Diversify Your Child's Library: 15 Must-Have Books

Maybe your little ones have a bookshelf of their own, or maybe you've just got what I like to call "a home library." Either way, your child is influenced by the books on the shelf at home. What needs to be there?

You need both quality and quantity. I recently read a great Pacific Standard article about this (Thanks Rachel!) In many cases, quantity leads to diversity. We need diverse books. We need them so much that there is a whole internet movement about it going on right now. (More about that here, and if you search the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.)

I did see a home library once that was large (yay, quantity!) but homogeneous. (Quality? Diversity?) It was strikingly odd, to me. Three or four whole shelves of little boxed sets of books with beloved characters on them, made to teach readers their numbers, shapes and colors. I was like, "Hey, this looks cute!" But when I looked closer I got bored just reading the spines of the books. I opened them up andyep! They were all alike inside.

Anyway, I wanted to write for you a list of 15 books you must have. But as I explored this idea I couldn't get on board. There aren't 15 specific children's books that your children really have to have, in order to be healthy, functional members of society. But I did come up with 15 types of books that ought to be on the shelf. Because the young learner needs quality, quantity, and diversity. We need diverse books.

15 must-have books for your child's home library

1. A book that is really special to you: I have the very first book that my dad ever read on his own: Dash & Dart. What a gem! And I hunted down my own copy of Chris Van Allsburg's Swan Lake because I have such fond memories of my parents reading it to me.

2. A book you never get tired of reading: Personally, I could read The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry out loud to my kids every day for the rest of my life.

3. A book your child loves, but you hate: Buttercup Petal Pixiesthis was a castoff from a friend and I was sorting through the box and totally going to donate this one, but then Benjamin wanted to read it (and read it again and again) and Levi did too, eventually. Maybe it's the glitter. Maybe it's something else? For me, the story limps along. The pictures are uninspiring. But the book is not pernicious in any way. For now, it stays.

4. A book that is fantasy: Don't stress, pretty much all of Dr. Seuss qualifies, here.

5. A book that is realistic fiction: I love Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes.

6. A graphic novel:  Nursery Rhyme Comics is like, the best pick ever. A graphic novel-style picture book my boys have been loving lately is Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke.

7. A book about the human body: Go check out the whole section at the library and pick the one you like best. Then buy it. I'd like to buy Who Has What? by Robie Harris which I read for the Cybils last year.

8. A book about your family or your child: A journal, a photo album, or something of the like.

9. A book with a protagonist of a different race: No, animals don't count as a different race from you. I love Alvin Ho, who is Chinese-American. He also has an anxiety disorder.

10. A book that makes you laugh: Petite Rouge Riding Hood always does it for me!

11. A book that is especially fun to read out loud: I made a list of 10 good ones, here.

12. A book popular culture loves: Part of reading is making cultural connections and the well-read kid is one who has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and more. Right now Pete the Cat is really big.

13. A book that's poetry: Poetry just deepens the soul, man. Try My Dog is a Carrot by John Hegley.

14. A book written in another time period: Because the time in which an author lives puts an indelible stamp on the book, and lends a new perspective. How about Betsy-Tacy?

15. A book published in the last two years: You'd only have to buy a new book once every two years to keep up with this requirement! You can handle that. Here are seven great places to buy books.

Do you know what book I need? A dictionary! I have realized this gap in my library for some years, butlet's be honestI just look things up on my phone. That works great for me personally, but now I have a reader! And he doesn't have a phone (and at age 6 I'm not going to give him one).  Right now he's dependent on me for definitions of words, and sometimes, we're both dependent on my phone. I think he would love a good children's dictionary. Do you have a recommendation?

What are some of the must-have books in your own library?
What type of book would you put at #16?
What has worked for you with your home library and what do you struggle with?

Let's talk in the comments, below. I'll meet you there.

This post contains affiliate links. 
It also contains regular links, I'm sure you noticed. 
If you purchase something after clicking through my affiliate links, 
I earn a small commission, 
which is totally awesome! 
There's no extra cost to you and it's super easy.
So, why not?
That is all.
Now leave a comment or buy a book or both!


  1. How about a book that teaches about your faith or your faith's history? We got "Stories from the Life of Joseph Smith," for our boys and it has been a great read. The chapters aren't too long and are easy/written excitingly enough that my kids will listen to a chapter each Sunday night.

    Great list! I'll have to go through and see what we need ... :)

    1. Awesome! I think *some* kind of religious book would be a great part of diversifying a library. Whether or not you're not religious, it's very valuable to know about world religions.

      I'll have to check out that book!

  2. I like it, Alysa. I might add a sub-category to "A book that it special to you' to add "a book that you loved as a child." I'm not a fan of limiting my child to books that I loved as a child, of course. But I think it's nice to be able to point out books that you've had since you were their age. Today I started reading my daughter The Year of Billy Miller, and mentioned that I had read it before. She surprised me by asking "When you were my age?" and it struck me that "Yes" would have been an appealing answer (though not the case today).

    1. I love it! I mentioned that Swan Lake was one of my own childhood favorites. I think my oldest son is just about old enough to appreciate it now. It's gonna be SO fun to introduce him to it. :D

  3. Replies
    1. YES! What are some of your favorites? Because I was looking for some good ones the other day and came up wanting.

    2. Try the Carl books. Carl's day out, Carl goes shopping and others! About a dog and a small child.

    3. Our librarian gave us the Carl books, but they were a no go! There's a few words at the very beginning and he saw those and rejected the books out of hand, saying he couldn't read them. *sigh* Four-year-olds. Good suggestion, though!

  4. I love this list! I think I just did this semi-consciously ;). Another type of book I always try to keep a few of on the shelf is classic literature, even if my children are not old enough to read them yet. When we got married, my husband and I both had a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Our oldest was very curious about those two huge books, and partly because we had two of them, wanted a Shakespeare book of his own. He found a small one at a garage sale and was very pleased to own it - at age 6. And I always try to keep "beautiful books" like my book about Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers. Besides dictionaries, I always tried to keep encyclopedias - a full set (even if out-dated), as well as single volume encyclopedias (these turned out to be very 'well loved'). Our Magnificent Wildlife, and one about the geography of the world are the ones I remember most. I think it is really important to find ways to let your kids claim books as their own (without letting them take them to the bathtub! ).

    1. I think you did a fantastic job of this, mom! Thanks for all these great tips. You're a wealth of good ideas!

  5. Great ideas! My kids' favorite part of Pete the Cat is making up extra verses (quite entertaining, given the framework of stepping in things...) I keep meaning to tell you, I read Petite Rouge on your recommendation, and my whole family loved it! I'll have to try the Willoughbys next. A sentimental one we have Andrew Henry's Meadow, which my grandma always read us. You should check it out, if you can track it down...it's about a boy who loves to invent/build things, and the illustrations are really fun.

    Related to a book about the family, I've kept a blog for years. An unexpected benefit turned out to be that it's a super kid-friendly family history...my boys love to look back through all the old pictures and video clips--which they wouldn't be able to do with a written journal (at least until they're older).

    As for wordless picture books, I like David Wiesner (some much more than others; Tuesday or Flotsam, maybe?). Where's Walrus is cute, and I really liked Journey. Also, an oldie but goodie: Noah's Ark (Peter Spier).

    1. How could I have forgotten Where's Walrus?!? LOVE that one. I was looking for something to supplement Wiesner and Journey (which now has a sequel, did you know?) Levi wanted something *he* could read silently, while Benjamin was reading silently. ;) So stinkin' cute.

      So glad you loved Petite Rouge! :D I know you'll adore the Willoughbys.

      Good news! My library has Andrew Henry's Meadow! I have put it on my list. It sounds great.

  6. I have Noah's Ark. A book with great depth.

    1. I *thought* that one seemed familiar! I've put it on hold, too. :)

  7. An inateractive book? A pop-up book, or Peepo, or something where the child has to find something on the page or complete the sentence. I got Mission Ziffoid from the library, where each page tells you part of the story and then says "Oh that's bad/Oh. that's good" . Something that has a sense of suspense, even when the child knows what comes next.

    1. You know, I was just thinking that yesterday! I found a Pop-Up farm animal book on the shelf -- I bought it at a consignment sale and meant to give it to the kids at Easter. Oops! Anyway I pulled it down and they loved it!

      My library doesn't have Mission Ziffoid, but that reminds me of the folktale in Zen Shorts, by Jon J Muth, and the picture book (based on the same folktale) Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack.

  8. How about non-fiction books? My mom gave us a book of questions and answers that Cora likes.

    1. Totally! I didn't say non-fiction by name, but a book about your own family would be non-fiction for sure. And several of the others *could* be non-fiction (in fact, only 4 & 5 couldn't). And 7 is definitely non-fiction, I hope! haha.

      What is the name of the Q&A book Cora likes? I'd love to check it out.

  9. Whoa, I can't really focus on the book genre question. I'm still reeling over the fact that Lois Lowry wrote the Willoughbys. I read that one last year at your suggestion, and just recently read a few from The Giver series. I never would have put those together as being written by the same author. And then when I googled other books by Lowry I realized she was a woman (which is pretty obvious from the spelling now that I think about it).

    1. I know, right? The fact that she wrote it just makes it *even better*! (I hope you laughed as much as I did, reading that book.) And yep, I was well into adulthood when I finally figured out she was definitely a woman. hehe. She came to my area a while back and I couldn't go. I was so disappointed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...