20 books (by 11 authors) that you should read to your child before they turn six

About a year ago, I was looking at book lists for ideas of read-alouds.  As I was looking through lists for grades we’ve passed, it left me wondering what I would put on a must-read list.  Since that time, I’ve done a lot of pondering.  Here’s the first installment of my must-read lists–the preschool version–complete with 20 books by 11 authors divided into 0-2 and 3-5 age categories.

0+ (Infants and Toddlers)

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Brown Bear, Brown Bear – Carle
    Though Carle has LOTS of books for little ones, these are two of his top classics.  I love the soothing tone and educational undertones of Caterpillar, and while Brown Bear has absolutely no plot and really makes no sense, the predictable text is enjoyable for littles, and the animal illustrations give plenty of vocabulary-building opportunities as you talk about animal colors, point out body parts, count their legs, make their noises, etc.
  • Goodnight Moon – Brown
    Though I won’t go into the insanity that is the bedroom in this book, I will say that it is a perfect snuggle-up-before-bed book.  My little ones enjoyed looking for the mouse (or any other object being named), and the tone was perfectly soothing.
  • Moo, Baa, LaLaLa; Pajama Time – Boynton
    These two were personal favorites, but Boynton has a lot of books that are rhythmic, rhyming, and silly–as well as having lovely little educational nuggets like animal noises and bedtime routines.
  • I Love You Through and Through – Shustak
    There are lots of “I love you” themed books, but I really liked this one.  I liked that it gave a message of unconditional acceptance, both physical and emotional.
  • Book of First Words (no specific one, just something with colorful photos of everyday objects)
    My toddlers LOVED our book of first words.  All three of them went through a phase in which they wanted to “read” through that book every day.  They were so proud of being able to point to and name objects, and the book provided a great chance to build vocabulary.  Our book was grouped by genre–toys on one page, food and kitchen items on another page, outdoor objects on another page, etc.

3+ (The Preschool Years)

  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC; Green Eggs and Ham – Seuss
    You knew I had to have something by Seuss in this list.  While there are plenty of alphabet books out there, his is classic–as addictive for my kids as it was for me and my siblings.  (My mom remembers hiding it, and I “misplaced” it a time or two!)  And Green Eggs is a delightful reversal of the normal adult-convincing-kid-to-eat that also lends itself to quoting at the dinnertable!
  • Sniff, Snuff, Snap; Slinky Malinki, Open the Door – Dodd
    Rollicking poetry is featured in these books, which also require some critical thinking to follow the plot and predict what will happen after the book is over.  Sniff, Snuff, Snap is a counting book featuring a grumpy warthog chasing other animals away from an African water hole, while Slinky Malinki, Open the Door is the tale of a mischievous cat and his bird friend, who make a mess of the house while their owners are away.  Our old library had these books, but I’ve not found them in any of the library systems where I live now; since Dodd is from Australia, her books seem to be hard to find in the US.  I purchased them on ebay to make sure my youngest would have the chance to read these awesome books!
  • Bedtime for Frances, Bread and Jam for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, A Birthday for Frances – Hoban
    These were staples of my childhood which perfectly portrayed the quirky tendencies of young kids; the distance gained by reading about someone else’s behavior regarding siblings’ birthdays or picky eating allow kids to see their own behavior a little more objectively.  As an adult, my favorite may be the Baby Sister book, which I think is very sweetly done; the mention of spanking in the Bedtime book might be a turnoff for some.
  • What Do People Do All Day? – Scarry
    A lovely, if dated, insight into how the world works, filled with detailed cartoon drawings of people doing many different types of jobs.  My kids especially loved seeing the road construction and house construction.  (It was perfect for my boys, who were always asking questions like, “How does the water get to our sink?”)
  • Stop That Ball! – McClintock
    This is another Seuss-style book written in verse, but the storyline is delightful for kids and lends itself to cause-and-effect observations and prediction.
  • I Was So Mad; I’m Sorry; Just Shopping with Mom – Mayer
    I loved Little Critter as a kid, and my kids have loved him, too. The first two of these three favorites address some potent topics for preschool—mad feelings and apologies–while the third offers a great chance to discuss public behavior as well as non-verbal social cues.

So there you have it, my must-read books for the preschool years.  What would go on your list?

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