I recommend a lot of books during the course of a year! Except for my month off in July, I published a new children's book list every Monday. (See the index of all my children's book lists here.) At the end of the year I am fascinated to see which recommended books parents actually decide to buy for their kids.
I always encourage parents to visit their local library. It's the most cost-effective way to read a wide variety of books to your kids. However, I am still a big advocate of owning books if you can afford it. Children who grow up with books in the home have higher rates of literacy. Reading is Fundamental released details on the research behind that claim. If you'd like to help put more books into the hands of disadvantaged children, you can support one of the organizations on this list of charities that give books.
(Note all book covers and titles are affiliate links. I can see which books are purchased through these affiliate links, but only within a short window after clicking on a link. Rest assured, I do not have access to WHO purchased the books. Buyers remain completely anonymous.)
MOST FREQUENTLY BOUGHT BOOKS
One of my read aloud book lists is so popular I could have just copied and pasted that list into this post. In the interest of variety, however, I have instead included the top three from that list and then moved on to other books.
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon leads the pack by a mile. No other book even comes remotely close, and I am tickled pink about it! Why? Well, because this is my number one recommendation for a first read aloud chapter book. Some parents picked up the first book, 1949 Newbery Honor Book, My Father's Dragon, but I others went for all three. I feel truly honored that parents trust my recommendation and I love getting emails from moms (and dad! -- though no dads have written to me as of yet) thanking me for introducing them to this book.
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is another book that has appeared on several lists, most recently Funny Chapter Books to Read Aloud. It actually quite surprised me that this book got the second spot because it is not very well known. This story, with each of its chapters told from the point of view of a different class pet, is truly hilarious.
The Toys Go Out series is a universally admired trio of a trilogy of charming, cheerful, funny books about the adventures and misadventures of several stuffed toys and a bouncy ball. What's not to like about a book in which a buffalo toy purposefully gets smeared with peanut butter so he can visit his friend Frank, the washing machine? These are terrific read alouds. We've also enjoyed the audiobook version, and older kids will enjoy reading them independently.
MOST POPULAR BOOKS - THE RUNNER UPS
The following books were not on my most popular book list but they were still big hits with parents and kids! They are listed in no particular order.
Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire) was a bit of a surprise to me, although it is certainly worthy of inclusion on this book list. First seen on my science themed chapter books, this four book series about a 4th grader and his adventures with science experiments is fantastic. If you don't believe me, read this review from a librarian.
Zapato Power series. I am personally very excited to see this early chapter book series as a top seller! I love this series and its Latino hero. Each book has a small mystery that Freddie solves with the help of his super charged sneakers. It is on my list of 35 multicultural early chapter books.
Fractions = Trouble! and 7 x 9 = Trouble! were both on my math chapter book lists. I think they appeal to parents looking for children's books because the main character struggles with math. However, even if your child is a whiz at math, the idea of having to work hard to achieve a goal, and finding creative ways to learn is something all kids are familiar with.
Princess Posey series is a lesson in "don't judge a book by it's cover or title". I really dislike the marketing trend of girly-girl pink sparkly book covers. Nevertheless, I found this series to be engaging and perfect for early chapter book readers. It addresses complex emotional issues in an approachable way -- and those are things boys like to read about, too. I put it on my list of early chapter books with girl protagonists (not "early chapter books for girls").
Charlotte's Web. I tend to exclude very well know books from my book lists. My feeling is that if you all have already heard of the book (and Charlotte's Web is on EVERY "best books for kids" list ever made), I don't see any reason to include it. The same is true for Harry Potter! However, I did once put this on a summer reading list. My son's 1st grade teacher is currently reading this aloud to the class. On our walk home from school, my son tells me what happened in the chapter that day.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was on my very popular list of chapter books to read aloud to preschoolers. Right now my 5 year old is working his way through the series in audiobook format. During mealtime I ask him about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's cures and he loves to recap the story.
Marty McGuire's inclusion in the top books is another delightful surprise! There are three books so far in this early chapter book series about 2nd grader Marty, who is a terrific non-princess role model for kids. I put her on a few lists, including one of least popular lists, chapter books about the theater (why is there love for the theater?).
Captain Awesome to the Rescue! is an early chapter book series, perfect for kids just moving on from easy readers and want to feel like they are reading "real" books. Large font and plentiful illustrations keep young readers breezing through the series, which currently includes 12 titles.
Magic Tree House has a rather unfair advantage, seeing as how, at the last count, there were 45,675 books in the series. OK, maybe I exaggerate. Nevertheless, it continues to be extremely popular and anything that keeps kids reading is a win-win in my book. (pun)
Mercy Watson to the Rescue is the first book in the incredibly popular, funny and wry series from Kate DiCamillo. Full color illustrations about a pig with a huge personality and very little brain power make this beginning chapter book a winner to read aloud, but early readers will enjoy the humor on their own, too.
Books You Don't Buy, But You Should
(I use the word "should" with a bit of humor.) Did you notice how all of the above books that parents actually buy their kids are chapter books? It's not that parents don't buy picture books, but that since the variety they purchase is much greater, no single picture book made it to the top of the list. However, there is one book that I was very surprised to see didn't make it into the top 15.
Press Here is my number one recommendation for a book to give to children 4 and under. It is an incredibly engaging and unique gift with the power to delight every child. Almost no one bought this book! Does that mean you already have it? Haven't gone to any birthday parties? I jest, of course, but it is a marvelous book that is well worth adding to your home library. If you already own it, take a peek at its sequel, Mix It Up!
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the book I wish was on this list. I have recommended it several times and mentioned that it is my very favorite chapter book for kids. Minli’s family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family’s destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli’s quest, her father’s stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Find it on my list of chapter books to give as gifts.
Have you bought any of these books for your kids? What books do you recommend your fellow parents actually buy?