At the age of five years, most children can understand complex narrative structure and appreciate imaginative stories. At the same age, children are just beginning to read, so books for a 5 year old often span two categories: books that will be read TO them, and books they will read themselves.
If you pick up a book that you haven't read since you were 5, you would be amazed to discover the memories it evokes and how much it may have shaped you, although you may barely remember it. The following books are classic children's books that will very likely have that effect on your child, along with some newer ones that are sure to be classics in a few years. These 5 books fall squarely into the "to read to a 5 year old" category, unless you have a very precocious reader on your hands. The following books have been chosen because they will appeal to most children, boys and girls.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Harold goes on an imaginative journey he draws by himself, using his purple crayon. This book is sure to take your 5 year old on a journey, and will certainly become a favorite.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Another classic, it’s incredible how much of a story Sendak fits in with very few words, and the illustrations are unforgettable.
Froggy by Jonathan London
This is a series that your 5 year old will be reading him/herself before too long. Children appreciate the slapstick humor and the onomatopeia.
Ella Takes the Cake by Carmela D'Amico
A beautifully illustrated book with gentle themes that children will relate to. Ella delivers a cake on her bike and has colorful interactions with other townspeople along the way.
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
Not your typical Dr. Seuss book, this was published posthumously and has colorful illustrations that are distinct from the ones you are used to. This book helps kids think about emotions by making a metaphor between colors and moods. The catchy rhyming text flows quickly and may even get stuck in your head!
In the other category, books that children will read themselves, look for books with short sentences and repeated/rhyming words, with fun illustrations. You can always look for "reader" books at the appropriate level, but here are some additional books you might not have thought of that are great for early readers.
Bob Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen
No book for early readers would be complete without a phonics reader. Once your 5 year old can sound out letters, he or she can jump into this gradually leveled phonics series that goes step by step so the books never feel “too hard,” while children learn by osmosis the sounds that letters make when they are put together. Created by a teacher.
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
This catchy, musical book has tons of repetition and rhythm.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
These short stories are for advancing readers, with more sophisticated abilities. Frog and Toad have a fun and silly relationship that children will connect with. More in the series encourages your child to keep on reading.
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
A lesson in how plants grow, which also shows the value of hope and perseverance to your early reader. Simple text and fantastic illustrations.
Go Dog Go, by P.D. Eastman
This book introduces the idea of sight words, since the words on the page exactly match what is in the picture. Children who have problems with phonics may click with this book, and the funny illustrations draw in your early reader.
Finally, to spark an interest in books, consider the children's own interests. For instance, if your boy is obsessed with trucks, look up some books for a 5 year old that have truck themes to them, and he will be off and reading before you know it. There are also great resources on the web; www.starfall.com is a fantastic website for kids that teaches reading and phonics, along with other fun activities, and it’s free.