit of a run.”

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

Levine told us that she loves the illustrator Christian Robinson, and that this picture book and DiPucchio’s follow-up, Antoinette, are her favorite books to give as gifts. Both of these books feature Robinson’s art. Serrano also likes the book Gaston, which tells the story of a French bulldog and a poodle who were switched at birth. It has sparked interesting talks with her kindergarteners about what makes a family.

Walter Does His Best: A Frenchie Adventure in Kindness and Muddy Paws

He loves Walter, a book about a mischievous dog who runs amok in New York City, and he reads it all the time. If you want to learn vocabulary and how to describe city sounds, “Walter” is a great book for you to read. “I love all books about New York City,” he says. Children will enjoy reading aloud these city onomatopoeia like “screech, honk, and splash.” They will also be able to figure out how to sound things out. Pinkard says that during the pandemic, many kindergarteners and first-graders didn’t go to school because they were sick. This left them with gaps in early reading development for things like phonemic awareness. One way to help kids get caught up is to read books like Walter that show things in life that they can relate to, while also teaching them how to read and write words.

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