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Year 1: 50 Recommended Reads

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recommended year 1 books

Best Books for Year 1 (Children Aged 5-6)

NEWLY updated – April 2024!

Our team has selected the 50 best books for 5 and 6 year olds in Year 1. Top up your Year 1 reading collections with our hand-picked list of recommended storytime favourites, laugh-out-loud picture books, animal stories, early chapter books, illustrated poetry collections, non-fiction texts and more.

This list of recommended reads for Year 1 includes fiction and non-fiction books that cover a variety of themes. From classic stories to modern adventures, our collection is curated to cater to the interests and reading levels of children ages 5 and 6. This booklist includes popular Year 1 stories such as The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, Look Up! and Fantastic Mr Fox. as well as some lesser-known storytime delights that we highly recommend, like The Smart CookieAdventuremice and Matt Carr’s hilarious eight-legged secret agent, Spyder.

At BooksForTopics, we believe reading is essential to a child’s development, and Year 1 forms a very important stage in a child’s reading journey. That’s why our expert team has put together this list especially for Y1 children, with stories at just the right level. Whether your children are confident readers or just starting out on their reading journey, our selection of books is designed to encourage a love of reading that will last all through primary school and beyond.

As well as the Year 1 booklist, we’ve also got a printable poster and downloadable checklist for you. Schools can purchase full sets of the books via Peters.

 

year 1 recommended reads printable poster 2024

year 1 recommended reads checklist 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browse the Y1 booklist below or scroll down to find more purchasing options and printable resources.

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Favourite Storytime Books for Year 1

Cressida Cowell
 & Neal Layton
Picturebook

This is a highly recommendable award-winning picture book that tells the story of a little girl whose favourite toy rabbit is kidnapped by order of the Queen, who likes the look of the toy for herself. Emily Brown is not willing to let her beloved rabbit go without a fight and goes on to teach the Queen an important lesson about the value of treasured toys.

We absolutely love this story from storytelling maestro Cressida Cowell, and grown-ups who love to read dramatically and ‘do the voices’ will have just as much fun as children listening.

Nathan Bryon
 & Dapo Adeola
Picturebook

Look Up! is an entertaining and vibrant story book about a space-loving girl called Rocket. Rocket is excited about the chance to view an upcoming meteor shower, and she wants everyone she meets to be ready to look up and see it. Frustratingly, her much older brother would rather look down at his phone. With a little sibling compromise and a never-giving-in approach from Rocket, the pair have a wonderful time together and Rocket helps everyone to see how amazing the sky can be when you just look up.

This book is great fun and always a bit hit with Year 1. Many children at this age can relate to the frustration of seeing older family members immersed in their phones, but also know the feeling of being excited by the night’s sky and fascinated by space.

The story includes space facts and references to significant figures in space history like Mae Jamison, who was the first black female astronaut to travel into space. The underlying values of the importance of community and family bonds give a real warmth to this super story book.

Julia Donaldson
 & Lydia Monks
Picturebook

A sparkling rhyming story from the fantastic storytelling dream team of Julia Donaldson and illustrator Lydia Monks (also known for What the Ladybird Heard).

The book is about a singing mermaid who is sneakily lured by Sam Sly’s big promises of fame in his circus. The mermaid sadly discovers that the reality doesn’t match the promises and wishes to go back to her beloved home. Unable to leave, she calls upon the help of new friends to make her escape back to freedom.

At its heart this is a simple story that values team work and friendship as the route to happiness and shows that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.  Many children love mermaid characters, and others will simply enjoy the defeat of the sly baddy and the triumph of the unlikely heroes. Julia Donaldson’s excellent rhyming verses make this really fun to read aloud, and children really enjoy the bright, textured illustrations.

Nadia Shireen
Picturebook

We love this highly original picturebook from Nadia Shireen.

The story is about a bear called Norman, who concocts a plot to get more honey by dressing up as a bee and attending bee school. Children will love Norman’s hilarious attempts to convince his teacher and classmates that he’s a real bee. This is a really funny book with hilarious twists and turns, and ultimately a happy resolution about acceptance and being true to oneself.

The illustrations add to the sheer fun and this book is a real hoot to read aloud. Children love being in on the secret of knowing more than the characters about who Norman really is.

Hugely enjoyable and a big hit with 5-7 year olds.

David Litchfield
Picturebook
A giant story of belonging and friendship from David Litchfield, author of The Bear and the Piano. Billy doesn't believe his Grandad when he tells him there's a giant living in his town, doing good deeds for everyone. He knows that a giant is too big to keep himself hidden. And why would he want to keep himself a secret? But as time goes on, Billy learns that some secrets are too big to stay secret for long.This delightful heartfelt story of belonging and friendship teaches the importance of tolerance and acceptance to young children. 

Mariajo Ilustrajo
Picturebook

Lost is a charming book about friendship and kindness.

Bear finds himself lost in a concrete city and despite asking for help from everyone he meets, he is constantly ignored as they are all too busy to help. Finally a little girl notices and decides to try and help. She takes him home and feeds him, bathes him and they read stories, without her mum seeming to notice, which adds an interesting layer to the tale. When he gazes at a poster about the North Pole, she finally realises that he is homesick and despite wanting him to stay, she resolves to help him get home, in a creative way!

Beautifully illustrated and with bursts of humour throughout such as the bear wearing a tutu and finding how hot a pizza is, this is a positive story for parents, classrooms and libraries to share with early years and KS1 about exploring how we can all feel lost occasionally, the power of friendship and the importance of helping others.

Jory John
 & Pete Oswald
Picturebook

If you’ve ever felt like academic success is hard to reach, this sweet picture book about different types of intelligence will resonate with you.

The central character, Cookie, grapples with traditionally academic challenges within the classroom of Ms. Biscotti. However, a transformative moment occurs when an assignment requires a bit more creative originality, leading Cookie to uncover her hidden poetic talent. As her peers also showcase their distinct abilities, ranging from artistic endeavors to inventive creations, Cookie gains a profound understanding of the different types  of intelligence. Through sharing her poem, her self-assurance grows, igniting a belief in her potential to become the “Smart Cookie” she aspires to be.

This is a really funny book and is always a winner with children (we also love the other books in the series – check out The Couch Potato, The Good Egg and The Cool Bean). Enhanced by the vivid illustrations of Pete Oswald, the narrative seamlessly weaves clever wordplay with a universal message of self worth and being willing to grow. The story underscores the significance of valuing different kinds of strengths and fostering self-worth in a classroom, and provides an opportunity for adults and children to reflect on the classroom culture they want to create.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande
 & Ruchi Mhasane
Picturebook

Dadaji’s Paintbrush is a sumptuous story of a young boy’s special relationship with his grandfather, set in a small village in India.

This is a beautiful story that deals with the difficult subject of the loss of a grandparent in a gentle and understanding way.  The beautiful Indian setting that will be unfamiliar to many readers highlights the universal experiences of love and loss, showing that no matter where you are, some human experiences unite us all.

The illustrations are simple and beautiful and we particularly liked how the colours linked with the main character’s emotions. We also loved the evocative and sensory setting descriptions in the story – we could almost taste the mangoes!

As well as gently exploring the topic of grief, the story is ultimately filled with hope and draws out the values of art, community and legacy. There’s so much to unpack in this stunning story.

Recommended Funny Books for Year 1

Nick Sharratt
Chapter book

Splash Day is part of Barrington Stoke’s highly recommendable ‘Little Gems’ series, which brings together popular children’s authors and illustrators to produce stories with clever design features and super-readable layout that make them appealing and accessible to newly independent readers who may not be quite ready for full chapter books. It has the feel of a short chapter book, but has a reduced amount of text on each page and is perfect for Year 1.

This Little Gem is written and illustrated by multi-award-winning Nick Sharratt and is buckets of fun to read. The simple rhyming story, about a class that has been awarded a day of water fights and paddling pools as a reward for working so hard, was inspired by a real visit to a school that holds a ‘splash day’ treat annually. The children in the class are equipped with goggles, wellies and inflatables ready for a day of watery fun and even the teachers are ready to join in. There is plenty of rhyme and alliteration in the text and a funny twist waiting at the end. Coupled with Nick Sharratt’s signature-style bold and colourful illustrations, the book is a joy to read.

Children in the 5-8 age bracket who remember listening to Nick Sharratt’s younger books like Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose and Goat Goes to Playgroup as toddlers will be delighted to find a book in his wonderfully appealing and familiar style designed for them to be are able to access independently as newly independent readers.

We also enjoyed the jokes and puzzles inside the jacket, a brilliant feature shared with the other Little Gems books.

Matt Carr
Picturebook

Created in Matt Carr’s signature comic-book style with a palette of bold primary colours, this entertaining story follows Spyder, a secret agent arachnid whose codename is 008. Spyder is sent on a highly important mission to save one boy’s birthday cake from the destructive intentions of an uninvited Bluebottle.

The text is full of puns but the humour is perfectly pitched for adults and children alike. It was wonderful to see that the secret agent was female (because why wouldn’t she be?). There are oodles of extra details to spot, such as the various images on the screen of the agent’s spy gadget and the spider webpage at the end of the book.
 This delightful, cool and engaging picture book is a favourite at BooksForTopics HQ and is a real winner in the Key Stage 1 classroom.
Simon Philip
 & Nathan Reed
Picturebook
Poor Bill! Follow his impolite mishaps through outer space, jungles, and far-off lands. Written in rhyming verse, this book is a fun-filled adventure with a moral about being polite and respecting others. Children will love the imaginative and colourful illustrations throughout.
This is an engaging story book, perfect for story time with KS1!
Michelle Robinson
 & Tom Knight
Picturebook

We love Michelle Robinson’s funny books that give favourite foods a new lease of life!

When Ice Cream Had a Meltdown is a super story book about an ice cream (Mr Whippy style, complete with cone and flake) who feels saddened that none of the customers ever chooses his plain flavour over the more exciting, commercialised lollies on offer from the ice cream van. Young readers love the emotive expressions and the different ice cream characters, and will surely relate to the ice cream’s struggle to control his emotions as the tension builds towards a full on meltdown.

Children love talking about which ice creams they would choose as much as the story itself (the end pages offer a brilliant visual menu of options!). This rhyming text is a good book to choose for a lighthearted and fun storytime to bring smiles to faces young and old.

Will Mabbitt
Picturebook

This laugh-out-loud story book has become a modern classic and a true story time staple for Year 1.

The format is a simple counting book, but the commentary from the illustrator adds a layer of hilarity that children love – making it a funny counting book with a humorous twist.

The illustrator directly addresses the reader to explain that he can only draw worms, and proceeds to demonstrate by drawing a series of brightly coloured neon wiggly worms. His added commentary promises extra details – such as flying unicorns and an outer space setting – but as he has admitted, he can’t draw these details so he teases the reader with the details instead and leaves the rest to the imagination.

Children love the tension of wondering whether anything other than worms will really appear, but never feel short-changed when they don’t because the in-joke is now theirs to enjoy over and over again.

 


Kes Gray
 & Jim Field
Picturebook

This fantastic author-illustrator duo always bring laughter into the classroom with their books and this time you get a helping of maths at the same time.

Starting simply, the reader is asked to add different numbers of animal legs. The difficulty level increases as the book progresses and children love comparing their results at the end (with big cheers from those who get it correct).

A brilliant maths-themed picturebook with hilarious animal characters, perfect for KS1.

Stories to Help You Learn About the World

Emma Carlisle
Picturebook

This is a gorgeous nature book that encourages children to stop and pause at the wonders of the world around them.

Posing the question, ‘What Do You See When You Look at a Tree?’, the book encourages mindfulness and gently challenges readers to notice how a tree’s leaves move and branches bend, or which animals might find in it a home, or what it has been and what it might become.

Narrated in a gently flowing rhyme and beautifully illustrated in watercolour artwork tapping into the colours of nature, What Do You See When You Look At A Tree? is an ode to nature and a wonderful addition to a child’s home or classroom library.

Sufiya Ahmed
 & Hazem Asif
Picturebook

This delightful children’s book offers a vibrant and relatable introduction to the celebration of Eid. Young readers are sure to be captivated by the bright, engaging illustrations that bring the story to life. The author skillfully weaves a narrative that focuses on the experiences of children during Eid. The descriptions of fasting traditions create a sense of connection for young readers who may have similar practices in their own cultures or religions.

Descriptions of delectable sweet treats like jaman and jalebi are irresistibly mouthwatering and the story’s playful treasure hunt adds an extra layer of excitement, keeping children hooked and eager to find out what happens next.

The book’s strength lies in its ability to make Eid celebrations feel accessible and fun. A simple pronunciation guide at the back enhances inclusivity for readers unfamiliar with associated terms. This book is a wonderful way to introduce children to the spirit of Eid. Its lively depictions, relatable themes, and enticing food descriptions make it a sweet treat for any time of the year.

Isabelle Marinov
 & Olga Shtonda
Picturebook

This simple picture book tackles one of the most complicated questions: What’s the point of art?

A little boy called Henri (Matisse? Rousseau, perhaps?) has been taken on a school trip to a modern art gallery and he’s not happy about it. He’d much rather be on a beach or swimming. He is also baffled by the supposed ‘art’, questioning the odd colours, faces and soup cans! He eventually finds a piece he likes before entering a room with just a chair and a strange-looking contraption. But is it art?

I won’t spoil the answer, but do feel that Henri speaks for both children and adults alike when encountering modern art: “I just don’t get it,” is a phrase I’ve heard many a time – and who amongst us hasn’t looked at a light feature or a rubbish bin at an art gallery and wondered if this was actually an inspiring piece trying to depict the tragedy of war?

This is a delightful story, with lovely illustrations. Eagle-eyed art lovers will recognise works by Magritte, Picasso, Dali, Mondrian, Warhol and Klein, as well as hints towards chairs in art and Ceci n’est pas une pipe. The story would make a brilliant start to an assembly, a ‘Big Thinking’ question or an art lesson, where it could ‘unleash an explosion of creativity.

Clare Helen Welsh
 & Sally Soweol Han
Picturebook

A beautifully illustrated book with just the right amount of words and phrases to help children understand the science behind why there might be sunshine at bedtime.

After reading this with my own small child who struggled to sleep because of the light, it was a quick snapshot into the scientific reasons behind why light seeps through the curtains at bedtime. Taking you through the lens of a small child, it journeys through the world to explain how the Earth is tilted and spins on its axis which causes our summer and winter alongside other fantastic scientific facts about the topics of Light and Dark, Earth, Seasons, and Space.

This well-crafted book is definitely one to purchase in schools. The gentle, illustrated story with a Scientific basis is a great book to add to a KS1 library.

Classic Children's Books for Year 1

Ronda Armitage
 & David Armitage
Picturebook

A classic picture book featuring the story of the lighthouse keeper Mr. Grinling and his attempts to receive his lunch before it is eaten by the pesky seagulls.

First published forty years ago, The Lighthouse Keeper series is a popular choice of reading books to go alongside a seaside topic. This text is rich in vocabulary and a good option for stimulating discussions.

This story book is a popular choice for Year 1 and children will enjoy innovating on Mr Grinling’s plans to put off the seagulls.

Michael Bond
 & R. W. Alley
Picturebook

The Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond are classic stories for children and have been enjoyed for years. Paddington is a real bear, all the way from darkest Peru, and his well-meaning misadventures in England are funny.

Paddington moves in with the Brown Family in London and has a series of accidental adventures with his new clan. The stories have a timeless appeal and there is something charming about all the mishaps that Paddington finds himself in.

Paddington is a loveable and memorable iconic children’s character and the stories are really well told, with warmth and gentle humour that is perfect for children aged 5-8.

Jill Tomlinson
 & Paul Howard
Chapter book

This beautiful story about a little barn owl who struggles to fight his fear of the dark is a true classic story book for children.

Plop the barn owl is afraid of the dark. To help him overcome his fear, Mummy Owl sends Plop on a mission to seek out the opinions of others about the dark. He finds out from children, adults and a cat that they all have things they love about the dark. In the end, Plop decides he can embrace the night time darkness like a true nocturnal creature.

This is a joyful short chapter book, tenderly told by Jill Tomlinson, whose animal stories are highly recommendable for Key Stage 1.

Janet & Allan Ahlberg
Picturebook

Funnybones follows the adventures of a well-loved family of skeletons.

These classic stories are full of humour and provide a great curriculum link into finding out about what lies inside the human body, or simply to read for the sheer delight of enjoying the characters and their night time adventures.

 

Roald Dahl
 & Quentin Blake
Chapter book

A Roald Dahl classic chapter book about a wily fox trying to outwit a trio of unscrupulous farmers.

Children enjoy the suspense as the stand-off between the fox and the farmers escalates. Dahl describes the unlikable farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean with his usual exaggerated wit and young readers can’t help but side with the charismatic Mr Fox as he plots a fabulous feast with his animal friends using supplies from the farmers’ stores.

This is one of the shorter Roald Dahl chapter books, and KS1 children who can handle a darker sense of humour will find the story hilarious, and many young readers enjoy the animal characters and imagining the idea of the network of underground tunnels.


Anthony Browne
Picturebook

This is a beautiful and timeless story by renowned author-illustrator Anthony Browne, and a true Year 1 classic read.

This story follows a lonely girl called Hannah, who loves gorillas and longs for her Dad to spend time with her, perhaps taking her to the zoo. The night before her birthday, Hannah’s toy Gorilla magically comes alive and takes her on brilliant adventures, visiting the cinema, a cafe and the zoo, where they meet the real life gorillas. The next morning Hannah celebrates with her dad and wonders whether her night time adventures were as real as they felt.

This is a really unique and interesting picture book – not one to be rushed over but one to spend time thinking about and discussing. The story is emotive and thought-provoking, and the illustrations are rife with intriguing details (including repeated gorilla shapes and patterns to spot everywhere) and evoke the depth of the characters’ unspoken emotions.

I adore this first class picture book and, even now, find something new to consider on every read.

Strong Female Leads for Year 1

Catherine Emmett
 & Joe Berger
Picturebook

A fabulous sports-themed picture book with the driving force to follow your dreams no matter what they look like. Beautifully written in rhyme, this is an inclusive book and it is wonderful – but rare – to see girls represented in football in a picture book for younger ages.

Sammy Striker is a girl with a passion for football: she loves it so much she is NEVER without a football. At home, school, come rain or shine and she is always the striker who wins her team the game. But when picked for the county team her skills start to crumble. Her talented strikes miss and her confidence has dipped. When match day comes Sammy is feeling nervous and unsure but she has a challenge to face. Will she turn this game around?

Everyone needs to know that when things get tough, someone will be there for them and put them back on track. Catherine Emmett has done this beautifully representing girls in football and showing them we are all special in our unique way.

Smriti Halls
 & Erika Meza
Picturebook

Have you ever read a fairy tale and thought… that’s not my story?

The latest treat from Smriti Halls and Erika Meza is a joyful celebration of stories that invites children to reimagine, rewrite and reinvent traditional tales to mirror themselves – and then to step into their personalised narrative.

The central character accidentally falls into four stories in turn – Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood, only to reject each one in favour of her own ideas. There’s a simple but sophisticated blend of language. When she is in the old-style story, the tale is narrated in a gently archaic idiom with knights on chargers and girls with locks of gold. Then the style becomes suddenly modern and animated as she tumble-tips down a beanstalk, races through tingle tangle trees or slip slides down a tower.

The expressive illustrations fit perfectly, with a similarly subtle mix of traditional and contemporary. Throughout, the rhymes and sound effects make it ideal for a vibrant read-aloud for Year 1, with lots of opportunity for joining in, as well as for giggling at the horror of being peered at by bears (Eek!) or kissed by a prince (Yuck!).

This absolutely brilliant story is one of my favourite books so far this year. It would be huge fun to share with children and would perfectly complement any work on traditional tales.

Chloe Savage
Picturebook

Seeing the elusive and never-before-seen Giant Arctic Jellyfish is Dr Morley’s life ambition. She adores jellyfish and has spent her life studying and researching the ultimate jellyfish: The Giant Arctic Jellyfish. Once her crew are assembled, they embark on their adventure to the cold Arctic on their boat to search the icy waters. They find a whole array of Arctic creatures in their polar habitat including narwhals, polar bears, beluga whales and orcas. They travel around the Arctic taking scientific samples and measurements: trying to find clues of the where abouts of the jellyfish but there is no sign. As time goes on, the team try and stay positive, but this is difficult in the harsh and cold conditions. After months, with still no sign, the team decide to pack up and return home – Dr Morley takes one last look around her – will she ever achieve her dream of the seeing the mysterious jellyfish?

A moving adventure story which shows the importance of perseverance in finding, chasing and achieving one’s dreams. The book is beautifully illustrated and adds to the story and adventure. As you read along, you can spot the Giant Arctic jellyfish on most pages – Where’s Wally? style – which is really engaging for younger readers and makes you urge on Dr Morley and her team.

The story is easy to read and follow and some of the language is suitably challenging for KS2 as well as KS1. I really enjoyed the story and illustrations and read it to my child, who enjoyed it so much that he has now claimed the book for his own.

Craig Barr-Green
 & Francis Martin
Picturebook

What a great read! This is a superb book to share with one child or a whole class. The inside cover alone is a delight – crammed with emojis showing an array of emotions which children can share and talk about. The story is written in an informal style and follows a young neuro-diverse girl, Gina, as she journeys through the story of Red Riding Hood, fixing mistakes and recounting the true facts.

Craig Barr-Martin weaves into the narrative the use of charts to show how you feel; the making of lists to keep you organised; and the importance of familiar items when you go on a journey.

The first reading is fun, the second builds further understanding and the third reveals even more about the way we all think and feel.

Find more fun twists on fairy tales on our new Fairy Tales and Traditional Stories booklist.

Baroness Floella Benjamin
 & Diane Ewen
Picturebook

Baroness Floella Benjamin offers her own story of the 6000-mile journey from Trinidad to England, told for the youngest children in a picture book called Coming to England – An Inspiring True Story About the Windrush Generation.

The story explores and celebrates what it means to be a British person with Black Caribbean heritage, as well as opening doors to learning about the impact of Operation Windrush and experiences of racism. Speaking about the background to the book, Baroness Floella says,”Britain has always been a nation that’s evolved due to different races coming in, from as far back as you can go. I hope Coming to England makes people of colour feel worthy, appreciated and that they belong and that it makes white people say, ‘That could be me, what would it be like if I moved somewhere else?’.”


Animal Stories For Year 1

Catherine Rayner
Picturebook

Many of us can relate to the frustration of a sleepness night – especially after this past week of too hot, too stormy or too rainy bedtimes! Arlo the lion is no exception; he is struggling to sleep and feeling helpless at being all out of ideas for what to try next.

Arlo meets Owl, who offers a different perspective. He learns that Owl can sleep through the day – even through the sights and sounds of all the other animals being awake. Fortunately for Arlo, Owl has some sleep-inducing tricks of her own that might just help Arlo too. Owl teaches Arlo a bedtime song, which focuses on thoughts of happy places, a relaxation of the body, a slowing down of breathing patterns and meditation about sinking into the soft ground. The song works a treat, but in his excitement over his new found success, Arlo accidentally wakes other animals up! Happily though, they can use the song too to settle back to sleep.

Parents may like to encourage small children to give Owl’s song a try – or at least one or two elements of the toolbox of strategies it incorporates. The story meets young listeners in the frustrating experience of sleeplessness and moves them gently onwards by empowering little ones with mindfulness techniques tools to try for themselves.

This is a beautifully illustrated tale with a soft, dusk-like palette that blends Arlo’s gentle yellows and browns into the tranquil landscapes of wide, evening skies – almost as if the pictures themselves are willing Arlo to let go and settle into sleep. In fact, the whole story, with it’s gentle pacing and dreamy repetition, is a perfectly pitched winding-down story for busy children.

Lynne Reid Banks
 & Tony Ross

This is a deliciously fun story that minibeast fans will love!

This classic chapter book follows the story of Harry, who is a poisonous centipede, and his best friend George. It’s not easy being small and navigating a world where everything bigger feels confusing and scary, especially flying swoopers, furry biters and the most dreaded creatures of all – Hoo-Mins!

Children love the centipede’s-eye-view world of the story, told with brilliant humour and a dash of empathy. A great chapter book choice for Year 1 and Year 2 children.

Alex Milway
Chapter book

Here is a fantastically imaginative addition to the growing bank of illustrated chapter books available to newly independent readers, perfect for fans of Alex T Smith’s Claude books and Harriet Muncaster’s Isadora Moon series.

Anna Dupont arrives at the dilapidated Hotel Flamingo after inheriting it from her Great Aunt Mathilda, who left it to her in her will. Shocked at the state of the “sunniest hotel in town”, Anna is disappointed to see dirty floors, cracked windows, broken doors and layers of old cobwebs. Having been empty of guests for the last few years, the only employees left at the hotel are T Bear the doorman and Mr Lemmy, the lemur who runs the front desk.

A determined and optimistic protagonist, Anna decides to restore the hotel to its former glory and sets about the enormous task of cleaning, fixing, planning and hiring. Restoring the reputation of an old hotel is no easy challenge, and soon Anna and the team face a host of challenges, including rival hoteliers, strange dietary requirements from the animal guests and a visit from a hotel inspector. At every step, Anna keeps her focus on teamwork, inclusion and good old hard work and soon the hotel is celebrating the kind of success it deserves.

I enjoyed the delightful cast of characters, the positive values promoted by hotel owner Anna and Alex Milway’s appealing illustrations set in pinks and greys. I particularly loved the way that the hotel was ready to welcome creatures, like cockroaches, that other hotels in the area were unwilling to accept and there was a clear message that the hotel was a better place because of its warmth and diversity.

Imaginative, accessible and little bit wild, Hotel Flamingo is a fabulous early chapter book that will appeal to readers aged 5-8. 

Huw Lewis Jones
 & Ben Sanders
Picturebook

Written by a real-life polar explorer, this is not the book you were expecting and is full of dead-pan humour.

Clive simply doesn’t like the cold and is determined to do something about it. Penguins are usually cuddly and cute, and Clive really isn’t that sort of penguin. The story is told with Clive’s ‘voice’ showing his displeasure at his situation. The text is simple but effective and Clive comes across clearly using few words. The illustrations are in a similar vein, using limited colour and a serious-looking penguin, for a very unserious book.

The pictures show the story’s humour perfectly; ultimately concluding that that you may get what you want, but it isn’t always what you need. Clive’s voice is strong and children will love with dry humour in the the story just as much as adults do.

Anthony Browne
Picturebook

This bright picturebook by Anthony Browne is set against the backdrop of a tropical jungle and follows a curious elephant who takes a wander and becomes lost from his Mum.

The jungle plants and animals are beautifully depicted in the illustrations, with clever patterns and hidden motifs injecting a real layer of intrigue and fun surprise into this lost and found story.

The simple story structure and evocative descriptions make this story book a good choice for infant classrooms, with a fun cast of animal characters to appeal to children.

 


Michael Morpurgo
 & Michael Foreman
Picturebook

A longer illustrated story from Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman, all about a boy from a cornish fishing village who helps a beached dolphin find its way back into the sea.

This heartwarming story tells of the special bond between children and animals, which is characterised by unconditional love and loyalty. Poignant at times and magical at others, we love this beautifully rich story of a friendship between a boy and a dolphin, which never fails to captivate KS1 audiences at storytime.

Short Graphic Novels for Year 1

Paige Braddock
Graphic Novel

I love this series and jumped at the chance to get hold of River Rescue for my younger primary pupils! Paige Braddock has really hit the sweet spot for younger readers new to graphic novels. These are just lovely, simple stories of a wise grown-up dog (Crackers), a typical grumpy heart-of-gold cat (Butter) and an irrepressible new puppy (Peanut). They’re very straightforward stories which don’t rely on puns or clever vocabulary to be funny; the humour is all in the characters, making them ideal for children who have maybe struggled but are making progress into independent, confident readers. When you hear “I can’t put it down!” from these readers, you know you’re on to something a bit special.

River Rescue tells the story of a camper van trip into the woods – super-exciting for little Peanut, perhaps not quite so much for home-loving Crackers. All is comfortable until Butter’s feline pride gets the better of him, mysteriously disappearing off for an adventure with Peanut, and the two end up needing calm, steady Crackers (and a helpful beaver!) to pull them out of the river. The illustrations are bright, clean and uncluttered, with larger typeface than usual in the speech bubbles. There’s a short bonus story and a “how to draw the characters” section at the back in the same vein as Dogman and Bunny vs Monkey.

Peanut, Butter and Crackers are great stories in their own right, but they could serve as an introduction to graphic novels and is real fun for Year 1 and Year 2.

Ben Clanton
Graphic Novel

A laugh-out-loud short graphic novel, bound to get even the least enthusiastic readers engaged.

The three short comic-style stories would be great for introducing a graphic novel to reading sessions for those children moving on from phonics; exploring the characters, the humour and how the illustrations support the storytelling and help the reader make inferences about the characters. It is jam-packed with possibilities for the classroom. There are Narwhal and Jellyfish facts that could lead to information writing and the final text is a reflection on imagination and storytelling the blank pages would be a brilliant prompt for children to unleash their own creativity and design their own comic strip style stories.

A reading-for-pleasure ‘must have’ for the KS1 classroom! I highly recommend it!

Recommended Short Chapter Books for Year 1

Paula Harrison
 & Jenny Løvlie
Chapter book

Paula Harrison’s early reader series features a girl called Kitty and her crew of felines as they embark upon brave rooftop adventures in the moonlight.

Illustrated in cool blacks and oranges, these fun-filled mystery adventures with talking cats are likely to be a purrrfectly popular independent reading choice among ages 6-8. Brilliant for fans of Isadora Moon or for those looking to make the leap into chapter books for the first time.

Aisha Bushby
 & Kubra Teber
Chapter book

This is a sweet short chapter book, but it manages not to be saccharin-sweet.  I am sure it will have wide appeal.  A little person, Tiny, is born in the sunflower patch of Oakwood Primary School’s garden, human in every respect but her size.  That’s why the garden’s animal residents are are so hostile towards her, at least initially.  They suspect she will be like the other human children who, apart from kindly Nour, are all rather clumsy.  When frog’s habitat is destroyed, Tiny has a chance to show she is friend not foe and, when she risks all to help him, all opposition melts away and the garden community is united as never before.

For the discerning reader there is a message here: about cooperation, friendship, and perhaps even prejudice, making it suitable for sharing in class.  Equally, it will give much pleasure to the child who reads it at home, and to the parent or librarian eager for alternatives (or follow-on) to the Daisy Meadows series.

Philip Reeve
 & Sarah McIntyre
Chapter book

In this short, illustrated chapter book, Pedro is an endearing main character. His longing to have an adventure, and the obstacles to achieving that, will strike a chord with many KS1 children. They will be cheering him on, through danger and disappointment, to his enrolment as a fully signed-up member of the Adventuremice team.

Teachers will enjoy sharing this gentle tale in a classroom setting and children will miss out if they cannot clearly see the bright and breezy illustrations. For this reason, perhaps it’s best recommended as a library book which children – and their parents – can read at home or even on holiday. It’s a book to inspire (day-)dreams and great ambition.

A small book (a little over 100 pages) with a big heart that carries a message about humans looking after the marine environment, and about what courage and kindness look like in practice. Either, or both, could be the starting point for some interesting discussions.

The final pages – a map of The Mouse Islands, ‘How to Draw Pedro’ and ‘About the Authors’ – are a great addition to this latest book from the talented Reeve-McIntyre duo, which reflect their humour and their generosity.

Harriet Muncaster
Chapter book

This is part of a series responsible for turning many young children into independent readers. Isadora Moon is half fairy, half-vampire and each book in the series follows her adventures with friends and family. In this book, Isadora has reached school age and has an important decision to make. Her mum wants her to attend fairy school and her dad wants to send her to vampire school. Isadora tries out each school, with their very different priorities and curriculums, and in the process answers some important questions about her own heritage and identity. This is a humorous chapter book, with attractive black-and-pink illustrations and a high appeal to modern young readers.

Julian Gough
 & Jim Field
Chapter book

This is the first in a series of books that are real gems for children who are ready for a short chapter book but may still feel overwhelmed by too much text on a page.

Centred around an unlikely friendship between two animals, the stories are laugh-out-loud adventures with appealing illustrations that perfectly break up the text to suit the reading stamina of this age range.

This first adventure begins to focus on small-scale conflict resolution with the perfect dose of silliness (and toilet humour) to keep young readers entertained throughout.


Alex T. Smith
Chapter book

This is the first book in the new Early Readers series from Alex T. Smith.

The Space Cadets, Astrid, Zoink, Beryl and Dr. Quackers must complete tasks assigned to them to earn gold stars to be in the running for the grand prize. It is the Space Cadet mission to help at all times, no matter what – so when they get a distress call from the Planet Hortensis while cleaning the Milky Way, they rush to help. Snailiens have invaded the garden of Flora Mulch and are headed for her prize-winning Astro Potatoes. The cadets must figure out how to save the day in their own unique way.

This early chapter book is all about teamwork and helping people, which is a great message for young readers. The series contains easily accessible vocabulary and gorgeous illustrations to add to the appeal for young readers exploring short, illustrated chapter books. There is also a good deal of humour which also adds to the fun factor. I’m looking forward to more adventures from the crew!

 

Pamela Butchart
 & Monika Filipina
Chapter book

A cat-themed short chapter book from Barrington Stoke’s super-readable ‘Little Gems’ collection.

Liam and Sav can hear a strange sound coming from the flat above Sav’s but it is a bit of a mystery because the flat is empty – so what could be making the noise? As they listen closer, they realise is a meow from a cat and this mystery must be investigated. They presume it is a ghost cat because a cat would not be living in a flat on their own, despite being told to stay away they venture into the empty flat. What they find causes more mayhem and mischief for the children to solve.

The story does have a happy ending where the mysterious cat ends up saving Liam’s life and due to their hard work, they are invited to live with Liam forever.

The bright, engaging and joyous illustrations bring the story to life and support the children with their reading, and all of the text is in a dyslexia-friendly format. This is a great book for any children who are beginning to make the transition from picture books to chapter books. The shorter number of words on the page makes it easy to manage and the short chapters are easy to follow.

Poems and Rhymes for Y1

Joseph Coelho
 & Daniel Gray-Barnett
Poetry

Smile Out Loud is a humorous poetry anthology that does exactly what it says in the title: it makes the reader smile and laugh! Offering a variety of poems on all sorts of themes, there is a poem that will appeal to every reader. It also provides examples of rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, something which is important for children to experience.

The first thing to note about this book is the brilliant introduction by Joesph Coelho. He talks about the importance of performing poetry, using actions in poems and most importantly, enjoying poetry that makes you smile, giggle or gives you big belly laughs. This really helps the reader understand the purpose behind the book and each poem.

Not only will the title of the poems hook the reader in but excitingly, each poem is bursting with positivity and also comes with its own small set of instructions which explain how best to read the poem, whether any actions are needed and also how to engage the audience. This will not only help any reader of poetry to think about their audience when performing aloud, but also provide support and inspiration to those looking to write their own poetry in a similar format. The layout and spacing of the poems vary well and showcase different ways to present poetry.

The illustrations by Daniel Gray-Barnett used on each page are playful and engaging in much the same manner as the poems. They are colourful, bold and will no doubt also have the reader chuckling along.

This would be a fantastic book to support any young poet in an English lesson and it would also be a great book to share with a whole class during reading time.

Lou Peacock
 & Matt Hunt
Poetry

We were over the moon to open this beautiful and engaging poetry anthology.

Whale of a Time contains a funny poem for every day of the year. It’s a real stunner of a book – a gorgeously bound hardback compendium with full-page colour illustrations by Matt Hunt, who is well known for illustrating funny children’s books.

Readers can have fun dipping in and out of the pages and reading funny poems both familiar and new  – flicking through to the entries for today, tomorrow, our birthdays, family and friends’ birthday and other special dates in the calendar, as well as pausing on random pages that catch our attention due to the illustrations or the titles of the poems.

It’s the kind of collection that is perfect for a teacher’s desk or family coffee table to open when there’s a spare few minutes in the day (and makes a fantastic gift for homes or classrooms). This is a book to treasure and one that sings of the joy of poetry and rhyme.

Recommended Non-Fiction Books for Year 1

Mary Auld
 & Dawn Cooper
Picturebook

Little Brown Nut is the newest addition to the series, ‘Start Small, Think Big’ covering growth and life cycles. This non-fiction picture book tells the story of the Brazil nut tree and shows why the rainforest is important to local people and the wider world. The book features full-colour illustrations, a textured cover with a peep-through hole and giant fold-out map, and covers themes of life cycles, tree germination, photosynthesis and habitats,

The reader is instantly transported through the peep-hole cover into the Amazon Rainforest to experience the story of the brazil nut, as told through first-person (or first-nut!) narrative. The journey spans from the nut falling from its tree, to encountering a wide variety of animals on the forest floor and being buried to finally meeting humans, who will use the nuts they gather in the forest in different ways. The non-fiction/story blend explains the life-cycle of the nut with questions for the reader to explore further, such as ‘Can you see…?’ sparking interest and interaction. The interaction continues through to the end pages, with an impressive six-page fold-out section inside the back cover that will go down a treat in the classroom (including a life-cycle diagram and map of South America) and an I-Spy type game to encourage readers to have a second look.

The main text is aimed at emerging readers, with additional information for confident readers and shared reading with an adult. We particularly like learning new vocabulary, eg: agouti (rodent-like guinea pig of the rainforest) and that it’s filled with facts about how something as small as a single brazil nut is so interconnected with both its local habitat and the wider world. Schools will value this as an interactive non-fiction text that immediately captures children’s interests as well as one that aids learning in topics about rainforests, life cycles and habitats.

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
 & Camila Rosa
Picturebook

Pelé by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara is one of the books in the best-selling series, Little People, BIG DREAMS. These books explore the lives of people who achieved great things, but focus on when they started out as children with a dream.

This book looks at one of the greatest footballers of all time, Pelé – Brazil’s all-time King of Football. It is perhaps different from other books about him as it highlights not only his incredible football skills, but his work off the pitch helping those who needed it most. The book traces his early life from growing up on the poverty-stricken streets of Rio’s suburbs, to becoming a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and scoring over 1000 goals as a professional footballer. Readers will enjoy reading about Pelé’s childhood memories of playing football with a ball made from a sock stuffed with newspapers and tied with string. They will learn how at sixteen he was selected to play for his national team in the World Cup and that his early dream of leading his country to victory was realised as that year Brazil won the World Cup for the first time ever.

The book goes on to show that Pelé was an inspirational hero off the pitch too, working to unite people through the game and to give his voice to the underprivileged. The stylish illustrations will appeal to children through their use of bold lines and strong colours. At the back of the book there is a photographic timeline and a detailed biography of the man who has been described as the greatest footballer who has ever lived. Inherent in the book is the inspiring message about dreaming big and using given talents and skills for the benefit of others.

 

Matty Long
Picturebook

A wonderfully detailed picture book about life in a rockpool. Crab thinks he is the king of the rockpool because of his strength, but Prawn thinks differently and is all for playing safe. So, off the friends go on an adventure to discover who rules the rockpool meeting all sorts of colourful and interesting creatures on the way.

The story is told with great humour full of fishy puns. Parents and children will have great fun sharing this book as every time you look at the illustrations you find new details. There is a great section at the back of the book giving further information on rock pooling and the creatures you may find.

Tom Lehrer & Chris Smith
 & Elīna Brasliņa
Non-fiction

Tom Lehrer’s funny yet educational songs have engaged and enthused children (and adults) for over sixty years. His song, ‘The Elements’ can still be heard on TV shows today!

This book celebrates ‘That’s Mathematics’, another of Tom’s songs, which was handed over for public use in 2020. Author Chris Smith cleverly uses the songs to introduce mathematical puzzles and activities. The song is printed in full on the first page (with a QR code which gives even more content to use!) and then each double-page spread is inspired by a line from the song.

The first set of puzzles is all about counting sheep and has some lovely open-ended problems to enjoy. The book continues with pages on a variety of mathematical topics including division, shape and measure. There are many activities to try and all can be linked to the National Curriculum programme of study. Chris Smith has helpfully added key vocabulary on each page and an appendix which gives parents pointers to help them to unpick the maths within each page (there are also the answers if you really need them!).

The illustrations are delightful, with Elina Braslina’s joyful images of children exploring mathematics dotted throughout the book. It is a pleasure to pick out the little details on each page which are all there to complement the mathematical ideas. There are so many ways in which the book could be used within the KS1 classroom to extend learning following a maths input or to stimulate discussion and problem-solving, linked to topic work.

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Guidance: About the Year 1 Booklist

What kind of books should children in Year 1 be reading?

Year 1 is a delightful year group to share books with, and at the moment there is a brilliant range of engaging books available for this age. Often at the ages of 5 and 6, children are learning to read short texts independently, while still relying on strong visual elements. Look for books with extra visual details to spot in the illustrations, like David Litchfield’s much-loved story Grandad’s Secret Giant or Anthony Browne’s Gorilla, which is full of extra clues and insights to spot in the illustrations.

The books on this list are not intended to replace school reading schemes, which are designed specifically for the teaching of phonics and reading. Instead, the books on this list have been selected with reading for pleasure in mind, whether with an adult or independently.

Make sure you have to hand a plentiful supply of Y1 picturebooks that are great for reading aloud, like That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown (which lends itself so well to ‘doing the voices’) and Michelle Robinson’s super-fun story When Ice Cream Had a Meltdown.  Some books, like Splash Day and Isadora Moon, make for brilliant first independent reads as confidence begins to blossom with reading through this stage.

Many Y1 children treasure storytimes when adults read aloud, and shared reading experiences remain an essential part of language and literacy development both in the classroom and at home. Don’t rush children into having to read the words independently too soon, but savour the joy of reading whole books together. Children at this age often love handling books, and they make a bee-line for texts that offer engaging illustrations, interactive elements or memorable characters. Share the absolute fun of I Can Only Draw Worms together, with its visual humour aplenty, or enjoy the unforgettable adventures of classic characters like Paddington.

Children in Year 1 are increasingly able to identify themes of interest and empathise with characters in familiar settings. Be sure to introduce Year 1 children to books that will make them think more deeply about the world around them, like Coming to England or Dadaji’s Paintbrush.

Many 5- and 6-year-olds begin to be able to sustain attention for longer stories that take place over several sittings, making short, illustrated chapter books an appealing option for storytime. Start with shorter chapter books for Year 1 like Rabbit and Bear, which is popular with children looking for warm humour, or classic storytime favourites like The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark.

Which books are best for 5 and 6 year olds?

For this reading list, we’ve carefully selected a balance of different types of books for reading for pleasure in Year 1. Some of the best stories for Year 1 feature larger-than-life characters that will cause a giggle, like the wide-eyed bear in The Bumblebear or the secretly lost polar bear in Mariajo Ilustrajo’s Lost. Animal characters are always popular at this age, with some given delightful personalities like the cast of the Hotel Flamingo books, while others explore the deep connection between children and animals, like Michael Morpurgo’s Dolphin Boy.

Many of the best stories at this age explore true-to-life experiences, like navigating life with siblings in Look Up!, visiting an art gallery in Henri and the Machine or losing a beloved grandparent in Dadaji’s Paintbrush. Others help to develop mindfulness, like the nature-themed What Do You See When You Look At a Tree? or Catherine Rayner’s Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep, which explores nighttime anxiety and self-calming techniques.

Picked out for enjoyable storytimes with 5-6 year olds, some of the books on this Year 1 reading list lend themselves especially well to being read out loudRhyming books like The Singing Mermaid or Simon Philip’s Please! are great choices. Others offer a quick win for a super-fun storytime full of zany laughter, like short chapterbook Rabbit and Bear or the bold humour of I Can Only Draw Worms, which is always a big hit in the classroom. We’ve also included some classic stories for Year 1 on the list, such as Fantastic Mr Fox and the much-loved skeleton-themed FunnyBones.

Should children in Year 1 be reading chapter books?

In Year 1, some children are ready to read short chapter books. Others take a little longer to have the stamina required for chapter books and will not start reading longer books just yet, and this is perfectly normal within the 5-6 age range too.

Starting with adult-read chapter books at storytime is a great way to introduce chapter books to younger children.  For storytime read-alouds or class novels, try AdventuremiceHarry the Poisonous Centipede or Fantastic Mr Fox.

Some more advanced readers in Year 1 will be keen to take on the challenge of reading early chapter books for themselves. To cater for your Year 1 readers of chapter books, look out for books with illustrated pages, a readable font and a relatively short page count. For newly independent readers looking for their first longer read, we recommend Isadora Moon, the Kitty series and Alex T Smith’s new short chapter book Astrid and the Space Cadets.

For more chapter book ideas, be sure to check out our separate booklists listing recommended KS1 Storytime Chapter Books or First Chapter Books for Independent Reading.

What are the best non-fiction books for Year 1?

You’ll also find on this list a range of age-appropriate non-fiction for Year 1, from the science-themed Little, Brown Nut, to the inspirational biography of football legend Pele and the comically illustrated exploration of coastal biology in Who Rules the Rockpool?.

If you are looking for books themed around a particular topic, head over to our KS1 topic booklists.

Where can I purchase the books on the BooksForTopics Year 1 booklist?

What other booklists for children in Y1 are available?

The BooksForTopics website features lots of resources and booklists for children in Key Stage 1.

For those looking for more diverse children’s books, try browsing our list of Diverse and Inclusive Books for KS1, which has been specially curated for teachers and parents looking to select children’s books that represent a diverse range of characters, cultures and experiences.

In Key Stage 1, some children are ready before others for their very first chapter books. We think you’ll find our list of Early Chapter Books useful for more advanced readers in Year 1, or for shared reading you might like our list of younger chapter books to read at storytime.

We know how challenging managing emotions can be for this age group, and to help children to get to grips with big feelings, we have put together a list of picturebooks to support emotional literacy.  Children thinking about the step up into Year 2 can be supported by our Class Transitions booklist, and you might also want to look ahead to our Recommended Reads for Year 2.

A great place to start for reading for pleasure choices at home is our list of Best Books for 6-Year-Olds. Many young children at this age start to get hooked on a particular series or favourite character and to help with inspiration to find even more story characters to love, parents and teachers might find our Branching Out booklists useful with Books for Fans of Rainbow Magic, Books For Fans of Supertato and Books for Fans of Isadora Moon.

Be sure to check out the BooksForTopics KS1 topic booklists if you are looking for children’s books themed around a particular Year 1 class topic – whether it’s stories for a curriculum theme like Houses & Homes or The Great Fire of London topic or a book to match a popular interest like books about football or animal books for children.

 

Can I download a printable version of the Year 1 Booklist?

All of our Year Group Recommended Reads lists come with a printable poster and checklist. Schools are very welcome to display the posters or to share the printable resources with their community.

Printable Poster – Best Year 1 Books PDF

year 1 recommended reads printable poster 2024

 

Printable Checklist – Best Year 1 Books PDF

year 1 recommended reads checklist 2024

Where can I find recommended reading lists for other primary school year groups?

BooksForTopics is the best place for trusted recommended reading lists! Just like the Y1 booklist, we have lists for other year groups, too. Our team of experts at BooksForTopics has poured hours of careful work into curating lists of the best books for each primary year group. Each booklist contains 50 recommended reads and includes a printable poster and checklist. Schools can purchase full packs of each Year Group list from our partners at Peters.

Here are the quick links to our other primary school booklists:

 

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Year 1: 50 Recommended Reads

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Stone Girl Bone Girl

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