60 of the Best Books for First Grade

There are enough book ideas here to last all year long!

Reading with first graders is such fun! You most likely have your tried-and-true first-grade books, but how can you resist updating your classroom library when so many amazing new titles are hitting the shelves? Here are 60 of our favorite first-grade books you might not have yet.

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1.& 2. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree and When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox by Jamie L. B. Deenihan

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree‘s riff on “When life gives you lemons…” has a child-like perspective on everything: cheerful, lively illustrations, and themes galore to discuss with first graders. Just like Grandma’s lemon tree, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. 

When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox stars a child who wishes for a dollhouse but receives a toolbox. (After the initial disappointment, it actually turns out to be perfect for building a dream doll castle.) Though it’s not the overt focus of the story, this title gives classrooms the chance to gently discuss avoiding gender assumptions and practice using non-binary pronouns when talking about a book character.

Add both witty titles to your mentor texts for how-to writing, too!

3. The Camping Trip  by Jennifer K. Mann

Add this first-time camping story to your collection of books portraying kids of color having joyful, everyday experiences. Or use it to launch a discussion of themes like overcoming fears and having new experiences. It also makes for an awesome personal narrative writing mentor text with ALL the minilesson inspiration, from labels to detailed event sequences, sensory details to speech bubbles, and even characters’ emotions.

4. The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho

Learn about the historic tradition of female divers in South Korea, the haenyeo, through this narrative account of a young girl’s first experiences diving with her grandmother. We love how this book encourages kids to ask questions and make inferences—it’s truly captivating!

5. The Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger

Rev your engine for this fast-paced title that’s as fun to read aloud as it is to hear. A spunky princess beats myriad fairy-tale and nursery rhyme characters in a thrilling car race.

6. The Field by Baptiste Paul

Caribbean children yell in English and Creole as they race towards the field for a pickup soccer game. Not even a deluge of rain can thwart their joy. The text is sparse but impactful, making this a great narrative writing mentor text for first grade.

7. You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

Encourage connection and empathy with this brief but meaningful text. We love that the illustrations feature indigenous people in the present day, examples of which can be difficult to find in children’s books.

8. Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk

After an uncertain start, George and Blaise both come to enjoy being each other’s pen pal. There’s a big surprise when they meet, though! This is a great story for teaching students to use evidence from the text. It’s also a fun way to tackle differences in the classroom.

9. It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton

Another clever story about mail reminds us to be careful what we wish for. Delightful word choice (e.g., diddley-squat and squibble wibble whoop) make this a fun one to read aloud over and over.

10. & 11. Julián Is a Mermaid and Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love

When Julián sees a group of women dressed as mermaids on the subway in Julián and the Mermaid, he’s transfixed. He wonders if Abuela will be angry when he dresses up as a mermaid, but her response is perfect. Not only is this book stunning, but it also opens important discussions about acceptance.

Prepare to fall in love with Julián all over again in Julián at the Wedding. The text proclaims a wedding, “a party for love.” The resplendent illustrations convey not only love between the brides, but love for yourself and your choices, too.

12. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla

Sammy had a horrible day, but unlike his brother, Benji, who is on the autism spectrum, he doesn’t have any special supports to help him feel better. It turns out love from his brother is just what he needs, though.

13. Truman by Jean Reidy

When a tortoise’s beloved owner unexpectedly disappears on the bus, he’s determined to see her again. For back-to-school or any time of year, big themes of devotion, perseverance, bravery, and friendship come perfectly packaged for first graders’ consideration in this sweet story.

14. Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña

It’s Carmela’s birthday, and she’s finally old enough to go out alone with her brother. The thrill of independence sharpens her observations of her neighborhood. This book will definitely resonate with students.

15. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds

What do you do when you beg your mom to buy glow-in-the-dark underwear and they turn out to be super scary? This follow-up to the crowd-pleasing Creepy Carrots is hysterical and good for discussions about expectations, growing up, and managing fears.

16. Maurice the Unbeastly by Amy Dixon

Kale-eating, a cappella–singing Maurice encourages readers to be themselves in this creative and appealing celebration of individuality.

17. If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen

First graders are old pros at the whole school thing, making them perfect candidates for appreciating Chris Van Dusen’s utopian imaginary upgrade. 

18. The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

This classic tale is reimagined by a Caldecott medalist. The updated ending conveys an anti-bullying message.

19., 20., & 21. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, and Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak

     

 

Engaging introductions to class nature observation walks or to study descriptive writing, this trio of gorgeous titles encourages kids to tune into the changes each season brings.

22. Big Friends by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

Is it possible to enjoy someone new when you already have a best friend? This book addresses a common first-grade conundrum.

23. Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed

Bilal’s buddies don’t understand why his dad asks him to come inside to help cook dinner so early in the day—until they learn how to make daal. The day ends with a delicious tasting and new appreciation for this South Asian culinary tradition. This story has all the ingredients for a fun read-aloud and narrative writing mentor text.

24. Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

How many conversations have you had with students about the trials and tribulations of playground “clubs”? This title is a perfectly sweet testimony to friendship.

25. Rules of the House by Mac Barnett

Ian loves rules. (Remind you of any first graders you know?) On a family vacation, both he and his anti-rule sister, Jenny, get a lesson in stepping outside their comfort zones.

26. You Must Bring a Hat! by Simon Philip

There’s a fantastic hat party in progress, but the rules for entry keep getting more complicated. Students will want to revisit the comical illustrations again and again.

27. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt

Share the “legend” behind this classic decision-making game with this slapstick title from the author of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit.

28. Welcome to Bobville: City of Bobs by Jonah Winter

In Bobville, everyone is named Bob. Along with their shared names, they look, think, and act the same way. That is until one Bob decides to challenge the norm and change his name to Bruce! This story manages to be discussion-worthy while also tickling first graders’ sense of humor. It’s great to read when exploring students’ own names, too.

29. Gustavo the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

Despite a few seasonal references, this title is worth sharing year-round. Sweet, musical, and brave Gustavo is one of our new favorite characters. While extremely timid, he ends up finding a way to share himself with the world. Use this title to spark conversations about shyness and ways to connect with those who are shy.

30. The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe by Christina Soontornvat

There are supposed to be ten Blunder siblings, but what will Mom say when they report that one is missing? This story’s silly illustrations get first graders thinking about counting strategies and ways to make ten.

31. Pigeon Math by Asia Citro

Counting pigeons seems easy, but this group of unpredictable birds keeps coming and going. Share this playful “birds on a wire” scenario when you’re learning about writing addition and subtraction number sentences.

32. Sheep Won’t Sleep: Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s  by Judy Cox

A classic sleep-inducing trick goes awry when the originally-counted ewes invite an array of other furry creatures in groups of two, five, and ten.

33., 34., & 35. Triangle, Square, and Circle by Mac Barnett

Inject both humor and critical thinking into your 2D geometry unit with this smart trilogy that gets students thinking about shapes’ features in new ways.

36. Firefighters’ Handbook by Meghan McCarthy

Meghan McCarthy always serves up top-notch informational read alouds, but this one might be our favorite yet. From training to tools, it covers all things firefighting. Use it to teach students about informational text comprehension strategies and as a mentor text for writing their own.

37. Nachos’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack by Sandra Nickel

Here’s a tasty narrative nonfiction topic! This engaging account of the “invention” of this popular snack (and cafeteria staple) offers a satisfying bite of food history, and may even inspire additional snack research or experimentation of kids’ own.

38. Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers by Sara Levine

First graders think a lot about teeth—losing them, at least. This entertaining explanation of how animals use different types of teeth is just right for the tooth fairy crowd.

39. Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford

This inspiring book alternates between scenes from Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and a classroom of students preparing for their own social justice march.

40. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

Share this story as an example of persistence and also to help your students appreciate the origin of the tablets, laptops, and desktops they use today.

41. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton

Any kid who likes to tinker with “stuff” will aspire to be just like Lonnie Johnson after hearing this story of the NASA engineer who invented the Super Soaker. This is a great STEM title for your collection.

42. Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Castaneda

This book focus on family pride and personal endurance while introducing students to Guatemalan culture.

43. This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World by Matt Lamothe

Every elementary classroom needs a copy of this book, which sends a powerful message about the things that connect kids across the globe.

44. National Geographic Level 1 Co-readers by National Geographic

 

National Geographic readers are a classroom staple. The co-reader series has easier I Read sections paired with more complex You Read portions, perfect for shared reading or multiage book buddies.

45. Seedlings series by various authors 

    

Engaging topics, great photos, clear informational text features? Check, check, check. If you need to beef up your collection of informational books your firsties can tackle independently, you’ll want to click through the many (many!) options in this series.

46. Giggle and Learn books by Kevin McCloskey


 

The Giggle and Learn series takes on high-interest topics in their readable, comic-style nonfiction texts. Explore the whole series.

47. Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

This collection of haiku highlights common childhood experiences of children, like noticing shadows, playing outside, and watching trains. The unique photo collage artwork is a much-needed, everyday portrayal of African American boys.

48. Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market by Michelle Schaub

This collection has a shopping list’s worth of creative rhymes, fun illustrations, and great vocabulary, all while celebrating healthy, local food.

49. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

Whether you want to add an unconventional mentor text to your how-to writing unit or just love to share creative and cheerful poetry with your students, this anthology has plenty of options.

50. Once in a Blue Moon by Danielle Daniel

Short but powerful poems capture special experiences in nature. Motivate your students to look for their own once-in-a-blue-moon moments.

51. Harold and Hog Pretend for Real! (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!) by Dan Santat

Feed your class’s love of Elephant and Piggie with this smart spin-off. Harold and Hog decide to pretend to be the classic best-friend duo—until their personality traits don’t quite match the roles. It’s funny, of course, but there are also themes of identity, friendship, and acceptance to discuss.

52. Frank and Bean by Jamie Michalak

This quirky new early reader duo has what it takes to appeal to first-grade readers. Lots of onomatopoeia, funny antics, and a relevant lesson about appreciating differences within a friendship make this a solid addition to your library.

53. The Mo Jackson Series by David A. Adler

 

What Mo lacks in size and athleticism he makes up for in determination and love of the game. Young sports enthusiasts will be eager to read the play-by-play accounts of his experiences in every sports season.

54. The Confetti Kids Series by Paula Yoo and Gwendolyn Hooks

 

With their diverse cast and portrayals of varied childhood experiences, the Confetti Kids allow students to see themselves in books.

55. Pee, Bee, and Jay series by Brian “Smitty” Smith

This series had us at its clever title. Kids love the wacky combination of characters in these pun-filled emergent reader graphic stories.

56. The Charlie & Mouse books by Laurel Snyder

 

Books about sibling conflicts make for great discussion, but these vignettes about two brothers together are so refreshingly sweet.

57. King & Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler

  

These gentle but engaging mysteries, told from King’s loveable and funny canine perspective, are perfect for readers not quite ready for chapter books.

58. Zoey and Sassafras books by Asia Citro

With sick magical animals in need of help and an inspiring, relatable girl-scientist hero, this is a series to collect for your classroom.

59. Our Friend Hedgehog by Lauren Castillo

When Hedgehog loses his cherished stuffed dog Mutty in a storm, he’s beside himself, but series of meetings with other forest residents brings hope, resilience, and new friendship. This gorgeous illustrated chapter book makes for a sweet classroom read aloud to pair with conversations about what it means to be a friend. Or, it’s an age-appropriate choice for advanced first grade readers.

60. Rabbit and Bear series by Julian Gough

     

This illustrated chapter book series hits the sweet spot, working as an appealing class read aloud or independent reading choice for your more advanced readers. Bear and Rabbit are forest neighbors, but their friendship includes plenty of hilarious twists and turns. (FYI: there’s some bathroom content in the first installment, but in our opinion, not a deal-breaker.)

What are your favorite first grade books? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Plus, the best first grade art projects and anchor charts.

 

Posted by Lindsay Barrett

Lindsay has taught preschool through second grade and worked as a literacy specialist. She now works as a consultant and writer while fielding the never-ending questions of her four young children.

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