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How to Build a Home Library for Kids

Derek Hales

Written By: Derek Hales

Updated on:

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For children of all ages, books are the key to adventure, learning, exploration, and a foundational understanding of language and writing. Libraries play a prominent role in city planning and are generally an important space within schools, including elementary, intermediate, and higher education.

Setting up a home library can be equally as important to the planning of your home. Home libraries share many similarities to school or city libraries, but you can hand select all of the books that stock the shelves.

What Type of Space Do You Need?

To set up a home library, you need a designated space with two critical features, light and storage. Below, you will find helpful resources that may help you to obtain these two qualities in your space, and why they are so important.

Good Lighting

Adequate lighting is extremely important for reading
Adequate lighting is extremely important for reading

Adequate Storage

How to Care for Books at Home?

Taking care of a home library can be a daunting task, but for most people, it is actually quite manageable. In addition, the benefit you get from having a large collection of literary works at your fingertips can be truly empowering for both you and your family, regardless of age.

To keep your at-home library in the best shape possible, it’s important to understand how to properly care for, clean, store, and maintain your book collection. Below are a few great resources of how to care for books at home:

Caring for and storing your books in a home library can be challenging, but it's worthwhile
Caring for and storing your books in a home library can be challenging, but it’s worthwhile

The Importance of Reading

Studies show that children who read 20 minutes a day at home score higher on standardized tests and have more exposure to language, compared to students who do not read at home.

Reading 20 minutes a day exposes children to 1.8 million words a year, and these students scored 90% better than their peers on standardized reading tests.

Reading 5 minutes a day exposes children to 282,000 words per year, and those students scored 50% better than their peers on standardized reading tests.

Reading less than 1 minute a day only exposes children to 8,000 words per year, and these students only scored higher than 10% of their peers on standardized reading tests.

Here are a few more resources on the important of reading early:

Children benefit greatly from regular reading, especially during their developmental years
Children benefit greatly from regular reading, especially during their developmental years

Book Lists for Home Libraries

Setting up a home library will vary depending on the age of the child you are setting it up for. While babies still enjoy being read to, these books are more about child-parent interaction and stimulating colors.

On the contrary, elementary students will likely want a mix of some books they can read on their own and other exciting books that their parents or guardian can read to them.

Help encourage your child to become a regular reader by having an interesting selection of books
Help encourage your child to become a regular reader by having an interesting selection of books

Middle and high school age students generally will do their own reading, and if you’ve been practicing reading as they’ve grown, they can likely read at an adult level, or close around this time. For this reason, home libraries for high schoolers may be filled with a wide range of thicker books of varying genre, ranging from hobby books, to non-fiction books or exciting novels.

Here is our starter book list recommendations, by age:

Infant: Age 0-2

My First Books by Fisher-Price

This a four pack of board books that explore the ABCs, colors, numbers, and opposites, through the use of bright colors and fun animal friends.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd

All tucked away and ready for bed, a little bunny softly says goodnight to all the things in his room, one by one, using poetry and sweet illustrations.

First 100 Words by Roger Priddy

Learn to recognize familiar sights and objects with this book of words. Test your tiny tots as their vocabulary begins to grow. You may be surprised by what they already know!

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram

This is a sweet story about a baby rabbit who learns the true depth of love.

The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

Follow this unique group of animal friends as they practice their silly “going to bed” routine on their boat! Will they get to sleep before the sun comes up?

Toddler: Age 3-5

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

This book dives into the life of a dragon and explains their unique love for… tacos. This silly story uses unique characters, tasty tacos, and the unforgettable red-hot salsa to tell a story all its own!

The Story of Ferdinand by Mundo Leaf & Robert Lawson

Although born a bull, Ferdinand loves the simpler things in life, like smelling flowers, instead of fighting. Other bulls snort and leap and butt their heads, while Ferdinand is just the most content little bull you’ve ever seen.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

For curious and growing toddlers, this book of rhymes encompass all of the loving things that parents wish for their children. Although the future is unknown, there is a world of possibilities and this tale shows what an adventure it can be.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donalson

This woodland adventure is a make-believe story of a unique character, never seen before. The Gruffalo is invented by a tiny mouse to avoid being eaten, but it sounds so real… could the Gruffalo truly exist?

If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul & David Walker

Bedtimes kisses are familiar to tiny toddlers, but what about if animals kissed goodnight? Follow along as this story invents silly ways for animals to kiss goodnight, from tall giraffes, to slow sloths, and everything in between.

Early Elementary: Age 6-9

How To Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan

It’s only for a day, but this story puts kids in charge of taking care of grandma. The day is full of adventure, silly role reversal and understanding the special bond between grandchildren and grandparents.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

This story follows Alexander as his day starts off bad and seems to only get worse! There’s no dessert in his lunchbox, his best friend abandoned him, and even worse… kissing on the television! Will Alexander be able to turn his day around for the better?

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy & Kim Shaw

Perfect for today’s modern society, this tale features Lucy and her unique ways. Ralph loves to point out how different Lucy is, but when Ralph needs help, Lucy sticks to her guns and has the courage to do the right thing. Learn to be true to yourself in this unique story about self-identity.

The Boxcar Children (Books 1-4) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The beloved series follows the adventures of four orphaned children, who make their home in a moving boxcar. They move from town to town, solving mysteries and making friends along the way.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Max has quite the imagination, and when he wears his wolf suit looking for trouble, he gets sent to bed without dinner. His bedroom suddenly becomes a magical forest and the make-believe continues as he meets new monster friends and explores the great outdoors… inside.

Late Elementary: Age 10-13

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate & Patricia Castelao

Ivan is a gorilla who lives in an exhibit at a shopping mall with other animals of all kinds. He’s lived there comfortably for years, but when a new wild elephant moves into the mall, he gains a new perspective on life and their “home.”

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Ormi tries to hide his disappointment when his best friend, Patrick, only gives him a toy Indian for his birthday. He puts the tiny toy in a metal cabinet and locks the door with a special key. Little does he know that turning the key transformed the toy into a real Indian, ready for an adventure.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This is a classic story about a little boy, Billy, and his two hunting dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann. Even though times are tough, they become the best hunting trio in the region, but something is coming that will put these friends to the test, teaching lessons about hope and healing.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Based on a true story, this novel follows the lives of two children from Sudan. The girl, Nya, walks 2 hours twice a day to fetch water from a pond. Meanwhile, the boy, Salva, walks for 15 years covering the African continent, looking for his family or a safe place to stay. Their stories intersect in the most astonishing and unexpected way.

The Everything Kids’ Science Experiment Book by Tom Robinson

This book is less about the story, and more about the fun activities it outlines. This book answers unique questions like “Do toilets always flush in the same direction?” or “What is inside coins?”. Put theory to the test with 144 pages of scientific fun!

Adolescent: Age 14-18

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This novel takes place in 1939, in the midst of Nazi Germany. The main character Liesel, is a foster girl who steals books as a way to survive and carve out some kind of purpose for herself. She shares the books with neighbors, as well as the Jewish man who is hiding out in her basement. Follow this unforgettable story as the secret life of books transports the characters into a life outside of their own.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel, the main character, fights a terminal illness. But when she meets Augustus Waters, a new friend at a cancer support group, everything is about to change. Follow their story as Hazel learns about life and love, and the fragility of it all.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

High school can be a challenging time, with emotional highs and back-breaking lows. Follow the main character, Charlie, as he lives life, trying to navigate first dates, family woes, friends, sex, drugs, and everything else that intersects where children become adults.  

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Over 40 years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared, and her uncle isn’t letting it go. Partnered with a crusading journalist, the pair digs up harrowed details of the cold case, marked by iniquity and darkened corruption.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

When a high school party goes wrong and freshman Melinda calls the cops, she seemingly seals the fate for her next 4 years at Marryweather High. Isolated and alone, Melinda hides in herself, rarely even speaking. When her love of art allows her to express herself, she realizes her strength and finds a way to discover her voice.

The Classics: Age 16+

1984 by George Orwell

This book takes place in a dystopian society, modeled after England in 1949. When the government literally watches every move, as Big Brother, it makes it difficult for Winston Smith to live a fulfilling life. Full of love, loss, betrayal, and a secret diary full of “thoughtcrimes”, this book will keep you on your toes!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set during the Jazz Age at Long Island, The Great Gatsby is a nod to the roaring ‘20s. Lavish parties and romance, this book features Jay Gatsby, as the main character and Daisy Buchanan, as his beautiful love intertest.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

In a Brave New World, tells the story of a future overcome with technology, where humans are genetically bred and designed to adhere to an authoritative order. Sacrificing freedom and humanity, for the future of elitism and indoctrinated control.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Set in a small town near London in the 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of five unmarried daughters and their life, dealing with issues such as manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451— the temperature at which books burn. This story is about a fireman whose job it is to set fire to illegal books, rather than put them out. Where the television is the center of the home, the main character, Guy Montag, begins to learn just how life-changing—and life-threatening— books can really be.

Want more of the classics? Check out these in-depth book lists with over 100 titles:

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About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider,, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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