Your preschooler will naturally develop preferences for specific subjects (trains, animals), storytelling styles (rhymes, songs), and genres (scary, silly, adventurous). It’s not uncommon for a young kid to fixate on a certain book and demand to hear it over and over again, with consistent wording each time (i.e. no skipping pages!). So, in addition to choosing classic books, award-winners, and favorites from your own childhood, you can let your child’s interests guide you.
In general, you’re looking for books that are age-appropriate, key into where your kid is developmentally, and that your kid enjoys—and hopefully you do, too! Here’s some age-by-age guidance and a few book suggestions:
Best first books for toddlers
For this age, look for picture books with imaginative illustrations that help build an understanding of basic vocabulary and numbers. Take into account pro-social messaging, dependable adult characters, and cultural diversity. Avoid violence and scariness.
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Best first books for three-year olds
The most appropriate media for this age help develop basic vocabulary and number sense. Select books that teach a simple message or that model social lessons like how to share and be a good friend. Be cautious about scary stuff.
Best books for four-year-olds
Anything that creates school readiness—ABCs, simple sentence structure, basic numbers—or that teaches basic scientific concepts (like gravity). Pro-social messaging, positive role models, and stereotype-defying can have a big impact. Take your kid’s lead on scary stuff (some 4-year-olds like a little bit); avoid sexy stuff.
This article was originally published on Common Sense Media in November 2018.