Parents, I’m sure you’ve heard all about the benefits of reading with your children and helping them build literacy, social, and reasoning skills through reading. But it isn't always the most rewarding process! I was lucky to have a mom who diligently read to us, even when we got into older childhood—even when we teased her for falling asleep and confusing the words!

This list comprises some of the very best in children’s literature, well-crafted and thought-provoking. (Full of great new vocabulary, too!) But most importantly, they are rich and meaningful both to children and to adults.

giver series

1. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry — As a preteen these books were creative, intellectual, and very accessible. As an adult I find them the same way, only with even more depth than I could see before. Set in a utopian (or is it dystopian?) society, we follow Jonas as he gets an unusual and lonely job in his town and tries to decide between right and wrong. This is bound to create great discussions between you and your child.

graveyard book

2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman — Both a Newberry, Carnegie Medal, and a Hugo Award winner, everyone agrees that this book is absolutely phenomenal. Based on the concept of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, the Graveyard Book is the story of an orphan boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts and other creatures. I know that sounds scary, but it’s surprisingly and incredibly touching.

the phantom tollbooth

3. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster — Set in a fantastic world where the cities of words and numbers are fighting, Milo and his friends are searching for the twin princesses, Rhyme and Reason. Bursting with cleverness, it will amuse both adults with its tongue-in-cheek humor, and children will find it whimsical and amazing (like I did!)

little britches

4. Little Britches by Ralph Moody — This book, along with Moody’s others, are autobiographical stories from his growing-up on a turn-of-the-century homestead. As a child, I was so impressed by the beauty and maturity Ralph used to describe his hard Western life. The West wasn’t that long ago or that far away, but it is in many ways a foreign country to us. The story of his family’s move and first years in Colorado are just beautiful.

the thief

5. The Thief and other Attolia Books by Megan Whalen Turner — The Thief is children’s fantasy — a young but arrogant thief is given the chance to help the king — but it is also a story full of surprises and profound ideas. Also set in an interesting world that’s a mix between Hellenism and the Industrial revolution, with it’s own pantheon and mythology. Pretty amazing for a children’s book, and full of complex messages.