Which first books should I have in my preschooler's library?

In addition to choosing classic books, award-winners and favourites from your own childhood, you should let your child's interests guide you.

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.

Photo: Scholastic

1. Goodnight Moon

Photo: Indigo

2. The Going to Bed Book



Photo: Learning Press

3. Red Sled

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.

Photo: Penguin Random House

1. The Little Engine That Could

Harold and the purple crayon-book cover

Photo: Harper Collins

2. Harold and the Purple Crayon

The spectacular tale of pete rabbit- book cover

Photo: Penguin Random House Canada

3. The Spectacular Tale of Peter Rabbit

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.


1. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

2. My New Friend Is So Fun!: An Elephant and Piggie Book


3. Circle Square Moose

This article was originally published on Common Sense Media in November 2018.

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