Read well and read widely. From the Very Hungry Caterpillar to the Worst Witch to A Monster Calls, these are the 50 boooks that every child should read. 

The National Literacy Trust, an organisation dedicated to raising literacy levels across the UK, has teamed up with Good Housekeeping magazine to produce a list of books they feel all children should have in their lives.

Split into five age categories, the list is a varied selection of nursery favourites, children's classics, poetry and recent gems. The panel of judges comprised of  c.e.o of the NLT Jonathan Douglas, director of school programmes at the NLT Fiona Evans, TV presenter Angelica Bell, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping Gaby Huddart and books editor at Good Housekeeping Joanne Finney. 

Jonathan Douglas said: “Giving children and their families the opportunities to share stories and read together is a fundamental part of raising literacy levels. We know that children with higher literacy levels are more likely to succeed at school, access more opportunities in the job market, and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Partnering with the incredible team at Good Housekeeping not only helps us raise awareness of the importance of reading with children, but will help us reach new audiences and readers to support us in our journey of making sure every child has the literacy skills they need to shape their own life.” 

The Top 50 books:

Must-reads for under 5s

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Puffin)

So Much by Trish Cooke, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Walker)

Peepo by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg (Puffin)

I Will Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

Barbara Throws A Wobbler by Nadia Shireen (Jonathan Cape)

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Bodley Head)

The Smartest Giant In Town by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Look Up by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Puffin)

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Walker)

Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Must reads for 5-7 year olds

The Missing Piece by Jordan Stephens, illustrated by Beth Suzanna (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

The Greatest Show On Earth by Mini Grey (Puffin)

What Happened To You? by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George (Faber & Faber)

Winne-the-Pooh by A A Milne (Farshore)

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Dogger by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head)

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love (Walker)

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (Puffin)

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton)

James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Puffin)

Must reads for 7-11 year olds

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Boy, Everywhere by A M Dassu (Old Barn Books)

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (Hodder Children’s Books)

The Brilliant World Of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (Scholastic)

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (Knights Of)

The Breakfast Club Adventures by Marcus Rashford and Alex Falase-Koya, illustrated by Marta Kissi (Macmillan Children’s Books)

The Wreck Of The Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo (Farshore)

The Story Of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Yearling)

The Railway Children by E Nesbit

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Must reads for 11-13 year olds

Wonder by RJ Palacio (Corgi Childrens)

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (Puffin Classics)

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz (Walker)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman (Scholastic)

The Girl Who Became A Tree by Joseph Coehlo (Otter-Barry)

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan Children’s Books)

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Millions by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Steven Lenton (Macmillan Children’s Books)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Walker)

Must reads for 14-16 year olds

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman (Hodder Children’s Books)

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (Penguin)

Toffee by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury YA)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Transworld)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Penguin)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Vintage)

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (Vintage)

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Penguin)

Let us know if you agree! Has your favourite must-read been missed from the list?

Find more recommendations in our collections including 50 Classic Books that Every Child Should Read and 40 Great Bedtime Stories.

And don't forget, with each book sale, we give 25% of the retail price to your school for them to re-invest in books for their libraries. So help stock your school library AND share the gift of reading for pleasure.