20 Best Books for Kindergarten That Teachers and Parents Will Love

Whether you’re stocking your classroom bookshelves or your home library, this guide to the best books for kindergarten will help you choose the top books.

Going off to school for the first time causes quite a few emotions for little children. Reading books can help them feel more prepared and confident as they head to school. The best books for kindergartners use simple vocabulary to talk about real-life experiences that kids can relate to. Some of the best books also have fun stories encouraging early reading and literacy.

Whether you are a teacher preparing to welcome kindergartners to the classroom or a parent looking for the perfect “good night” story for the first day of school, we’ve got you covered. From bestsellers to new releases, here is a list of the best books to have on hand if you have a kindergartner.

Here Are The Best Selling Kindergarten Books

These best-selling books are some of the most popular for kindergarteners, and you’ll want to add them to your bookshelf.

1. Chrysanthemum: A First Day of School Book for Kids by Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes
Best Books for Kindergarten

Kevin Henkes has created a whimsical world of little mice with relatable problems. As they go through their lives, they must handle these problems with dignity and grace. Chrysanthemum tells the story of one of them. Chrysanthemum loves her name until she goes to school. When her name doesn’t fit her name tag, the little girl mouse becomes disenchanted with her colorful name.

This is an excellent book for back-to-school time, and it’s a classic tale of being confident with who you are, even if it is a bit different. Henkes masterfully shows what happens when a child is teased and the power of a teacher to come to the rescue. Want to read more children’s books? Discover our list of best books by Roald Dahl.

“‘Her name is a so long,’ said Jo. ‘It scarcely fits on her name tag,’ said Rita, pointing.”

Kevin Henkes, Chrysanthemum

2. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems

Mo Willems
Mo Willems via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mo Willems is famous for his Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie books. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School explains why the Pigeon, like most kindergarteners, has to go to school to learn. Pigeon has many reasons he doesn’t want to go to school, but at the end of the day, he must go despite his concerns. This is a funny picture book that kids fans of Willems’ work will relate to. It also answers the “what if” questions that many new kindergartners feel, such as: “What if the teacher doesn’t like me?”

“Reading can be hard with one big eye!”

Mo Willems, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School

3. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Attending school for the first time is challenging for many kids, and Chester Raccoon is in The Kissing Hand. Children who haven’t been away from mom or dad much find that going to school feels like too much time away. Audrey Penn created a beautiful story perfectly captured in Ruth Harper’s illustrations and gives parents and kids a tool to manage this separation as they start school. In the book, Mrs. Racoon gives Chester the gift of a kiss in his Kissing Hand that will keep him warm throughout the school day.

This is a must-read bedtime story for the night before kindergarten starts. You might be interested in exploring other children’s books, such as these best Roger Hagreaves books.

“Chester Racoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried. ‘I don’t want to go to school,’ he told his mother. ‘I want to stay home with you.'”

Audrey Penn, The Kissing Hand

4. The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Dan Santat
Dan Santat via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Where do imaginary friends come from? The answer to that question is found in this kindergarten book. The Caldecott Medal-winning book The Adventures of Beekle is the perfect choice for kindergarten storytime. It tells of the birth of an imaginary friend who waits for a child to choose him. He finally finds his perfect match and gets to start his story, which turns into a beautiful tale about imagination and friendship. It also has beautiful illustrations. This book earned Santat a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

“He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created. Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child.”

Dan Santat, The Adventures of Beekle

Popular Characters

Young children love to read or hear books featuring their favorite characters. Here are some popular ones to consider for your child:

5. Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell

Norman Bridwell
Norman Bridwell via Wikipedia, Public Domain

When Emily Elizabeth heads off to kindergarten, her Big Red Dog wants to go, too. What kind of trouble ensues when a dog the size of a house shows up for the first day of school? Clifford Goes to Kindergarten tells us. This fun story features everyone’s favorite pup in a tale that shows the first day of school doesn’t have to be scary and features the charming illustrations of Norman Bridwell. You might also be interested in our round-up of the best grammar checkers for teachers.

“Before school started, my mom read me a book about what kindergarten would be like. She said I would make lots of new friends and learn all about writing, counting, animals, and my neighborhood.”

Norman Bridwell, Clifford Goes to Kindergarten

6. Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill

The loveable dog Spot is ready to tackle the first day of school with his signature smile and wagging tale. His classmates help him feel comfortable, even though he has plenty of first-day jitters. He ends up finding out that school is quite fun! Eric Hill offers a lift-the-flap version of this Spot Goes to School that gets little kids engaged in the reading.

“Spot starts school today! Good morning, Miss Bear.”

Eric Hill, Spot Goes to School

7. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean

Pete the Cat loves his clothes, especially his buttons, and going to school for the first time is an excellent opportunity to celebrate this love. After all, the first day of school often means new outfits and clothes. Pete the Cat is ready to show off his new school shoes in this book. As he goes about his day, he explores all of the new things at his school, and he never stops moving and grooving throughout the day. Kids will learn that heading back to school is “all good” when they read or hear Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.

“Here comes Pete
Strolling down the street,
Rocking red shoes
On his four furry feet.”

James Dean, Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes

8. Little Critter: First Day of School by Mercer Mayer

Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter is a classic childhood book character, and in Little Critter: First Day of School, he’s feeling plenty of first-day excitement. From getting his new clothes on in the morning to making new friends when he gets to school, the day is full of adventures. Kindergartners can lift the flap to find many surprises about the first day of school as they follow this favorite character, from getting on the bus to getting home at the end of the day. They will feel more prepared as they see what he experiences before heading for their first day.

“Today is the first day of school. I get up early. I wonder what I should wear. I look through my favorite clothes. Oh! I have new school clothes. I get dressed.”

– Mercer Mayer, Little Critter: First Day of School

New Releases

While classics have their place, these new releases are also popular with today’s kindergartners.

9. Kindergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day by Vera Ahiyya

With fun illustrations by Joey Chou and an important message written by Vera Ahiyya, Kindergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day encourages kids to take a kindness pledge as they enter kindergarten. The author is a kindergarten teacher and an Instagram influencer, the Tutu Teacher. Because she knows what makes kindergarteners tick, the book is relatable to her target reader. The reassuring story encourages kids to make a difference by being kind. It also gives them practical ideas to use to be kind when they head to school for the first time.

“On our first day, we will talk about how we are going to make our kindergarten into a KINDergarten, so please come ready to share some ways you know how to be kind!”

Shannon Olsen, A Letter from Your Teacher on the First Day of School

10. A Letter from Your Teacher on the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen

One of the scary things about going to kindergarten is meeting a teacher for the first time. Released in 2021, A Letter from Your Teacher on the First Day of School is a picture book written to students by a teacher welcoming them to the first day of school to help ease some of this fear. Teachers can send this home after meet-the-teacher night to help their kids feel comfortable, or parents can read it to a new kindergartener to help them prepare for the first day of kindergarten. It is written with simple rhyming vocabulary and colorful illustrations from Sandie Sonke that make students feel welcome.

“Dear Student,
This is a little welcome note
I want to share with you.
Believe all that I’m about to say,
Because every word is true.”

Shannon Olsen, A Letter from Your Teacher on the First Day of School

11. The Queen of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes

Derrick Barnes
Derrick Barnes via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Parents have a big role to play in preparing their kids emotionally for the first day of school, and this book shows a mom who does so well. The Queen of Kindergarten tells how a little girl named MJ prepares for the first day of kindergarten. This culturally sensitive book reminds kids that they bring excellent traits to schools, such as kindness and sports skills. It helps build confidence in this exciting transition. Barnes also wrote The King of Kindergarten, which has a similar theme but a male main character.

“‘MJ, Girrrrrl, did you just step off the cover of a magazine?’ Momma says. Then she tells me I’m only missing one thing, and she places a sparkly tiara on my head.”

Derrick Barnes, The Queen of Kindergarten

12. The Sour Grape by Jory John

Emotions can be tricky things to understand when you are young. Jory John has created a book series that can help. The Sour Grape is a 2022 release from the New York Times bestselling Food Group series. This one tells of an anthropomorphic grape that is grumpy for many reasons. This fun book helps kindergartners learn how to process their feelings more healthily and not be a “sour grape.” The colorful illustrations from Pete Oswald and the funny writing by Jory John are the perfect combination.

“I’m a grape. A sour grape. Grrr! If somebody upsets me, I’ll remember it. If somebody wrongs me, I won’t forget it. If somebody insults me, I’ll never ignore it. Nope.”

Jory John, The Sour Grape

Read-Aloud Books

Kindergarten kids love to hear books read aloud, and reading aloud can help with vocabulary and phonics development, too. These are great, classic choices to add to your reading list.

13. The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola

Tommy knows he’s going to be an artist, but when he goes to kindergarten, he only gets paint that cracks and flakes, then the first art class he takes asks him to copy. In The Art Lesson, Tommy discovers that he has to break the mold to become a real artist. Artistic children will relate to the very real struggle of sub-par art instruction in early grades, and they will also see what Tommy did to learn to be a skilled artist. This book from the award-winning children’s author is a great read-aloud that will encourage creativity in most kids’ first school year.

“His twin cousins, who were already grown up, were in art school learning to be real artists. They told him not to copy and to practice, practice, practice. So, he did.”

Tomie dePaola, The Art Lesson

14. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Nothing can get kindergarteners as excited as the first snow of the season. Whether home for a snow day or in school, itching to get outside, reading The Snowy Day can help them appreciate the magic of the first snow. This book won the Caldecott award for its beautiful illustrations.

“One winter morning, Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.”

Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day

15. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

This Caldecott Honor book tells what happens when Strega Nona, the magical grandma-like woman, leaves her magic pasta pot alone with Big Anthony, her helper. Big Anthony doesn’t listen to instructions well and ends up with a pile of pasta he doesn’t know what to do with. The beautiful paintings of dePaola perfectly complement this charming book.

“Bubble, bubble, pasta pot.
Boil me some pasta, nice and hot,
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup,
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.”

Tomie dePaola, Strega Nona

16. If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

The “If You Give” series is something little kids seem to enjoy, and If You Take a Mouse to School is perfect for kindergarteners. The book tells what would happen if a little mouse went to school. Eventually, the “if, then” statements come back to bringing the mouse home. Felicia Bond’s illustrations perfectly finish this book.

If you take a mouse to school, he’ll ask you for your lunch box. When you give him your lunch box, he’ll want a sandwich and a snack for later. Then he’ll need a notebook and some pencils.”

Laura Numeroff, If You Take a Mouse to School

Independent Reading Books

Is your kindergartner ready to read independently? Check out these great books for young children ready to read independently.

17. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Dr. Seuss wrote his first children’s book after being challenged to write an interesting story using just 223 easy-to-read words. He then redefined children’s literature and became one of the most iconic writers in modern education. Books by Dr. Seuss are the best way to let kids read independently. He masterfully wove kindergarten-friendly vocabulary and sight words into classics like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. Early readers will feel confident when they can read these fun books for themselves.

“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

18. Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

Fly Guy books are great for kindergarteners because they have simple vocabulary and fun storylines. They also rhyme. There are 18 books in the series by Tedd Arnold, but Hi! Fly Guy is the first one. It tells what happens when a boy makes fun with a friend and uses many interesting literary devices like hyperbole and slapstick comedy.

“A fly went flying. He was looking for something to eat.”

Tedd Arnold, Hi! Fly Guy

19. Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman

Go, Dog, Go! uses only 75 words to get early readers engaged. This book shows different things dogs could do, like riding bicycles and driving cars. The carefully chosen vocabulary and funny illustrations are the perfect combinations to make kids feel engaged and interested. They also complement each other perfectly, allowing the pictures to tell some of the stories that the words alone leave out.

“A red dog on a blue tree. A blue dog on a red tree. A green dog on a yellow tree.”

P.D. Eastman, Go, Dog, Go!

20. I Will Race You Through This Book by Jonathan Fenske

The funny bunny in this book challenges the reader to race to the finish line, or in this case, the last page. The bunny has plenty of distractions and tricks to stop the reader from winning. I Will Race You Through This Book by Jonathan Fenske will get kids laughing, and the simple vocabulary with matching illustrations makes it possible for many to read it independently.

“I am BOOK-IT BUNNY see? No one reads as fast as me! So turn the page and take a look. I will race you through this book!”

Jonathan Fenske, I Will Race You Through This Book

Looking for more? Check out our metaphor examples for kids!


  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.