It’s so important to find great books for kindergarteners. Pre-schoolers and kindergarteners are still very open to exploring new interests, and it’s easier to raise a reader when you start young. The best books for kindergarten (especially class readalouds) are picture books — hands down! But if you have an advanced reader who is already getting into chapter books, the options on this list of second grade chapter books will come in handy.
For this list, I’ve included some of my favorite picture books ever! Many of these picks tackle the kindergarten experience and first-day-of-school jitters, but most of them cover various other topics like kindness, self-esteem, immigration, and so much more.
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Pete the Cat and the New Guy
Published: August 5, 2014
There’s a new guy in town, and Pete can’t wait to meet him. After all, more friends mean more fun. When Pete finally meets Gus, he realizes they’re very different from each other…and that’s what makes him cool. So when Gus starts to doubt himself, it’s up to Pete to convince him that there’s something everyone can do. Gus is special in his own way, just like Pete and just like you!
The Bad Seed
Published: August 29, 2017
This uplifting story is about a bad seed (with many bad habits and bad manners) who eventually changes his ways. Readers learn about the life event that makes the seed become bad, and they also see that people can always make a positive life change. I preferred The Good Egg to this one, but this is also funny and sweet.
Published: March 28, 2023
Most of the time, people say “no” or “you can’t” because they dream too small.
Young Mary has been told that there are many things she can’t do. Like stay up past bedtime, or be an astronaut or become president. But what she really wants is to sing, and she isn’t about to let anyone tell her she can’t do it! This is a fun and inspiring picture book based on the singer’s life. The writing in this is also great — Blige is a strong storyteller!
The Good Egg
Published: February 12, 2019
This is a sweet picture book about an egg who’s always trying to be good and perfect. Eventually, he starts to crack under the pressure.
I’m Growing Great
Published: January 18, 2022
Beautiful Black and Brown girls with gorgeous natural hairstyles full of flowers, butterflies, and other garden treasures are the stars of this vibrant, rhythmic picture book from the author/illustrator of Happy Hair and Cool Cuts. Set in a backdrop of nature’s glorious color and bounty, it’s the perfect springtime read-aloud to promote confidence and self-esteem for girls of all ages.
Last Stop on Market Street
Published: January 8, 2015
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. This was one of the first picture books I read and fell in love with.
Thank you Omu
Published: October 2, 2018
Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?
Together We Ride
Published: April 26, 2022
I loved this cute picture book about a girl whose father is teaching her to ride a bike. After a slip, she learns that she can get back up and enjoy the ride. This rhythmic picture book has super sparse text and manages to be adorable and moving without saying too much. Great growth mindset book!
The Word Collector
Published: January 30, 2018
Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect coins.
Some people collect art.
Jerome collected words . . .
Jerome discovers the magic of the words all around him — short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multisyllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower.
Room for Everyone
Published: November 9, 2021
The dala dala rumbles and roars as Musa and Dada drive off to the shore—but the bus stops for multiple detours: “Do you need a ride? It’s hotter than peppers out there in the sun! Come in, there’s room for everyone!”
One stop becomes two stops which soon becomes ten, and Musa wonders when it will end: “How can any more people get in? We’re already smushed like sardines in a tin!” But there’s always room for one more, if you make the room, which is the heartwarming take-away from this bouncy, joyous tale in rhyme.
Published: March 1, 2022
It’s Dat’s first day of school in a new country! Dat and his Mah made a long journey to get here, and Dat doesn’t know the language. To Dat, everything everybody says — from the school bus driver to his new classmates — sounds like gibberish. How is Dat going to make new friends if they can’t understand each other?
Luckily there’s a friendly girl in Dat’s class who knows that there are other ways to communicate, besides just talking. Could she help make sense of the gibberish?
Published: March 8, 2022
Are you an introvert? Then you’ll love this new picture book about solitary animals in the wild. We learn that some animals are more social and move in packs, while others prefer a more solitary life. The dazzling imagery and animal trivia in this picture book make it a breathtaking read.
Kindergarten, Here I Come!
Published: June 14, 2012
This adorable picture book celebrates all the familiar milestones and moments shared by every single kindergartener. Whether it’s the first-day-of-school jitters or the hundredth-day-of-school party, every aspect of the kindergarten experience is introduced with a light and funny poem–not to mention charming illustrations.
KINDergarten: Where Kindness Matters Every Day
Published: June 21, 2022
It’s the first day of Kindergarten and Leo isn’t at all ready. Leo is a quiet kid and would prefer to stay home. Over the summer, his new teacher, Ms. Perry sent a letter asking her students to think about how to show kindness in school. She explained that they would be making a kindness pledge, and each student should bring one way to show kindness on the first day.
As it turns out, Leo’s classmates have lots of ideas about kindness: like raising your hand, never leaving anyone out, and apologizing if you hurt someone’s feelings. At the end of the first day, Ms. Perry asks if anyone witnessed something they’d like her to add to the kindness pledge? Lots of hands shoot up in the air. Several classmates say they noticed Leo returning crayons to the box, holding the door for everyone, and helping a friend who fell. Leo smiles as he realizes he really does know a lot about kindness after all.
Our Class is a Family
Published: April 7, 2020
Teachers do so much more than just teach academics. They build a sense of community within their classrooms, creating a home away from home where they make their students feel safe, included, and loved.
With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
And currently, during such an unprecedented time when many teachers and students are not physically IN the classroom due to COVID-19 school closures, it’s more important than it’s ever been to give kids the message that their class is a family. Even at a distance, they still stick together.
The Queen of Kindergarten
Published: May 24, 2022
MJ is more than ready for her first day of kindergarten! With her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head, she knows she’s going to rock kindergarten. But the tiara isn’t just for show—it also reminds her of all the good things she brings to the classroom, stuff like her kindness, friendliness, and impressive soccer skills, too! Like The King of Kindergarten, this is the perfect book to reinforce back-to-school excitement and build confidence in the newest students.
The King of Kindergarten
Published: July 2, 2019
The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets.It sits and shines behind your head–like a crown. Mommy says that today, you are going to be the King of Kindergarten!
Starting kindergarten is a big milestone–and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! He’s dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm! And afterward, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements–and then wake up to start another day.
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!
Published: July 2, 2019
Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything! And what if he doesn’t like it? What if the teacher doesn’t like him? What if he learns TOO MUCH!?!
Ask not for whom the school bell rings; it rings for the Pigeon!
On the First Day of Kindergarten
Published: June 21, 2016
On the first day of kindergarten, there’s so much to do! From making new friends to jumping rope in gym to riding the bus to school, there are lots of exciting firsts to look forward to.
Even though saying good-bye to Mom and Dad is hard, when the school bus pulls up, it’s time to begin kindergarten fun.
Share at home along with such books as Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten and Kindergarten, Here I Come!
The Book with No Pictures
Published: September 30, 2014
You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . .
BLORK. Or BLUURF.
Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.
The Day the Crayons Quit
Published: June 27, 2013
Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Blue crayon needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. Black crayon wants to be used for more than just outlining. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates: A Penelope Rex Book
Published: June 19, 2018
It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . . Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.
There they are: 20 of the best books for kindergarten! Which of these books have you read and loved? Which ones did I miss?
I would add That’s Not my Name by Anoosha Syed and All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. I’m not sure I’d recommend The Bad Seed. It’s come under some criticism for having a racist message by contributing to the black = bad trope.
Afoma Umesi says
Thanks for sharing — I’ll check those two out! 🙂