Award-winning author, L.R.Knost

25 Must-Have Books for Preschool Bookworms

Bookworm weighs in on must-have books for your children in Little Hearts’ How to Build a Home Library for Bookworms from Tots to Teens series. Check out 25 Must-Have Books for Baby Bookworms and 25 Must-Have Books for Toddler Bookworms and check back for 25 Must-Have Books for Early Elementary Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Tween Bookworms, 25 Must-Have Books for Teen Bookworms, and 25 Must-Have Books for Young Adult Bookworms in the coming weeks as well as literacy tips, book activities, and book nook ideas!

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

This story of struggle and survival, illustrated in Eric Carle’s unique, brilliantly colorful style, follows a tiny seed as it beats the odds and fulfils its purpose…growing and blooming into a beautiful flower.


It is Autumn. A strong wind is blowing. It blows flower seeds high in the air and carries them far across the land. One of the seeds is tiny, smaller than any of the others. Will it be able to keep up with the others? Where are they all going? One of the seeds flies higher than the others. Up, up it goes…


Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly (see related activities below)

This is a deceptively simple book with a powerful message for a small child…YOU can tell the monsters to “GO AWAY!” As children read along, they build a monster with the die-cut pages and then send it away again, one scary part at a time. Love this creative way of making children feel powerful and encouraging them to say “No!” when they’re faced with things that scare them!


Big Green Monster has two big yellow eyes, a long bluish-green nose, a big red mouth with sharp white teeth, two little squiggly ears, scraggly purple hair, and a big scary green face! But…YOU DON’T SCARE ME! So GO AWAY, scraggly purple hair! GO AWAY, two little squiggly ears…


Petey’s Listening Ears by L.R.Knost (see author reading below)

Wisdom for Little Hearts weaves gentle parenting techniques into engaging, humorous picture books to educate parents while entertaining little ones. In this first book in the series, lovable little Petey and his stuffed friend, Beans, are having a difficult day filled with bad choices and their unfortunate consequences until Petey’s  mommy and daddy step in with some gentle guidance.


Petey was having a bad day. First, his daddy said not to pull the cat’s tail. But Petey didn’t listen. He wanted his furry friend, Beans, to get a catback ride! The cat scratched Petey’s hand. That made Petey cry. Then his mommy said not to dump his toybox out all over the floor. But Petey didn’t listen. He wanted to play pirate ship with Beans…


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Harold is a little boy with a HUGE imagination. With his purple crayon, he creates adventures and wonders that have little ones alternately holding their breaths in suspense and giggling with excitement. This is one book you will enjoy as much as your children do!


One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. And he needed something to walk on. He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost. And he set off on his walk, taking his purple crayon with him…


If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

In this classic tale by my favorite children’s book author, the incomparable Dr. Seuss himself, a little boy’s imagination runs wild with the limitless possibilities that only a child can truly appreciate as he pictures himself catching all sorts of fantastical creatures for his “New zoo, McGrew zoo!”


“It’s a pretty good zoo,” said young Gerald McGrew. “And the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too. But if I ran the zoo,” said young Gerald McGrew, “I’d make a few changes, that’s just what I’d do…


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

This is a lighthearted and imaginative story about a bossy little mouse and his good-natured little boy host. Children find it funny simply because of the silly series of requests and how one thing leads to another…to another…to another. Adults find it funny for the same reason because of how much it reflects spending the day with a small child! (As a bonus, this book is a great lesson on sequencing. After reading it in storytime, ask your children what happened when the mouse got the cookie he asked for, then what happened when he got the glass of milk, etc.)


If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’s going to ask you for a straw. When he’s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin…


Wacky Wednesday by Theo Lesieg

This is one of my preschooler’s (and toddler’s and early elementary kiddo’s!) absolute favorite books! Finding and counting all of the crazy, out-of-place things on each page…one on the first page, two on the second, three on the third, etc…is as educational as it is entertaining!


It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on the wall…? Shouldn’t be there at all! Then I looked up. And I said, “Oh man!” And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began…


There’s an Alligator Under my Bed by Mercer Mayer (see author reading below)

I’ve read this book to my little ones so many times (at their request!) that’s it is literally falling apart at the seams. From the humorous illustrations to the heroic little boy who rescues his father from the ‘invisible’ alligator, children from toddlers to preschoolers and beyond will love this book. And the author reading is as funny to adults as it is to children with the silly slap-stick style ad-libs by Mercer Mayer himself!


There used to be an alligator under my bed. When it was time to go to sleep, I had to be very careful because I knew he was there. But whenever I looked, he hid…or something…


Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Little Peter has a problem, and it’s sleeping in the next room! A baby sister has joined the family, and Peter doesn’t like it, not one little bit. And when his old cradle and crib get painted pink, Peter knows it’s time to take action. He takes his favorite chair (to protect it from being painted pink!) and his pet dog and sets off on his own, but on the way learns about growing up and the value of each and every family member. In this adorably illustrated book by the author of the Caldecott Medal winning book, The Snowy Day, children will find a kindred spirit in little Peter and enjoy watching him find his way back home again.


Peter stretched as high as he could. There! His tall building was finished. CRASH! Down it came. “Shhhh!” called his mother. “You’ll have to play more quietly. Remember, we have a new baby in the house.” Peter looked into his sister Susie’s room. His mother was fussing around the cradle. “That’s my cradle,” he thought, “and they painted it pink!”…


I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt

My little ones giggle like crazy when I read this to them and then very seriously tell them, “I love you, my slimy green swamp monsters.” This is a lighthearted little book with a very reassuring message of unconditional love. One note is that the illustrations can be a bit scary for some children, but most will simply find them hilariously funny!


Mama said, “I love you, my wonderful child.” But I had a question. “Mama, what if I were a big, scary ape! Would you still love me then?” “If you were a big, scary ape, I would make you a birthday cake out of bananas, and I would say, ‘I love you my big scary ape.'” “But what if I was a…


BookSpeak! by Laura Purdie Salas

This book is BRILLIANT! It’s suggested for grades 2-5, but I love sharing poetry and literary concepts with my children at all ages and this is a really fun and creative introduction to elements such as plot, characterization, sequel, cliffhanger (“Please, author, write a sequel fast!” begs a dog hanging from a cliff in one poem.) as well as imaginative ruminations on how characters might feel when readers neglect them ( “Don’t close the cover and don’t walk away./Don’t leave me squished in here day after day.”) and more! Preschoolers may not ‘get’ everything this fantastic book has to offer, but if shared in small bites they’ll enjoy the rhythm and rhyme and silliness and may just come away with more understanding of literary concepts than you might expect!


I’ll tell you a story./I’ll spin you a rhyme./I’ll spill some ideas–/and we’ll travel through time./Put down the controller./Switch off the TV./Abandon the mouse and/Just hang out with me./I promise adventure./Come on, take a look!/On a day like today,/There’s no friend like a book…


Me and My Dragon by David Biedrzycki

This is a giggle-out-loud book with as much humor in the illustrations as the text. With hidden gems like a ‘knight’ light to discover along the way, reading this book is sure to hold everyone’s attention through storytime after storytime!


Some kids want a dog. Some want a cat. I want a dragon! A big dragon wouldn’t fit in my house. Three-headed dragons don’t get along with themselves. I’d choose a fire-breathing dragon. I’d teach him how to fly…


Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

There’s a gorilla on the loose, and he’s letting all the other animals in the zoo out of their cages! The silliness that ensues as all the animals follow the oblivious zookeeper home and prepare to sleep in his room for the night make for a good laugh in this fun and delightfully illustrated picture book. Toddlers love this book for the animals, but preschoolers ‘get’ the humor of a whole zoo camping out in the zookeeper’s bedroom and enjoy it on a whole different level!


Good night, Gorilla. Good night, Elephant. Good night, Lion. Good night, Giraffe…[or not!]


How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

Rocket is a rambunctious little puppy who likes to romp and play and nap (sounds a lot like most preschoolers I know!). One day he meets a little yellow bird who wants to play school. Together, they play and argue and work their way through learning the alphabet and sounding out words until Rocket finally learns to read!


Rocket loved to play. He loved to chase leaves and chew sticks. He loved to listen to the birds sing. Every fall morning after chasing leaves, Rocket would lie down in his favorite spot under his favorite tree. There he’d sniff the neighborhood smells and settle in for a good nap. But one day…a little yellow bird startled Rocket. “Aha! My first student! Wonderful!” she sang. Rocket was confused. “Student? I’m not a…” “But if I am your teacher,” the bird interrupted, “then you must be my student.” Rocket found it hard to argue with this bird…


Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

A mistake isn’t the end of the world…it’s the beginning of something new and exciting! That’s the message in this deceptively simple book with interactive flaps and tears and splotches that help the perfectionist in all of us to lighten up and see possibilities instead of failures. Excellent book for preschoolers and beyond!

Preview: A torn piece of paper is just the beginning…


No Bears by Meg McKinlay

The precocious Ella, reminiscent of the infamous Pippi Longstocking, announces her absolute reign over her own book and declares that bears are dirty, nasty creatures and are, therefore, banned from her book. Little ones will giggle with delight as Ella misses seeing the kindly, helpful bear following her from one adventure to the next, and adults will enjoy finding the subtle inclusion of classic fairy tale characters along the way!


Hi, I’m Ella, and this is my book. You can tell it’s a book because there are words everywhere. Words like Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After and The End. I’m in charge of this book, so I know everything about it-including the most important thing, which is that there are NO BEARS in it. NOT EVEN ONE…


The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This is a quiet masterpiece showcasing the art of encouragement with a bit of whimsy. When stubborn and discouraged little Vashti sits staring dejectedly at her blank sheet of paper in art class, her teacher’s gentle and unusual encouragement leads to a rush of creativity that then gets paid forward by Vashti herself. Love this fanciful little book!


Art class was over, but Vashti sat glued to her chair. Her paper was empty. Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper. “Ah! A polar bear in a snow storm,” she said. “Very funny!” said Vashti. “I just CAN’T draw!” Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you…


Light Up the Night by Jean Reidy

Science and geography concepts all wrapped up in a sleepy, rhythmic book about a little boy who transforms his blanket into various modes of transportation to explore the universe on his way to bed. A favorite for parents and children with its imaginative and soothing story that will lull little ones off into dreamland.


When it’s time to sleep, it’s nice to know there’s a place that’s safe.  In a cozy house, in a comfy bed, under a blanket that’s white and red under stars so bright they light up the night in your own little piece of the universe…This is my country, with highlands and plains, with farmlands and cities and highways and trains. It sits on my continent, far and wide, which kisses an ocean on either side, on half the Earth, which circles the sun, which hides its face when the day is done, while stars glow bright and light up the night…


A Friend for All Seasons by Julie Hubery

Take your little ones on a walk through the seasons with Robbie Raccoon and his favorite friend, Old Father Oak, as the sun shines in the summer, leaves fall and animals prepare for hibernation in the autumn, and acorns nestle in the ground throughout the winter awaiting spring to bloom. A sweet, enjoyable, and educational story all wrapped up in an adorably illustrated book.


Robbie was born in a cozy den high in Father Oak’s sturdy trunk. In the spring he learned to climb on Father Oak’s strong branches. All summer long he played with his friends Chip and Blackbird in the shade of Father Oak’s green leaves. On the first day of fall Robbie woke early…all Robbie found was a chilly, silvery mist…And then the winter came, the cold, dark, sleepy time, when all the leaves and flowers hide and sleep…


Jack and the Beanstalk: How a Small Fellow Solved a Big Problem by Joy Schleh, Illustrations by Albert Lorenz

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales,” and this version of the fable, Jack and the Beanstalk, is a great place to start. Action, adventure, intrigue, suspense, you name it, this story is as spellbinding as they come and a wonderful introduction to the fairy tale genre!


Since this book presents a fairly typical version of the text of the story, this preview is focused on what sets it apart from the others…the incredible illustrations! The illustrator took upwards of 60 hours per drawing, making the whole book a two-year project and with good reason. These aren’t just cartoons, there are detailed diagrams (to scale, no less!) of the castle, cats as big as tigers and a massive golden-egg-laying hen, schematics of Jack’s MacGyver-esque simple machines built with bits and pieces from the giant’s castle to overcome the obstacles he faces, and multiple ‘Where is Waldo’ type search-and-find pages. Amazing!


Dreaming with Rousseau by Julie Merberg

The mini-Masters series introducing children to the art of the Masters is marketed mainly to the toddler set, but its lively rhyming verses coupled with prints of famous paintings is a marvelous tool for sparking a love of art in preschoolers, as well. This little book is, itself, like a stroll back in time with Rousseau as your guide. Lovely!


After a stroll in the starlit night, beneath a moon that’s pearly white, a girl falls asleep on a sandy bed, as magical pictures dance in her head…


Quiet Time with Cassatt by Julie Merberg

The lilting, melodic quality of the verse in this mini-Masters book coupled with the paintings of children and families will make this a favorite, for sure!


It’s quiet time to think and rest and watch the world from a cozy nest. Time to sink into a soft blue chair and relax for a while without a care…


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

In this much-loved book, the gifted Shel Silverstein masterfully captures the bittersweet joy of sacrificial love and the human propensity for missing the wealth of beauty in that love in the pursuit of material riches. This story is as sad as it is inspiring, and makes a wonderful starting point for discussions about what really matters in life.


Once there was a tree. And she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest…[And as the boy grew, he took all that the tree had to give, her apples to sell for money, her branches to build a house, her trunk to build a boat] and the tree was happy…but not really…


One by Kathryn Otoshi

Numbers, colors, and a lesson on bullying, sticking together, and compassion all in one amazing little book!


Blue was a quiet color. He enjoyed looking up at the sky, floating on the waves, and on days he was feeling daring…splashing in rain puddles. Every once in awhile he wished he could be more funny like Yellow. Or bright like Green. More regal like Purple. Or outgoing like Orange. But overall, he liked being Blue. Except when he was with Red. Red was a hot head. He liked to pick on Blue. “Red is a great color,” he’d say. “Red is hot. Blue is not…


The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl

This is a great first chapter book for storytime with older preschoolers who have a longer attention span and can remember the storyline from one chapter to the next. Funny and quirky with Roald Dahl’s signature style, this short book is a little lighter and less grizzly than some of his other works (though, be aware, there is a brief scary part).


We have tears in our eyes/As we wave our goodbyes,/We so loved being with you, we three./So do please now and then/Come and see us again,/The Giraffe and the  Pelly and me./All you do is to look/At a page in this book/Because that’s where we always will be./No book ever ends/When it’s full of your friends/The Giraffe and the Pelly and me…



My little girls don’t have many nightmares, but there is the occasional monster in the closet or under the bed who needs to be evicted. To go along with the book Go Away, Big Green Monster  we made our own ‘Monster-Away Spray,’ guaranteed to send all scary monsters packing. Our colors don’t match those in the book perfectly because we just used foam stickers and googlie eyes from our craft box and blue spray bottles from the bargain bin at the fabric store, but my girls are thrilled with them! We filled them with water (and added a little spritz of febreeze in my six-year-old’s bottle because, “Monsters can’t STAND flowers!”) and then Daddy and Big Brother took turns pretending to be monsters and ran away squealing from the girls when they got sprayed. Now, a bit of bedtime spritzing in closets and under beds is all it takes to make my girls feel confident that they’ve rousted the beasties so they can sleep in peace! We also made a felt Go Away, Big Green Monster activity board to do together as we read the book, and, as soon as it was done, my toddler ran and got her ‘Monster-Away Spray’ and sprayed the monster.  🙂  (Click here for more ideas on helping children cope with anxiety.)


Author readings:

L.R.Knost reads Petey’s Listening Ears

Mercer Mayer reads There’s an Alligator Under my Bed

Related posts:

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Do not take that gift of hope lightly. It has the power to conquer despair in the midst of sorrow, to light the darkness in the valleys of life, to whisper “One more time” in the face of failure. Hope is what gives life to dreams, making the fairy tale the reality. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’

There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood

On a Winnie the Pooh style ‘long explore’ my little Pooh Bear discovered the world in ways only a toddler can  in…The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear

Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!

Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!

If You Give A Toddler A Book…


Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.

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