20 Best
Books for
5 Year Olds

Welcome to Elephant Notes . . . our periodic take on some of the ideas, issues, and news impacting parents, children, and reading.

February 2021

At age five, children can recognize letters, sound out words, understand and retell stories, and even imagine stories of their own. While five-year-olds still love being read to at storytime, this age marks a new milestone in their literacy journey, as they will also begin to read independently. We’ve put together a list of the very best books for your five-year-old to get them excited about reading.

Searching for great books for an older or younger child? Check out our selections of the best children’s books by age. 

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Books to Help Your Five-Year-Old Learn to Read

Age five is when kids begin to understand how to read, recognize words, and craft sentences. One of the best ways to help your five-year-old learn to read is to encourage them to play an active role in storytime, whether it’s by picking out the story, sounding out familiar words as they encounter them, or answering questions about the plot.  Check out these picks especially for helping your five-year-old learn to read.

Wild About Books
Judy Sierra

The animals at the zoo don’t read, but this librarian is on a mission to change that! She parks her bookmobile and gets right to introducing each animal to a story they will love. She’s sure to teach them how to treat their books with respect, and soon enough, these animals are wild about books! 

Wild About Books’ rhythmic structure will help your five-year-old recognize patterns and familiar sounds that they can carry with them into independent reading. This E.B. White Read Aloud Award-Winning story is full of bold illustrations and silly scenarios that will keep you and your child laughing. This is a superb choice for teaching kids about finding the very best book for them, and introducing the important lesson that everyone can read.

I Will Not Read This Book
Cece Meng

This little boy does not want to read this book! You’ll never guess the excuses he’ll dream up with to avoid it. Follow along as he suggests a slew of silly alternatives and eventually discovers that this book might not be quite as unbearable as he had imagined. 

This is a wonderful book for kids who are reluctant to read. Its humorous tone and whimsical illustrations will keep your young reader engaged and entertained. The rhythm and repetition are perfect for helping kids decipher words and sounds. The story also presents a heartfelt message about the importance of reading together as a family.

“L” Is For Library
Sonya Terry

Follow along on this journey through the library, marked with bright illustrations and straightforward, rhyming text. Learn all about what you can find when searching for the perfect book. 

The alphabetic structure of this book is a helpful reinforcement for five-year-olds, and its subject matter makes a trip to pick out a new book engaging and familiar. This book is great for early readers. It will not only help and encourage your child to read, but also teach them how to navigate a library.

How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?
Jane Yolen

How do dinosaurs learn to read? Not by throwing their books or soaking them in the bathtub! This lively read is all about the dos and don’ts of storytime.

This short book is the perfect read-along option for five-year-olds, due to its rhyming text and engaging pictures. It not only helps kids with sounding out words, but it also provides a lesson in behavioral approaches to reading. Though reading can seem daunting for children, this book teaches kids to remain enthusiastic and read often.

Tiny Little Fly 
Michael Rosen

My, oh my! Look out for this tiny little fly! This tiny bug travels from place to place, landing on toes and noses. Will the rhino stomp on him? Will the tiger’s paw stop him? Find out in this lively story.

Tiny Little Fly is an awesome choice to help your five-year-old learn to read. The simple poetic text is easy for children to catch onto, and the engaging plot will have them guessing what comes next. Enchanting illustrations tie together this vibrant story and make for a great read.

Books For Your Five-Year-Old to Read Independently

When your child is five years old, they will likely be in the early stages of reading on their own. This is the point in a young reader’s literacy journey that they will encounter early readers with simple text and plenty of pictures for context clues. Here are some of the best early readers that your child can practice reading all on their own.

Adventures of Little Bear
Else Holmelund Minarik

Follow along as a curious young bear meets friends and takes on adventure. This nostalgic book takes young readers through a series of lighthearted stories about Little Bear, his friends, and his family.  Classic sketch-style pictures and simple text make it easy for kids to sound out words. 

This “I-Can-Read” book is the perfect introduction to independent reading. Large text, brief sentences, repetition, and a straightforward plot make this book an enjoyable easy-reader. Five-year-olds will love reading this book all by themselves. 

It’s Not Easy Being A Bunny 
Marilyn Sadler

Meet P.J. Funnybunny— a bunny with an identity crisis! He’ll test out what it’s like to be a bear, a bird, and a pig. Follow along on his journey to discover what is unique about him. 

It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny is a book especially designed for beginning independent readers. This book encourages kids to sound out words all by themselves with easy text and illustrations that provide clues. The interactive question-and-answer style of writing is perfect for five-year-olds.

David McPhail
Book Type: Picture

Jump! Animals and kids love to soar through the air. Identify different characters who love to leap as you work your way through simple sentences describing how and why they do it. 

Jump  is an award-winning beginner-level book that’s perfect for five-year-olds.  This educational pick is a wonderful option for young independent readers. The charming watercolor illustrations will help little readers sort through the corresponding statements to draw conclusions, and the fun characters will provide plenty of entertainment along the way.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 
Dr. Suess

Count, identify patterns, and learn with this classic picture book. A boy and a girl encounter all different types of sea creatures and silly sounds in this imaginative story.

We love this book because it’s a timeless tale that challenges kids to imagine. The zany rhymes and rhythm that establish characteristics of all kinds of fish make this a lovely pick for independent readers. They can follow along the pictures and match the funny words to the scenes unfolding before them.

Chapter Books

As five-year-olds grow and learn, they will become interested in more complex and developed stories. Though they won’t be able to read these picks independently, chapter books make for great additions to family storytime and are perfect for reading aloud each night before bed. Introduce your five-year-old to chapter books with these books full of lively characters adventurous plots. 

James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl

A young orphan named James plants some magical crystals by an old peach tree, and before he knows it, a ginormous  peach grows outside! Follow this boy on an adventurous journey through the inside of the peach, where he meets seven new friends and avoids the antics of the less-than friendly aunts he leaves behind. 

This chapter book is good for reading aloud to your five-year-old. Roald Dahl’s imaginative writing style and the intriguing plot are perfect for keeping your child engaged. This story teaches a valuable lesson about building a community and finding family through friendships.

My Father’s Dragon
Ruth Stiles Gannett

When Elmer discovers there’s a baby dragon being held captive on the faraway Wild Island, he embarks on a mission to rescue the creature. Using an unlikely assortment of tools, Elmer and his new friend, the alley cat, set out to save the dragon from some of the fiercest beasts he’s ever seen. 

This Newbery Honor Book is a captivating story for five-year-old readers. Narrated by Elmer’s son in the future, this book is an informative introduction to a unique narration style and a fascinating story that will help teach your child about point-of-view. The retro style and old-fashioned illustrations in this book will make for an interactive read for the whole family. 

Teddy & Co.
Cynthia Voight

Teddy lives in a charming little community with all sorts of other misfit toys, including a snake who loves to eat, an elephant who enjoys baking, two silly pigs, and a solitary penguin. When a new bunch of toys with big aspirations arrive, the dynamic of the community might change more than Teddy and his friends expected. 

This delightful chapter book about a thoughtful bear is an awesome story for five-year-olds. The calm, sweet narrative teaches an important lesson about relationships, compromise, and treating others with kindness. Lovely illustrations add a fun touch and an adorable quality to the reading experience. 

The Complete Tales of Winnie The Pooh
A.A. Milne

A beloved classic, this collection of stories will encourage your child to dream and imagine. Follow the adventures of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Christopher Robin as they play and learn in the Hundred Acre Wood. These lovable animals are near and dear to Christopher Robin, and the community they form is exemplary of truly meaningful friendship.  

This enchanting group of short stories is full of quotable moments and sweet interactions between characters. We love The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh for its timeless text and whimsical illustrations. These characters undergo a number of fun encounters and face challenges that they overcome through friendship and love.

Educational Books

These books are awesome not only for helping your five-year-old learn how to read, but also for teaching them other important lessons about relationships, family, and the world around them.

Big Red Lollipop
Rukhsana Khan

Rubina is invited to her very first birthday party, but her little sister, Sana, wants to come too. Rubina’s mom, Ami, insists that Rubina bring Sana along, but once they arrive, Sana seems to dominate the atmosphere and even takes Rubina’s party favor, her prized red lollipop. What is a big sister to do? 

This book presents a predicament familiar to plenty of five-year-olds with little siblings. It teaches a valuable lesson about feelings of frustration, navigating relationships with younger siblings, treating parents with respect, and sharing. The attention to detail in each illustration displays the emotions of the characters perfectly and allows the message of understanding that the text imparts to shine even brighter.

Same, Same But Different
Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Elliot and Kailash both live in very different places, but it turns out they do a lot of the same things every day. They both go to school, have pets, and play outside. These pen pals will discover that the ocean between them doesn’t keep them from bonding and building a lasting friendship! 

This book is great for teaching your five-year-old about different places around the world. Elliot lives in America and Kailash is from India, but what they have in common is much more important than their differences, and their similarities draw them together as friends. The bright colors and movement in the illustrations of Same, Same But Different help depict these similarities and differences in a unique way.

Hello Lighthouse
Sophie Blackall

Take a journey to the seaside and watch as the seasons come and go in this beautifully illustrated story. A family tends a lighthouse as time passes, and their duties evolve as the days pass on. The quiet and gentle mood of this narrative will draw you and your five-year-old in.

We love Hello Lighthouse for its expressive and poetic text. The gorgeous complementary illustrations craft a story all about the sights and sounds of the sea. This is a calming and soft story that will teach your child about the functions of a lighthouse and make the best addition to their little library.

Jabari Jumps
Gaia Cornwall

Jabari finished up his swimming lessons, so it’s time for him to take a leap of faith. The diving board is just waiting for him to jump off and make a big splash. The jump sure seems easy, but it might be a little more intimidating than it first appears. 

Jabari Jumps is full of sweet watercolor illustrations and simple text to keep your young reader captivated. The story is all about Jabari learning to do something that’s a little scary as his family encourages him along the way. The lesson of perseverance and overcoming fears is a meaningful and educational message for all five-year-olds.

Classic Books 

Here are our picks of the best classic books for five-year-olds. These award-winning stories will excite young readers and transport parents back to their own childhoods.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Laura Joffe Numeroff

If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen next! Follow along on string of chain reactions in this endearing tale. This book will transport parents back to their own childhoods and bring kids along on a fun and exciting journey. 

This book is a classic for its creative take on what an act of kindness towards a hungry little friend might lead to. This sweet narrative about sharing and making a new and unexpected friend graces the bookshelves of plenty of kindergarten classrooms.  Five-year-olds will love this humorous and entertaining plot with plenty of unpredictable twists along the way.

Curious George
H.A. Rey, Margaret Rey

George is a monkey from the jungle who is new to the city. This mischievous little guy is always in search of an adventure, and sometimes his curiosity gets him into trouble. Follow along as he learns from a fun new friend who will take care of him, The Man in the Yellow Hat. 

This treasured classic is a wonderful depiction of curiosity and friendship. The endearing illustrations pull together George’s adventures and the entertaining plot to create a magical experience for young readers. This is a lovely addition to storytime that will get five-year-olds excited about reading. 

Don Freeman 

This story of a sweet bear with a missing button is a beloved picture book classic. Follow along as Corduroy navigates an empty department store all by himself, encountering lots of surprises along the way. 

We love Corduroy for its old-school illustrations and imaginative plot. A timeless story about perseverance and adventure, this book is beloved by many. This is an easy reading choice for five-year-olds because it teaches them all about friendship and setting their minds to a goal— and it’s a great pick for nostalgic parents, too. 

For more book ideas for babies, toddlers, and young kids check out Elephant Books for additional information about the gift everyone feels good about!

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