Ask Maxwell: What’s a Great Book to Get my 5-Year-Old Excited About Reading?

published Sep 15, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Maxwell Ryan

My son is super active, which I love, and I was the same way as a boy. I didn’t grow up in a family that read to their kids and I had a hard time reading myself. What’s your recommendation for my 5-year-old?

John C.

Dear John C.,

I think I went on too long last week, so I’m not going to do that this week and overload your patience. Let’s great straight to it!

I’ve got four books for you and they’re just GREAT and will interest a boy or a girl (I think). You can read them aloud and then they all become great first books for them to read by themselves. They’ve always worked for me and they’re very different, so you’ve got a range to enjoy here:

Credit: Amazon

A series of seven books, the first one written in 1968, these are the story of a little bear who lives with his parents and has a number of friends among the animals, but who also befriends a little girl. The author beautifully channels the brain and voice of a small child encountering the world in all its dizziness and simplicity.

Credit: Amazon

First published in 1997, this is a little rhyming board book that just gets into your head until you can’t get rid of it :). About a little llama who is looking for his mother and asks all the animals if they are his mother, until he gets it right. Let me give you an example:

“Is your mama a llama?” I asked my friend Dave.
“No she is not,” is the answer Dave gave.
“She hangs by her feet, and she lives in a cave. I do not believe that’s how llamas behave.”
“Oh,” I said. “You are right about that. I think that your mama sounds more like a ….

Credit: Amazon

A little known Dr. Seuss book, I loved this one as a kid and it still absolutely HUMS. First published in 1939, this is the story of a very good, hardworking king who also like to run around on his red stilts after his work is done. His work is helping protect the island from terrible birds that eat the roots of the trees that keep the water out. A mean advisor hides his stilts out of jealousy, the king gets sad and stops working, and then the drama begins!

Buy it here: The King’s Stilts

Credit: Amazon

Translated from Swedish and first published in 1914, this is but one of the great picture books by Elsa Beskow. Quite complicated in a way that small children seem to very much enjoy, it describes EVERY flower in the neighborhood — by specific name — as they come to a flower fairy festival one midsummer day. No adults can see what is happening, but the little girl who has to stay home alone is visited by the flower fairy who puts dew drops on her eyes. When she opens them the whole garden comes to life!

Buy it here: The Flowers’ Festival

There you go. I hope that gives you a good lead and DO let me know what happens!

Best, M

Top 10 Most Popular Questions & Answers This Week
(I keep changing this each week based on your clicks)

Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.

Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.