What Are the Best Books for Preschool Children: A List and Guidelines

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How to Choose Books for Preschoolers

Most of the best books for preschool children have clear and engaging photos or illustrations, and quick-moving plots that are easy for children to follow. Preschoolers most enjoy reading stories about events that they are familiar with, or everyday occurrences, since they can relate these things to their ordinary lives. While preschoolers love to read stories that have animals as their main characters, any human main characters should be the child’s age or a bit older. Many preschoolers enjoy predictable text, with repetition and rhymes or basic preschool concepts (e.g., colors, numbers, shapes, and letters).

Read Alouds

Preschoolers can never seem to get enough stories during read-aloud time. These storybooks are filled with vivid characters, entertaining story lines, and beautiful language. Keep a look-out for other books about the same characters, such as A Pocket for Corduroy and the rest of the Curious George and Madeline series.

  • Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  • Curious George, by Hans Augusto Rey
  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
  • Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
  • Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Virginia Lee Burton
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, by Dr. Seuss

Books to Teach the Three R’s and More

Preschool is the optimal time for children to learn many facts, as their brains are still able to absorb a lot of information. Reading these books can help preschoolers learn numbers, colors, the days of the week, and the letters of the alphabet, all of which are important facts for preschoolers to know.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle (teaches numbers and days of the week)
  • Creature ABCs, by Andrew Zuckerman
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Eric Carle (teaches colors)
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by John Archambault (teaches letters)

Skill-Building Books for Early Readers

Early readers require plenty of practice with fun, high-interest books in order to improve their reading skills. If you have some early readers in your class, make sure to have some books geared directly toward them, with short sentences, pictures that match the text to provide context clues, plenty of high-frequency words (i.e., sight words), and predictable text. Most of all, make sure that the books match your student’s interest.

[Note: Keep in mind that many early reading series are a compilation of books from various authors about various characters. For example, the “I Can Read” books include stories about Fancy Nancy, Frog and Toad, and even Batman.]

  • Bob Books: Set 1 - Beginning Readers, by Bobby Lynn Maslen
  • Step Into Reading (Series, by several authors)
  • I Can Read Books (Series, by several authors)

Books to Teach Social Skills

Preschoolers are just learning about other people’s feelings and about the beauty of friendship. Reading them books on these topics can provide a springboard for some important class discussions about issues like forgiving each other, being kind to each other, and how to make friends.

  • Help! A Story of Friendship, by Holly Keller
  • The Berenstain Bears Hug and Make Up, by Jan and Mike Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule, by Jan and Mike Berenstain
  • Making Friends, by Fred Rogers
  • How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?, by Jane Yolen

The books on this list are some of the best books for preschool children, but make sure to take your child’s interests into account. Some kids devour nonfiction books on their favorite subjects, such as dinosaurs, trucks, or animals. Others prefer a single series of books, or like books that they’ve made themselves. Take your child’s lead and run with it.