Books that Inspire a Love of Reading and Encourage Thought and Discussion!

Child development experts and educators have long espoused the benefits of reading. Not only does reading build language skills, it also exercises the brain, stimulates imagination, improves concentration, calms the nervous system, and enhances social awareness. At its best, reading also entertains and motivates.

At Stratford School, we have found that the most effective way to encourage children to read—especially those who claim they “don’t like” or “aren’t good at” reading—is to share engaging and illuminating books with them. During this time of social distancing and uncertainty, we recommend these ten award-winning and notable books of 2019 and 2020. We hope they will captivate, comfort, and connect you and your children, and provide food for thought and discussion.

Preschool and Kindergarten

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents made was giving her a drum,” begins this lushly illustrated, laugh-out-loud story about a little frog who wanders into the forest after her father asks her to take the drum outside and “not make too much noise.” There, she strikes up the band with a joyful parade of animals. Will she hear when her father calls her home?

Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische
In this sequel to the New York Times best-seller Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave, the artistic lettering and captivating illustrations of award-winning artist Jessica Hische remind young readers that each day brings opportunities to be grateful, helpful, and kind.

First and Second Grade

Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Ethan can’t wait until sugaring time rolls around, and until his loose tooth falls out, and until …. But his dad keeps telling him it’s not time yet. This tender father-and-son story with its folksy illustrations explores the passage of time, the change of seasons, and the excitement of reaching a goal.

Wordy Birdy by Tami Sauer, illustrated by Dave Mottram
Wordy Bird talks way more than she listens! This funny, lively, comically illustrated caper will have young readers giggling—and thinking about the importance of paying attention and standing by your friends.

Third and Fourth Grade

Poetree by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani
Sylvia celebrates winter’s end by writing a poem about spring and tying it to a birch tree. When she returns, a new poem is waiting for her. Could the tree be writing back? In lyrical prose and lovely illustrations, this fanciful tale speaks to the wonders of poetry and nature.

The Code Busters Club (series) by Penny Warner
In the six books of the series released so far, the five club members have solved mysteries involving a haunted house, a prison, an Egyptian museum, a mission, an island, and a spy museum. These interactive adventures keep readers entertained as they learn more than 15 codes and hone their deductive reasoning skills.

Middle Grades (5–8)

Dream within a Dream by Patricia Maclaughlin
Louisa and her brother Theo are “plunked off” at their grandparents’ sheep ranch for their annual summer stay. But this visit is different, and Louisa “hates change.” In this lively coming-of-age novel, readers discover along with its spunky narrator that change can be exciting and help you find yourself.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
“The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” raps twelve-year-old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are kings of the basketball court, but their game and their bond are put to the test as this novel told in dynamic verse unfolds.

Keira Pride is Head Librarian at Stratford School, a leading independent private school founded on the vision to create a unique, multi-dimensional education foundation for children. Pride manages library services across the school’s campuses throughout Northern and Southern California.

Stratford School Altadena, 2046 Allen Ave., Altadena, (626) 794-1000 or visit

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