Books as Gifts: Recommendations for Kids Ages 4-8

Tis the season for gifting amazing books.

With the overwhelming selection you find in most store’s children’s sections it can be difficult to know what books are good and what are, well, really not. Here are some ideas for 4-8 year olds. This may seem like a large age range in terms of skill level. Keep in mind that the great books that children enjoy hearing read to them at 4 can be the very ones that are amazing for them to read to you (or whoever) at 7 and 8.

Level One character books (you’ve seen these, a lot of cartoons like Dora and Blue’s Clues are featured, with very simple language. They can be called level one, beginning reader, or ‘I can read’ books, depending on the publisher) are great for K-1st children learning to read full sentences and comprehend what they’ve read. You can get a whole set here and they really are very useful. They help children learn sentence structure and basic words, they go up several levels, it’s all very special. The truth is, you should buy some when your child is learning to read. The other truth is, they’re typically not that quality in terms of storytelling. Let’s be honest, they’re a very small step up from ‘See Spot Run’. Most children are going to tire of them quickly, the stories, while great for learning to read, just aren’t all that engaging. (Not all of them are bad, but a lot are.)

So, by all means buy a handful of Level 1’s (and 2’s, after that abandon all levels). But if you’re going to invest more than $10 in your child’s book collection (and I hope you are) please buy them some quality reads. Dynamic storytelling and engaging illustrations go a long way toward making children enjoy books.

My recommendations (with a small attempt at ordering them by difficulty):

Anything by Eric Carle. All quality, all the time. Suitable for very young children (even younger that 4), beginning readers will love the fun stories and repetition/rhyming in many of the books, all children will love the awesome illustrations. Try:

The Eric Carle Mini Library Gift Set.

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton, a super cute book about a lost owl and all the animals he encounters on his way home.

In The Small Small Pond By Denise Fleming and Waiting for Wings By Lois Ehlert are great introductions to pond ecosystems and butterfly life cycles respectively, for little nature lovers.

Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas is just one of several books featuring the Good Knight and his three adorable dragon friends. But this one, full of word play and the importance of learning to read, is my favorite.

Lissy’s Friends by Grace Lin is beautifully illustrated, full of bright patterns, and a great story about friendship. (Bonus origami pattern in the back for artsy kiddies).

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, about how a smart little mouse saves himself from being eaten, is an incredibly fun read. BONUS: A fantastic (and Academy Award Nominated) Short film is available based on the book.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is a classic and needs no explanation.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan are both good books teaching tolerance and respect for people who may be different from you.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and The ‘Do Princesses…’ series by Carmela LaVigna Coyle are great books with strong female characters who can be princesses, save people and wear hiking books (or whatever else they want). Highly recommended.

Anything by Dr. Seuss. I mean really. My favorites are The Lorax and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But this beginning readers set is also a great start.

The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow by Jack Kent is out of print, but there are plenty of gently used copies available of this great story about loving who you are.

The Frog Princess by J. Patrick Lewis, Fairy Tales by Jan Pienkowski, and The Barefoot Book of Fairy tales by Malachy Doyle (Illustrated by Nicolette Ceccoli) are all gorgeously illustrated in very distinct styles, as well as being well done retellings of both familiar and lesser known tales.

Eloise (by Kay Thompson) and Madeline (by Ludwig Bemelmans) are both classic characters who are still beloved by children. BONUS: They both also have cute movies and shows on dvd.

Last but not least, a certain Miss Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park, whose hilarious antics can get a smile out of even the most reluctant reader.


A final word of advice- don’t try to gender your book selections, especially for this age group. Otherwise you’re just keeping your kids from exploring some great reads. Remember girls can have just as much fun with Where the Wild Things are as boys can have with Junie B. Jones. A lot of fun, in case you didn’t know.

Check back all day for gift recs. for ages 8-11 and 10-13!!


One response to this post.

  1. […] at least once copy of each of the 79 books on our gift recommendations lists (found here, here, and here) which will be divided between the 5 classrooms (by age level) as well as donations of basic […]


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