Between the highly developmental ages of three and five — or preschool age in school lingo — is when most kids are starting to crack open books. For some three-year-olds, this usually involves basic picture books with fewer and simpler words; while others learn to read with snappy zest, zooming through picture books and right onto chapter books.
The vast majority of top-rated books for 3-year-olds are early chapter titles that help your little one transition smoothly from simpler, shorter picture books to somewhat longer reads with more complex storylines. At this age, books are all about fun and getting your child ready for kindergarten; so the last thing you want is to make your little one feel like she’s being forced to read.
If you get it right, introducing your tot to reading can create a bonafide bookworm for life, setting her up for school success in the upcoming years. The ideal books for 5-year-olds should spark their curiosity and open up a whole new world to them.
We know it can be tough to select the right books for a young, picky reader. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the 31 best books for 3-year-olds – the ones that you wish you had read as a kid! They range from highly-regarded classics by beloved authors to stunning page-turners released in the last few years.
1- Press Here by Herve Tullet
Press Here (Interactive Book for Toddlers and Kids, Interactive Baby Book)
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|Number Of Pages||56|
Finding the perfect book for your three-year-old is an adventure in and of itself, all the more so that children at this age are in a developmental continuum. Your best bet is to choose something which appeals to your child’s unique interests and pet peeves. Or, alternatively, you can settle on tried-and-true classics, such as Press Here.
Your preschooler will love turning, shaking, and pressing this interactive picture book from New York Times bestselling author Herve Tullet. It’s designed to help young readers learn about cause and effect in a fun and straightforward fashion. They will simply press the yellow dot and a random page will show. According to parents and kindergarten teachers alike, Press Here is one of the most useful books for 3-year-olds.
2- Woodward and McTwee by Jonathan Fenske
Woodward and McTwee (Penguin Young Readers, Level 2)
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|Part Number||Illustrations, color|
|Number Of Pages||32|
Some of the favorite books for 3-year-olds typically consist of 3-5 chapters, which are either part of an intertwined storyline or related stories. Jonathan Fenske’s Woodward and McTwee comprises only 2 chapters, which makes it an ideal read for kids in the lower end of the development spectrum.
More than that, each chapter is quirky and pretty simple. As such, this book is just right for a kid who has attention issues. You will love that it’s an excellent midpoint between longer, more complicated chapter books and shorter picture books.
The book follows the story of a fun-loving pair of friends, Woodward the bird and McTwee the silly hippo. Although they couldn’t be more different, they love pranking each other and playing their favorite pastime, hide and seek.
3- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: 50th Anniversary Golden Edition
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There’s a good reason this classic picture has remained a classic for more than five decades. Eric Carle took a complex concept like metamorphosis and presented it in a fun and simple way that little ones can easily understand. Right off the bat, kids will marvel at the beautiful butterfly that covers two whole pages, all gloriously colorful in yellow, green, red, blue, and purple.
Every family’s library can never be complete without a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and 3 is the ripe age to start really appreciating the adventures of the insatiable canker. What’s even more exciting, the 50th-anniversary edition of this classic is packed with additional content that includes never-seen-before original drafts, Eric Carle’s letter, and much more. It has just the right amount of everything you can ever want in a good book for 3-year-olds.
4- Warren & Dragon Series by Ariel Bernstein
Warren & Dragon 100 Friends
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If your youngster is a fan of dragons and other-worldly creatures, then Warren & Dragon series might appeal to their interests. Well, who wouldn’t want to have a dragon as a pet after watching the sensational series Games of Thrones? In this book, a lucky boy Warren gets his wish granted when he stumbles upon a 122-year-old dragon.
Warren and the dragon are the most adventurous of friends. It becomes even more hilarious when the boy and his pet dragon decide to take the class hamster home, much to the chagrin of his teacher and parents. The thoughtful and evocative illustrations by Mike Malbrough really bring their escapes to life. The duo’s adventures in this funny boy & his pet series are sure to delight your preschooler.
5- Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Llama Llama Red Pajama: Gift Edition
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Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney is a preschool and kindergarten favorite. It’s a prolific and charming series with some of the most loved books for 3-year-olds. The series debuted with a bang back in 2005 with Llama Llama Red Pajama, a delightful book with colorful illustrations by the author and rhyming text that add more pizzazz to the visual narrative.
The book features the heartwarming story of young Llama who is worried and nervous about sleeping by himself. Thankfully, his mom comes to the rescue. This latest edition sports special bonus content, including extra Llama Llama stories, a keepsake print, and even a CD audiobook narrated by Anna Dewdney. It’s certainly a great addition to any children’s book library.
6- Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
73 used from $1.36
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Illustrated by Patrick Benson, Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies is a class-act in its own right. It’s masterfully-written, age-appropriate, and the vivid illustrations put it right over the top. We think, and most parents agree, that this is a must-have book for 3-year-olds, as it is soothing and surprisingly fun to read.
When Mama Owl flies out and fails to return to the nest, the three baby owls are a worried bunch. They must huddle together, cheer up one another, and learn to live on their own. It’s a heart-wrenching story that teaches young readers, especially those who have just started going to daycare or preschool, about the importance of cooperation, patience, and facing adversity. Waddell’s take on separation anxiety and fear of the unknown is dead right on the spot.
7- All by Myself (Little Critter) by Mercer Mayer
All by Myself (Little Critter) (Look-Look)
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- Young children's fiction. A story of learning how to get dressed and groomed "all by myself" for young children. Colorful illustrations throughout book.
All by Myself is without a doubt one of the funniest books for 3-year-olds in Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter series. That’s not to say Little Critter’s Manners, I Was So Mad, I Just Forgot, Just a Little Critter, and other installations in the series are any less funny. After all, the Little Critter is one of the most beloved characters in the world of children’s literature.
Growing up, your child will see herself in Little Critter’s escapes, trial & error, and determination. Deeply relatable and uniquely hilarious, this story is particularly relatable to children who are trying to find their footing and exercise their independence. Doesn’t that sound like most 3-year-olds around you? From learning to tie his shoes to buttoning his clothes, the Little Critter is resolute to do everything without help from his parents.
8- The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
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- Random House Books for Young Readers
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We all think about the world of our little ones and wish them the very best of life. That’s why every family needs a copy of Emily Winfield Martin’s The Wonderful Things You Will Be, which most literacy experts say is one of the most inspirational books for 3-year-olds.
This picture book kicks off with an impressive illustration of a mom and her little one holding balloons while walking hand in hand. She can’t help but wonder about all the marvelous things her young could achieve.
Going forward, the book makes use of plants, superheroes, beautiful illustrations, and simple, rhyming words to illustrate different potentials available to a youngster. It allows the parent to let her wishful thinking reign supreme while letting the child dream about what they wish to be when they grow up.
9- Kitchen Disco by Clare Foges
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|Number Of Pages||32|
There’s a very thin line between horror and fun when children’s book writers choose to bring non-animal things to life. But the cheerful tune and brightly-colored characters of Clare Foges’ Kitchen Disco fall squarely on the hilarious side.
Ever wondered what goes on in the kitchen when you go to sleep? According to Kitchen Disco, all of the fruits in your fruit basket and bowls come to life and party all night when you’re busy counting your ZZZ’s. Would it be lovely to crash one of their fun-filled parties?
This is one theme that seems to resonate well with kids of all ages, and particularly five-year-olds who love to let their imagination run wild. We found Al Murphy’s illustrations to be refreshing, catchy, and cute. Be sure to check out other books in the series, including Bathroom Boogie (2018) and Veg Patch Party (2020).
10- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU /ANGLAIS
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An absolute classic since it was initially published in 1994; Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You is still warming its way into the hearts of readers across the globe. It’s a heartfelt story of a son and his dad comparing how much they love each other. Every time Little Nutbrown Hare wants to go to sleep, he tells his father how much he loves him, and the dad reciprocates by saying that he loves his son even more.
The uninhibited proclamation of love in this charming book teaches both children and parents to express their affection and love for each other. Your little one will surely be ecstatic to learn that you love them more than anyone and anything else on the planet. What a reassuring way to retire to bed, right? That’s why this title has remained one of the most sought-after books for 3-year-olds.
11- The Little Engine That Could: 90th Anniversary Edition by Watty Piper
If you’re looking for the best book for 3-year-olds that you wished you read as a child, you won’t be disappointed by Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could. This 90th Anniversary edition reminds us why this is an out-and-out classic that will continue to charm readers for many generations to come.
This special edition features a riveting introduction by multi-award-winning country music singer Dolly Parton and stunning illustrations by Dan Santat, the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner. It adds even more lively illustrations, providing a cheerful take on the timeless tale of patience and perseverance.
12- The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett
A comedy masterpiece by the formidable duo of illustrator Jon Klassen and author Mac Barnett, The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse is subversively hilarious, delightful, and sweet to read. It is an early chapter book about a mouse who finds himself swallowed by a wolf. In the wolf’s belly, he finds a duck that he strikes an instant friendship with and builds a new home together.
Everything is nice and cozy in the belly of the wolf – delicious food, guaranteed safety, and more – until a hunter strikes. The book is a modern tale in which the animals throw a killer party in the wolf’s belly, complete with party hats and candlesticks. What more could you ask for? Grab this book for your 3-year-old to immerse yourself into their party-filled world.
13- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Emotional, thoughtful, and sincere, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is going to roll a few happy tears down your cheek and stir up some nostalgia. It is an inspiring story of the “giving tree” that loved, fed, and sheltered a boy.
As the boy grew, he continued to depend on the tree and it kept giving. This picture book offers a touching interpretation of the gift of giving, unforgettable perception, and reciprocation. The story is well illustrated, subtly moving, and masterfully-written by the highly talented author Shel Silverstein.
The Giving Tree has been one of the most loved books for 3-year-olds and children of all ages for over 5 decades and it’ll remain a classic for many generations to come.
14- Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris
Three is a perfect age to introduce your child to more complex animal characters and the beauty of suspense. Richard T. Morris’ Bear Came Along handles these two features in a spectacular yet simple way for young readers to digest. It’s no surprise this is one of the top-rated books for three-year-olds.
The book highlights the story of the Bear that tumbles into the river after coming out of his cozy cave. On his watery journey downstream, he picks up a raccoon, a turtle, and a frog, among other friendly companions. Along the way, the animal friends realize that only putting their heads and hands together will help them beat the raging river. And then emerges a rapid waterfall around the corner!
15- The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
Again, suspense is a lovely part of literature that’s best introduced to a child at around age 3. It’s also a nice age to immerse your little one in the wonderful world of Sesame Street. Before Abby and Elmo hit our screens, there was Jon Stone’s The Monster at the End of This Book.
This Little Golden Book gem is illustrated by Michael Smollin and features the old panicky character, Grover. That The Monster at the End of This Book is interactive is quite impressive given that it was first published almost four decades ago. It’s a riveting and entertaining book for 3-year-olds.
16- The Man on the Moon: a day in the life of Bob by Simon Bartram
If you’re after a “mature” book for a 3-year-old that’ll fulfill her reading cravings till age 8, The Man on the Moon may be your best bet. It narrates the story of Bob, the man on the moon. He has a job to do out there – to clean and keep the moon tidy for travelers who he wows with a little moonwalking and then sells them some keepsakes to bring home.
Having ensured that all the visitors have left, the man on the moon packs up for his journey home. But there’s one problem: Bob failed to notice aliens on board and they are all heading to Earth!
17- Room Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
If your preschooler couldn’t get enough of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo as a toddler, then he or she will love this book from the same author. Your child will be charmed by the vividly-illustrated characters and storyline of Room Room on the Broom.
This is a fun book with rhyming text, a good book for 3-year-olds who are looking to move to the next level of reading. It tells the story of a gentle witch who uses her broom to do good, including rescuing and transporting a variety of animals. When the witch is confronted by a menacing dragon, the said animals come to her rescue.
18- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
All kids love crayons, especially if they are a bold color like purple. Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon follows the wild adventures of Harold, which are actually the works of his imagination and the trusty oversized purple crayon.
This is one of the best books for 3-year-olds that pay home to the creativity, curiosity, and imagination of childhood. It’s a satisfying artistic picture book that belongs to every children’s bookshelf.
19- Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry
This is exactly what it sounds like – one of the best books for 3-year-olds ever written by the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Richard Scarry. This funny and charming story is going to be an instant hit for your young reader, helping them build their vocabularies right from this tender age.
In Richard Scarry’s universe, all of the inhabitants of Busytown are packing up for the playground, breaking out their art tools, and otherwise getting reading for the new day. Scarry uses a curated choice of child-friendly words to describe the objects and activities going on in this busy town, giving your kid a chance to learn new words.
20- A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Brendan Wenzel’s A Stone Sat Still is a thoughtful and beautiful tale of a stone that is doubly important to many different creatures. It is a fitting follow-up to Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat, another charming story about an everyday rock that is used and seen differently by different creatures.
If you’re looking for the best nature and environment book for 3-year-olds, we highly suggest A Stone Sat Still. It boasts a myriad of great lessons for budding readings, including awe and perspective.
21- Vroom! by Barbara McClintock
Vroom! is one of the most delightful read-out-loud books for 3-year-olds and other preschoolers. It details the story of a young lady, Annie, who enjoys the sheer joy of speed while going on a race car journey.
At night, the girl jumps onto her race car, helmet on, and then zips into the world of adventure and imagination where all things are possible. Engaging and clever, Vroom! features clear and succinct yet simple text, allowing your little one to indulge in Annie’s love of speed and racing without any issue.
22 – Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Andrea Beaty’s Ada Twist didn’t drop onto this list by accident. It’s a USA Today Bestseller, a Wall Street Journal Bestseller, and a #1 New York Times Bestseller to boot. Well, you gotta fall in love with Ada Twist. She’s an aptly curious and super-smart girl who doesn’t find talking appealing unless she has something brilliant to tell.
Ada Twist is a scientist through and through – she thinks, talks, and even acts like one. Instead of accepting someone else’s word, she’d rather find the truth by scientific means. This is an ideal book for 3-year-olds, a part of The Questioneers series that includes Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, Iggy Peck, and Sofia Valdez, Future Prez.
23 – Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez
It’s never too early to teach your child about tolerance, acceptance of others, and diversity. Looking for Bongo is a story that features a mix-race (Afro-Latino) family, in which the young boy is searching for his lost stuffed toy.
In a quest to get his toy back, the boy asks everyone in the family. The answers he gets are dotted with a little Spanish and the interior decoration of their home speaks to their cultural background. This is one must-have book for 3-year-olds that belongs to every preschooler’s library.
24 – Boogie Bear by David Walliams
In this book, David Walliams takes his story of Boogie Bear to the next level. It follows a brown bear and a polar bear that decide to make hybrid baby bears after discovering that their differences are fur-deep.
Like Eric Velasquez’s Looking for Bongo, this is one of the best books for 3-year-olds you can use to help ease them into the concept of diversity and harmonious inter-racial co-existence. It’s entertaining, sweet, and heartwarming while at that.
25 – Escargot by Dashka Slater
Escargot is one carrot-hating French snail. The elegant and picky snail has two things in mind: (i) to find and eat the most delish salad and (ii) to be the reader’s favorite creature.
When he gets to the salad at the end of the book, the French snail finds some carrot in it. Yak! But when he tastes the carrots, he realizes that they are actually delicious. Whether it was designed to make snails look adorable or teach young readers about the importance of experimentation, Escargot is definitely one of the best books for 3-year-olds.
26 – Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres
A fun-filled take on the classic bedtime story, Brianna Caplan Sayres’ Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? is much akin to Bob the Builder in many respects. It takes young readers to fire stations, highways, and construction sites, just to mention a few.
In this truck world, bedtime is not so different from ours. Dad and mom vehicles sing lullabies and read bedtime stories to their little ones to soothe them to sleep. Christian Slade’s illustrations capture their bedtime moments irresistibly.
27 – Are You Eating Candy Without Me? by Draga Jenny Malesevic
4 children wonder what their moms and dads do when they’re not at home. Are they practicing good manners? Jumping on trampolines? Or perhaps they’re eating candy without them!
Malesevic’s Are You Eating Candy Without Me? is a great book for 3-year-olds that’s as hilarious and sweet as the candies sprinkled all over its pages. It sports clear, attractive illustrations (by Charlotte Bruijn) and most of them are, unsurprisingly, of candy. The text is a little rhythmic and simple, appealing to the young readers.
28 – Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
Admittedly, the storyline of P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! isn’t exactly something to write home about. However, it’s funny, fun, and easy to read, which makes it one of the greatest books for 3-year-olds.
Originally written by Dr. Seuss, the book uses rhythmic words and repetition generously. In fact, it uses only 75 different words, which comes in handy when lulling youngsters to sleep.
29 – The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
This special edition marked the 50th anniversary of The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Since its debut in 1956, this children’s book by the Berlin-born author Judith Kerr has remained a classic book for 3-year-olds.
While it doesn’t have a powerful message like Ada Twist or The Wonderful Things You Will Be, this book is packed with character and charm. You will love following the story of Sophie with your tot, perhaps with tea on hand.
30 – Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
Turns out, everyone loves the crunchy taste of tacos. And when we say everyone, we mean everyone, including the fire-breathing creatures. This quirky book is also about dragons who, you guessed it, that love all things tacos and partying.
Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, Dragons Love Tacos is a lovely book for 3-year-olds, but also a huge hit among other preschool-age children. The beautiful illustrations are enchanting and fun, complete with subtle and relatable humor.
31 – Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Over the years, Olive Jeffers has blessed us with some cult favorites, including some of the best books for 3-year-olds. If you don’t know him from his love table books or art exhibitions, you may be familiar with his best and most hilarious book yet, The Day the Crayons Quit.
You and your kid will absolutely love Stuck. It’s a book that features a frustrated boy who had tossed, hurled, and thrown a heap of stuff into a tree in which his favorite kite has gotten stuck. Jeffers has whipped up a laundry list of beloved children’s books, but Stuck takes the cake for its humor, charm, and downright brilliance. It’ll make your child giggle from cover to cover.