April 14, 2024


Veteran Baby Makers

The 15 Best Preschool Books To Read Aloud

You’ve been reading to your kiddo since they chewed the corners of their board books. By the time they get to preschool, they’re getting ready to learn to read, so choosing high-quality, inspiring books that instill a love of reading is key. The best preschool books to read aloud teach children about emotions, spark their imaginations, and satisfy their curiosity about the world. Scary Mommy reached out to Sally Macaluso, a preschool teacher, to learn more about what kind of books preschoolers (and their parents) love.

The Expert

Sally Macaluso, M.Ed, is a New Jersey-based special education preschool teacher with a master’s degree in early childhood education from William Paterson University. She runs the blog Tenderhearted Teacher where she provides early childhood resources for parents and caregivers of preschool-aged children. She emphasizes that her “overall philosophy stresses social-emotional development above all else.”

What To Look For When Shopping For The Best Preschool Books To Read Aloud

Whether you’re shopping for your own pint-size bookworm or for a classroom or birthday gift, one thing is clear: Preschoolers like tales they can participate in. “Preschool students love books with rhyming words and/or catchy, repetitive language that they can read along with you as you tell the story,” explains Macaluso. “For example, my preschoolers love the Pete the Cat series by Eric Litwin and the Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney because they know what’s coming and get excited about joining in.” For that reason, you’ll find plenty of books on this list with a rhyming cadence and there’s even a section below that’s specifically dedicated to interactive books for kids.

Preschoolers also enjoy books that feel relatable to their own life experiences, explains Macaluso. “These might include stories about going to school, forming friendships, becoming a sibling, and more,” adds Macaluso.

Is Your Preschooler Ready For A Read-Aloud Chapter Book?

While picture books are king in preschool, Macaluso, recommends introducing chapter books when your child can, “enjoy storytime, can sit and engage for longer periods, can make predictions about what is being read, and show recall and comprehension skills.”

But because chapter books rely less heavily on illustrations, the best preschool books to read aloud to your new reader are the ones they will enjoy. “Choose quality books with relatable characters, themes, and topics that your child is interested in,” recommends Macaluso, adding “You want to pick books with short chapters so that you can maintain your child’s attention.”

Want even more motivation to pick up a book? Studies have shown that children benefit from reading print books rather than reading from a screen. So cuddle up, grab one of the recommendations below for your bookshelf, and prepare your silliest reading voices.

The Best Preschool Books To Read Aloud

A Book About Friendship That Will Have Your LO Painting *All* The Rocks

A book all about creativity and collaboration, Scribble Stones is one your kiddo will want to read over and over — just look at its 4.8-star rating on Amazon. The plain gray stone in this book has high hopes for what he will become but ends up as a “dull” paperweight. The stone helps Scribble and Splatter, gaining their color along the way and becoming unique. Don’t be surprised if this book inspires your little artist to want to make some scribble stones of their own! The dust jacket even unfolds into a poster for a newly-obsessed rockhound.

Review: “This is a great book. Very fun to read and reread and reread and reread, as preschoolers expect you too. I love the story and the message it gives. And as my daughter is a avid rock collector, she fell in love with the story and now wants to paint every one.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

The Most Fun Book For Adults To Read Aloud

Between its rhyming rhythm, colorful illustrations, and heartwarming story, The Snail and the Whale is a book you’ll actually enjoy reading out loud. Preschoolers will empathize with the tiny snail that’s itching for adventure and befriends a humpback whale. The whale takes the snail on beautiful far-ranging journeys but ends up in need of rescue. The quick-thinking snail finds a way to help, despite its small size, and the book ends with the snail’s friends and family taking a tour of the world together. From the same author of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, this endearing tale will become a family favorite.

Review: “What a jewel of a story – about an unlikely friendship, globe-trotting adventure, creative problem-solving and resourcefulness, thinking beyond the confines of one’s limitations (perceived or otherwise.) [ …] The rhymes and prose flow seamlessly. It’s lovely to both read and listen to. The artwork is excellent, too. The pictures are vivid, colorful, and engaging. We’ve read the book dozens of times by now, and we’ll still often notice some new little details.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

A Gorgeously Illustrated Book For Creating Little Book Worms (Or Dragons)

This book about sharing a love of books is perfect for budding readers. Lessons include not judging a book by its cover (or a dragon by its fierce appearance) and about how books can bring people together. Franklin finds a friend in little Luna and the two end up opening a bookshop on Franklin’s back. The jewel-toned art and lyrical writing style make this a book they’ll want to hear again and again.

Review: “This is a book that begs to be read aloud. […] There is a lot of rhyming in this book; I especially like how it seems to be used as a sort of pacing device. During the climax of the story, when Luna and Franklin are building the bookshop, the rhymes get closer and closer together. Elsewhere, they are more subtle; sometimes they are even just internal rhymes.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 5 years

An Award-Winning Book About Facing Your Fears

This book has won a slew of awards including the New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2017. Written by Caldecott Medal-winning author Dan Santat, After the Fall follows the inspiring journey of Humpty Dumpty as he heals physically (and emotionally) after his fateful fall. Humpty Dumpty learns to face his newfound aversion of heights and teaches kids the value of not letting fear get in the way of living life to the fullest.

Review: “I loved the idea of learning to get back up when you fall. […] The ending is a surprise and it gets kids thinking. [… After the Fall] was fun to read after having practiced the nursery rhyme so much. The children made reference to it later in the day, indicating they were still thinking about the book and the message. I was also surprised when it came how large it was and what a nice hardcover book with a dust jacket for [the price], as well as beautifully illustrated.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 8 years

A Humorous Read-Aloud Book With 70,000+ Reviews

There’s a reason this read-aloud favorite has more than 70,000 reviews on Amazon. It’s a rollicking, cumulative tale of a coffee-deficient, farting donkey with a repetitive “hee haw” that preschoolers love to holler. My little one would urge me to read faster and faster, enjoying how much I was tripped up by the tongue-twisting text. While it may not qualify as fine literature, it’s a book that will have them giggling from cover to cover. What better lesson to teach than that books can be a blast?

Review: “This book is hilarious! My 4 year Granddaughter kept talking about this book from her preschool class so I ordered it and it has been a favorite for everyone. Not necessarily for those without a sense of humor (after all, farts are funny….especially to a preschooler). Enjoy, it’s a great read!”

Recommended Age: 2 to 5 years

The Best Interactive Read-Aloud Books

An Interactive Book Where Kids Make The Choices

Remember how much you loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid? This is the ultimate read-aloud book for preschoolers, with nine story lines that will have them begging for a re-read. Kids love going back to see how different paths lead to different endings. Parents love how the book teaches children about the power of their daily choices, as they decide what Danny should do throughout his day.

Review: “We bought this as a birthday gift for our 3 year old, and she LOVES IT. […] After reading through it a couple times with different endings, we had to stop to go run an errand. My daughter started to throw a tantrum, but when I reminded her about how she was using her power to choose, she stopped mid-wail. I could see the wheels turning in her mind. She said, ‘I’m going to make a good choice.’ Tantrum averted. […]Now we regularly talk about her power to choose, and at bedtime she asks to talk about the choices she made that day!”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

An Interactive Book That Puts Your Preschooler In Charge Of Dragon’s Bedtime

This book was written to be read aloud, assigning kids a variety of jobs to ensure the dragon isn’t woken. Kids are asked to sing the dragon a lullaby, rock the book gently side to side, and keep the noisy townspeople from accidentally startling the dragon awake. The humorous text will keep kids involved and engaged until the end, where they are instructed to (gently) close the book.

Review: “The art is vivid and engaging, the empathy skills it teaches are fantastic, and the interactive reading is fun and makes for a light-hearted bedtime story. Your preschool and young elementary school children will love to follow the instructions in the book as they care for their dragon friend.”

Recommended Age: 2 to 7 years

The Book That Comes With An Accompanying Musical App

There is so much to enjoy in this interactive read-aloud book. The most unique part of this book is the QR code that lets the reader download a free app. By pointing the app at any page of the book, you’ll hear the corresponding orchestral music for that part of the story. The text features a rhyming introduction to each animal member of the symphony and there are also hidden surprises for young readers to spot along the way and a secret message to uncode. This book more than earns a spot on your bookshelf!

Review: “This book is a brilliant way to share music and the animal world with your children. As a teacher, I appreciate all the excellent features of this book – the downloadable music, the ease of using each animal and poem separately, the fabulous illustrations, beautiful and intriguing music and web related secret features. […] This book can be read, read and listened to, danced to, imitated and enjoyed by children of all ages! You can read a little, play a little and create memories for your family.”

Recommended Age: 2 to 7 years

An Interactive Read-Aloud That Will Hold Your Superhero’s Attention

Part of the popular, interactive Who’s In Your Book series for children, this book lets kids team up with a new superhero friend. Together, they (gently) defeat a green scribbling character, who is eventually guided to scribble in a coloring book instead of all over this book. Children are asked to tap, shake, lift, and touch the book as they follow the story, which has eye-catching art and a great message.

Review: “It does a great job of talking directly to the reader. There’s loads of chances to be active and do things to or with the book: tapping the pages, waving it around to fly, etc. […] It basically uses the book as a prop as much as just a book and breaks the fourth wall to involve the reader. I liked how it links in the other characters from the series for the new hero to rescue! It plays with superhero conventions but very nicely uses the kindness super power to point out how super heroic we can all be. Brilliant!”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

Writer’s Choice: A Bedtime Read-Aloud That Makes Shadow Art On Walls

This book isn’t just a bedtime story — it’s an experience. The simple passages are paired with sturdy pages that project the art onto your ceiling or wall with the help of a small flashlight (like your phone’s). Kids love to help with this part! The text is calming, as you follow the journey of a kite flying higher and higher, passing birds, planes, and even rocket ships.

Writer’s Praise: “When my kids were in preschool, they loved taking turns holding the light while we read this book every night. They enjoyed playing with the light’s distance to change the scale of the art or slowly moving the flashlight up to make the planes and birds really “fly.” It’s a soothing bedtime read that my youngest still enjoys well into elementary school.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 9 years

The Best Read-Aloud Chapter Books

Editor’s Choice: The Antidote To Dainty Frilly Princess Books

This chapter book is the first in a nine-book series about Princess Magnolia. She’s a typical princess, except when she’s saving the day as The Princess in Black. Her alter ego is a secret, so there’s lots of humor involved as she fights monsters between (and during) tea parties along with her trusty pet horse. Princess Magnolia offers kids a chance to re-think what a princess is capable of during an action-packed and un-scary monster hunt.

Editor Praise: “My two daughters both love this series, specifically because the princess fights monsters! Or as my 5-year-old put it: “She’s not just sitting on a throne wearing pink. She’s doing something!” The illustrations are really sweet and the writing has a lot of alliteration so it’s fun to read aloud.” –Kate Miller, Scary Mommy Editor

Recommended Age: 4 to 7 years

This Book For Your Dog-Obsessed Child (Cat Lovers Need Not Apply)

A chapter book for the dog lover in your life, Barkus is a collection of five stories about Barkus the dog and his favorite kid. It’s the perfect first chapter book because the chapters are short (the book is just 45 pages total) and the text is direct and easy to understand for brand new readers. The bright, colorful art is enticing to little ones used to picture books.

Review: “My 4-year-old has asked me to read this book every day. […] She loves it! It has a great balance of words and pictures for those just starting to read longer/chapter books, especially for the animal lovers. We have really enjoyed the art and the story.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

A Chapter Book With Science, Magic, And Positive Female Role Models

Introduce your emerging reader to the wonderful world of chapter books with this charming page turner. The main character, a girl named Zoey, loves to explore nature and wears her “thinking goggles” on top of her head as she explores scientific theories. The book also features Zoey’s mother, also a scientist, for a strong parental role model. The book even comes with a glossary for science terms to ensure kids understand the story. The best part? This is the first in a long series!

Review: “It’s about magic and dragons which appealed to my preschool and elementary aged kids. The characters are adorable and Zoey’s age is wonderfully ambiguous such that each of my kids thought she was their age even though they have a 5+ year span. Zoey is helpful and independent but still relies on her parents when she needs them. The scientific method is woven into the story to guide Zoey in her experiments to help Marshmallow.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

The Perfect Chapter Book For Preschoolers That Love Animals

Get prepared to hear “Just one more chapter!” when you’re reading your preschooler the whimsical tale of Mercy Watson, a toast-loving pig and her human family. The first book in a highly rated six-book series, Mercy Watson to the Rescue has brief, snappy chapters, humorous illustrations, and the kind of repetitious phrases that new readers love so much.

Review: “This book may have been written for early readers but my 4 year old loves it when I read this to her. She loves Mercy and all the other characters and is captivated by the story. […] My husband and I get a kick out of it too.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

This Classic Chapter Book That Appeals To Your Preschooler’s Sense Of Adventure

A classic early chapter book, My Father’s Dragon was written in 1948 but still captures kids’ imaginations today. Elmer Elevator, a little boy who dreams of flying, learns about a dragon that is forced to ferry people across a river. He sets off to free him to earn a flight. The book has black-and-white illustrations every few pages to help kids get used to the idea of a book without pictures, while the text paints a vivid picture of the wild jungle and its many animal residents.

Review: “This is the first chapter book I read to my 4yo boy and he was very engaged, he wanted to know what was going to happen. I read 2 chapters every night and in the morning, he would wonder what he would discover at night. He loved the anticipation. He is very active and has a short attention span, but was all over this book. He started daydreaming about going to a far off island and what kind of things he would put in his pack.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 7 years

Experts: Sally Macaluso, MEd, Special Education Preschool Teacher