Picture Books for First Graders to Read on Their Own

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For me, it was a bittersweet moment when my daughter started reading on her own. I LOVED that she was excited about reading and improving her fluency. But, I was a bit sad that from now on there would be books that she would enjoy without me or her dad. We would have other memories we would share.

But! It is a very exciting time when your first-grader starts reading books on their own. That look of pride and accomplishment as they conquer each new book. Priceless.

We jumped to early chapter books way too soon. I completely blame myself. I noticed my daughter’s love of reading dip a bit and then I found this post.

In it, Kim talks about not rushing into chapter books too soon and robbing your child of the chance to experience the myriad of great picture books out there. That hit me square in the face! It is exactly what I did to my daughter.

Don’t assume that just because your child can read first grade books easily, that they are ready for chapter books!

So, we switched back to picture books and her love of reading came roaring back.

Finding Good First-Grade Picture Books

There are so many good books at the library, but let’s face it, there are so many duds, too. It’s hard to know from the cover if a book will be good or if it will have some weird twist or words you don’t like. And who has time to look through each book when the baby is in the next aisle pulling all the board books off the shelf?!

So, I decided to put together a list of good, quality first-grade books that were either recommended by bloggers I trust, I had read to her when she was younger, but she doesn’t remember them, or I was able to “look inside” on Amazon and check that it was good for a first-grade book list.

Getting Your Child Motivated

Most kids are excited to start reading on their own, especially when you present them with amazing picture books. But, sometimes children need a little motivation to get started. So, I created some bookmarks that have the first-grade books here in a checklist format.

I made them for my daughter because she loves lists and I knew she would love to check the books off after she reads them. I’m thinking about doing a little surprise for her when she finishes a bookmark, similar to the Pizza Hut Book-It! Program, remember that?! I still remember my Dad would pick me up from school for lunch and take me to Pizza Hut. So, feel free to use the bookmarks for a fun list to check off, a motivating tool, or just a handy list to take to the library when you are looking for books.

Here is a peek at the bookmarks. I made them in two color schemes to suit different tastes, but the lists themselves are the same. I will try and update the bookmarks as I add books to this post, but they do include the first 40 books, so that should get your young reader started! (Sign up at the bottom of the post to get the bookmark download.)

first grade book list bookmarks
There is also a more blue/green version if your child prefers those colors.

Without further ado, here is the list of books! I wrote a little blurb about the first ten (some of my favorites) and then listed the rest. I did include Amazon links because a lot of the books have that “look inside” feature, which I find helpful if I’m not familiar with the book. It helps me know if the story is OK and if the amount of words will be too much or just right for my daughter’s reading stamina level.

If you’d like to see covers for all the titles, but don’t want to spend all that time typing the name of each book into Google, I created a handy Idea List, which you can view here. It’s like a customized Amazon search that will have all the titles in this list, plus a few I’ve found in my wanderings and added for later. View the Idea List here.


1) Bustle in the Bushes

This is a fun non-fiction book that looks like a fiction book. The illustrations are fun and colorful, but the information is factual. First graders love big bright pictures and learning new facts, so this is a great combination. Readers learn about different backyard insects in a fun rhyming prose. (This series also includes Rumble in the Jungle and Commotion in the Ocean.)

2) The Silly Tail Book

This is just a silly rhyming book about animal tails. It reminds me a little of Dr. Seuss type story telling. My kids thought it was hilarious!

3) Little Black, a Pony

Written by the same author as The Black Stallion, this book is the story of the relationship between a boy and his pony. Heart felt and appealing to young animal lovers!

4) Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon

This was one of our Dolly Parton Imagination Library books that came in the mail. It’s a great story about being comfortable in your own skin.

5) Inside a Zoo in the City

A fun rebus book (where some of the words are pictures, which lets younger siblings join in the reading fun) that follows the same pattern as “This is the house that Jack built. This is the dog who lives in the house that Jack built…”, but with a silly animal twist.

6) Farmer Brown Sheared His Sheep

We actually got this book for free during our local library annual “clean out”. It still amazes me that this wasn’t a hugely popular title because it is so fun to read. It’s a cute rhyming book about some sheep who are not happy about having their wool cut off!

7) Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type

First graders love silly books and this was an instant favorite in our house. A silly story about a crew of farm animals that make demands to the farmer through a typewriter.

8) Giraffes Can’t Dance

At first this books seems a bit sad because Giraffe can’t dance like all the other animals and even gets made fun of a bit. But, then he finds the perfect tune and becomes the best dancer in the jungle. A great book to share the idea that everyone is different and sometimes it just takes finding your own song to realize your talents.

9) The Hiccupotamus

This first grade book is (again) a humorous one! The jungle animals are singing a song, but they don’t know who to thank for starting it. This is a great first grade book because it’s easy to read and it gives your young reader practice reading “sound effect” words, which they might not be as familiar with at first.

10) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

A classic picture book. First graders will love the silliness of this book that has food for the weather forecast! The weather is delicious at first, but then it becomes a problem when food starts piling up everywhere. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs does a great job of taking something that young readers are familiar with and making it into something unusual.

11) Put Me in the Zoo

12) Little Bear

13) One Fish, Two Fish

14) A Fly Went By

15) The Cat in the Hat

16) Green Eggs & Ham

17) A Big Ball of String

18) The Best Trick

19) The Bravest Dog Ever

20) There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

21) Mr. Miller, the Dog

22) Spike in Trouble

23) Monster Parade

24) Friendly Day

25) Catilda

26) Flat Stanley

27) If You Give a Mouse Cookie

28) The Pout-Pout Fish

29) If You Give a Moose a Muffin

30) The Grouchy Ladybug

31) Harold and the Purple Crayon

32) Ten Little Caterpillars

33) Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm

34) The Animal Boogie

35) The Mixed Up Chameleon

36) Johnny Appleseed (the David Harrison Step into Reading version)

37) Five Silly Fishermen

38) The Rainbow Fish

39) Wake Up, Sun

40) Are You My Mother?

41) Stellaluna

42) Amelia Bedilia

I am always adding to this list as I find more picture books for first graders. Do you have a favorite that isn’t on the list yet? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll check it out!

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