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Reading aloud is so critical for preschoolers. As a former elementary teacher with a doctorate in literacy, I know how important this foundation is. You can read more about the why and how, but now I’m sharing 20 of my favorite books to read to preschoolers.
If you don’t already have a guide to children’s books – such as The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease or Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.-you can find hundreds of ideas for your next favorite book in them. All the libraries I’ve ever used have had at least one of these books – so there’s no excuse!
How to Choose Picture Books for Preschoolers
This list contains mostly classics – the books that have stood the test of time. Many of these books you probably enjoyed as a child. I encourage you to read mostly classic books to your child because they are usually so much better than most current books. Here are some reasons why classics should be a large part of your home library:
Classic picture books usually don’t have commercial tie-ins
If you’ve seen the kids’ book section in any store, you know the majority of books are tied to some TV show or movie. From Disney princesses, to Power Rangers, Bluey, Spiderman, and Paw Patrol – the commercialization of children’s books is almost complete.
But classic picture books don’t have that problem. Classics are simply great stories with great pictures. These books entertain, teach, inform, and build a love of books and reading – not of TV and action figures.
Classic picture books are entertaining and enjoyable
A good children’s book is worth reading over and over again. I’ve read more than a few “Step into Reading” books and similar readers. Even without the commercial characters, these books tend to be so dull and boring you might put yourself to sleep.
Classic books don’t generally have that problem. Just think about The Velveteen Rabbit, for example. No matter how many times you read it, you always find yourself cheering the rabbit on in his quest to be real. You might even get teary-eyed when he’s tossed out. One thing’s for sure – you won’t fall asleep!
Classic children’s books usually have positive portrayals of families and faith
You’d be hard-pressed to find books that have been recently published by any major publishing company that show intact traditional families or living a life of faith as good. Once upon a time, having a father and mother in a story was considered a good thing. But that is no longer the case.
Of course, there are smaller publishing companies that are working to fill that gap. Just know that if you get your books from local discount stores or large chain bookstores, you’ll have to look hard for good books with healthy portrayals of traditional families or faith.
Classic children’s books are generally not infused with a liberal agenda
Whatever the liberal world order desires will find its way into children’s books. Sometimes these topics, such as hyper-environmentalism, alternative family structures, gender theory, structural racism is everywhere, and the government is the solution to all your problems are easy to spot. But more often they are subtle and indirect.
If your child is fed a diet of such messages hundreds or thousands of times in his pre-K and elementary years, he will come to believe them. Since those ideas, for the most part, don’t reflect Biblical truth, you need to protect him from them by presenting the truth. That’s a topic for another day!
Just one note here: I’m not saying there’s no need to take care of the environment or that racism doesn’t exist or even that God can’t bless single-parent families. In a world infected with sin and populated with sinners, there will always be problems. But recognizing problems is not the same as buying into the agenda of the anti-Christian left.
And remember to also read aloud the Book of books – the Bible!
My Favorite Books to Read to Preschoolers
I love children’s books. I love reading them. I love looking at the pictures. I imagine that one day my love of children’s books might result in actually writing one. But for now, I’m happy with reading, rereading, and discovering wonderful new books. And, of course, reading them to my grandkids. Sometimes I think I should have been a librarian – a children’s librarian, of course – instead of a teacher.
Given my love for children’s books, coming up with my favorite books to read to preschoolers was a daunting task. Any list of books compiled by anyone will inevitably leave off someone’s favorite. I may leave off your favorite, or you may be pleasantly surprised to find it listed here.
If you don’t find your personal favorites here, I hope that if you are unfamiliar with any of the books on this list you will find a copy at your local library and read it to your favorite preschooler. You may find some new favorites of your own to share.
For the sake of my sanity (I couldn’t even imagine trying to place them in order from least favorite to most favorite!), I am listing this treasury of 20 books in alphabetical order. I hope you will find a new favorite today.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Learn colors. Learn animal names. Learn to ‘read’ because of the predictable pattern. This book is an all-around winner! The following books are also in the Brown Bear series:
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
- Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
- Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
All of them are well worth reading and rereading to the young children in your life, but Brown Bear is the first and most well-loved of the series!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr.
Introduce the alphabet through their antics of climbing a coconut tree! Will there be enough room for all 26 letters? This is a favorite of preschool and kindergarten teachers for good reasons. I’ve read it dozens of times to my students and my grandchildren. It is always a pleasure.
Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin
Love, love, love the Click, Clack, Moo animals in all their versions (including Duck for President). Fun, cute, and thoroughly enjoyable, Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type was the first in the series.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The first of Beatrix Potter’s well-loved classics, the Tale of Peter Rabbit has endured for more than a century. Ms. Potter wrote 23 stories in the series, including such characters as Jemima Puddle-Duck, Benjamin Bunny, and Squirrel Nutkin. Don’t miss any of them!
Curious George, by H. A Rey
The original classic about a curious little monkey and the man in the yellow hat, Curious George is not to be missed. Although the sequel, TV show, videos, and stuffed animals are all great, none match the magic of the original story.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Best if read aloud in an appropriately cute but demanding voice, the Pigeon books by Mo Willems – of which the bus book is the original – are highly entertaining to preschoolers. They love answering back to the pleading and bargaining from the Pigeon.
Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
Another classic that celebrates the joys of friendship. All the Frog and Toad books are worth reading, not once but several times. The stories are delightfully told and the understated illustrations just right. As a bonus, the lessons the stories convey, about being supportive of friends, keeping your word, and encouraging each other in tough times among others, are just what young children need to learn to build social skills.
Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
I read Green Eggs and Ham to my boys countless times – until they could read it themselves! Or at least had it memorized. It was a favorite request at bedtime, partly because of the rhythm and rhyme, partly because of the predictability, and partly because of its familiarity. Of course, most Dr. Seuss books are likewise highly recommended.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff
The mouse that started it all, these entertaining circular tales (including If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and If You Take a Mouse to School), are perfect for keeping your child begging for more. Get them all and soon your preschooler will be reading them to you!
Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne
More than 90 years old, these two originals – before Disney – are still heart-warming, tender, and priceless. While giving the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh may have a special place in your home, don’t neglect the original stories.
Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle
One of the current favorites for my oldest grandson, the sweet story of a Little Blue Truck that knows the true meaning of friendship, helpfulness, and forgiveness, is one I suspect he will soon memorize! There are several more books in the series, all worth your child’s time.
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don and Audrey Wood
An engaging storyline with a mouse who doesn’t want to lose his strawberry to the big hungry bear! This book is frequently chosen by my grandsons! Interest is kept high by involving the reader in the story. A perennial favorite.
Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch
Starring a baby boy – who grows throughout the book – and his mother, I read and reread this book to my boys countless times. It is a testimony to the power of love and the bond between mother and child. Additionally, the oft-repeated phrase, “Love you forever, like you for always, as long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be,” is one that young children learn by heart quickly and love to ‘read’ with you.
The Mitten, by Jan Brett
Jan Brett’s books are simply beautiful. The artwork by itself will engross you and your children for a delightfully long time. The Mitten is Jan Brett’s retelling of a Ukrainian folktale. The Hat, a companion but original story, is equally charming. I love all her books and own most of them!
The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone
Read repeatedly to my children – who delighted in the ending – I didn’t realize this book was still in print until I was researching this post. It is a fun, light-hearted book, starring lovable little Grover from Sesame Street. Grover talks directly to the reader, pulling the child into the book. Not great literature, but still worth reading for the sheer joy it brings.
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
The only Christmas book to make my list, The Polar Express is a not-to-be-missed joy. Some of Chris Van Allsburg’s books are difficult to read with deep lessons (The Wretched Stone is one), but The Polar Express does not fall into this category. The magic of Christmas and the mystery of belief are on full display in this classic. Don’t be tempted to say, “I’ve seen the movie, so I don’t need to read the book.” While the movie is wonderful, the book is a treasure of its own.
Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister
The beauty of friendship and the power of generosity are on full display in this classic tale of a fish who is a bit too proud of his shiny rainbow scales. By the end of the book, however, he realizes he’s been a bit of a snob and learns to be a good friend instead.
Snowmen at Night, by Caralyn Buehner
I never read this book to my children, because it wasn’t written yet! But I’ve no doubt that they would have loved it. The magical world of snowmen who come alive while the rest of the world sleeps is wonderfully told in rhyme, while the brilliant illustrations bring the text to life. The antics of the snowmen are continued in other books in the series, including Snowmen at Christmas and Snowmen All Year.
The Story About Ping, by Majorie Flack
The tale of the spirited young duckling who lives on a boat on the Yangtze River has delighted both parents and children since 1933. While Ping is worried about getting a spanking for being the last duck on the boat, he soon discovers things could be much worse. The next day – after many adventures – he willingly accepts his spanking and is glad to be home.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
An instant classic when first published more than 30 years ago, The Very Hungry Caterpillar eats his way through the days of the week. Along the way, he munches all sorts of goodies, growing bigger and plumper along the way. Will he ever stop eating? Plan to read this book multiple times in your child’s life. Anything by Eric Carle is highly recommended as well.
This list of 20 favorites is just a starting point. If you need more suggestions, I have a Pinterest board with lists of children’s books you can check out.
I know that parents of young children are often overwhelmed with the daily tasks of life. It may seem like reading aloud just can’t be squeezed in. But with every ounce of my reading-teacher self, I urge you to make the time.
Nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – is as much an indicator of success in life and school as time spent reading and being read to.
Read, read, read. One day, they won’t want to sit in your lap and listen to a story.