The Top 10 Best Books for Toddlers

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
October 31, 2019
man and Child Reading Book
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Toddlers love to learn, and reading with them exposes their minds to the world around them. With the best books for toddlers, you can give your child a head start in learning words, understanding concepts, and finding joy in reading.

Comparison Table

How Books Help Toddlers Learn

Books For Toddlers
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Toddlers use all of their senses to make sense of the world around them. When you read with toddlers, they love to turn the pages of their books. As they learn, they might tear pages or try to taste the book; this is why so many caregivers choose durable board books. But, as toddlers get a better understanding of how books work, they learn to work with pages made of paper.

The best books for toddlers do not need to tell stories. Instead, favorite books for toddlers should include:

  • Simple concepts
  • Bold, bright, and realistic pictures
  • Repetition
  • New words

The Importance Of Reading To Toddlers

Child Reading Book
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If the books do tell stories, they should be short and interesting enough to keep a young child’s attention. Toddlers will soak up the new words and concepts like little sponges, and they often enjoy reading the same book over and over again. Some of the best toddler books include simple stories with educational concepts, too.

For many caregivers and the toddlers they love, the best time of day is reading together. This one-on-one time gives caregivers and toddlers time to cuddle, read, and enjoy learning together. Reading together helps toddlers learn language skills, but it also helps them with listening skills, which is important when they get to school.

When toddlers and caregivers read together, toddlers learn social skills, too. They learn autonomy, as they begin to memorize the rhymes and learn about the items in the pictures. They learn they can “read” on their own. Doing things on their own is a big skill for toddlers.

Favorite Concepts, Rhymes, and Stories

It is hard to go wrong with books about animals, cars and trucks, and people. These ten books have been favorites with toddlers and their caregivers for many years.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear” by Eric Carle

It is challenging to find a toddler who doesn't love “Brown Bear, Brown Bear.” In fact, toddlers love this book so much they often learn to “read” it themselves, memorizing what their caregivers say with each animal. It’s an unforgettable book that teenagers will even remember reading when they were younger!

This book is a rhythmic and repetitive book asking different animals what they see, hear, smell, and more. Every animal has a color, and every animal responds to the questions they are asked. The board book has bold images of animals on white backgrounds making it easy for toddlers to learn the names and colors of the animals.

Toddlers love this story so much, and caregivers love learning that Carle wrote more in the same style, like Polar Bear, Polar Bear.

“Chica Chica Boom Book” by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Another popular choice for toddlers is the alphabet book “Chica Chica Boom Boom.” This study board book shows how much fun letters can have while they climb the coconut tree. Like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, the images are big and bold against a clean white background. Toddlers also learn to “read” alone with their caregivers by memorizing the rhymes on their favorite pages.

Each page features rhymes about the letters and how they wiggle their way up the tree. Eventually, the letters become too heavy and fall to the ground. Children love the cute rhymes, the bold, tropical colors, and the silly behavior of the letters. This book offers a fun way for children to learn letter recognition.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

Eric Carle knows how to write books that toddlers love and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of the best children’s books ever. This story is about a caterpillar who eats its way through berries, fruits, vegetables, cheese, and desserts. The sturdy board book even features a hole that shows exactly where the caterpillar ate his favorite foods.

Eventually, the caterpillar finds a branch, inches out, and becomes a chrysalis before turning into a beautiful butterfly. This book includes everything a toddler book should. It tells a story, introduces several concepts, and has charming artwork, again, made of bold colors against a clean white background.

Carle also has other books about special insects like “The Very Busy Spider” and “The Grouchy Ladybug.” You can’t go wrong with any of the books written and illustrated by Eric Carle.

“Potty” by Leslie Patricelli

Toddler books should teach age-appropriate concepts in a fun way and “Potty” does exactly that. Books like Potty make it fun for young children to learn about using the toilet. This book features an adorable toddler, named Baby, in a diaper asking about using the bathroom. Baby’s face is very expressive, so it is easy to recognize how Baby feels while using the potty.

By the end of the book, Baby uses his very own potty which causes everyone to celebrate. Instead of bold images against a white background, this one has colorful backgrounds.

It’s a fun book that helps toddlers see what it’s like to go on the big potty kissing those diapers good-bye. Baby could be a boy or girl, so the book is perfect for any child who is at this challenging stage of toddlerhood.

“My Big Animal Book” by Roger Priddy

Toddlers are little sponges when it comes to learning language. Books like “My Big Animal Book” are helpful tools for teaching words that toddlers would not experience in their everyday surroundings. My Big Animal Book includes photographs of real animals with their names underneath. That’s it. It’s a simple book that toddlers like to flip through and learn their names.

This is a bigger than average board book. Instead of randomly placing animals on the pages, they are organized into common categories. The book includes pages about

  • Pets
  • Birds
  • Farm animals
  • Baby animals
  • Zoo animals

The real photographs make it easy for toddlers to learn the names of the animals. Some of the pages include some details about the animals, like the place they live or the noises they make. The book is all about animals and does not have a story. However, there is nothing wrong with creating stories about the animals to make them come to life.

“Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” by Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry is another famous name in books for toddlers. “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” is loaded with every type of vehicle imaginable and is illustrated in Scarry’s friendly style. Like most concept books designed to teach vocabulary, this book is designed to teach children about every type of vehicle they’ll ever see.

There is a little story or two on each spread telling why certain creatures are driving or flying or boating. Along with all of the vehicles, there are items that we see on the road or in parking lots, like parking meters, shopping carts, and traffic lights. It’s a robust book filled with details that are a feast for the eyes, especially if you are a young child just learning about the world.

Don’t be surprised if your toddler sits down with “My Big Animal Book” or “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” and starts flipping through the pages, identifying the animals and vehicles on his or her own, just for fun.

“Go, Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman

This board book has it all. A fun story loaded with dogs, colors, sizes, vehicles, rhymes, and parties! The dogs are on a hurry to get somewhere quickly, but you don’t know until the end of the book. The surprise ending is fun for toddlers who get to see the dogs dancing and playing and frolicking at a party at the top of a big, green tree.

The artwork is quirky and detailed, but without being overwhelming. With everything going on this book, there are plenty of learning opportunities for toddlers beyond the dogs on their way to a party. This little board book keeps toddlers entertained as they look around at the different dogs, how they get to the party, and what they do when they get there.

“Knuffle Bunny” by Mo Willems

This endearing storybook is a good choice for toddlers who can sit through a longer story. It’s about Trixie’s trip to the laundromat with dad. Along the way, she loses Knuffle Bunny, and she and dad try to find it. The story is hilarious, and children do quickly understand how horrible it is to lose your favorite stuffed animal. “Knuffle Bunny” is a book with traditional paper pages.

This story is based on a real event that Willems experienced with his daughter. It is the first in a series about Trixie and her bunny. It is a good introduction to all that Willems has to offer to young readers and their caregivers. The illustrations feature realistic black and white backgrounds with colorful cartoon-like drawings.

After you get to know “Knuffle Bunny,” you’ll want more Willems. His other book series about characters like Pigeon (who wants to drive the bus) and Elephant and Piggie (who are the newest odd couple) will quickly become favorites with the children in your life. Willems creates age-appropriate humor that makes toddlers and preschoolers love to read.

“Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney

This beautiful board book has sold over 18 million copies because it shares the love between a parent and child. Only the parent and child just happen to be rabbits, specifically Nutbrown Hares. The lovely artwork features natural scenes that allow caregivers to teach children about the seasons, plants, and landforms.

It’s a sweet story to read at bedtime or at any time that you want to share how much you love each other. Love is a difficult concept to understand, but the rabbits do their best to show it in distance and creativity. It’s a book that can quickly become a keepsake.

“Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell

Toddlers love to do things and a lift-the-flap book like “Dear Zoo” is a perfect choice for children who want to interact with their books. Animal books quickly become favorites with children and Dear Zoo has been a favorite with children for over 30 years. The zoo is sending the animals out in the mail, but they are covered creatively by big flaps that are easy to lift.

This is a typical toddler board book with white backgrounds and brightly colored pictures of animals and the various containers in which they are hiding. There is a cute little story about a child who asked for an animal from the zoo, but the zoo keeps sending animals that aren’t ideal pets.

The reasons why the animals keep getting sent back to the zoo are quite funny. Toddlers will appreciate being able to decide whether the animals would be good pets. They also have fun trying to guess what animals are behind the flaps, even after they’ve read the book over and over!

Growing Young Readers With Classic Toddler Books

A boy reading book
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One of the biggest predictors of success in life is time spent reading. Studies show that children who are read to in their young years are more likely to grow up with a love of reading. These favorite toddler books can be enjoyed for many years into preschool and even early elementary.

They quickly become favorite things that children will read to themselves in bed, even before they actually can read words on a page. By giving your toddler sturdy board books, you do not have to worry about the pages being destroyed. They will withstand reading after reading after reading.

These playful topics and catchy rhythms aren’t just enjoyable for toddlers. Caregivers enjoy reading these stories and talking about the concepts with their toddlers. Some caregivers may have enjoyed these books when they were youngsters, too!

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