The 39 Books All Children Should Read – By Age Group

The 39 Books All Children Should Read – By Age Group

Perhaps you want to develop your own child’s reading skills or maybe you’re just looking for a present for a niece or godchild? Either way, it’s always good to know which book is appropriate and when. Here, Waterstones Children’s Buyer, Florentyna Martin and Waterstones Children’s Range Co-ordinator, Hazel Maxwell, share their top recommendations per age group.

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“Board books, picture books and pop-up books are purpose-built for little hands and enquiring minds. Push, pull and slide books are a wonderful way to encourage small children to engage with books, while picture books open up the wonderful world of storytelling for toddlers.”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

“A timeless classic, which captures the love and special bond between young children and their toys. Brought to life by gorgeous and much-loved classic illustrations by William Nicholson, with a new foiled cover design, this is a wonderful keepsake gift.”


Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne

“Richly illustrated and brimming with exotic, luscious fruit and cheeky wild animals, this is a superb story for young children.”


First 100 Words Illustrated by Edward Underwood

“This is a large-format board book with flaps to lift on each page and stylish artwork by homewares designer Edward Underwood.”


For more pre-school suggestions, read more here

"For those beginning to master reading for themselves, these books for 5 to 8-year-olds are packed full of fun, adventure and sublime silliness.”

The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens

“Sublimely silly yet uncannily accurate about toddler tantrums, Bethan Stevens' exquisitely illustrated picture book focuses on a set of surly sprites and impudent imps – and the ravenously hungry goblin who finds them most delicious.”



It Was A Dark And Stormy Night by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

“A vividly descriptive story from the couple behind Burglar Bill and Peepo! about a boy who escapes from pirates by weaving them tales of adventure.”


For more suggestions for five to eight-year-olds, read more here

"The quality of books for 9 to 12-year-olds has never been higher. Children can explore enchanted lands such as Narnia and Neverland; face deadly foes like Count Olaf and the Grand High Witch; and make friends with Harry Potter and Tracy Beaker.”

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

“Born out of Elle McNicoll's desire to see a neurodivergent main character in children's fiction, A Kind of Spark won the 2021 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Younger Readers category and Overall Winner. We have fallen in love with Addie, whose courage and determination are a guiding light, often reminding the world that kindness must prevail wherever we go. McNicoll is undoubtedly an outstanding new talent in children’s books and will inspire readers young and old for generations to come.”


Olga da Polga by Michael Bond

“Written by Paddington creator Michael Bond and illustrated by Catherine Rayner, this is an excellent book for children who are reading more confidently on their own.”


The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo

“From master storyteller and teacher’s favourite Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) comes this lyrical and moving tale of a young boy growing up in Africa, and his lifelong friendship with a white lion. Ideal for children who are just beginning to read stories by themselves.”


Journey To The River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

“Winner of Nestle Smarties Book Prize Gold Award 2001 and shortlisted for both The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2001 and Whitbread Children's Book Award 2002, this exotic Amazon adventure is a modern classic of the very highest standard.”


Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

“A stone-cold classic of children’s literature, the powerful story of deprived evacuee William Beech and his slow-burning friendship with the cantankerous Tom Oakley is written with incredible light and shade. Winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award and celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, this is an unforgettable story.”


Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

“Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2014, this is a stylish and beautifully written adventure across the rooftops of Paris.”


For more suggestions for nine to 12-year-olds, read more here


"With a remit to explore contentious and provocative themes as well as craft intricate alternate worlds, Young Adult fiction has become one of the most exciting areas of new writing. When groundbreaking non-fiction books covering diversity, mental health and teen life are added into the mix, Young Adult books are essential reads.”

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

“Deftly merging the tenderness of a gay love story with the white-hot terror of the purest zombie chiller, Charlton's unputdownable debut novel paints a brilliantly detailed picture of a community under siege in a post-apocalyptic America. Winner of Best Book for Older Readers for this year’s Children’s Book Prize.”



Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

“The first volume in Philip Pullman’s incredible His Dark Materials trilogy where fantasy and adventure are magically combined in a magnificently written masterpiece and wonderful illustrations by Chris Wormell. This will be a classic for generations to come.”


More Than This by Patrick Ness

“Patrick Ness has a beautiful style of writing (he has twice won the CILIP Carnegie medal) and this is an enthralling and provocative novel dealing with love, loss and race.”


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is a raw, effervescent novel, written entirely in verse, about the power of language  and speaking your own truth.”


For more suggestions for teens & to young adults, read more here

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