The Best Books for Preschoolers

best books for preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the second of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share her answer to “What are the best books for this age?” 

As an early childhood educator, my personal picture book collection is enormous. We’re all aware of the inherent value in reading to little ones: if you want your child(ren) to love books, you need to start by reading your favorites to them. As a child, I vividly remember becoming lost for hours upon hours in the pages of books. Story books were everything to me, and that’s because my parents fundamentally believed in their importance. Cultivating imagination and creative thinking is so important at the preschool level, and storybooks are are the first resource I turn to in my classroom to instill these skills.

This is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to picture books, as there are literally hundreds I hold in high regard. But these? They are some of the most beloved by me and the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years…

My Garden

A young girl describes her “dream garden” (where jellybeans grow on bushes!). I read this every year in the spring and then have my students paint and dictate the elements of their own imaginary gardens.

Caps for Sale

I have never met a preschooler who didn’t adore this tale of a traveling peddler and several mischievous monkeys. Animal stories tend to be a hit at this age, and you can’t go wrong with a classic like this one.

The Hello, Goodbye Window

This is one of those books I initially picked up because of the vibrant illustrations but then was particularly taken by the sweet tale of a young child visiting her grandparents. I think anyone who’s ever spent time at their “nana or poppy’s house” will relate to this tender story.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

If you’ve never read this book, do yourself a favor and go buy it now. Its charming message conveys the value of “process over product” and that doing things your own way is far more valuable than doing them the right way.


A classic: it’s just so good, and so appealing to preschoolers, with its rhyming text and exciting story of a little girl in Paris and her adventure in the hospital. I find that kids this age really enjoy stories where children like them get into a little bit of trouble.


Oh, Elmer! My heart has a soft-spot for this book and its lovable main character, Elmer the elephant. A perfect choice for teaching about the inherent value in individuality.

Miss Rumphius

A tall order, but this one servers as my favorite children’s book of all time. The simple message? Spend your life making the world a more beautiful place.

Not a Box

Perhaps one of the best children’s books out there about the importance of pretend-play. I always read it and then bring out a giant, empty cardboard box for my students to explore. The result is magical.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Another classic about creativity and the notion that imagination knows no bounds (notice a theme yet?!). The type of drawings kids produce after hearing this story never cease to amaze me.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

There’s a solid chance my students love this book so much because it accompanies the activity of baking chocolate chip cookies together. I always read this one in the beginning of the school year and then sneak a cookie off the sheet and leave a note (with crumbs!) from the mouse for the kids to find.

You may not be familiar with this story, and if that is the case, then I am happy to introduce it to you. Through pictures only, the reader is taken along a delightful adventure where a family dog is left alone in the house with a baby. Wordless books are wonderful for encouraging children to “read the pictures” (an important pre-literacy skill!).


The Lion and the Little Red Bird 
I discovered this book in graduate school and use it to discuss concepts such as friendship and creative self-expression with my kiddos. There’s a mystery element to it that keeps everyone guessing and always draws a smile at the end.

Bread And Jam For Frances

I loved this book as a child, and every preschooler I know loves it too. It details the picky eating habits of precocious Frances and the clever way her parents convince her that eating a variety of foods is the way to go.

If you’ve never read this book, do yourself a favor and go buy it now. Its charming message conveys the value of “process over product” and that doing things your own way is far more valuable than doing them the right way.

I teach at an international school where the underlying thread binding our curriculum is peace. This abstract concept can be tricky to unpack with little ones, but this book does it perfectly in a way that makes sense to three and four year-olds. I would highly recommend all of Todd Parr’s books. I own his whole collection!


Where the Wild Things Are

I assume you’re all familiar with this one, and I included it for that exact reason: It is one of the most impactful children’s books ever written for it’s strength of story and hit-the-nail-on-the-head relatability to how children think.

The Colors of Us

This is a really lovely and affirming book about skin color and how all people have different but equally beautiful skin tones (butterscotch! peach! chocolate!). A great resource to springboard the topic of race with preschoolers.

Love You Forever

This is one of the few books that makes me cry every single time I read it. I actually don’t use it in my class because I feel like it’s a story that is best suited for parents. You can bet it’ll be the first book I read to my own baby.

The Dot

By the same author as Ish, this story is all about embracing individuality and making your mark. A sure-to-be favorite amongst the budding artists of the world.

Make Way for Ducklings

I grew up in New England (Cape Cod!), so the story and pictures in this classic adventure tale of a Mallard duck family seeking a new home in Boston Public Garden is particularly meaningful to me. I find that all children sit and listen to this story with wide-eyed wonder. It’s an award-winner for a reason.

Care to share any of your own most-loved? Kid-lit chat is my favorite kind of book club discussion!

Thank you, Kayla! I’m excited to discover some new-to-me gems. Off to bake chocolate chip cookies now! 

Kayla is a full-time preschool teacher and professional portrait photographer specializing in natural, emotive portraiture of babies, children and families. She lives and works in the NY metro area. When she’s not scrubbing finger paint off her classroom walls or chasing toddlers around Central Park, she enjoys yoga, baking and traveling her with husband. Find her here: Website / Blog / Instagram / Pinterest

P.S. Best toys for preschoolers. And two of Hudson’s current favorite books. I’ll leave some others in a comment. Hope you will, too!

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