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Preschool: 50 Recommended Reads

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recommended books for preschool

Best Books for Preschoolers (Children Aged 3-4)

NEWLY updated – April 2024!

Browse this list of 50 recommended books for 3- and 4-year-olds. Top up your preschool or nursery book collections with our hand-picked selection of classic stories, laugh-out-loud picture books, animal tales, poetry books, non-fiction for curious minds and more…

As parents and teachers, we know how important it is to foster a love of reading in children from a young age. Reading with nursery and preschool children not only helps with language development but also encourages imagination and creativity. Our booklist includes popular preschool stories such as Owl Babies, Aliens Love Underpants and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, as well as some lesser-known storytime delights that we highly recommend, like Mavis the Bravest and Eat Your Peas.

Handpicked by teachers and children’s reading experts, our preschool reading list is designed to help those looking for the best quality and age-appropriate books to make reading time engaging for nursery or preschool children. Join your little ones on a journey through some of the best books for preschoolers available today.

As well as the booklist below to browse, we’ve also got a printable poster and downloadable checklist for you, and schools can purchase full sets of the books via Peters.

 

preschool recommended reads printable poster 2024     preschool recommended reads checklist 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browse the preschool booklist below or scroll down to find more purchasing options and printable resources.

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Favourite Story Books for Preschoolers

Julia Donaldson
 & Lydia Monks
Picturebook

What the Ladybird Heard is a huge favourite amongst preschoolers, parents and teachers. With everything from farm animals and minibeasts to sneaky crooks and fantastic lilting rhymes, this brightly illustrated story from national treasure Julia Donaldson is a clear winner for storytimes in the Early Years.

Young children love joining in the repeated refrains of animal sounds and seeing the plot unfold as the cunning little ladybird saves the day by helping her farmyard friends outsmart two burglars looking to steal the prize cow.

A classroom classic from an author-illustrator dream team.

Oliver Jeffers
Picturebook

This is the endearing story of a boy and the journey he undertakes to return a lost penguin to its South Pole home. This simple story with beautiful illustrations is a popular choice for children in the preschool years and beyond.

At its heart, the story is about caring for others and going above and beyond to help somebody in need. Children love the penguin character and the warm resolution of this journey-home narrative.

Nicola O'Byrne
Picturebook

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.

Any child who has ever tried to prolong bedtime will relate to Rabbit. In a bid to not have to go to bed, Rabbit decides to capture the dark and hide it in a biscuit tin. If it doesn’t get dark, he won’t have to go to sleep! But hiding the dark has knock-on effects, and he hasn’t thought about the nocturnal animals, his body’s need for rest and recovery, or the joy of waking up to a delicious breakfast!

With an impressive fold-out page that we just love, this is one of our go-to story choices for preschool and younger primary children.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
 & Joelle Avelino
Picturebook

‘Mama’s Sleeping Scarf’, a picture book, is a new departure for renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (here writing as Nwa Grace-James, in tribute to her parents). In it she tells the story of a little girl called Chino, and the interactions and moments of fun that make up her day.

Chino has to stay at home with her Papa while her Mama goes out to work. When Chino is worried that Mama might not come back, Mama leaves her sleeping scarf for her– the one she wears ‘to keep her hair all soft and nice’ – to play with for the day. The scarf weaves its way through Chino’s day with her, helping her play games, and forming part of her conversations with both her grandparents and her Papa. The scarf is a reminder through the day of the love of her Mama and of the rest of her family too.

Through this charming and seemingly simple story, Adichie explores the reversal of traditional home roles, the value of multi-generational family bonds, and the simple anxiety of a child who wants to know their parent will return. It’s a bright and colourful text to read aloud.

Kes Gray
 & Nick Sharratt
Picturebook

We love the Daisy books! Eat Your Peas is one of the earlier picture books featuring the much-loved character Daisy, who now also stars in her own series of illustrated chapter books too.

This story introduces younger children to the popular character and many readers will relate to the scenario Daisy faces when she finds herself with a plate of peas in front of her at dinnertime. The story features a repeated refrain of “I Don’t Like Peas” – which children love to join in with – and readers will adore the escalating promises Mum makes to try to tempt Daisy to eat her veg.  The close-up illustrations of facial expressions help preschool children to interpret and understand character emotions, and the additional pea-themed details to spot throughout the pages are so much fun too (look out for Mum’s necklace and earrings!).

 


Benedict Blathwayt
Picturebook

When Duffy Driver leaves the brakes off, the Little Red Train sets off down the track without him! Duffy tries everything he can think of to catch up with the train, with a little help from a tractor, some horses, a boat and a helicopter.

An enjoyable story to read over and over again, and preschoolers will enjoy the gently unfolding journey narrative as well as relishing the chance to join in with the train noises and to spot all of the many details on the pages.

Emma Chichester Clark
Picturebook

A treasured toy-themed story about a child’s love for their favourite teddy. Lily has always loved her blue kangaroo toy best of all. When she acquires a set of new toys, Lily’s loyalty to Blue Kangaroo is put to the test.

This is a gentle and reassuring story that has been a favourite with Early Years children for decades.

Recommended Funny Books for Preschoolers

Claire Freedman
 & Ben Cort
Picturebook

This laugh-out-loud favourite continues to be a popular rhyming book for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) children, with its whimsical narrative, catchy rhymes and humorous storyline (pants AND space aliens – what’s not to love?).

The playful text and super fun illustrations by Ben Cort capture the imagination of young readers, while the rhythmic flow and repetition make it hard to resist joining in. All in all an absolute essential for delighting young children at storytime.

 

Caryl Hart
 & Nick East
Picturebook

This is a fun superhero-themed story book that helps to get younger children counting. When Pasta Man’s supply of Pasta Power runs out, he needs all of the help he can get to outsmart the spicy supervillainess Madame Chilli.

We love Caryl Hart’s tongue-twisting rhymes and Nick East’s lively illustrations, capturing the cast of imaginative superhero characters in this unique counting book.

Matt Carr
Picturebook

Pop follows the story of some corn as it falls from its storage bag into a warm pan. As the pan begins to heat up, the corn kernels can feel something happening to them. Happily, they begin to transform into popcorn. Initially, there is just one piece of popcorn but throughout the book, more popcorn is made until all the corn is popped. The pun-filled story ends with all the popcorn watching a ‘corny’ movie.

This bright and fun story provides a great opportunity to practise basic counting as one piece of corn transforms at a time. The book has the numbers displayed clearly to support children with number recognition. The book has a wonderful rhyming verse that makes it a great read-aloud book. The repeated use of the word Pop throughout means younger children can help read the word themselves and get involved with the storyline.

The bright and engaging illustrations bring to life this interesting story and make this book a joy for younger children to look through and a must-read for Early Years story times.

Lu Fraser
 & Sarah Warburton
Picturebook

With the tagline “There’s a bright spark of braveness inside us all!”, who could fail to be won over by this book?

Told in rhyme, this is an utterly delightful story. The quality of the rhyme is just wonderful; when rhyme works like this, nothing forced, just clever use of language, you can tell this is a book that is destined to be a classic.

The story is about finding courage, told through hilarious farmyard escapades with a fun cast of characters. The chicken who knits (her friend Marge wears a fantastic jumper!) is scared of everything. She is such a wonderful character, the reader can’t help but fall for her. The chicken with the tractor ranks as my favourite; no-one would mess with her. It brings to mind the Aardman films with Shaun the Sheep and the Chicken Run, mainly because of the force of personality that shines out from the illustrations.

There is something to enjoy in this book for all ages and I am very much hoping we will see more of Mavis in the future.

Lydia Monks
Picturebook

Little Spider has a lot to prove when she wants to be the family pet. Can she convince a family who is scared of spiders to keep her?

This brightly illustrated picturebook is an uplifting story about acceptance and EYFS children love to join in (sometimes very loudly!) with the repeated phrases. We love Lydia Monk’s textured pages, making this well-loved storybook a treat for the eyes, ears and hands!


Steve Smallman
 & Ada Grey
Picturebook

Steve Smallman is the master of funny rhymes for children and as luck would have it, quite a lot of words rhyme with ‘zoo’.

Take a menagerie of animals, a thumpingly fast rhyming verse and a dash of toilet humour and you have the makings of a riotous storytime favourite. As well as the tongue-twisting story filled with funny-sounded onomatopoeia (there’s plenty of plopping and splatting), the book also features themes of keeping the environment clean, animal tracking and caring for wildlife. This book will become an instant favourite with children who love a good giggle at storytime.

Gentle Stories for Preschool Children

Clara Anganuzzi
Picturebook

From its tactile front cover to its inspiring story and vivid illustrations, Ocean Gardener is a book to treasure.

The book has a hard cover impressed with water bubbles which will intrigue curious little fingers. The author’s glorious illustrations of seabed, sunsets and seascapes set the scene for an uplifting story with an all-female cast! Clara Anganuzzi teaches us about the coral reefs of her island home. Her super-mum character is pro-active and positive. As mother and daughter complete their daily rounds checking on the coral reef that surrounds their island, they realise that the reef is changing. The immortal words, ‘Mum had a plan’, lead to pragmatic and innovative actions to help solve the problem.The last part of the book includes information about real life marine biologist, Chloe, who works in the Seychelles, as well as an information page about coral reefs; how to protect coral; and ways to find out more.

Stella J Jones
 & Jane Massey
Picturebook

Bear loves Small and Small loves Bear. Their love is constant and unconditional and often unspoken. Stella J Jones’s delightful story is an affirmation that love is love regardless of size, difference or gesture. This is a reassuring text that will confirm to all readers that love is always there and often in the most ordinary of times.

Younger readers will associate with the shared experiences of Small and Bear: singing songs together, holding hands, little notes in a packed lunch box for example and will be heartened to be shown that these ‘small things’ are, indeed, acts of love. Whilst Bear and Small do share times of excitement such as watching fireworks together, the key message of the story is that the ordinary, day-to-day shared experiences are rich with love and togetherness. The concept that love exists even in the ‘tough’ times is subtly explored; saying sorry and forgiveness are included as moments when love remains. This is a key message for young readers.

The gentle rhythmic pattern and occasional rhyme add a lulling, soothing pace – perfect for calming bedtimes or calm Preschool storytimes for quieter moments. Jane Massey’s simple watercolour illustrations beautifully reflect the emotions of Small and Bear and add to, but do not detract from the book’s overall charm. A gorgeous book to share with loved ones, big and small, to remind them that no matter what, no matter where or when, love is there.

Anna McQuinn
 & Rosalind Beardshaw
Picturebook

Lulu is going to preschool for the first time. She has visited school before with Mummy, but this time she will go on her own.

She’s excited, but a bit nervous. She gets dressed, packs her bag and makes sure she has her cat Dinah with her. When Lulu gets to school, she quickly settles and makes a friend with Mummy watching close by. When Mummy leaves, Lulu is nervous, but soon finds her way forward on her new adventure.

We highly recommend the Lulu series, which gently reassures preschool children about all sorts of relatable scenarios from getting a pet and planting flowers to starting school and shows them how to tackle new challenges head on.

Catherine Rayner
Picturebook

‘Victor the Wolf with Worries’ is a charming and thoughtful book. Beautifully presented, with exquisite artwork by the author, it is a feline take on ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’ and will, I’m sure, become a classic to draw upon both in the Early Years and KS1 classrooms, and at bedtime. Victor has three all-encompassing worries which he feels are insurmountable, until his friend Pablo comes to the rescue.

Pablo’s solutions are simple and magically effective and many a teacher and parent up and down the country will find themselves incorporating these strategies into practice.

The wolves in the story, despite being idealised as brave, big and fierce, look rather like shy, dignified puppies! Children will delight in naming them and considering the real characteristics that lie behind their grey coats and pointed noses! The conclusion of the story – that ‘everybody worries!’ and that ‘worries come and go’ –  is a delightful drawing together of the narrative, leaving even the shyest little one feeling safe and comforted.

Jan Fearnley
Picturebook

It is the week before Christmas and it’s getting chilly outside. Little Robin washes and irons seven warm vests to keep him cosy in the frosty evenings leading up to Christmas. As each day goes by, Robin encounters a different shivering animal and, full of compassion, he generously offers each animal one of his vests to wear.

Robin’s kindness may have prevented his animal friends from getting colder, but when Christmas Eve arrives he finds himself with nothing warm left to wear. Fortunately, a festive visitor in a red suit and a soft, white beard spots Robin and finds a joyous way to reward him for his kindness to others.

The tale is likely to inspire children to tap into the spirit of giving that Robin demonstrates so unreservedly.


Pip Jones
 & Ella Okstad
Picturebook

Ava has a very special cat that no one else can see! His name is Squishy McFluff and he loves going on adventures. Ava and Dad are off on their first-ever camping holiday and, of course, Squishy McFluff is going too. Dad tells Ava about the serious business of camping and they spend quite some time getting everything packed and ready. When they arrive, Dad is shocked to discover that the tent isn’t in the car. Ava and Squishy McFluff thought that building a den to sleep in would be much more fun!

Told through rhymes and bright illustrations, younger readers will love reading about Ava and Squishy McFluff’s camping adventures.

Sophie Beer
Picturebook

This is a valuable board book for nursery and preschool children, exploring everyday ways to show kindness. Each page includes a different example of kindness, such as saying hello to somebody, giving a hug or cheering somebody on.

We really love the bright and bold style of Sophie Beer’s illustrations and the diverse cast of characters. Children need to see how even the smallest gestures can make a difference to others and this bright and simple addition to your library is the perfect conversation starter. There’s plenty to talk about in each picture and many of the children will be able to relate to some of the situations in the book as either the giver or recipient of the kindness shown.

Stories for Learning About the World

Zeba Talkhani
 & Abeeha Tariq
Picturebook

A colourful and heartwarming picturebook story about celebrating Eid.

Safa is excitedly getting ready for Eid-al-Fitr. The preparations are fun to make and include drawing henna patterns on her hands, putting up decorations and eating delicious foods. She’s also looking forward to her favourite part – the presents. While she celebrates, Safa isn’t keen to share her present of a new bike, but her Mum helps her to learn how Eid is about sharing and to see the wider meaning of celebrating with family and loved ones.

A warm story about Eid that EYFS and KS1 children will love to read all year round.

Kate Petty
 & Axel Scheffler
Picturebook

A simple story for very young children about the joys of gardening and watching things grow.

Through the story of Sam planting a sunflower seed and watching it grow, readers will learn about the life cycle of a flowering plant and I’m sure it will inspire many children to get busy planting and growing flowers for themselves.

The interactive elements make this narrative non-fiction for preschoolers a real delight. Children will enjoy lifting the flaps to see what is happening underneath the soil or unfolding the surprise pop-up sunflower near the end.

Tom Percival
Picturebook

In Tilda Tries Again, Tom Percival once again displays his trademark style of using fantasy situations to explore real-life feelings.

We have all heard the phrase ‘to turn someone’s world upside down’. In this book, this is what literally and metaphorically happens to Tilda. At the beginning of the story, we meet a typical young girl who loves to do things that young children do. She has a happy life spending time with her friends, books and toys in and around her family home. Then one day, for no particular reason, everything turns upside down. Suddenly, Tilda can’t accomplish everyday tasks anymore- she can’t reach any thing or work anything out and happiness escapes her. Even spending time with her friends seems impossible and Tilda withdraws from her world .

Just when it seems that Tilda is destined to remain in this topsy-turvy state, she meets a ladybird who has itself been turned upside down. The reader joins Tilda in watching the ladybird (a source of such joy when found by little children) as it refuses to resign itself to its situation and repeatedly tries to set itself the right way up until it succeeds.

Inspired by the tenacity of the tiny creature, Tilda decides to try again and -little by little- she conquers the upside down situation that she believed herself to be stuck in and manages to turn things the right way up again. This book gives an excellent way into discussions about children’s mental-health topics and also the power of not giving up.

Susie Brooks
 & Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Picturebook

I Try is an engaging book focusing on developing resilience and perseverance in younger children. Each page introduces a character trying something new or wanting to get better at something – for example being braver, more curious or dealing with strong emotions. As well as introducing a range of characters, each page gives examples linked to animals which will appeal to younger readers. Susie Brooks cleverly provides questions on each page to discuss with the readers and link to their own personal experiences before finishing the book with a motivational and advice-packed page that will be accessible for all children to understand. The illustrations by Cally Johnson-Isaacs complement the story perfectly and add an extra layer to discussions that can be had with the children. Each page has a real scenario and children will be able to relate to what is happening at the same time as appreciating the animal illustrations and extra detail. This is the perfect book to use with EYFS and KS1 children to help develop resilience using a range of different examples and strategies to support them.

Caroline Crowe
 & Cally Johnson-Isaacs
Picturebook

A joyful picturebook tapping into the power of finding positivity in the world around us.

When a little girl wants to know whether rainbows are painted, Grandad explains that instead they are made with hope and kindness to others. The story visits each of the rainbow’s colours, listing associated things that bring hope, joy or kindness. Red is tulips or jam on toast, orange is kicking autumn leaves or dressing up as tigers, yellow is feeling sand on your toes or tasting zingy lemons, and so on. Many of the activities mentioned are those shared between friends or family members, and others focus on giving or being a blessing to others. Others still are just personal pleasures (like dying your hair a punk-rock shade of purple!).

I loved the emphasis on finding joy in everyday things, and it’s hard to read the story without thinking of your own rainbow of joyful activities that bring colour to life. This story could be an excellent springboard into conversations and activities with children about being mindful of small pleasures, about finding positivity and about drawing on how love, friendship and community can bring joy.

Cheerful in concept and also in its bright illustrations and bouncy rhyme, this is a happy read that is perfectly pitched for readers aged 3-7.


Nicola Kent
Picturebook

This book would make a great addition to any EYFS or KS1 classroom. Measuring Me is a book to spark curiosity in young children in so many different ways. The book is perfect for an Early Years classroom library or would support an All About Me topic, linking with Knowledge and Understanding of the world (Science) and Maths.

The story introduces children to concepts for different types of non-standard measurement, facts about the five senses and interesting information about the human body related to measure, for example, the smallest and largest bone in the body. The height chart at the back was a bonus and is also full of facts, which, when put on the wall, facilitated a lot of comparative language conversations in the classroom between children about their height.

We enjoyed talking about the diversity exemplified in the book, too. The book includes a child with a walking frame, a girl with a head scarf, and a child with a tracheostomy collar. The number of opportunities to be curious is maximised in this book- a book that we will come back to again and again for sure!

Caryl Hart
 & Bethan Woollvin
Picturebook

Caryl Hart’s ‘Meet the Dinosaurs’ is more than just a dinosaur picture book. She has a wonderful talent for writing a rhyming narrative that weaves in facts seamlessly. In this book, readers can learn about the appearance, diet and behaviours of a range of well-known dinosaurs with a non-fiction narrative that is great fun to read aloud in EYFS.

The book is perfect for promoting children’s vocabulary and language skills. With eye-catching and vibrant illustrations from the amazing Bethany Woollvin, ‘Meet the Dinosaurs’ is a must-read for parents and educators alike.

Yuval Zommer
Picturebook

This gorgeous picturebook explores the gentle magic of snow. Young readers who may have only experienced real snow once or twice – or perhaps never – will relate to spring-born friends Fox and Hare, who hear rumours of a thing called snow coming as winter arrives, but need to know what exactly snow is.

Their search takes them on a journey through Zommer’s beautifully illustrated forest scenes to ask a host of animal friends about snow until, at last, they experience the ‘whitest, coldest, fluffiest, sparkliest snow’ for themselves.

Julia Donaldson
 & Sharon King-Chai
Non-fiction Picturebook

A beautiful colour-themed book from National Treasure Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) and illustrator Sharon King-Chai. The rhyming story follows a little girl who uses her paintbox to inspire her own adventure by choosing colours and following where her imagination takes her, which each step vibrantly illustrated. There are flaps to lift and peepholes to explore.

The gentle rhyming text makes this a good book to read aloud and the colour-themed pages will help little ones learn their colours, and perhaps inspire them to create their own painted adventures too.

Classic Early Years Picturebooks

Jill Murphy
Picturebook

Jill Murphy’s Peace at Last is an absolute classic story book for children in the Early Years, and has been adored by young readers for decades.

Mr Bear is trying his best to get to sleep, but a host of annoying noises keep disturbing him. From ticking clocks to snoring and dripping taps, the noises of the house disturb him enough to send him on a quest for a more peaceful place to get some slumber.

Children love joining in with the repeated refrain and making the different noises of the house.

Martin Waddell
 & Patrick Benson
Picturebook

Owl Babies is a classic book for preschool that has been entertaining children for generations. A favourite preschool choice in both classrooms and homes, Owl Babies is the story of three baby owls – Sarah, Percy and Bill – who awaken from their daytime sleep to find that mother owl is missing. As the baby owls huddle together on their branch to wait, the night gets darker and the noises get scarier. Will mummy come back soon? This is a beautiful storytime favourite with a cosy ending, and one that anyone who has ever longed for a parent to return will immediately relate to.

David McKee
Picturebook

This storybook by Elmer creator David Mckee is a true classic.

Ignored by his preoccupied Mum and Dad, young Bernard attempts to gain his parents’ attention when a monster appears. Even the monster can’t make Bernard’s parents notice what is happening.

A simple story with multiple layers of meaning, Not Now Bernard is both funny and poignant, and is as much of a must-read for children today as it was when first published in the 80s.

Judith Kerr
Picturebook

The classic picture book The Tiger Who Came to Tea has brought joy to children and adults for over 50 years.  Author Judith Kerr is said to have written the book based on a bedtime story that she made up for her young daughters.

Sophie is all set for a quiet afternoon with her Mummy. The doorbell rings, and to her surprise there at the door is a big, stripey, furry tiger. The loveable tiger is welcomed in and wreaks a small amount of chaos, eating the food and drinking everything in sight.

The sheer joy of the afternoon tea with the tiger makes for a delightful story and is a crowd-pleasing storytime favourite for preschoolers.

Maurice Sendak
Picturebook

In this gorgeous picture book we go on a journey with Max, who’s been sent to his room for chasing the dog with a fork, and being an all-round wild thing. But somehow his room becomes a forest, and when he travels across the sea by boat he finds more Wild Things and becomes their king.

This book is such a classic and, as such, means so many different things to so many different people. For me, it teaches a young child that it’s OK to feel angry; it’s OK to take some time out. Your family will still love you. They’ll still be waiting for you when you come back. When Max stomps off to visit the wild things, he’s angry and frustrated. He’s so mad that he sails off “through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year”. When he calms down, he realises he misses home and, to the disappointment of his new Kingdom, he heads back to his bedroom where his “still hot” supper is waiting for him. This story is really the embodiment of an emotion and the power of those final lines – the release of them – still brings me to (happy) tears.

 


Judith Kerr
Picturebook

Mog the Forgetful Cat is a classic favourite children’s book character and this story was released to celebrate 50 years of Mog stories.

Everybody loves birthday parties – unless you are a cat who prefers peace, quiet and no fuss. Mog isn’t thrilled at the idea of celebrating her birthday (because there will be too many people and strange things in the house) and retreats to the solitude of a garden tree. Initially upset because they can’t find Mog, the children soon track her down and give her a special celebration to remember.

Mog holds a special place in many children’s hearts and this story explores themes of celebrating special days with the ones we love.

Axel Scheffler
Short story collection

A compendium of well-known fairy tales illustrated with the instantly recognisable style of Axel Scheffler, whose work many young children will know from Julia Donaldson’s books like The Gruffalo.

These short fairytales form the very foundations of our literary cannon and Axel’s new treasury includes traditional stories that preschool children love to learn, like the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Puss in Boots, as well as a handful of illustrated nursery rhymes.

Subtle details in the illustrations pay homage to the place of storytelling, rhyme and music in our culture. On one page, one of the three little pigs is listening to headphones while another is reading a book.  On another, a Willy Wonka -esque hare appears with his tailcoat and cane, and on another still unfolds a woodland scene that will look very family to the illustrator’s fanbase.  Meanwhile, the stories are told through simple language with enough repetition and predictability for young children to feel ownership of the tales after one or two readings.

A must-have for nursery and preschool book collections.

Inclusive Stories for Preschoolers

Lo Cole
Picturebook

Can you see Doris? She is a little red elephant, and she does not like to be noticed – which is hard when you are red and other elephants are grey. Doris likes to blend in with the crowd, but this is impossible for her due to her colour. She tries to find different places to hide and blend in with the background: with birds, with fish, amongst flowers. However, she always ends up standing out in the end. She finds herself hiding on a red page where she is nearly invisible; will she still be happy when she finally gets what she wants and cannot be found?

The story of Doris feels a little like Elmer, with the colourful elephant with a catchy name – however the character is very different while just as loveable. Spotting Doris on each page is a fun little challenge which adds a different dynamic to the story. There is a strong moral which follows the plot through the story; at first she is shy and wants to hide but by the end, she is proud to be different and finds her confidence and even tries to share this with another friend. This story book is perfect for EYFS and KS1 children as a link to thinking about being confident and proud of who you are.

Alexandra Penfold
 & Suzanne Kaufman
Picturebook

A simple but powerful rhyming picture book that shines a light on the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the classroom.

Right from its opening lines, “Pencils sharpened in their case, Bells are ringing, let’s make haste, School’s beginning, dreams to chase. All are welcome here,” the book exudes an essence of acceptance and unity that strikes a chord as pupils settle into the culture of their new class. The book uses the format of a school day to show how different classmates are equally included, and the repeated refrain of ‘All Are Welcome Here‘ is one that classes could easily adopt as their own motto.

For any school or teacher committed to diversity and inclusion, this is an essential book with a clear message elegantly conveyed through the journey of a group of children as they navigate a day at their school, where the very essence of seeking to make every individual welcome is the thread the runs through all of the pages. Each double page spread comes alive with vibrant depictions of children donning different cultural clothing, all engaged harmoniously in activities in an environment that is intentionally inclusive. This portrayal of a school thriving on shared learning from one another’s traditions is both heartening and thought-provoking.

Eva Wong Nava
 & Li Xin
Picturebook

This picture book provides a beautifully illustrated introduction to Chinese New Year.

The night before the celebrations, Mai-Anne explains that the Lunar New Year is about to arrive and that her family enjoys a special set of traditions. Mai-Anne helps to clean and decorate the house and is excited when her grandmother (Nai Nai) arrives in time for the most important dinner of the year – fish for good luck, noodles for a long life, dumplings for blessings and nian gao for success. After dinner, Mai-Anne and Nai Nai settle down together and Nai Nai recounts the important story of the Great Race. Along with Mai-Anne, the reader learns about the story of the twelve animals who race to cross the river. Then Mai-Anne enjoys a special family Dragon Dance, eats sweet tangerines and wears a special red outfit for luck.

This is a lovely picture book to read at Chinese New Year but also all year round too as a book that celebrates family moments, bonds with grandparents and the joy of special traditions. The illustrations and text are both warm and celebratory in tone. It also features a non-fiction section on the final pages with more information about Chinese New Year and the dragon dance.

Jon Burgerman
Picturebook

This is a fun introduction to the words used to identify and describe different feelings. Doodle-style cartoon creatures exemplify each feeling with personal examples – one creature relates feeling joyful to playing outside, while another feels sad when they are all alone and another still links the feeling of anger to wanting to shout.

The simple connections made between feelings and both positive and negative experiences can serve as a starting point for discussions with children about the words they use to describe their emotions as well as different times and places they have felt those emotions. The illustrations are bright and fun, and the rhyming text is simple enough that children will begin to memorise it after two or three story sittings.

Poems and Rhymes for Preschoolers

Krina Patel-Sage
Poetry

An eye-catching ‘bouquet’ of haiku poems. This hardback book  instantly engages with the beauty of nature with vibrant colours, where each page has people engaging with flowers or each other. The twenty-four haikus, each about a different flower, some well-known and others less so, are written where you can dip into and read a few or read the whole book in one sitting.

Every beautiful poem has a focus on at least one of the ‘five ways to wellbeing’: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give. The overarching theme of nature and treating it and ourselves mindfully is present throughout. I adore the floral fun facts at the end of the book, where the reader finds out interesting information about the flowers, whether it is where the name originates from or links to countries all around the world.

Perfect for all ages, it is a book to add to any collection on poetry, nature or well-being.

Michael Rosen & Polly Dunbar
Poetry

Michael Rosen is a master of the word. He is a master of rhythm and rhyme and a master of the engagement of young children. This book is full of poems specifically aimed at the youngest children. It recognises that enabling children to hear and feel words in an enjoyable and engaging way, is not just a foundational skill for learning to read and write, but a fundamental entitlement for all children to be able to be introduced to the joy of playing with words.

The poems and rhymes follow the loose structure of a child’s day from the rhyme “Up” at the start to “Goodnight” at the end. In between comes rhymes that can accompany all sort of activities such as “On the swings” and feelings, like the rhyme “Happy”. The rhymes are simple and easily recalled but the joy for the child will also be in the illustrations by Polly Dunbar. Pictures of children illustrate each rhyme – my particular favourite is the illustration of the child ‘putting on’ her pyjamas to accompany the rhyme, “Jimmy Jams”.

This is a great book for a parent to share with a very young child and for teachers in the early years to read to their class. Children will quickly know their favourites and in no time will be reading along with the adult.

Joseph Coelho
 & Nicola Killen
Poetry

A beautifully illustrated anthology of short poems for little children. The poems cover a diverse range of topics relatable to preschoolers, including nature, family life, favourite foods and playing games. The poems are designed to engage and encourage children to participate through repeated phrases and counting sections or by prompting actions (‘Nose Boogie’ will become a quick favourite in the classroom!).

Many will prompt discussion or invite the fun of improvising further verses. For example, the poem ‘Weather’, which is a play on the well-known song The Sun Has Got His Hat On, will naturally lead on to children continuing the pattern of the stanzas starting The Wind Has Got His Scarf On, The Rain Has Got Her Boots on, The Snow Has Got Her Gloves on and so on.

This is a really lovely preschool poetry collection that encourages children and adults alike to relish the sheer fun of language and rhyme.

Nick Sharratt
Picturebook

This is the ultimate rhyming story book for preschool, by the much-loved illustrator Nick Sharratt.

Timothy Pope heads to the park with his telescope, but when he looks down it and is sure he sees a shark, we soon learn that things are not always as they seem! There are flaps and die-cut holes to explore, making this a memorable interactive story choice.

The repeated refrains of Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope, what can you see through your telescope? and ‘Is there a shark in the park?’ are remarkably catchy and will quickly have children joining in. A really fun must-read book for EYFS children!

 

Recommended Non-Fiction Books for Preschoolers

DK
Non-fiction

We highly recommend DK’s ‘My Very Important Encyclopedia’ series, which also features volumes on animals, oceans and sport. It is not easy to find comprehensive non-fiction books that are suitable for the younger age range, but the spacious pages, simplified text and high ratio of images (both photographs and illustrations) make this a brilliant choice for Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 children.

Each page features a different dinosaur or dino-themed word or topic (like fossils or carnivores) and there is a handy pronunciation guide to less well-known words or dinosaur names. It feels like a real encyclopedia but is perfectly pitched for the youngest readers without having any overwhelming chunks of text or overly complicated diagrams.

This absolutely super young non-fiction book will become a go-to for dinosaur-loving children who are curious to learn more.

Sophy Henn
Picturebook

All Kind of Families, written and illustrated by Sophy Henn, is a wonderful book to use across various opportunities in the preschool or primary classroom. It is an excellent resource to promote discussion and understanding of family diversity in humans and animals. By making links to animals, children gain a wider experience of different families, all underpinned by the theme of love.

The book explores and promotes families of all shapes and sizes, including those with different parents and varying numbers of siblings as well as roles of other individuals and adoption. Each is done sensitively to help children understand and embrace the naturally different shapes of families, using animals as a way of showing natural differences.

The book would be most suitable for EYFS and KS1 but could be adapted for older age groups too. Each theme is linked to different animal families and the final pages of the books give more information about each of those animals.

Polly Faber
 & Klas Fahlén
Non-fiction
Building a Home is a beautifully illustrated picture book guide to exactly how an old building can become a brand-new home.Now available in paperback, with action-packed artwork from Klas Fahlen and a gentle narrative text by Polly Faber, find out all about the people, machines, processes and tools involved in breathing new life into an old building. Packed with builders, cranes, diggers, cement mixers and a host of other exciting tools and machinery, follow a crumbling old factory on the edge of town as it goes from being an empty shell to something entirely new . . . a home.
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
 & Janna Morton
Non-fiction

This book by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara is one of the books in the best-selling series, Little People, BIG DREAMS. These books explore the lives of people who achieved great things, but focus on when they started out as children with a dream.

Mae Jemison became a scientist and the first black woman to be admitted to the astronaut programme at NASA, later becoming the first African-American female astronaut in space. As a child, Mae dreamed of going in a real space rocket and the story shows how she pursued her dreams and overcame obstacles to reach for the stars.

Young children love stories about explorers and space, and this book based on an inspirational true life story has both.

Peter Arrhenius
 & Ingela P Arrhenius
Non-fiction Picturebook

This is a rhyming non-fiction book with flaps to lift and oodles of details to spot. The concept of the book is about people who work at night time. It could fit well with topics about People Who Help Us or Light and Dark. Children enjoy the peek-inside nature of the flaps, gaining insights into a world that is not normally accessible to us because we are sleeping!

The simple language, gentle rhyme and warm illustrations make this a good choice of non-fiction to share with Nursery, Preschool and Reception aged children.


Jessica Spanyol
Picturebook

We highly recommend this STEM-themed series from inclusive publisher Child’s Play.

In Rosa Explores Life Cycles, Rosa and her friends discover frogspawn and find out about what happens in the life cycle of a frog. The book doesn’t shy away from technical vocabulary, and young children will encounter words like amphibians, larva, gils, embryo and metamorphosis  – all explained by the children on their scientific learning quest in a narrative non-fiction style. The format is a board book with colourful illustrations, appealing to younger children but actually putting a vast amount of learning into little hands.

We like the diverse cast of characters, the matter-of-fact tone and the discovery-based approach to learning the story celebrates.

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Guidance: About the Preschool Booklist

How important is reading in the Early Years?

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.

Preschool children also love books with a memorable story. Many people can fondly remember their favourite picturebooks from the early 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), to laugh-out-loud favourites (like Poo at the Zoo or Aliens Love Underpants) to sincere stories about animals and nature (like Victor the Wolf with Worries or the EYFS storytime classic Owl Babies), we’ve got something for all tastes.

For books about being kind or managing emotions, try Everybody Has Feelings or Kindness Makes Us Strong. If stories to prepare children for starting school or making friends are what you’re looking for, try Lulu’s First Day or All Are Welcome. 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 Now Now Bernard or Jill Murphy’s Peace at Last. Others are newly published, like Matt Carr’s corn-y adventure Pop! and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s tender story of intergenerational family love in Mama’s Sleeping Scarf.

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 Building a Home and the bright and playful All Kinds of Families), to the space-themed inspirational story of Mae Jemison.

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 expand 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.

Can I download a printable version of the Preschool Booklist?

All of our Year Group Recommended Read lists come with a printable poster and checklist. Schools are very welcome to display the posters or to share the printable resources with their community.

Printable Poster – Best Preschool Books PDF

preschool recommended reads printable poster 2024

 

Printable Checklist – Best Preschool Books PDF 

preschool recommended reads checklist 2024

 

Where can I find recommended read lists for other primary school year groups?

We can help! Our team of experts at BooksForTopics has poured hours of careful work into curating lists of the best books for each primary year group. Each booklist contains 50 recommended reads and includes a printable poster and checklist. Schools can purchase full packs of each Year Group list from our partners at Peters.

Here are the quick links to our primary school booklists:

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Preschool: 50 Recommended Reads

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