12 Must-Read Books for Kids

March is reading month and according to Lisa Rivard, language arts consultant with the Macomb County Intermediate School District, it’s the perfect time to get your kids excited about reading. 

“Reading Month is a reminder to those of all ages that reading is not only fun, but also highlights the transformative power of reading in our lives,” she says. “Not only does reading impact language and literacy skills such as phonemic awareness, vocabulary and writing, but reading is also linked to stress relief, positive mental health and social-emotional development.” 

To help kids develop a love of reading from an early age, Rivard suggests that parents model their own love of reading around their kids and that they surround their children with books on topics that interest them or that they can relate to. 

“When readers are surrounded by books that reflect their interests as well as are a reflection of their own lives or the lives of those in their communities, then motivation increases and so do important skills like comprehension,” she explains. 

Need some book ideas to help your kids grow to love reading? Here are some top picks from the 2021-22 annual Great Lakes, Great Books Awards, which were read and voted upon by Michigan kids. 

Books for kids in kindergarten to first grade 

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Sulwe by Lupita Nyong

This NYT bestseller tells the story of Sulwe, who “has skin the color of midnight” that she learns to love after a magical journey. 

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Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

This book is based on the true story of the 19th century doctor, Mary Edwards Walker, who was arrested multiple times for wearing pants.

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Mapping Sam by Joyce Hesselberth

An adventurous cat named Sam teaches kids about maps by exploring her neighborhood at night.

Books for kids in grades 2-3

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Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable

This graphic novel takes readers on grand adventures with Peter and Ernesto, two friends who happen to be sloths. 

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It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk

This hilarious read puts a twist on the classic story and turns the theme of the original on its head. 

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When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

This #OwnVoices picture book is about a transgender boy named Aiden who tries to make things perfect for his sibling and in doing so learns that mistakes can be fixed with a little honesty and communication. 

Books for kids in grades 4-5

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New Kid by Jerry Craft

Instead of enrolling Jerry in the art school of his dreams, his parents send him to a private school where he’s one of a few kids of color in his entire grade. Soon, he finds himself torn between two worlds while not really fitting into either. 

Photo from Amazon

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash five years ago — that’s also how long she’s been living on the road with her dad. When she learns a park in her old neighborhood is being demolished, she makes it her mission to recover the buried treasure box she, her mom and her sisters buried there. 

Photo from LyndaMullalyHunt.com

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Delsie could really use a mom right now but her Grammy won’t talk about her mom. When she meets Ronan, who may or may not be a liar and a thief, she wonders if he’s another storm in her life, but it turns out that he’s her rainbow.  

Books for kids in grades 6-8 

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Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Isabella is an 11-year-old whose blended family is more divided than ever and Isabella feels stuck in the middle. It seems like nothing can bring the family together — until she and her step-brother are stopped by police and shots are fired. 

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Killer Style by Serah-Marie McMachon and Alison Matthews David

This book explores questionable fashion choices throughout history including clothing that became known to harm or even kill. 

Books for kids in grades 9-12 

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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Girls in the town of Garner County are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds and drive women insane with jealousy. That’s why they’re banished to the wild when they turn 16. Unfortunately, not all make it back. 

For more information on raising a child who loves to read or details on living in Macomb County, visit the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development at Make Macomb Your Home.

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