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The Top 7 Books You Should Read to Your Toddler

Toddlers spend their days soaking in everything about their little worlds. They wake up happy because life is new and exciting to them. You have a wonderful opportunity to introduce the wonder of books to your toddler, but you may be wondering where to start.

There are many excellent books for this age, and I firmly believe toddlers deserve a print-rich environment. Books should be part of their world, whether you have bookcases full of treasured stories in your home or a library tote bag that’s always full of new books for your child to explore.

As you open up this new world for your toddler, expect him to choose favorites, books he’ll want you to read over and over. As you memorize the words on each page, your child is learning too. While he’s enjoying listening to your voice share stories with him, he’s being drawn into a world where his imagination can be free, where he can think about things he’s never known before. His love of learning is being born.

While I have a lot of other books I’d love to encourage you to read to your child, here are seven that I think belong on the bookshelf of every toddler:

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Snuggled up on your lap while you read to him, your toddler already feels loved. This book puts words to the love between parent and child. It’s lovely pictures and short text will keep your toddler’s attention while the story will most likely make you cry. It’s one of those books that your child will continue to want to hear as he grows, as each year allows him to understand the story better. It’s one you’ll appreciate more as the years go by too.

God Gave Us You by Lisa T. Bergren

This is the perfect book to share with your toddler as you help him understand that God is love. The polar bear family will enthrall your toddler as he listens to the message about how special he is, what an important role he plays in his family.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems

This book carries the reader through each season of the year as well as the seasons of life. The simple text as well as the subdued illustrations will captivate both you and your child as you read about the timeless love between friends. This story is one that will help your child make sense of changes that occur in life, such as the death of a loved one, without veering from the simplicity of the story.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This book is a perfect way to introduce sequencing and counting to your toddler. As you read about the caterpillar’s transformation as he becomes a butterfly, your child will gain an understanding of cause and effect in its simplest form. This classic book, in addition to being an excellent story, is a gorgeous work of art and an excellent way to introduce the beauty of color to your child.

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky

Poetry is perfect for toddlers. They love the rhythmic music offered by poems and will be immediately drawn to the ones in this book. The silly ones will make them giggle. They’ll find comfort as they read about what is familiar. Some of the poems will help them to learn about the world they live in as they are introduced to new ideas and experiences. All of them are fun.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault

This is a book your child will most likely want to hear again as soon as you read the last page. In addition to being an excellent way to introduce the alphabet to your young learner, this book is fun because it’s impossible to just read it. You’ll find yourself tapping your foot as you, much to the delight of your child, almost sing the words out loud.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

No list of books for toddlers would be complete without a lift-the-flap book. The thrill of anticipation will simply never get old no matter how many times you read this book to your child. He’ll love discovering the animals on each page while you’ll enjoy seeing his face light up every time he lifts a flap to reveal a new surprise.

Reading to your toddler has many benefits

There are hundreds of books that could easily be added to this list. Reading to a toddler, a little person who can’t yet read to himself, is a huge honor and responsibility. This is an age where your child will learn to associate books with pleasure as you model the importance of literacy to him.

Your child will learn the basics of how to hold a book, how to turn pages, and other tiny details we, as older readers, take for granted. Even though you’re teaching him important skills, that should not be your main focus at this age.

Reading to young children is a way to help them feel secure and loved. It’s a way to share the world with them. It’s the perfect opportunity to show them how we communicate with words. And your child needs to hear a lot of words before the age of three to help his brain develop adequately.

The many wonderful benefits your child will receive from spending time on your lap as you read to him will be extended to you as well. There’s just nothing that can compare with watching a child’s face light up as he discovers what’s on the next page, hearing him giggle in delight as he listens to your voice, and having him ask you to read a story one more time.

Reading is a gift, one meant to be shared with everyone. What an honor to be able to share this gift with your toddler.


Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, teaches middle school and high school English. Sandy's idea of a perfect day is one spent creating memories with her grandchildren. This usually includes coloring and reading a lot of books. You can read more of Sandy's work on her blog at

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