Sharing books with preschoolers is as important as it is joyful. At this age, books can leave a lasting impression on young imaginations, form a key part of language and literacy development and provide young children with important insights into the world around them and the experiences of others.
Storytime is often a favourite part of the day – whether in the classroom or snuggled up at bedtime – and early positive experiences with books can be the foundations of a lifelong enjoyment of reading.
At the ages of 3 and 4, many children are just beginning to recognise letters and words and there is no need to pressure children to read books for themselves at this age more than they want to. Providing children with the opportunity to simply enjoy lots of different types of books and stories together with an adult is one of the best ways to give children a head start with their own reading journeys.
What kind of books should preschoolers read?
The best books to read with preschoolers are picturebooks, where the words and pictures work together to create meaning and tell the story. This helps children to kick start their language development ready for school, gain basic comprehension skills and develop an early enjoyment of books. Give preschool children books with bright and bold illustrations that complement clear storytelling, like Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found or Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard at the Seaside.
Preschool children also love books with a memorable story. Many people can fondly remember their own favourite picturebooks from the preschool years – and sometimes off by heart! We’ve picked out 50 recommended books for today’s children in the nursery and preschool years (ages 3-4), designed with shared storytimes in mind. From stories with repeated verses to join in with (like Nick Sharratt’s Shark In the Park or Michael Rosen’s Little Rabbit Foo Foo), to laugh-out-loud favourites (like Poo at the Zoo or Octopants) to sincere stories about animals trying to figure out the world around them (like Best Test or Little Bear’s Spring), we’ve got something for all tastes.
For books about being kind or managing emotions, try Find Out About Feelings, Layla’s Happiness or Kindness Makes us Strong. If stories to prepare children for starting school or making friends is what you’re looking for, try Lulu’s First Day or Caryl Hart’s Mini Monsters series. For a read-aloud with the extra wow factor, we recommend The Rabbit, The Dark and the Biscuit Tin, guaranteed to produce ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at storytime.
Some of the stories on our booklist are classic books that have been entertaining children for generations, like Owl Babies or Jill Murphy’s Peace at Last. Others are inspired by very recent events, such as How Do You Make a Rainbow?, which reflects colourfully on the joy of finding positivity through community and kindness during difficult times.
Which are the best non-fiction books for preschoolers?
We’ve also included a selection of non-fiction books suitable for this age group, from books about nature (like Find Out About: Animal Babies and the bright and playful Love Our Earth), to the space-themed Cosmic Machines or the inspirational story of Amelia Earhart.
If you are looking for books themed around a particular topic, be sure to check out our EYFS topic booklists.
Where can I purchase the books on the Preschool Booklist?
What other booklists for preschoolers are available?
If you are looking to diversify your reading collection with diverse books for Early Years children, we’ve put together an additional special collection of Diverse and Inclusive Books for EYFS, which has been specially curated to help schools and parents to select more diverse books for young children.
If you are looking for more picturebooks that young children will love listening to over and over again, our EYFS Storytime Favourites list will help you to build a quality story collection for children aged 3 to 5.
We know how big the step of preparing to start primary school for the first time can feel to some children, and to help preschoolers to prepare for their journey to Reception, we’ve also put together a list of children’s books about starting school.
Many preschool and nursery children become fans of the most popular picturebook characters like Supertato and the Gruffalo, and to help with inspiration to find even more story characters to love, parents and teachers might find our Branching Out booklists useful with Books for Fans of Julia Donaldson and Books for Fans of Supertato.
Be sure to check out our EYFS topic booklists if you are looking for children’s books themed around a particular topic – whether it’s books for an Early Years curriculum theme like Weather & Seasons or Growing Plants or a story to match a special interest for an individual preschooler, like books about Dinosaurs or Superhero books for children.