“Go away big, green monster!” I emphasized as I read the page, my son sitting in my lap.
“Why, Mommy? Why did you tell it to go away?” He asked.
I took a deep breath. The “why” question. At the end of the night, after hundreds of questions throughout the day, even a simple why like this made me feel flustered.
But three-year-olds are always asking “why.” Not because they want to annoy us, but because they genuinely want to know. Even though I would love to give my child all the answers he seeks, I don’t know everything.
Books are the best way to answer questions you don’t know. And they can be a way to help your child learn to think critically on their own.
This list of books for three-year-olds was curated to address the social-emotional needs, relevant behavioral topics, and all the questions of 3-year-olds. And to help foster and develop a love of books.
Books for 3-Year-Olds – Quick Shop
- Don’t Touch This Book Bill Cotter
- Go Away Big Green Monster Ed Emberley
- We Are In a Book Mo Willems
- The Book with No Pictures B. J. Novak
- Little Bear Elsa Holmelund
- Grumpy Monkey Suzanne Lang
- Llama Llama Books Anna Dewdney
- The Very Quiet Cricket Eric Carle
- Hello World! Series Jill McDonald
- Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp! Margaret Mayo
- Noisy Dinosaurs Jonathan Litton
- Usborne Lift-the-Flap Dinosaurs
- Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs Giles Andreae
- My Goodnight Bible by Suzanne L. Lingo
- The Story for Little Ones by Josee Masse
- The Rhyme Bible Storybook by L.J. Sattgast
- Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
- God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
- Don’t Push the Button!: A Halloween Treat Bill Cotter
- The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything Linda D. Williams
What to Look for in Books for 3-Year-Olds
Children at this age need books with information to help them learn everything that they are questioning about the world around them. Look for books about different places, things in nature, or just simple things they encounter each day. At this age, children are ready for longer stories and books that tell stories. Look for books that will help them process new events in their lives like going to preschool, potty time, and understanding their emotions. Your little learners will still love books with simple rhymes that help build literacy skills.
Books for 3-Year-Olds
1. Don’t Touch This Book Bill Cotter
Larry is back and he has a new request: “Don’t touch this book!” Of course, when you do, fun things happen that will have both you and Larry in awe.
Don’t Touch This Book is one of our favorite interactive books and it’s so much fun for three-year-olds. This silly story one stands out to me because of the adventure element. I think it’s the perfect interactive addition to any collection for little readers.
2. Go Away Big Green Monster Ed Emberley
There’s a big, green monster in this book, but you have the power to send it away.
This is a great bedtime story to chase away three-year-old fears. The monster is introduced on a feature-by-feature basis and when he’s fully in the book, the reader sends him away feature-by-feature. The point is to teach kids that they have the power to send away their fears.
My started to develop a fear of monsters (and other things) at 3-year-old. This book gave him a tool to send those fears away. Now when he sees scary things (like Halloween decorations), he simply tells them to go away.
3. We Are In a Book Mo Willems
We Are In a Book is a book about exactly that. Gerald and Piggie are going about their day, when suddenly, they realize someone is reading them. They are in a book! They are being read! But if they’re in a book, what happens when the book ends?!
Young children will love this fun, interactive book. It’s fast-paced, good humor will leave you both laughing and smiling as Gerald panics at the book’s end. And it ends with the best request from all of you, that the book be read again.
4. The Book with No Pictures B. J. Novak
A book with no pictures sounds pretty boring. And this book keeps to its promise. There isn’t one picture. But it’s a silly book that is entertaining for young readers with its words alone.
The Book with No Pictures is one of our favorite books. My boys both think the phrase “boo-boo butt” from this book is hilarious. And it’s one that they ask me to read again and again, immediately after it ends.
5. Little Bear Elsa Holmelund
One of the first TV series we allowed our son to watch was Little Bear. Not only was it the perfect TV series for him at a young age, but was also the perfect, simple book at 3 years old.
Little Bear is a collection of 4 stories: “What Will Little Bear Wear?,” “Birthday Soup,” “Little Bear Goes to the Moon,” and “Little Bear’s Wish.” Each story is sweet and simple. They’re perfect for a little girl, but even my wild little boy loves calmly sitting and reading these.
6. Grumpy Monkey Suzanne Lang
Jim is feeling a little off today but doesn’t appreciate the other animals calling him grumpy and pestering him. Until he realizes that he is grumpy today and that’s ok. Tomorrow he’ll be fine, but today he needs to be grumpy.
This is a great book to help children understand their own feelings. Some days we feel a little off. We don’t know why and nothing we do seems to make us feel better. But sometimes acknowledging, “I’m not okay today and that’s okay” is what we need. This book teaches children that a feeling is just a feeling and it’s okay not to feel okay.
7. Llama Llama Books Anna Dewdney
These books are an extension of the original Llama Llama Red Pajama book, which I recommend for two-year-olds. These additional picture books are perfect for slightly older toddlers and preschoolers. They all deal with regular scenarios that young kids encounter.
My son connected well with Llama Llama Misses Mama, which is about Llama going to school for the first time. If your child goes to daycare or preschool at this age, they may have some of the same fears as Llama does. The book reassures him that Mama will always come back and it’s okay to have fun at school while she’s gone.
8. The Very Quiet Cricket Eric Carle
From the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, comes The Very Quiet Cricket. This tells the tale of a small, male cricket who can’t make a sound. It isn’t until he finds a small, female cricket that he finally finds his sound.
This is such a sweet story. It starts off by letting the reader know that only male crickets make noise. And proceeds to introduce a large number of bugs (which is already a win if you have a boy) while the cricket tries to make a sound. In the end, the book actually makes a soft chirping sound.
My son and I were both thrilled by this book. And I think any three-year-old will love it.
Warning: Many reviews mention their frustration with the inclusion of a button battery in this book. Button batteries can be dangerous to children (read more). Books that make sounds will often include this type of battery. I have yet to have a child of mine access the battery compartment (and I have had a child who tore sound books to pieces on more than one occasion). However, if you’d rather not have them in your home, skip this book.
9. Hello World! Series Jill McDonald
Why not answer your three-year-old’s “why” questions with a book? The Hello World! Series uses beautiful illustrations and scientific information in these board books for toddlers and preschoolers. The books cover different animals and other things that younger children might want to learn about.
The Hello World! series includes these 25 books:
Specialized Books for 3-Year-Olds
10. Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp! Margaret Mayo
Stomp, Dinosaur, Stomp! has more of a storybook feel than most dinosaur books. Making it fun for both kids and adults to read. It brings many dinosaurs together in a rhyme that’s easy to fall in love with. With the tyrannosaurus rex at the end of the book going “stomp, stomp, stomp.”
It’s catchy and engaging, with colorful illustrations, and includes a list of pronunciations in case you’re unfamiliar with dinosaur names.
11. Noisy Dinosaurs Jonathan Litton
What is it about toddlers and preschoolers and imitating sounds? My boys love copying the sounds that these books make. So this is such a fun book for them.
The sound button is embedded in a textured piece on the page. They love pressing it, hearing, and imitating the dinosaur sounds. The actual story in Noisy Dinosaurs is somewhat unimpressive, but it encourages kids to repeat the sounds they hear. And they love it!
This book discusses different types of dinosaurs and gives various information about them. Even after reading many dinosaur books and watching Dino Dan and Dino Dana, this book taught us a few things we didn’t know.
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Dinosaurs includes many flaps and reads less like a story and more like bits of interesting information that you can explore through the pages. It’s great for 3-year-olds who have trouble focusing on a story but can explore bits and pieces as they go.
Note: Buy the hardcover. The paperback and board book are slightly different books.
13. Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs Giles Andreae
3-year-olds can be all over the place. Lately, reading with my son hasn’t been the easiest experience. He has questions about everything and nothing seems to hold his attention. Except for this book. It’s a little on the longer side, but there’s so much action and adventure that there isn’t a moment for his mind to wonder. This was the first quiet read we’ve had in a long time.
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs follows Flinn who falls through the back of the craft closet at school (Narnia style) and lands in a world with ships, pirates, and dinosaurs. If your 3-year-old is as busy as mine, this is the book for him.
The Best Bible Books for 3-Year-Olds
14. My Goodnight Bible by Suzanne L. Lingo
My Goodnight Bible is the perfect Bible to start introducing stories, lessons, and prayers to your 3-year-old. If you want to spend some time teaching your children the Bible but don’t know how, this book will help you feel more confident. It’s simple and it uses more of a poem around the story than the actual Bible story. But I found it kept my son’s attention and helped us with a simple prayer and some thoughtful questions before bedtime.
Both of my toddlers began to look forward to their “Bible story” each night after a few days of being consistent with this.
15. The Story for Little Ones by Josee Masse
The Story for Little Ones sticks more closely to the stories of the Bible than some others and is still simple enough for toddlers. The stories are short and written in a way that makes sense (not choppy like some other toddler Bibles). The illustrations are full-paged and vividly capture the attention of little kids.
Each story has a short lesson and application that you can build off of with your child. It’s very simple like: God helped David. God will help you too. But it gives you a topic to ask questions about and pray with them about.
16. The Rhyme Bible Storybook by L.J. Sattgast
The Rhyme Bible Storybook is a great way to introduce the Bible to your 3-year-old. Each story, while true to the story, is told in rhyme. This helps your toddler remember the stories and gives them background knowledge for the day when they’re ready for the full text or a slightly more complex version.
This is my favorite Bible for toddlers because the stories are easy to memorize and true to the Bible. I wish it included some questions, a prayer, or some way of engaging your toddler with the content. But it leaves that to you.
The Best Holiday Books for 3-Year-Olds
17. Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
The Llama Llama books have a way of creating emotion with the cadence of the story. Llama Llama Holiday Drama is about the holidays and all of the crazy that can come with them. Buy the presents, decorate the tree, and bake 100s of cookies (just me?). Llama gets overwhelmed and has a meltdown because of all of this drama. It’s a great reminder for kids (and adults) to slow down and pay attention to what really matters during Christmastime.
18. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
God Gave Us Christmas is the perfect book for explaining the meaning of Christmas. Who is God? Why did Jesus come? All of those questions that you really want your child to understand are explained in this story about a polar bear trying to show her cub who God is and where to find Him.
This is a great Christ-focused Christmas book for three-year-olds.
19. Don’t Push the Button!: A Halloween Treat Bill Cotter
Larry has one last house on his trick-or-treating route, but he’s too scared to go up to it. You can’t resist pressing the doorbell button, though. And, of course, he can’t stop you. What will you find? Monsters? Or something else?
Don’t Push the Button!: A Halloween Treat is a cute, anticipatory book. Even though Larry is scared of the house (he’s heard there are monsters there), there’s nothing scary about what he finds. A funny interactive book that toddlers and preschoolers will love.
20. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything Linda D. Williams
As this fearless old lady goes about her day, she runs into a few scary things. But not to fear, she is not afraid of anything and finds a logical solution to this frightening problem.
This is the perfect Halloween book for story time. One of the things my son loves about The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is the repeated phrases and sounds as the little old lady encounters each item. Soon you’ll both find yourself walking around repeating the whole book from memory.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best books for three-year-olds, from a librarian and mom. I hope this list helps give you an answer when your child asks “why.” And that soon you’re discussing possibilities instead of being put on the spot for an answer.
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