Picture Books for 3 to 6 Year-Olds
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Here are a few of our favorite picture books for three to six year-olds.
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman, 2006
This book is as fun to read aloud as it is to listen to. A group of enthusiastic chickens appear on each page to solve a crises on their farm. Ranging from making dinner to getting cows out of a tree, there is no emergency too big for these impressive chickens. Each two-page spread presents a different disaster on each day making this a nice tool for reinforcing days of the week to young children.
Froodle by Antoinette Portis, 2014
Little Brown Bird wants to try something new, so one day he makes up a silly word instead of his usual chirping sound that results in mixed responses from the neighborhood. One of the things that is guaranteed to make children laugh is nonsense words or sounds. My son would erupt in a fit of giggles while we read this book. I also loved that there is an underlying message of taking risks and trying new things.
Press Here by Herve Tullet , 2011
An interactive book that engages the reader to use their imagination to make something exciting happen on each page. This is one of those magic books that is not only fun to interact with, but it also teaches kids important skills without them realizing it. Just by playing, they review colors, cause and effect, directionality, etc.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Tom Licthenheld, 2015
Using flowing rhymes and hilarious puns, this funny and touching story focuses on the journey of friendship between a stick and a stone. Tom Lichtenheld’s illustrations are just fabulous and Beth Ferry’s scarce text is perfection. This is simply a wonderful book.
Beep, Beep Go To Sleep by Todd Tarpley, 2015
A little boy tries to put three rambunctious robots to bed only to be met with silly hijinks. The robots are reminiscent of toddlers, which will cause children to chuckle at this cute rhyming story. This quickly became one of our favorite bedtime books.
Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, 2004
Kevin Henkes is a master storyteller and Kitten’s First Full Moon is one of his finest books. The story follows a little white kitten who confuses the moon for a bowl of milk. Using only black and white, Henkes perfectly captures Kitten’s expressions on his quest for milk. A sweet story with beautiful illustrations that earned a Caldecott Medal.
Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Shahar Kober, 2016
While the other chickens peck around the farm, Zoey has dreams, a plan, and a pig named Sam. She is going to outer space and she isn’t going to let any other farmyard naysayers stop her. Zoey’s positive attitude, problem solving abilities, and wild imagination lead her and Sam to the adventure of a lifetime. A final page features Zoey pulling a variety of objects out of a trunk that will inspire her next adventure. I knew this book was a winner when my son asked if we could get the next book in Zoey’s adventures. Since a sequel as not been written yet, we had fun coming up with our own ideas for Zoey.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrade; illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, 1999
Poor Gerald the giraffe cannot dance and is deeply embarrassed at the annual Jungle Dance. With the encouragement of a cricket he finds his own music in the nature around him and with it unleashes the dancer within. A sweet story of being unique and finding your own rhythm to life.
Goodnight-Goodnight Construction Site (2011) and Mighty-Mighty Construction Site (2017) by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Follow a group of rough and tough construction vehicles as they work hard during the
day and curl up to sleep at night. The bold, action packed drawings combined with the rhyming text make this a perfect book to read during a construction themed storytime
or one-on-one with anyone who loves trucks.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, 1969
Eric Carle’s illustrations shine in this classic that follows a caterpillar from birth to his transformation into a beautiful butterfly. This is a great way to review foods and days of the week with little children.
Bark George by Jules Feiffer, 1999
Children love surprises, so when a puppy named George is asked to bark and meows instead, children can’t help but laugh. In this silly tale, George lets out a variety of animals sounds until he visits the vet to find out the cause of his confusion. I personally don’t love the illustrations, but every time I read this story to my Pre-K classes and my own children, they laugh out loud.
Can’t Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, 2010
When Ava can’t fall asleep, she tries to count sheep. Soon the sheep are exhausted, so other animals try to fill in for them with hilarious results. This is another one of our favorite bedtime books.
Friendshape by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, 2015
A rectangle, triangle, circle and square illustrate the importance of friendship with several playful puns. A fun story that celebrates friendship and reinforces shapes to children.
Oops Pounce Quick Run! An Alphabet Caper by Mike Twohy, 2016
Using only one or two words to a page, we follow a dog chasing a mouse. The words appear big and bold with the each letter of the alphabet highlighted in a bright color. The illustrations are full of action and are very engaging. My son requested this one multiple times and even asked me if we could act out the story. I think he really just wanted me to chase him through the house, but it was very fun and we collapsed in a fit of giggles pretending to fall asleep as they do in the end of the book.
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, 2016
We’ve all had bad days. Penguin is having an exceptionally terrible one for no real reason in particular. It isn’t until he finally slips into a nice bath, enjoys a hot chocolate, and cozies up into his bed that he begins to feel better. This was a great book to talk to my son about his own bad moods. We discussed what grumpiness means, ways to improve our mood and the fact that bad moods don’t last forever. We even pretended to wash of his grumpiness. It sounds silly, but it did make him smile.
Digger Dog by William Bee; illustrated by Cecilia Johansson , 2014
A dog uses a variety of construction equipment to search for buried treasure. There is a fun pop up page at the end revealing that he found more than just your typical dog bone. My son could not get enough of this book and we checked it out from the library multiple times.
Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan, 2016
Using his imagination, a little boy has a series of exciting adventures with his toys. He zooms in his car until he runs into a river of lava. “Great Gadzooks!” What is Max to do? It was fun to predict with my son how Max was going to overcome each obstacle he faced. An entertaining book for adventure lovers.
Ned the Knitting Pirate by Diana Murray; illustrated by Leslie Lammle, 2016
Some books about pirates can be a bit scary, but the soft water-color illustrations and bouncy upbeat text make this the perfect read aloud. Ned is a pirate who stays true to himself despite his crew’s attempt to convince him that knitting is not rough and tough enough for a pirate’s life. When one of his knitted blankets lulls a fearsome sea monster back to sleep, the other pirates realize the value of knitting and learn the new hobby. This book begs to be read out loud and it is almost impossible for children not to join in on Ned’s refrain. My son could not get enough of this book and we read it so many times, he memorized the pirates’ songs.
King Baby by Kate Beaton, 2016
The hilariously accurate portrayal of parents serving their child’s every whim, makes for a highly entertaining picture book. I honestly don’t know who will laugh more from this story adults or children. I personally had so much fun reading the baby’s commanding, imperious commentary. “King Baby is generous. You will have smiles and laughs and kisses. But your king also has many demands! Feed me! Burp me! Change me!” The illustrations, especially the baby’s expressions, are comical. Eventually the baby begins to grow into a big boy and he worries for his poor “subjects”. Luckily his successor, Queen Baby, joins the family for more adventures.
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills, 2010
A little yellow bird teaches Rocket, a dog, how to read by introducing him to the alphabet. This is a sweet story about persistence that will inspire any budding reader.
Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz; illustrated by Eda Kaban, 2016
Trucks, construction vehicles, girl power and a catchy tune… these are just a few of the things that make this children’s book a standout. This clever adaptation of the old folk song starts out with Old MacDonald and his wife driving onto the farm. The reader quickly discovers that in addition to farmyard animals, Old MacDonald also has a myriad of construction vehicles including excavators, cement mixers, bulldozers and a wife that is not only a talented mechanic, but also a monster truck driver. Pure fun!
Brontorina by James Howe, 2010
Brontorina is a large dinosaur who despite her size, simply wants to dance ballet. Unfortunately, she is too large to dance inside the studio, so two children and their teacher find a place where she can shine. A sweet story about acceptance, following one’s dream, and problem solving.
How to Train A Train by Jason Carter Eaton; illustrated by John Rocco, 2013
Who wouldn’t want a train as a pet? A young boy helpfully describes how to identify what kind of train is the right pet for you, how to catch one, and then how to care for it. Filled with tongue and cheek humor and beautiful illustrations, children and adults will not be able to resist this clever “how to book”. The large illustrations that fill most pages and engaging text, make this a wonderful read aloud for storytime and also for one on one sharing. There is a magnitude of different types of trains, which led to a fun discussion with my own son on which one he would want as a pet and why.
SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2006
What better way to get kids excited about the alphabet than using super heroes to introduce them? Using each letter of the alphabet, a new super hero is introduced with descriptions of his or her powers. The characters are diverse and the large illustrations are completely engaging. The Pre-Kindergarten students in my school love this book and check it out often.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, 2009
This book is always a winner at my school library. Kids love books with surprises and children will love the delightful silly break in the rhyming pattern of this playful romp.
Hooray for Hat by Brian Won, 2014
When Elephant wakes up in a grumpy mood one morning, he is surprised by a present on his doorstep that quickly cheers him up. He sets out to return the favor and passes on the kindness to his friends. A great story to inspire empathy and friendship.
The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose, 2014
Amazing photographs capture a real squirrel in comical poses with manmade props. Mr. Peanuts who loves to cook on a grill, read, and play the piano, longs for friendship, so he writes to his cousin to come and visit. There is not much of a story line here, but children will be enamored by the adorable photographs of squirrels.
Go Go Go Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper, 2014
A little circle rolls into town and says the only word he knows, “Go!”. Nearby construction vehicles hear him and begin their work on a bridge. At first everything is going splendidly, until Little Green continues to say “Go! Go! Go!” and the vehicles begin going too fast and crash into each other. Luckily a little red circle rolls in shouting the only word he knows, “Stop!” The two circles were exact opposites and found it difficult to work together at first, but after a lot of patience and practice they found just the right amount of go and stop for the construction vehicles to complete the bridge they were working on. I loved the underlying theme of collaboration and my son adored everything about this fun construction story. This was one that both my son and daughter requested over and over again.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr, 2014
Parr’s brightly colored illustrations and positive messages are accessible and relatable to children. The mistakes in this book focus on not being able to tie your shoe, falling down, etc. Since we are all imperfect, almost every child should be able to relate to this book. I happened to pick this one to showcase, but really almost every book Todd Parr makes is a winner.
How I became a Pirate by Melinda Long; illustrated by David Shannon, 2003
A little boy joins a band of pirates and at first relishes in his new life without rules or vegetables, but soon realizes being a pirate is not all its cracked up to be. David Shannon’s illustrations shine as he perfectly captures pirate life. A fun story for any buccaneer.