Powerful Things Happen When We Let Kids Choose What They Read

Here are 50 books to make it happen.

Sponsored By Penguin Random House Elementary Education
Student Choice

We all want to inspire our students to become lifelong readers, and incorporating choice into their reading lives is key for making this happen. Plenty of research supports student choice, so much that choosing what to read made it onto the International Literacy Association’sChildren’s Rights to Read list earlier this year. Choice motivates students and supports engagement. Choice encourages kids to experience books as both mirrors and windows  and gets them talking about their reading. How can teachers enable reading choice in the classroom? Knowing your students’ interests and offering books that reflect them is a great place to start. To help you, we’ve rounded up a sampling of 50 popular titles offered by our friends at Penguin Random House Education 

For kids who love great characters and series …

1. A Pig, a Fox, and a Box by Jonathan Fenske (1–2)

Every kid knows that a cardboard box holds endless possibilities. Hilarious characters and situations are accessible to brand-new readers in this fun title.

2. Uni the Unicorn: Uni’s First Sleepover by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Pre-K–1)

Uni lovers everywhere will prance for joy now that this popular character stars in an early-reader book!

3. Warren & Dragon Volcano Deluxe by Ariel Bernstein (K–3)

New series to watch: Warren and his alter ego, Dragon, are desperate to earn enough money for a Deluxe Volcano Building set. In the end, the lesson they learn is worth more than a new toy.

4. Rock Star: Jada Jones #1 by Kelly Starling Lyons (1–3)

Just the type of character we want young readers to love, science buff Jada Jones is fresh, curious, and upbeat. 

5. Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s final story now has amusing illustrations by Quentin Blake. After enjoying Billy’s adventures with the tiny Minpin forest dwellers, students will surely want to go back and read the rest of Dahl’s canon.

6. Horrible Harry Says Goodbye by Suzy Kline (2–5)

It’s been an eventful year in 3B. In this finale to the timeless and popular series, Harry prepares to move to a new town. 

7. Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko (3–7)

The newest installment of the classic Tales from Alcatraz series keeps kids imagining what it would be like to be the son of a prison guard. (Hint: Moose is up for a summer full of more than just for playing baseball with friends.)

8. Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes (3–7)

When rule follower June Harper discovers a Little Free Library full of censored books, she tastes the power of activism in this funny and relevant novel.

9. Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno (3–7)

This poignant story explores family and homelessness in a sensitive way that will forever alter many readers’ perspectives. 

10. Grump: The Fairly True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff (3–7)

What better characters are there than those of fairy tales? Liesl Shurtliff’s fresh take on classic tales get kids thinking about the untold sides of familiar stories. 

For kids who like funny books …

11. I Don’t Want to Be a Frog! by Dev Petty (Pre-K–2)

Told as a conversation between a wise father frog and his unsatisfied son, this hysterical tale sends an important message about loving yourself as you are. 

12. Wordy Birdy by Tammi Sauer (Pre-K–2)

Wordy Birdy never stops talking—but can she learn to listen? This tale of friendship and the importance of paying attention will have readers chuckling.

13. Stinky and Successful (The Riot Brothers) by Mary Amato (1–4)

This wacky sibling duo always has something wildly imaginative up their sleeves. Their exploits are ideal for motivating reluctant readers.

14. Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers by John Dougherty (3–7)

This “full on kerfuffle-fest” chronicles Stinkbomb and his baby sister’s quest to rid the land of pesky badgers. It’s the start to a perfect series for kids with a quirky sense of humor.

15. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcherby Dana Alison Levy (4–7)

It’s never dull in a busy household. This modern-day family will keep kids laughing with their endlessly hilarious antics. 

For kids who devour graphic novels …

16. Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott (K–3)

Dr. Cosmic’s classroom is not like others. When the school year begins, his young monster students quickly realize they’re in for an adventurous learning experience.

17. Noodlehead Nightmares by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss (1–4)

These foolish macaroni brothers are no match for their cunning rival, Meatball, in this funny early-reader series opener. Bonus: The authors’ note explains how the brothers’ escapades are actually rooted in traditional folklore.

18. Babymouse for President (Babymouse #16) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (2–5)

Will Babymouse get the votes? It’s hard to tell when everyone else seems to be running for president, too. This reliable series turns many readers onto graphic novels. 

19. Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Dan Santat, and Raina Telgemeier (2–5)

What could be better than stories by all the best graphic-novel authors in one hilarious volume? This is one-stop reading at its best.

20. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (4-7) 

A creative cast of neighborhood kids explores big and relevant themes as they turn their block into a unique imaginary kingdom. 

For kids who like mystery and adventure …

21. Young Cam Jansen and the Baseball Mystery by David A. Adler (1–3)

With her photographic memory, Cam has been inspiring young sleuths for decades. These illustrated versions are appealing and supportive for earlier readers.  

22. Danger! Tiger Crossing (Fantastic Frame #1) by Lin Oliver (2–4)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Tiger Brooks and his neighbor Luna Lopez are thrilled when they discover a magical golden frame that transports them into famous paintings—but, will they make it out in time or be trapped forever?

23. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Jaxon gets a big surprise when he’s charged with delivering a bag of dragons from his Brooklyn neighborhood to a magical world. This action-packed fantasy title is the start of a worthwhile new series. 

24.Lemonsby Melissa Savage (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Encourage mystery buffs to branch out with this novel about a search for the elusive Bigfoot—and finding new friendship. 

25. The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens (3–7)

Ted, Kat, and Salim race to clear Aunt Gloria’s name as they investigate the theft of a painting from the Guggenheim Museum in this fast-paced whodunit.

For kids fascinated by STEM …

26. If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen (Pre-K–K)

Inspire kids’ inner dreamer with this classic rhyming tale of imaginative design.

27. Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy (Pre-K–2)

Help kids decide whether they could really be space explorers with this funny and informative guide.

28. Magnets Push, Magnets Pull by David A. Adler (K–3)

Expand kids’ understanding about how magnets work and how they’re used as part of many items important to our lives. 

29. DKfindout! Engineering by DK (1–4)

This endlessly browsable resource is packed full of information budding engineers want to know. It’s especially fantastic for visual learners. 

30. Will It Blow? Become a Volcano Detective at Mt. St. Helens by Elizabeth Rusch (1–4)

Invite kids to be part of the action as they learn how to detect whether a volcano will erupt. 

31. Everyday DIY: Projects for Maker Girls (GoldieBlox) by Courtney Carbone (1–4)

Based on the popular Hack Along YouTube series, this activity book combines cool project directions with STEM facts that will keep young makers reading and creating for hours. 

32. Code This! Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski (3–7)

This fun primer covers all the important coding concepts today’s kids need to know.

For kids hooked on history …

33. National Geographic Readers: Ellis Islandby Elizabeth Carney (1–4)

Photos, facts, and compelling stories about this important location in US history will captivate young historians.

34. Ninjas and Samurai (Magic Tree House Fact Tracker)by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce (2–5)

This series is perfect for kids who are thirsty for more information after enjoying the classic Magic Tree House titles. This installment illuminates an ever-popular topic. 

35. Climbing Everest (Totally True Adventures) How Two Friends Reached Earth’s Highest Peak by Gail Herman and Michelle Amatrula

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

What would it be like to try to climb the world’s highest mountain? Totally True Adventures like this one have history-loving kids on the edge of their seats.

36. Who Was Harriet Tubman? by Yona Zeldis McDonough (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Biographies are endlessly fascinating to kids curious about history, and the Who Was? series offers so many choices. This straightforward account of the life of the brave freedom fighter is both informative and inspirational. 

37. Genevieve’s Warby Patricia Reilly Giff (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Lovers of historical fiction will be drawn in by this story of the inspirational young Genevieve. When World War II erupts during her visit with her grandmother in Alsace, she bravely joins the French resistance. 

38. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

This gripping story of a girl’s quest to find herself amid political and religious turmoil during India’s partition is both a window into history and relevant today. 

For kids who love animals …

39. K Readers Level 2: Slothsby Laura Buller (K–2)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Kids will race through the facts and photos in this informational title much faster than this cute animal friend climbs trees. 

40. Humphrey’s Pet Show Panic by Betty G. Birney (K–3)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Humphrey is one lovable hamster and class pet, but he feels insecure when he’s entered into the town pet show. There is plenty of animal action in this installment of the popular early-reader series to keep animal lovers reading!

41. I’m Trying to Love Spidersby Bethany Barton (Pre-K–3)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Spiders often get a bad rap. Students will love this effort to change peoples’ minds about arachnids, and it’s also a hilarious example of persuasive writing.  

42. Pink Is for Blobfish by Jess Keating (K–3)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

The publisher’s tagline says it best here: “It’s Pinkalicious meets Fear Factor.” Introduce alternatives to predictable princesses and flowers with these weird pink creatures. 

43. The Bat by Elise Gravel (1–4)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Elise Gravel’s unique Disgusting Critter series bridges graphic books and science. Approachable for a range of reading levels, kids will want to read them all. 

44. Appleblossom the Possumby Holly Goldberg Sloan (3–7)

When a curious young possum falls into a human family’s chimney, it launches a sweet and funny chain of events.

For sports fans …

45. Soccer Time! by Terry Pierce (Pre-K–1)

Give new readers an engaging primer on this popular team sport. 

46. Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler (K-1)

He may be tiny, and sometimes clumsy, but his heart and perseverance make Mo one of our favorite young athletes.

47. The Half-Court Hero (Zach and Zoe Mysteries) by Mike Lupica

With athletic eight-year-old twin detectives on the case, this series appeals to sports and mystery buffs alike!

48. MVP #2: The Soccer Surprise by David A. Kelly (1–4)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Sports lovers and great friends, the Most Valuable Players jump at the chance to save an old field house and turn it into a sports center. Teamwork rules in this widely-appealing series. 

49. Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Katy Gordon may be a girl, but she’s the best pitcher in the neighborhood. In this story of grit and challenging discrimination, Katy shows her 1950s town Little League officials that she belongs on the mound.

50. Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly (3–7)

Student Choice Turns Kids Into Readers - 50 Books to Make It Happen

Can MaKayla go all the way to the National Jump-Off, even with unexpected changes to her summer plans? Kids who thrive on competition will love this look at double-dutch jumping.

If you’re looking for even more books to support student choice during reading instruction, check out all the resources offered by our friends at Penguin Random House Elementary Education—and be sure to subscribe to their newsletter.