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Five. It’s a big age. For many children they are starting kindergarten, or will soon be transitioning from preschool to elementary. They are old enough to comprehend so much more than toddlers, and yet they still have all those big feelings. Children of this age are often learning to read more independently, practicing vocabulary and writing letters. Reading can have a big impact on their well-being, and using books to facilitate that is a win-win for parents and caregivers and kids alike.
As their minds open up to a bigger world around them, this age is the perfect opportunity to spark meaningful discussions about topics relevant to five-year-old kids. Starting school, learning about new people and places, celebrating families, understanding friendships, and having a good laugh—these books are here to help parents facilitate what will no doubt be longer talks about all of these things and more. Here are our current 18 favorite books for five-year-olds.
Whether they are starting kindergarten this year or early next, get them pumped for school with this book that has a simple, effective message: All are welcome! The rhyming book follows a group of schoolchildren through their day, showing diverse students from all backgrounds. Modeling a classroom and a school environment that not only welcomes everyone but celebrates those differences with respect is just the kind of mindset every five-year-old can get behind. Gift this one to an early-elementary classroom teacher!
This delightfully illustrated book takes children into the heart of a local community garden on the hunt for sunflowers. In the process, Miguel, and young readers, learn all about several other plants, including artichokes, apricots, mulberries, and spinach. The book teaches children that their food comes from a garden, not just the supermarket and introduces kids to a variety of healthy foods beyond the usual. And as an added bonus, Miguel has two dads, making this book another excellent addition to a diverse library that normalizes all kinds of family structures (hooray!).
Based on Pablo Neruda’s original poem “The Book of Questions” this selection of 70 questions will resonate with your curious questioners. A bilingual book in both Spanish and English (English translation by Sara Lissa Paulson), children will love the unanswerable questions presented here in the great poet’s absurd, magical, and mysterious words. Both an excellent introduction to Neruda and a reminder that not all things need answers.
At age five, friendships (best! friends!) can be a big part of the everyday vernacular, especially once school starts. Celebrate friendship and all of its ups and downs with the timeless Frog & Toad classics by Arnold Lobel. They’re also very early chapter books, a segway into the world of reading longer books, and make great bedtime stories, too.
The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How To Set Boundaries for Healthy Friendships by Christina Furnival, illustrated by Katie Dwyer
Speaking of friendships, part of discovering what friendship means is learning what isn’t okay to tolerate and this early reader book is an excellent introduction to the topic. Follow one little girl as she begins to understand what boundaries are. Young kids will see a positive example of what friendship is, and what friendship shouldn’t be, a first step in learning to cultivate healthy friendships. To be honest, some of us grown-ups need this book, too!
As children enter kindergarten and early elementary years, even more than preschool, their name, and name pride become a big deal. Not only are your cubbies, backpacks, scissors, etc., all associated with your name, but children are learning all of their new friends’ names, too. That makes this book by Yangsook Choi a perfectly timed read. In The Name Jar, we meet the new kid in school, a young girl named Unhei who has just moved from Korea. She’s nervous about introducing herself on the first day because no one seems to be able to pronounce her name right. So instead, she announces to her new classmates that the following week she’ll choose an “American” name from a glass jar. Her new friend and her new community encourage her to pick the truly perfect name: her own! A great book to remind children that everyone has different names, and that is a good and beautiful thing.
Crayons might be among a five-year-old’s most important possessions, so kids this age will relate to the story immediately because it involves all of the crayons in the box. But the deeper meaning of this funny, sweet story will not be lost on them, either.
What happens when you just aren’t the thing everyone says you are? This is the case for Red, a crayon who cannot seem to color anything “right” because everything Red colors is blue. Even though his teacher and parents all try to help him, he just can’t get the color right, until one day a new friend offers a brand new point of view.
A winner of numerous awards and honors for both the words and illustrations, celebrate Indian culture with this book that follows Bindiya, a young Indian American girl, who travels to India for a traditional Indian wedding. Using Hindi and English, explore 1990s India with the family. One glance at the artwork for this book and you’ll see exactly why it’s gotten so many accolades. A truly joyous book.
A great lesson for kids of this age, in this classic Berenstain Bears book we find Brother and Sister Bear having broken a lamp and then lying about it. When they are found out, they learn a valuable lesson that breaking trust is worse than breaking a lamp. This book invites discussions about telling the truth even when you are worried you’ll get in trouble. This one will resonate with younger readers, too.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly
The Proudest Blue tells the story of two sisters on the first day of school. Faizah is excited for a new school year to start, and her sister Asiya is not only having her first day of school, but it’s also Asiya’s first day of hijab. That means she’ll be wearing a beautiful new blue hijab to school, one Faizah admires. But unfortunately, wearing the hijab is met with hurtful words and misunderstanding. Luckily, this leads the sisters to remember to be proud of exactly who they are. Muslim children will love seeing themselves represented in this gorgeously illustrated book, and non-Muslim children will gain knowledge and understanding of what the hijab represents and why it’s important to be open and kind.
Another great story for young kids starting school, Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz brings a story of immigration, memory, and the magic of place. For Lola, her school is full of children from other places. Lola’s teacher asks her to draw a picture of the place she is from, but the trouble is, Lola doesn’t remember. She was just a baby when she and her family left The Island. And Lola is heartbroken when she is the only one who seems to not know what to draw. But together with the help of her abuela’s wisdom, Lola learns that even if you don’t remember a place, it is still part of you. Leo Espinosa’s drawings made this a 2019 Pura Belpré Honor Book for Illustration.
With warmth and relatability, this book introduces children to the idea of poverty, raising awareness that not all children have adequate food and face food insecurity every day. An important topic as children share more lunches together, best friends Sofia and Maddi go to the same school and live in the same part of town. But, as young readers will see, while Sofia has a stocked refrigerator, the fridge at Maddi’s house is empty. Sofia promises to not tell anyone because Maddi is ashamed, but Sofia wants to help her. The book includes a call-to-action section for kids to help others.
Join Mimi and her classmates as they learn about Mimi’s disability in clear language that teaches children an inclusive vocabulary. Kids will relate to the classroom setting, the feeling of being the new kid, and what it means to appreciate one another’s diverse and different abilities. Children with a disability will love seeing themselves represented in a positive book that aims to educate children, teachers, and adults alike. The book includes vocabulary, reading tips, and post-reading activities. And at just $4, consider purchasing one for your school library, too.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
In a book that reads like poetry, author Kevin Noble Malliard tells children the story of fry bread, a food that Native American communities from coast to coast identify with. Because fry bread is more than just something delicious to eat, it is a symbol of community, identity, memory, time, family, and nation. This book received numerous awards including winning both the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and the 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor. Read it, and you’ll see, and feel, exactly why.
As children begin to experience more of the world outside their home and immediate family, they start to see unfamiliar things. This might be food, the way another family plays a game, how many siblings there are in one family vs. their own. Give them a foundation of understanding and appreciation for all kinds of family units by using this book as a conversation starter. In it, we meet families that look very different but all have a common thread: love! Foster families, blended families, families with two moms, or two dads, all are represented here.
Nothing Stays the Same, but That's Okay: A Book to Read When Everything (or Anything) Changes by Sara Olsher
We all want to raise resilient children but that doesn’t mean we know exactly how to do that. Sara Olsher has written numerous children’s books aimed at helping families thrive through difficult times, whether that’s divorce, cancer, or another major upset. In Nothing Stays the Same, she reaches out to children going through a broad array of changes: a new house, a new sibling, a parent who leaves, a new school…and using clear, relatable language and bright illustrations, she arms them with the knowledge they need to know everything will be okay. Read this together to help reassure your children that it’s okay to feel scared and anxious when there are big changes, whether that’s a new school or a pandemic closure or anything else.
This hilarious story by the dynamic Rubin-Salmieri duo is one of those books that’s just silly and really fun to read out loud together. It’s also a great one for them to practice reading on repeat. Find out what happens when dragons eat tacos with spicy salsa (spoiler alert: things burn).
Around this age their sense of humor really starts to blossom, and this illustrated joke book is perfect for your little comedians. This collection of some of the best jokes for really young kids will crack them up and when they’re ready for more, you can start slipping more school jokes for kids into their lunchbox.