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10 Books All Children Should Read

By Yvonne Kusiima

Some of us clung to books more than others as children. Books can make you fly. They can take you to beautiful places, the stuff cooked up by the craziest imaginations. A good book can make you happy. In a world with so much going on, a book could be the calm in the storm.

Now more than ever, books show children that there are other young ones who are just like them. Since Ezra Jack Keats' 1962 book, The Snowy Day, which featured a black protagonist, there are now many children's books which feature racially diverse characters. Many children's authors who have experienced discrimination and inequality have written the books they wished they had read in their youth.

There are so many great children's authors but for now, here's a list of ten books that every child should read. From Roald Dahl’s astonishing classics to stories that teach self-love, these ten books are exactly what children need.

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

- Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Photo: Puffin books
Photo: Puffin books

Young Charlie Bucket from a starving family has to endure looking at the world's largest and most famous chocolate factory every day. Imagine! But the divine is on his side and he experiences an absolute miracle. Charlie finds the last golden ticket and tours Mr. Willy Wonka's chocolate factory with Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee.

While so many people can only dream of walking into a place filled with the hum and throb of powerful machinery making food from cacao such as Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight, Charlie Bucket ends up owning Mr. Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

- Illustrated by Pauline Baynes

Photo: HarperCollins Publishers
Photo: HarperCollins Publishers

What if all it took for one to discover one's true royal self was stepping into a wardrobe? That is exactly what happens to Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy in this masterpiece by C.S. Lewis. The sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve find out that they are not ordinary but were born to reign.

From having tea with a talking Faun to battling the White Witch, a little time in Narnia is a lot of fun.

3. Matilda by Roald Dahl

- Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Photo: Puffin Books
Photo: Puffin Books

While the Narnia series will make children wonder if they are kings and queens, Matilda will have them day dreaming about performing miracles.

An unloved little girl realises she carries all the power she needs within. Matilda Wormwood lifts cigars off tables, makes chalk write on a board and saves people, especially her fearful teacher, Miss Honey, from the dreadful Miss Trunchbull.

4. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

- Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Photo: Simon & Schuester
Photo: Simon & Schuester

Sulwe means star in Luo and it's a perfect name for the little main character in Oscar winning actress, Lupita Nyong'o's first picture book.

Sulwe’s skin is darker than most and she longs to look like others. She tries to change her color by rubbing her skin with an eraser and wearing her mother's makeup but a journey in the night sky teaches her she is uniquely beautiful.

5. You Matter by Christian Robinson

This book teaches children that all beings have value. Christian Robinson uses simple words and beautiful pictures of an astronaut, dinosaur, a glowing globe and others to show children that no matter their circumstances, they matter.

Photo: Simon & Schuester
Photo: Simon & Schuester

6. The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Miller

- Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Photo: Penguin Random House
Photo: Penguin Random House

This is a true story about a boy who built a windmill using spare parts and scraps in order to bring water and electricity to his village which was suffering from drought.

William spent many hours in the library reading old Math and Physics textbooks and collecting materials for his project. After building his windmill, he built a solar-powered water pump to supply drinking water to the villagers.

This book shows children you are never too young to be a hero.

7. When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

- Illustrated by David Catrow

This book reminds children that they are uniquely gifted and God was thinking about them long before they were born. Playful rhyme and awesome illustrations are used to show children they are important creations.

Photo: Penguin Random House
Photo: Penguin Random House

8. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

- Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Photo: Puffin Books
Photo: Puffin Books

James is living with two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Things get better for him when his magic crystals cause a barren peach tree to produce a single peach as big as a house.

James enters the fruit and becomes friends with Centipede, Miss Spider, Old Green Grasshopper, Earthworm, Ladybug, Glowworm and Silkworm who become his friends.

James and his friends end up in New York and get their own jobs. Roald Dahl's first children story is one even adults would enjoy reading.

9. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Photo: Wordsworth Editions
Photo: Wordsworth Editions

When eleven year old red haired Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables farm, she alters the miserable lives of its owners, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert with her imaginative talk.

Although fearless Anne makes mistakes like colouring her hair green and getting her bosom friend, Diana, drunk on currant wine, she ends up becoming a promising student and achieves the highest exam scores in all of Prince Edward island.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s first novel which earned her international fame, is just as interesting for children to read today as it was in 1908.

10. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

- Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

This fun story with a groovy title is a great way for young children to learn the alphabet as all the letters race up a coconut tree.


About the Writer:

Yvonne Kusiima is a Ugandan writer with a degree in Social Sciences from Kyambogo

University. Her work has been published in African Writer Magazine, Kalahari Review, Brittle

Paper, Isele Magazine, Erato Magazine and elsewhere.

She is interested in the complexity of humans and the power of words in the creation of better

ways of life in societies. Her work has been shortlisted for the 2023 Isele short story prize and

the 2023 Caine Prize for African writing.

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