Picking out a favorite story together and snuggling on the couch to read aloud, exploring the world through your imagination, is an activity that is emotionally rewarding and gives parents, grandparents, and caregivers the opportunity to bond with children. Family reading time is not just a way to spend quality time with one another. Although this is a meaningful benefit, the other advantages to children’s development is invaluable.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to when they are young are better able to pretend to read or read, write their names, and count higher, up to 20, than children who are not read to. Finding the best books for toddlers to begin a tradition of daytime story hours and bedtime tales can help preschoolers be best prepared to enter school and create lasting memories with parents and family.
20. The Wonderful Things You Will Be
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin is not only one of the best children’s books of 2015, it is also one of the books most recommended for reading aloud to children. Focusing on having and encouraging dreams, it expresses just what parents love most about their children. This rhythmic poem about growing up will be a top choice of parents for nightly reading times, with the emotion of the joy of the love parents have for their children balanced with surprising twists and pops of humor. Plus, the rhymes are an educational tool for helping children to gain sound recognition and form a foundation for spelling skills.
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19. The Full Moon at the Napping House
The Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood is one of 2015’s best bedtime stories for kids and overall best new books for toddlers. Telling a tale of a full house that won’t sleep, not from the children to the granny to the mouse, the story stays in the bedroom, lulling readers and listeners to dreamy sleep. Wood’s mastery of language combined with her husband Don Wood’s soothing illustrations is a sure bet to send kids happily off to dreamland, taking with them a mind full of descriptive words to take with them as they begin to build their narratives.
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18. Paris: A Book of Shapes (Hello, World)
Paris: A Book of Shapes (Hello, World) by Ashley Evanson takes children ages 2 and younger on a journey through Paris, France, exploring the triangles, stars, rectangles, circles, and every shape in between throughout the city’s landmarks and landscapes. Whether picking out squares in the Eiffel Tower or arches at the Notre Dame Cathedral, children get to travel around one of the world’s most famous cities and learn more than geometry. A love of travel and art, along with some French words, will inevitably come with every turn of the page.
17. Go! Go! Go! Stop!
Go! Go! Go! Stop! By Charise Mericle Harper shares a message of teamwork and giving it you’re all. The poignant lesson is told energetically with always appealing dump trucks, forklifts, and big machinery that especially little boys love. All the trucks work together to help to build the town bridge, going and going and going until it is time to stop. Luckily, Little Yellow comes to town to help the others slow down, and the trucks and machines can finish the project by listening and working together. One of the best books for two-year-olds, this story also builds letter recognition with “Go!” colored in green and “Stop!” colored in red throughout the pages. Toddlers are sure to get excited about story time as the “read” with mom and dad.
16. I’m Dirty!
I’m Dirty! Board Book by Katie McMullan is an extension of the series that started with I Stink!. This time, McMullan chooses a backhoe loader to do the dirty work, loading dirt and making mud. The thick, durable board book is a match for the hero of the story, making it easy for little hands to turn pages and grab onto to take on trips to grandma’s or long car rides. This must-have book also tops the best family read aloud books, entertaining kids with fun read-aloud sounds, and it helps to build math skills, too, as the backhoe cleans up clutter and counts up the piles.
15. Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats
Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats by Il Sung Na is a perfect addition to a child’s library. With pages that focus more on beautiful illustrations than text, it is easy to see why this would be on the list as the best book for 2 and 3-year-olds. The vivid, bright illustrations stimulate children’s imaginations, helping them to follow along with the story or to tell the story themselves by narrating the pictures. Children take away a valuable lesson, too, as Bear travels to find a better home than his own in the forest, only to realize that the best home for him was his own home all along.
14. The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is at the top of the list for best books for preschoolers. The story’s main character, Duncan, finds that his crayons have decided to quit, leaving him letters to tell about each of their grievances, from torn wrappers to overuse. Duncan must find a way to get his crayons to come back and start to work together again. Children will begin to imagine just what their own crayons might say.
13. Ada Twist, Scientist
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, is a top choice for preschoolers and preparing them for the world of STEM. Science leads Ada on a quest to find answers, finding at times only more questions instead. Children will begin to learn how the process of scientific investigation works. Plus, Ada’s scientific adventure to find the source of a stink illustrates for kids that it is important for everyone to follow their passions and reach to achieve their goals, no matter what might stand in their way in the process.
12. Dragons Love Tacos
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a sure-fire way to make sure that children have fun while reading! In one of the best new books for preschoolers, a dose of silly added to a bunch of funny keeps readers and listeners alike turning the pages of this book about dragons. Did you know dragons like to eat tacos? All kinds of tacos! The real humor starts, though, when a little bit of salsa gets into a dragon’s mouth. Storytime will quickly turn into fun time as the Dragons’ party is ruined by a little too much spice.
11. The Thank You Book
The Thank You Book by Mo Willems is at the top of best children’s books of 2016, and it is also one of the best books about feelings on the list … and manners! The award-winning Willems features his fan favorite characters Gerald and Piggie again, but this time, it is to say goodbye to readers as the last book in the ever-popular series. Both as the final installment and for the heartfelt message from Willems to the readers themselves, this is a sure-to-turn-into keepsake edition for all little readers and Mo Willems fans.
10. The Only Child
The Only Child by Guojing takes children on a journey of a lonely little girl’s imagination as she travels through a forest to find her way back home. One of the best books of 2016 about feelings, the story is beautifully illustrated, telling the story in the intricate and expressive depictions of the little girl who wandered away from her home. Opening up the chance to talk to children about their own feelings of loneliness, boredom, and fear, the delicate drawings and expressive heroine of this best children’s books of 2016 help children and adults relate to trying to get back home.
9. Big Bear Little Chair
Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd is another book that will captivate young readers and stimulate creativity in all who read along. The color explosion of red mixed into the black and white pages encourages readers to find the hidden stories within the story. Children can tell their own stories through the pages with little hidden and unexpected surprises in each scene without being confined to an intricate and detailed story.
8. A Child of Books
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a twist on classic fairy tales, lullabies, and epic adventures. Preschoolers go along with a little girl as she sails to take a little boy away to travel through forests and mountains, magic sprinkled everywhere. Young readers will have fun connecting each stop with stories they know, and parents and families will enjoy sharing their memories of tales from their own childhoods with their children.
Waiting by Kevin Henkes, a 2015 bestselling book, helps children understand patience, a particularly challenging concept, especially for toddlers. The story follows the thoughts and movements of five toys sitting in front of a four-paned window. Are the puppy, rabbit, owl, pig, and bear moving themselves somehow, or is there a small child moving them around? Readers get to decide for themselves through softly illustrated figures as they learn that waiting gives the opportunity to see the world that is going on around them, even if they aren’t going anywhere.
6. Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa
Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney is a best book for any toddler who is about to spend his or her first night away from home. The popular character Llama Llama is excited for his first sleepover as he heads to stay the night with Gram and Grandpa. Llama Llama misses Mama, and he starts to get really nervous when he realizes he has left Fuzzy Llama behind at home. Grandpa, though, has a unique toy from when he was a little boy, and Llama Llama is comforted and content, happy to stay the night with Gram and Grandpa. The delightful pictures and easy rhymes add to the appeal of this book, and preschoolers will quickly add this to the list of their favorite Llama Llama stories.
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5. Stick and Stone
Stick and Stone by Tom Lichtenheld and Beth Ferry is one of the best new books for preschoolers, delivering an anti-bullying message that is poignantly placed before heading off to school. Playing on the idea of sticks and stones may break my bones, the authors create a twist when Stick and Stone become friends. The twosome save each other from different situations, first as Stick doesn’t let Pinecone make fun of Stone and then as Stone saves Stick when he is blown away. The simple illustrations add to the detail of the story, and children will learn what true friendship means.
4. I Don’t Want to Be a Frog
I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty follows the story of young Frog who is having a bit of an identity crisis. Frog wants to be anything except a frog! He thinks about how great it might be to be a cat or even an owl. He stubbornly sticks to his story when talking to his father, but Frog changes his mind when he runs into a wolf who happens to hate eating frogs. Children learn to accept who they are, and adults can get a good chuckle in the dialogue between Frog and his father, making this an overall best book to read aloud, over and over again!
3. Max the Brave
Max the Brave by Ed Vere is one of the best new books for preschoolers, opening up a chance to discuss the true meaning of bravery with little ones in a thoughtful, adorable story. Max is a cute little kitten who is steadfast in his brave quest to chase and catch a mouse. But, Max doesn’t know who or what a mouse is. He asks animals along the way on his journey to tell him if they have seen a mouse, even the mouse himself. Mouse tricks Max, scaring him, and little readers learn that it’s okay not always to be brave.
2. Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret
Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea is recommended as part of the best new books for toddlers and preschoolers by teachers and reading specialists because of all of the additional developmental features designed to help learn how to read. From speech bubbles to expressive drawings to lots of repetition, the reading aids only enhance this heartwarming story about two friends, Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony, as they share secrets they have been keeping to try to not hurt one another’s feelings. Toddlers can learn to read and take away a valuable lesson about friendship, too.
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1. Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!
Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley turns the pages on preschoolers who might have a bedtime ritual to keep from doing anything but going to bed. In this story, one of the best children’s books of 2015, humor surrounds a little boys’ desperate attempt to get his robots to go to sleep, in spite of their constant requests for oil, bolt tightening, and story reading. Close inspection of the pages reveals an added bonus: A mouse joins the chaos, and little readers will have fun finding it on each page. The onomatopoeia of the robot sounds is an added bonus for imaginative fun in this story that just might help little ones drift off to sleep.