4 Moms: Top Ten Books for Preschoolers

Welcome back to the weekly 4 Moms post, in which 4 moms with a collective total of 35 children share our knowledge, experience and and helpful tips in maintaining health, order and sanity.

This week we’re going to chat about some of our favorite books for preschoolers.  This is a huge topic in which we can only begin to scratch the surface – which is another way of saying there’s no way I can hope to remember all my favorite titles so I’ll just tell you the ones that pop into my head first.

As usual, I suggest you first visit the other 3 moms.  This will buy me some time to get my act together, allowing me to pretend that I planned ahead and thought about this post all week, when actually I spent most of the last week…well…doing stuff I don’t actually remember.  But I’m sure it was really important stuff, and that’s why I didn’t plan ahead and think about this post all week.

  • Connie at Smockity Frocks
  • Headmistress at The Common Room
  • Kimberly at Raising Olives
  • Oh, you’re back already?  Time flies when you’re thinking about books – especially when you’re trying to choose favorites.  Having a favorite book is like having a favorite child: there’s no such thing.  You love some for one reason, and others for another reason, but you love them all differently and each is special.

    When we say preschool books, my mind automatically goes to very short, simple books, but I would encourage you to try out longer books on the little ones as well.  You might be surprised at the writing level they will enjoy if you offer good ones that catch and keep their attention.  I am nearly done reading Bud and Me to 4yo Perry Boy. This is the true story of 5yo and 9yo brothers who made a cross country trip on horseback unattended, along with their subsequent adventures.  The subject matter seems perfect for a young boy but when I began, I was afraid the level of detail and the relatively mature writing style would put off my son.  As it turns out, the subject matter is so interesting to him that he loves it and really pays attention, asking tons of questions along the way.  This slows me down but it also shows me that he is really listening and comprehending.

    A little tip to avoid frustration: buy hardbacks if at all possible.  Used is better than new, because then you won’t be tempted to lose your cool the first time somebody leaves a marker, a baby and a book all in the same 3 foot radius.  We have found that no paperback lasts long enough to be worth the price unless it’s absolutely free.  I would much rather have a 10 year old hardback with a few more years of life left in it than a brand new softcover that will fall apart the 3rd time it’s read.

    Oh – and one more word of warning: many of the best books for preschoolers are available as board books, but be careful: they are sometimes abridged, and like longer books the process can rob them of much of what makes them special.

    Here’s a short list of our longstanding favorites for the very youngest crowd.

    Top 10 Books for Preschoolers

    1. Goodnight Moon – This is an eternal favorite in our house.  We could probably dispense with the book itself because I’m sure we all know it by heart, but nonetheless we always have at least one copy in circulation plus one or two backups.  This is also a favorite baby shower gift as part of a basket or collection of baby items.
    2. Runaway BunnyThe Runaway Bunny – The main reason we fell in love with this is because it is featured in Goodnight Moon.  We also like to ad-lib the text, making up our own threats that are ever-so-much meaner than what the mother bunny actually says.  Try it.  It’s fun.  Your kids will beg you to stop and read the book properly, but they can’t help but laugh at the same time.
    3. The Foot Book – I’m not a huge Dr. Seuss fan, but we have loved our way through several copies of this one.  A word of warning: don’t buy the board book version.  It’s severely shortened.
    4. The Going-to-Bed BookThe Going-to-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton – This sweet and silly bedtime book charmed me from the start.  You just have to see it and feel the gentle lilting rhythm of the text.  Is it just me, or is it simply adorable?
    5. Many titles by Eric Carle – I don’t like all of his books, but his illustrations are fun and unique, and there is a handful that we love: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, The Very Busy Spider come to mind immediately.
    6. When I Was LittleWhen I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth, by Jamie Lee Curtis – Yes, the actress writes children’s books.  She has several, but this is the one that captivated this mom of many 4yo’s.  Doesn’t the title say it all?
    7. Miss Spider’s Tea Party – Why? I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the contrast between the idea of a prim and proper tea party, and a spider that should be creepy but isn’t.  Just like with movies, I think the sequels lack the charm and originality of the first.
    8. Guess How Much I Love YouGuess How Much I Love You – How many books are there about a daddy’s love for his little one?  Not enough, but this one covers the topic just perfectly.
    9. Amelia Bedelia – We love her.  She thinks like we do, only without the sarcasm.
    10. Madeline – Would any house full of girls be complete without this story?  I don’t know how many copies of this we’ve run through, but one of my daughters has even written a brief parody of her own.

    There you have my Top 10.  What’s on your list?  Why?

    Upcoming topics for 4 Moms 35 Kids:

    • January 27: Q & A.  Got a question?  Leave it in the comments on my last Q&A post.  Or you can email me, but I promise you right now I will lose your email and forget to answer your question for 15 months.  By then, you probably will have found your own answer.
    • February 3 – Teaching reading, because it’s so much easier than teaching them to use the toilet.  Do not request a 4 Moms post about potty training, do you hear me?
    • February 10 – Cooking with little ones.  With, I said.  Not Cooking Little Ones.
    • February 17 – Spending individual time with your children: isn’t the very topic enough to make you feel guilty?
    • February  24 – Q & A


    1. Oh, those are great books! Some of our favorites right now (with an almost-3-year-old and a one-year-old) are:

      Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown – just love her books, and the pictures in this one are so good.

      Fox in Socks by Dr. Suess – the girls love hearing their daddy get all tongue-twisted trying to get through this book.

      Some other great books are these, but I can’t remember the authors’ names:

      Blueberries for Sal

      One Morning in Maine

      Katy and the Big Snow

      Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

      Are You My Mother?

    2. Lisa in ND says:

      A few all 3 of my kids have loved are Is Your Mama a Llama, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (great alphabet book), and all the Little Critter books.

    3. Hi! I’ve been reading to my five month old since she was about a month old (a month too late my Gran would have told me!). At about 3 months, she started smiling at the teacher in Eric Carle’s Brown Bear! Every time we’d flip to that page, she’d start grinning away with her little head cocked to one side. The teacher is her friend! Now that’s adorable. Brown Bear, you’ve got our vote!

    4. Some of my kids’ favorites are The Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, and the Frances books by Russell Hoban. They especially love anything illustrated by Garth Williams.

      The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith by Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard is a great book for young children! Gets them familiar with the names of important figures from church history at an early age.

    5. I originally bought soft cover picture books, but now I’ve replaced many of them with hardcover – Robert McCloskey is one of the all-time best. We honestly don’t do a lot of board books – I think they get used to whatever you read to them.

      Our youngest – my 21 month old daughter – loves the Billy and Blaze books and Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel. She sits still and listens the whole time because she has become accustomed to long reading sessions, not just a one-minute read. We’re blessed with 7 book worms at our house!!!

    6. As a retired nursery school teacher, I love reading about the books parents read to their children. I would add any books written by Ezra Jack Keats. He was the child of Jewish immigrants and wrote stories that featured black children in urban settings as the lead characters. Jan Brett writes stories based on traditional folk tales with incredible illustrations. Eric Carle writes wonderful stories, many with animal or nature themes featuring collage illustrations. Thanks for promoting the importance of reading to children. You have inspired me to make my own list of favorites.

    7. Oh!! The Going to Bed Book!! We had that book. Had. Totally loved our copy to pieces…literally. I should get another one for my 4 yr old! Thank you for reminding me.
      Loved all the others too. My 6 yr old daughter has had a love affair with Amelia Bedelia since she was 3. : )

    8. We love all of the same ones!

      We also like:
      1. Knuffle Bunny
      2. Freight Train and Inside Freight Train
      3. The Water Hole
      4. Make Way for Ducklings
      5. The Remarkable Farkle McBride

      Hmmm..many others. My 2 year old daughter is currently in LOVE with Madeline books. I won’t complain–I’ve loved them since I was little too!

    9. We love books. Here’s a link to a list of ten of our favourites.


    10. Elizabeth M. says:

      Yes, yes, yes! Sandra Boynton = love!
      Llama Llama books = love!
      The Pidgeon books = love!
      I also have to add Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Bear Snores On, and The True Story of the the 3 Little Pigs. 🙂

    11. I was expecting to discover a new book or two but those are all well-loved here. You have excellent taste!

    12. Our little one is only 7 months old but the Going to bed book has been a part of her bedtime routine for a couple months, sandwhiched right in between a couple poems and a little prayer.

      I’m always searchign for good books for her though so I’ll be checking some of these out.

    13. 1) Go, Dog. Go! (or our Spanish version, Ve, Perro. Ve!)

      2) Any of the Boynton books in Spanish (or English). Her books translate very well in to Spanish, with the same great art work.

      3) Lemont the Lonely Monster (Okay so this is out of print, but my parents were so fortunate to snag a copy off eBay to read to my daughter. It was a favorite of mine growing up, so excited to pass on those great memories to my daughter.)

      4) Richard Scary books. I love the details he puts into the illustrations, you can spend more time talking about the illustrations than actually reading the book.

      5) Veggie Tales, Peas and Thank You! (Come on, how can you not love that title?)

      6) Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales (This is my answer to the Madeline, Pinkalious, Fancy Nancy-type books. To each their own, but I am trying to avoid those books as long as possible.)

      7) Everyone Poops

      8) The Real Mother Goose

      9) Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Suess)

      10) A Light in the Attic (Shel Silverstein)

      8) Go Pea, Go! (conducthappiness.com)

      Does anyone have suggestions for toddler first bible board books? I got my girl one for Christmas and I am not in love with it. With her father being Jewish, I want a book that hits the best of the Old and New Testament. The book I got really brushed over the Old Testament.

    14. Funny that you posted about books. We were just talking about our favorite stories.

      We love – The Tub People by Pam Conrad.

    15. Lisa Granger says:

      LOVE all of your choices; love, love, love!

      My favorites (besides the ones that you already mentioned are:

      1. The Pigeon books by Mo Willems (OK, so these are more than one book, but they’re all so great–well, the board books are just “meh.”) So fun and funny for parents and kids.

      2. Llama, lLama, Red Pajamas
      Such a sweet, sweet book about the relationship between mother and child!)

      3. The Peace Book by Todd Parr
      LOVE Todd Parr books, but especially this one because it’s so simple and, well, “kind” is the best word I can use to describe it. His family books like “The Mommy Book,” “The Daddy Book:” etc. are heartwarming too–plus kids love the bright colors and thick lines. Board books again are kind of “meh,” but better than most board books.

      4. Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky and Brothers Grimm
      My favorite version of my favorite fairy tale! Illustrations are incredible and it stays very true to the original stories. I thought it would be too old for little ones, but they love it (I think 4 and up is the recommended reading level, but I know a certain 3 year old that adores it).

      5. A New Coat for Anna
      A great story that takes place in post WWII Europe, teaches about bartering, and you learn how a coat is made.

      6. The Knuffle Bunny books (again, more than one, Mo Willems, but gosh, these are brilliant!)

      7. The Paperbag Princess
      One of my all time favorites–such a great moral, and it’s funny too!

      8. The Stinky Cheese Man
      I’m a sucker for fractured fairy tales and these are some of the best (and again, beautiful, beautiful illustrations!)

      9. Grumpy Gloria
      Very cure and funny!

      10. Strega Nona
      A classic that’s just…classic.

      • Lisa, we love Zelinsky books too! And I had forgotten about The Stinky Cheese Man, but we had plenty of laughs over that years ago. It’s just our speed. 🙂

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