Reception recommended reading list for children aged 4-5

Books for Reception – Our team of teachers and librarians chose this reading list of over 40 books based on their extensive experience, qualifications, and knowledge of children’s literature. Our reading selections contain a wide range of literature to suit all skill levels. All of the books on our reception reading list below have been tested with children and classes and received overwhelmingly good feedback. We hope to provide a diverse selection of books for literacy preparation, as well as reading spines, to assist schools in developing a reading-for-pleasure attitude. This selection, which includes works appropriate for first-time independent reading, partnered reading, and reading together with your child, should assist in instilling a lifetime love of reading. These recommendations are reviewed termly and feature authors including Steve Weatherill, Antoinette Portis, Fifi Kuo, Jeanne Willis, Chitra Soundar, Oliver Jeffers, Catherine Ward and Julie Fulton.

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Books for reception

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Books for Reception – our recommendations

George and Tao by Claude K Dubois

At first, George isn’t at all sure about the new kitten addition Tao – after all, he’s a dog. Soon they bond through play, but when George gets too enthusiastic, Tao doesn’t come home. Will there be a happy ending? A useful picture book story to explore the boundaries of friendship and the uncertainty brought about by change. Ideal for discussion in EYFS.


George and Tao by Claude K Dubois

Listen by Shannon Stocker, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth

Discover how renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie used determination and resilience in childhood to learn new ways to listen and play music with a hearing aid. This beautifully illustrated, inspiring and motivating picture book teaches all of us to follow our dreams no matter what.

Music | Disability

Listen by Shannon Stocker

The Emerald Forest by Catherine Ward & Karin Littlewood

Follow an orangutan and her family in tropical Sumatra as they raise their young, live in harmony with nature, and deal with the impact of humans. This memorable and poignant picture book employs compelling and thought-provoking illustrations to highlight topics of environmental protection, habitat damage, and species extinction. It is an excellent text to read and share.

Environment | Conservation

The Emerald Forest by Catherine Ward & Karin Littlewood

I Am Hungry by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Robert Starling

The squirrel in this hilarious picture book story is so hungry he could eat one plate of boiled rice, two chocolate mice and much more. Is there anything this squirrel won’t eat? With bold illustrations to show to the class, this is the perfect story to read aloud with children joining in.


I Am Hungry by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Robert Starling

Fly Boy by JJ Bola & Clara Anganuzzi

Fly Boy is angry, sad and jealous and finds life hard. But Thomas helps him to see life differently and free his mind from negative thoughts. With absorbing illustrations and lyrical text, this sensitive picture book is ideal for discussion and will help to encourage self-belief, confidence and a positive outlook on life.

Mental health

Fly Boy by JJ Bola & Clara Anganuzzi

A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen

A collection of poems that explore life from a child’s point of view. Set to vibrant and engaging artwork, these poems will resonate with small children and inspire ideas for reception literacy lessons.

Poetry picture book

A Great Big Cuddle by Michael Rosen - a warm-hearted bedtime story for four year olds

Baby Goz by Steve Weatherill

Baby Goz has just hatched and goes in search of his mum. The reader follows, opening flaps along the way to see if the animal behind is Goz’s mum or not. With a great story, well-presented text, and fun, and engaging artwork, this is an ideal book for first independent reading in reception.

Animal picture book

Baby Goz by Steve Weatherill - a great book for reception

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

A boy who loves to stare at the night sky longs to have his very own. So one day he decides to catch one. A highly imaginative story and beautifully illustrated book for reception children that is ideal for first independent reading.

Fantasy picture book

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers - a modern classic picture book for 4 year olds

Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown

When Handa takes a fruit basket to her friend little does she realise that animals are sneaking off with her produce along the journey. Will there be anything left in the basket when she reaches the village? A classic for whole-class reading and developing predictive skills. The whole class will be itching to reveal what they think will happen next.

Diverse picture book

Handa's Surprise by Eileen Brown. A traditional reception age appropriate story

Fabulous Fifi The Flamengo Flamingo! by Alice Corrie and Ipek Konak

Fifi is a flamingo with fabulous ambition who dreams of being a famous dancing diva adored by the world. With addictive wordplay and tongue-twisting alliteration, this story is a joy to read aloud with younger children. Resplendent in vivid pink, surely this is the ultimate character to dress up as on World Book Day!

Funny picture book

Fabulous Fifi The Flamengo Flamingo! by Alice Corrie and Ipek Konak - a vibrant picture book for reception aged children

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

A wonderful and catchy rhyming story about Timothy, and what he can spot in the park looking through his new telescope. He thinks he’s spotted a shark. Is it a shark? Find out as more is revealed on each page. An ideal book to read with your child or for paired reading at school.

Rhyming picture book

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt - a class sharing book for reception pupils

Where is the dragon? By Leo Timmers

Startling and vibrant illustrations, atmospheric wordplay, catchy repetition, and clever use of silhouettes feature in this tale that follows three brave knights tasked with reassuring the king that the dragon in his nightmare isn’t real. With a fantastic twist ending and exquisite artwork, this picture book bedtime story is destined to become a modern classic. A highly recommended picture book for reception-age children.

Bedtime story picture book

Where is the dragon? By Leo Timmers - a good reception book for bedtime

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen

When a super nasty beast threatens to gobble up her forest friends, fierce and ingenious heroine Billy resolves to try and save them. But will she be able to defeat the monster and save the fluffy bunny rabbits from a bubbling stew? With clever and catchy text and bold illustrations, this is a memorable and scary, but not too scary, bedtime read. Reception teachers will also find the language useful to model story starters.

Adventure picture book

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen - a scary story book for 4 year olds

Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg

A family of skeletons and their dog set out to scare people in the night. But when they find everyone is asleep, they decide to scare themselves instead, with lots of silly jokes. A great fun book to introduce reception children to reading aloud independently, this is a must-have addition to any collection of reception-age reading books.

Funny picture book

Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg - a classic book for reception pupils

Seahorses Are Sold Out by Katja Gehrmann and Constanze Spengler

When Mika’s dad makes a rash promise to buy him a pet to make up for being busy all the time, little can he imagine the chain of events that will unfold. First, Mika buys a mouse, but it vanishes, so he asks his dad for another pet. He replaces it with a puppy. More and more pets appear over the coming days in this laugh-out-loud story about juggling work and home life which will appeal to children and their parents. A vibrantly illustrated story to read with children aged 4-7.

Family picture book

Seahorses Are Sold Out by Katja Gehrmann and Constanze Spengler - a family book for reception children

Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis

A subtle and poetic picture book that follows water from the tap to the house, to the stream into the river and the ocean, and back into the atmosphere and weather system. This is a clever book that explains the water cycle through practical everyday scenes and engaging artwork.

Non fiction picture book

Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis - an environmental book for four year olds

Howl by Kat Patrick and Evie Barrow

Maggie is a little girl who is having a terrible day in this beautifully illustrated and moving picture book. Maggie expresses her frustration by howling when her shoes don’t fit, her food isn’t right, and she can’t sleep. What follows is unexpected, uplifting, and surprisingly satisfying. This is an excellent book for reading to and discussing with Reception children.

Circle-time picture book

Howl by Kat Patrick and Evie Barrow

Oi! Get Off Our Train by John Burningham

When a small boy sets off on a fantastical night train with his toy dog for company, he cannot possibly imagine what will unfold. Soon they are joined by a series of endangered animals. A great story to share and raise awareness. The artwork is terrific and ideal for inspiring story journeys in reception literacy lessons.

Animal picture book

Oi! Get Off Our Train by John Burningham - a classic picture book for 4 year olds

Pippin Paints a Portrait by Charlotte Mei

This beautifully illustrated picture book cleverly introduces children to famous artists including Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, Seurat and Matisse. Pippen’s process of picking a subject, a medium, a style and presenting a finished portrait is relentlessly positive. This book will not only inspire children to want to create art but also feel confident and determined to do it. A wonderful book to discuss in EYFS PSHE, and for primary school libraries.

Art picture book

Pippin Paints a Portrait by Charlotte Mei - a spectacular art book for reception classes

Alex and Alex by Ziggy Hanaor

Alex and Alex are two children who are very alike in many ways but have very distinct interests. When a trip to the museum sees both Alexes wanting to do something different, there’s tension. But the strong friendship bond always wins through in this clever picture book for 3-6-year-olds. The lack of gender and deliberate avoidance of stereotypes makes this a useful book to help children think more about what allows people to get along and like each other.

Family picture book

Alex and Alex by Ziggy Hanaor - a diverse reception book for classroom discussion

I Really Want to Shout! by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti

With big, bold illustrations, this picture book story is narrated by a girl who struggles with things that are unfair, including her parents, other children and teachers. The clever rhyming text and powerful illustrations make this an ideal text for reception or year 1 class, and also for KS1 and lower KS2 PSHE. A good book to help children explore and discuss anger and frustration.

Self-help picture book

I Really Want to Shout! by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti - an awesome read aloud book for reception children

Press Here by Herve Tullet

A book like no other. Push the yellow button, and the reader is faced with instructions and tasks to create an interactive experience. This book never reads quite the same way twice. A great book to encourage imaginative reception readers.

Fantasy picture book

Press Here by Herve Tullet - an imaginative reception classroomm read

Peace At Last by Jill Murphy

A funny story about Mr Bear’s desperate attempts to find a quiet place to sleep. Wherever he goes and whichever room he tries, there’s an annoying noise. Ideal for shared reading or reading aloud with reception-aged children.

Bedtime story picture book

Peace At Last by Jill Murphy - a great book for four year olds

Through the Magic Mirror by Anthony Browne

When Toby tires of every day being the same, he stumbles into a brand new world when he travels through a magical mirror. The enchanting story and unique artwork make this a great story to read and share, and a useful text for sparking creative story and artwork ideas with emerging writers.

Fantasy picture book

Through the Magic Mirror by Anthony Browne - a classic picture book to read in reception classrooms

Peep Inside Nighttime by Anna Milbourne

An inventive and inspirational lift-the-flap book that explores what goes on in the dead of night. Uplifting and imaginative, this is a great book to inspire ideas and artwork.

Non fiction picture book

Peep Inside Nighttime by Anna Milbourne - a wonderful interactive book

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A beautifully illustrated story of a caterpillar eating his way through the book. Ideal for guided reading and more independent reading this book is also useful for discussing and developing imagination and inference skills with reception readers. The collage style of the pictures also lends this book to inspiring art and creative ideas.

Classic picture book

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - a classic picture book

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

A fun picture book to read to children under five. Stanley the dog likes to fix and improve things around the house – much to the bemusement of his family – the Wimbledons. The engaging rhyming storyline follows Stanley as he attempts increasingly more complicated feats. Great for children who are interested in how things work, and with eye-catching large-format illustrations – ideal for reluctant emerging readers.

Family picture book

It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee. A fascinating STEM book for reception children

Blue Monster Wants It All by Jeanne Willis

Every child will come across someone who wants everything, especially things they can’t have. Blue monster is one of those people. Despite getting everything he wants, he’s never happy and wants more and more. But are there some things money can’t buy? A clever story that will get children thinking. Ideal for discussion and reading in groups.

Fable picture book

Blue Monster Wants It All by Jeanne Willis - a great book for reception children to read aloud

I am a Tiger by Karl Newson

A super confident mouse declares “I am a Tiger”, and does it with such authority that the snake, fox, raccoon, and bird are convinced. Persuading the real tiger proves to be a harder sell. A great book to help children in reception classes look at things in a new way. The artwork and repetition are ideal for encouraging early readers.

Animal picture book

I am a Tiger by Karl Newson - a great book for emerging readers in reception

We Planted a Pumpkin by Rob Ramsden

Part of a trilogy of picture books including I Saw a Bee and We Found a Seed, this story follows the life of a pumpkin from seed to Halloween. The illustrations are vibrant and inclusive. These books are perfectly pitched for reception-aged children, and ideal for inspiring wall displays.

Non fiction picture book

We Planted a Pumpkin by Rob Ramsden - a great autumn story book

SSSSNAP! Mister Shark by Neal Zetter

An addictive and funny read-aloud performance poetry book about a boy who begs a shark not to bite him. An ideal book for reception classes.

Funny picture book

SSSSNAP! Mister Shark by Neal Zetter - a sparkling poetry collection for reception classes

A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies

A beautifully illustrated and diverse collection of poems, stories, recipes, thoughts, and ideas, this is an inspiring book to look at, discuss, and read together with reception-aged children.

Non fiction picture book

A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies - a great resource for activities and topics

Zim Zam Zoom! by James Carter

A stunning book for reception children containing exciting performance poetry to perform with children. It’s perfect to read and perform together or as a class group. The themes include space, animals, music, and the fireworks ideas are perfect for incorporating into literacy teaching at the start of November.

Poetry picture book

Zim Zam Zoom! by James Carter - a beatuiful poetry collection for reception pupils

Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar

Pattan’s pumpkin is bigger than goats, elephants, and mountains – it’s bigger than everything! But when an epic flood threatens Pattan’s family, will the immense pumpkin be enough to save them? A great book to introduce traditional tales to reception children.

Diverse picture book

Pattan's Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar - a vibrantly illustrated picture book for four year olds

Elmer by David McKee

A modern classic, this picture book tells the story of Elmer, a colourful patchwork elephant who wonders what it would be like to be grey like every other elephant. Not only is this a good book for reception readers, but it is also a useful text to provoke and inspire discussion and artwork.

Animal picture book

Elmer by David McKee a classic book for storytime

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

A unique picture story that turns the concept of a book upside down. When Bella takes her dog for a walk, he disappears from the picture and off the edge of the page. Bella is so outraged she goes after him! After a shakeup from the adults in charge, the book coughs up Bella and her dog and everything is as it should be. Or is it? A fantastic story for group or paired reading in reception, and great for discussion.

Fantasy picture book

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne - a laugh out loud funny story

Mr Big by Ed Vere

Mr Big just wants friends, but he is so big that he scares them off. How can he get people to see beyond his huge appearance and notice the person inside? A great book for reception children to read and talk about in literacy lessons.

Classic picture book

Mr Big by Ed Vere. A PSHE text for reception

Little Green Donkey by Anuska Allepuz

A clever picture book about a donkey who fixates on one particular food – grass. The grass is his favourite, and despite what anyone says, Little Green Donkey can’t see the point in trying anything else – until he catches a look at himself. A thought-provoking story to read with reception children.

Animal picture book

Little Green Donkey by Anuska Allepuz - a great story for reception pupils

The Perfect Sofa by Fifi Kuo

When Panda and Penguin decide the old sofa needs to go, they spend ages and ages looking, but can’t choose a new one. After an epic search, they eventually find the perfect one for them. This is the perfect story to explore the ideas of compromise, agreement and not giving up with smaller children.

Family picture book

The Perfect Sofa by Fifi Kuo - a diverse illustrated story

Who’s in the Loo? by Jeanne Willis

There’s a queue for the loo – who is taking so long? Is it a hamster? Is it the wombat? Or is it the rhino? A very funny and laugh-out-loud read-aloud book for reception classes, this is a good text to develop call-and-response inference and to help emerging writers develop ideas.

Funny picture book

Who's in the Loo? by Jeanne Willis - a funny picture book story

Corduroy by Don Freeman

A modern classic about a little girl who sets her heart on a toy bear in the shop. Her mother, however, can’t see past the fact he’s been on the shelf for a long time and is missing a button. Can Corduroy the bear sort himself out in time? A great book for reception children to read aloud and discuss.

Adventure picture book

Corduroy by Don Freeman - a classic picture book

Supertato by Sue Hendra

Vegetable superhero Supertato meets his nemesis in a very naughty pea who has escaped from the freezer. Can Supertato restore peace and order or will the pea cause havoc? A hysterically funny story that will appeal (!) to and encourage reluctant readers.

Funny picture book

Supertato by Sue Hendra - an ideal book for reception reluctant readers

Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches by Julie Fulton

A great book to read to the class at the end of a day in reception. When a bear arrives at Jack’s house wanting lunch, Jack offers him an egg sandwich but the bear would prefer Jack for lunch… Can Jack convince the bear to take the sandwich? Children will love the bear’s repetitious reply when he’s asked if he wants an egg sandwich.

Classic picture book

Bears Don't Eat Egg Sandwiches by Julie Fulton - a great book for reception children

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Possibly the coolest cat in existence, he can turn the most boring day into a fun adventure for Sally and her brother. The illustrations and catchy text are perfect for reception classes. An ideal text to read, share and discuss with younger children.

Classic picture book

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss - a classic novel to read to infants

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

The perfect picture book for reception reluctant readers. Not only is there a catchy and funny rhyming text that helps with predictive skills, but the crazy plot involving aliens wearing every variety of pants cannot fail to amuse and engage even the most reading-averse child.

Funny picture book

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman - a vibrant and funny picture book

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Books for reception video

Below is a video containing all our reception book list recommendations in a quick to play five minutes video format – suitable for parents’ evenings, presentations, school libraries and sharing on online learning platforms, social media, and intranets.

How many Reception books have you read?

Here’s a free background wallpaper of our recommended reception books list to use on your classroom computer

Books for reception - our free background wallpaper

Schools & teachers: please respect copyright and don’t copy our Reception book list. If you find our book recommendations useful, please consider sharing on social media or linking to this page instead. Thanks.

Books for Reception – what titles to recommend to children

Selecting appropriate books for children in Reception involves considering their developmental stage and interests. Opt for engaging picture books with vibrant illustrations and simple, repetitive text. Titles like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Press Here by Herve Tullet, and The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss are excellent choices. These books help develop early language skills, introduce basic concepts, and capture young imaginations. Additionally, interactive books with textures, flaps, or sound elements can enhance the sensory experience and keep them actively involved. It’s essential to create a positive and enjoyable reading environment, fostering a love for books from an early age.

What should a reception child be able to read?

In Reception, children are typically in the early stages of developing their reading skills. At this point, they are often introduced to phonics, letter recognition, and basic sight words. Children may start with simple, repetitive texts and gradually progress to more complex ones as their reading abilities advance. The focus is on building foundational skills, understanding the connection between letters and sounds, and developing a basic vocabulary. Teachers and parents can use our reception reading list to support this process by providing age-appropriate books, engaging in interactive reading activities, and fostering a positive attitude toward reading. Recognising that each child progresses at their own pace, it’s important to celebrate small achievements and create a supportive learning environment.

What should a child be able to do by the end of reception?

By the end of Reception, a 5-year-old typically achieves several developmental milestones. In terms of literacy, they should show progress in letter recognition, have basic phonemic awareness, and may start blending sounds to read simple words. Additionally, they may be able to recognise and write some high-frequency words. Socially, a 5-year-old should be able to follow instructions, share with others, and engage in cooperative play. Development in physical skills involves improved coordination, control, and possibly the ability to write their name. It’s important to note that children develop at different rates, so these milestones can vary. Teachers and parents play crucial roles in providing support, encouragement, and opportunities for continued growth; and utilising a good Reception reading list can help achieve this.

Click for more children’s reading book recommendationsPicture books to read before you are 5 years oldReception book list (this page) | Year 1 books | Year 2 books | Year 3 books | Year 4 books | Year 5 books | Year 6 books | Topic books | KS3 books

For even more suggested books for reception, see this list.

For picture books, see our list of 50 picture books to read before you are five.

For more challenging reads for your child, why not try our Books for Year 1?

Books for Reception - Packs of craft materials for Reception classes

About Tom Tolkien

Photo of author
Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin

This booklist was last updated on March 28th, 2024 and first published in 2020.