Year 1 is a delightful year group with which to share books and at the moment there is a brilliant range of engaging books available for this age. Often at the ages of 5 and 6, children are learning to read short texts independently, while still relying on strong visual elements. Many Y1 children treasure storytimes when adults read aloud, and shared reading experiences remain an important part of language and literacy development both in the classroom and at home. Children at this age often love handling books, and make a bee-line for texts that offer engaging illustrations, interactive elements or memorable characters. Children in Year 1 are increasingly able to identify themes of interest and empathise with characters in familiar settings. Many 5-6 year olds begin to be able to sustain attention for longer stories that take place over a number of sittings, making early chapter books an appealing option for storytime.
For this reading list, we’ve carefully selected a balance of different types of books for reading for pleasure in Year 1. Some of the stories in our collection feature larger-than-life characters that will cause a giggle, like the robot with no bottom in No-Bot or the intelligent baby who is selected for space travel in Baby Brains. Animal characters feature heavily in the collection too, with some given delightful personalities like the hilarious duo in very popular Rabbit and Bear books, while others explore the deep connection between children and animals, like Michael Morpurgo’s Dolphin Boy.
Many of the stories explore true-to-life experiences, like the arrival of a new sibling in Sona Sharma: Very Best Big Sister, the departure from a familiar home in Anita and the Dragons or the tricky world of navigating friendships in On Sudden Hill. Others help to develop an understanding of feelings, like Ruby’s Worry, the beautifully illustrated Joy or Gaia Cornwall's Jabari Jumps, which explores fear and courage.
Picked out especially for enjoyable storytimes with 5-6 year olds, some of the books on the list lend themselves especially well to being read out loud. Rhyming books like Stick Man or I'm Sticking With You are great choices. We’ve also included some classic stories for Year 1 on the list, such as David McKee’s marvellously playful Not Now Bernard and Jill Tomlinson’s much-loved The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark.
A number of short, illustrated chapter books are included on the list. For storytime read-alouds or class novels, try The Legend of Kevin, Harry the Poisonous Centipede or Fantastic Mr Fox. For newly independent readers looking for their first longer read, we recommend Isadora Moon, The Hat Full of Secrets or Rabbit and Bear.
There is a wealth of brilliant books to share with children in Year 2. Now old enough to sit and listen to longer stories, many 6 and 7 year olds start to enjoy chapter books at this age. Picture books remain important at this age too, both for independent reading and for shared storytimes with adults, where the words and pictures can be discussed and enjoyed together. Children at this age are often able to handle an increasing complexity of themes, including learning to empathise where characters experience a range of emotions and new experiences. Funny books are hugely popular with this age group, as are visually appealing and highly illustrated non-fiction texts covering topics of interest.
With this in mind, we have carefully selected a balance of different types of books to engage Year 2 children in reading for pleasure - either for reading independently or together with an adult. Some of the stories in the collection are chosen especially for making children laugh - we love the hilariously lazy potato who has everything he needs in reach of the sofa in Couch Potato and the rainbow-haired babysitter who gets the children into all kinds of scrapes in the madcap Marge in Charge series. Other stories in this reading list help readers to see what life is like in faraway places, taking readers on a trip to the Arctic in Michael Morpurgo’s beautiful story of freedom and captivity, The Rainbow Bear.
Poetry and rhyme feature too, and we recommend Elli Woodard's alphabet menagerie in Perfectly Peculiar Pets and, particularly brilliant for poetry performances, Joseph Coelho's Poems Aloud.
Many of the stories help to explore real-life experiences for particular characters - join with imaginative young Milo as he journeys to visit his mother in prison in Milo Imagines the World, with Asiya as she eagerly watches her sister’s first day wearing hijab in The Proudest Blue, or Lubna’s beautiful story of looking for friendship far from home in the refugee-themed picture book Lubna and Pebble. Other books in the collection help to develop an understanding of feelings, like Sometimes: A Book of Feelings or the illustrated A-Z poetry collection An Emotional Menagerie. Environmental concerns and themes of protecting the planet are also well represented on the list, like in Neal Layton's visual guide to plastic pollution, A Planet Full of Plastic, or Sandra Dieckmann's poignant picturebook Leaf, which explores themes of global warming and displacement.
If you are looking for classic stories for Year 2, we’ve included some favourites that have been entertaining children for generations, like the imaginative adventures in The Enchanted Wood or Jeff Brown’s much-loved Flat Stanley.
A number of chapter books suitable for 6 and 7 year olds are included on the list. For storytime read-alouds or class novels, try Martin’s Mice, the Marge in Charge series or the giggle-worthy illustrated adventure Oliver and the Seawigs. For newly independent readers looking for their first chapter books, we recommend Alex T Smith's colour-illustrated Claude books, The Naughtiest Unicorn or the comic-book style Investigators series.