Best Books for a 4-Year-Old to Develop Pre-Reading Skills

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Your toddler is quickly becoming a pre-schooler with a little mind that’s constantly at work. What books are good for 4-year-olds developing pre-reading skills? Storys need to keep their interest enough to be read over and over. So we’ve come up with a list of the best books for a 4-year-old.

Having raised 5 kids through this particular age, we are well-equipped to give suggestions for children with all kinds of book preferences. We’ve got suggestions for interactive picture books, books about starting school, and so many more suggestions to help you raise little readers.

Below, you’ll find lots of great stories divided by category. Many of the books for 4-year-olds have links to book lists with even more recommendations, so be sure to poke around.

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Table of Contents

Counting Books for 4-year-olds

pete the cat

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean

Pete the Cat is back with his cool coat and his 4 groovy buttons. That is until he loses one and only has 3. As the story progresses, your child will count in reverse and learn subtraction at the same time. It’s the perfect preschool book to introduce math concepts.


Countablock by Christopher Franceschelli

Because the words in this story are mostly sight words and kids are learning to recognize numbers up to 100, this makes a great first book for early readers.

The very hungry catterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

There are so many things about this classic book for kids that I love. Not only can you talk about days of the week, food, and counting, but you can follow the caterpillar on his journey to becoming a butterfly. When it comes to books for 3-year-olds, this one is tops.

Why We Love This Book: A gorgeous introduction to nature, food, counting, and days of the week.
Appropriate for ages 0-5
Find this book in 2-year-old Books / Classic Kids Books / Preschool Books About Food / Best Board Books / Educational Books for 3-year-olds

Good night books for a 4-year-old

steam train dream train

Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker

I absolutely adore this bedtime story. This is the perfect book for a 4-year-old train lover! It’s all about a train, run by animals as they prepare to go to sleep for the night. The pictures are warm and dream-like and the story is just magical.

How do dinosaurs say goodnight

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen

This hysterical tale is one for kids who struggle with going to bed. In the story, the dinosaurs showcase bad behaviors before showing the correct way to go to bed.

Goodnight Contruction site

Goodnight Construction Site by Sherry Duskey Rinker

Little kids love construction vehicles. Is there a better way to start bedtime than a rhyming contraction book? I think not. This delightful goodnight book for 4-year-olds is the first in a series.

Alphabet Books for 4-year-olds

Once Upon an Alphabet

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is just the most brilliant writer and illustrator. This collection of short stories for each letter is a lovely item for any library. 


LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

This delightful book showcases each letter of the alphabet in a story about peas and all the jobs they can have. Told through rhyme, your little one will eagerly hunt for the peas matching the described jobs.

There are so many clever illustrations that this book is one you will want to explore over and over again.

Why We Love This Book: We love any book that has a great rhyming scheme but this one is hilarious with adorable illustrations to match.
Appropriate for Ages: 2-5
Find this book in Alphabet Books / Gender Neutral Baby Books / Food Books for Children


Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet

This amazing book has everything- plants and animals that begin with each letter, moving parts, and textures.  Each page is totally interactive with flaps and pull tabs. There is even a scratch and sniff.

For more books like these, check out our list of 22 Alphabet Books

Food Books for 4-year-olds

the pigeon finds a hot dog

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

Mo Willems is a must-know author if you have preschoolers. He writes the best books for 4-year-olds! His pigeon series is particularly funny. In this story, the pigeon finds a hot dog but a clever bird outwits him into sharing!

Dragon Loves Tacos

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Both the original story and the sequel feature taco-eating dragons who can’t stand spicy salsa! The whimsical illustrations are childlike and the stories are just plain silly! Your child will be giggling when they see the dragons burn down the house after eating spicy tacos.

Why We Love This Book: This book is adorable and hilarious. It is one we do not mind reading on repeat.
Appropriate for Ages: 2-5
Find this book in Books for a 5-year-old / Kids Books About Food

if you give a mouse a cookie

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. And so the story continues in a big circle until the mouse is thirsty again. The adorable pictures and silly consequences will help your little one understand sequencing.

Why We Love This Book: I use this book in speech therapy all the time to work on sequencing and cause and effect. This is a great book to give you question prompts for your little one.
Appropriate for Ages: 2-5
Find this book in Books for a 3-Year-Old to Create a Love of Reading / Best Books 2-Year-Old / Kids Books About Food

Books Set at Daycare for a 4-year-old

Miss Bindergarten and other alphabet books

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate

Using the letters of the alphabet, we meet each kid in the class as they get ready for school.

We see Miss Bindergarten get ready for school by cleaning, organizing, and decorating her classroom. If you are looking for first day of school books for kindergarten, this is a really cute choice.

Schools First Day of School

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

This clever tale is written about School as he witnesses children and teachers using his facilities for the very first time.

He is a little nervous as some say they don’t want to be there, but he starts to learn what the children learn and laugh at the jokes they tell. We absolutely love this first day of school book and the lovely twist.

Llama Llama Misses Mama and more of the first day of school books

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool and he is overwhelmed with feelings. He is trying to get used to the new toys and new surroundings but he just misses his mama.

Soon he learns that it’s OK to love mama and have fun at school too. This was recently turned into a Netflix book adaptation starring Jennifer Garner.

Why We Love This Book: A solid introduction to preschool separation anxiety and how kids can deal with it.
Appropriate for ages 2-7
Find this book in: Books About Feelings / Anna Dewdney Books / Books for a 3-year-old / First Day of School Books

Color Books for 4-year-olds

I Don't Draw, I color and more feelings books

I Don’t Draw, I COLOR!  by Adam Lehrhaupt

This is a lovely book that explores creativity as opposed to artistry.  I love how the child in this book can express feelings and emotions with colors.  

Why We Love This Book: Often, it is so difficult for children to express themselves verbally and I love how this book gives another way to do this.  
Appropriate for ages 4-8
Find this book in: Books about colors / Books about Feelings / Books for 5-year-olds

the day the crayons quit

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The classic color story that launched a series! The Day the Crayons Quit is about overworked crayons that decide to go on strike. Each color airs its grievances to Duncan, who just wants to color! Can Duncan find a solution to make his crayons happy?

how do dinosaurs learn their colors

How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors by Jane Yolen

I love the “How do dinosaurs” series for so many reasons. If your child loves dinosaurs, it will obviously be a hit, but the trouble these dinos get into will have any child giggling.

In this particular story, the dinosaurs learn their colors through routine objects found around their homes. Ask your toddler to find the colors in your home too!

For more books like these, check out our list of books about colors for preschoolers!

Season and Nature Books for a 4-year-old

Over and Under the pong

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner

This delightful story is about a mom and child who are canoeing over the pond. When the child asks about what is under the pond, the story explores the ecosystem and all its little miracles. It’s the perfect book for a 4-year-old nature lover.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day is a Caldecott Winner for a reason. This classic story depicts a boy exploring his city neighborhood after a snowstorm. It’s the perfect book for a 4-year-old when it’s snowing outside.

Tap the magic tre

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

This is the perfect interactive board book for 4-year-olds who love nature. The story will prompt your child to tap, shake, and blow on the pages within as the tree goes through the seasons.

Rhyming Books for 4-Year-Olds


The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

This book is another classic in our house. Mouse proves that a little bit of brain is all you need when faced with a whole lot of muscle. We adore this rhyming wonder.

Iggy peck

Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beatty

I love Iggy Peck and all his friends. They are smart, funny, and independent thinkers. Not only does this book put a spotlight on being yourself but, the rhymes and vocabulary are nothing short of spectacular.

room on the broom

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

A friendly witch takes to the night on her broomstick, but as the wind blows away her hat, her bow, and her wand, she finds some cute friends to join her on her ride.

Will her friends be able to save her from a hungry dragon? This classic halloween book for kids is now a cartoon movie!

Animal Books for a 4-year-old


Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder

This is one of the cutest alphabet books in my collection. A little girl is afraid of something at the zoo, but can’t remember what. So her family dresses up as different animals in A-to-Z order to help her overcome her fear.

Why We Love This Book: With vivid images depicting homemade animals of every letter, there is so much to see in this fun tale.
Appropriate for ages 4-8
Find this book in
Zoo Books, Alphabet Books, Books for 4-year-olds

giraffes cant dance

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

I absolutely love this book about following your heart and being true to yourself. The added bonus of rhyming makes this book that much more special. This is one of the children’s books about being different that I was happy to read over and over.

The rainbow fish

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

This modern classic kids’ book about fish was one Kirsten learned about in school!

It’s all about a gorgeous fish with shiny scales who is so conceited he doesn’t have any friends. After he decides to share a lovely scale with each fish in his neighborhood, he gains friends in spades! A wonderful lesson for young kids.

For more books like these, check out our list of Zoo Books, Shark Books, and Octopus Books for kids.

Classic Books for 4-year-olds

Mother Bruce and more books for a 4-year-old

Mother Bruce by Ryan Higgins

Mother Bruce is the first in a fantastic series about a grumpy bear who becomes the adoptive mom of 4 young geese. He tries to get rid of them but soon realizes they are part of his family.

The rest of the series continues the story of Bruce, his geese children, and the inhabitants of the forest. Just wait until your children read about the meddlesome mice in future books!

The Napping House

The Napping House by AudreyWood

The illustrations and repetition in this book make it one of my favorite books with prepositions for toddlers.

Everyone in the napping house piles onto the one bed to sleep. The rhythm and repetition make it easy for your toddler to “read” the book with you. This is one of my favorite read-aloud books and is a delightful bedtime story.

Why We Love This Book: The repetition and rhythm of the story are great scaffolding for children who are learning to put two words together
Appropriate for Ages: 2-5
Find this book in Educational Books for 2-Year-Olds / Best Books for a 3-Year-Old: Create a Love of Reading

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendek

Maurice Sendek explores the amazing power of imagination in this classic kids’ book about monsters.  When Max gets upset with his parents, he imagines traveling to a world to be the kids of the monsters.

I love this book, the illustrations, and the message within the pages. When Max finally decides to come home, his dinner is waiting for him and it’s still hot.  This act of love always touched me. Really this is a book for 4-year-olds that shows a parent’s unconditional love for their child.

Books for a 4-year-old’s Motor Development

Jabari Jumps

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

While this might not be a motor skill book for 4-year-olds exactly, it might be the book you need to get your kiddo working on an important motor skill – swimming!

Both Jackie and I made sure our kids were in swim lessons by the time they were in preschool. This story shows Jabari, who just passed his swim test, working up the courage to jump from the diving board. A perfect story for beginning swimmers.

From Head to Toe

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

This book has Eric Carle’s classic pictures while giving your child the chance to clap, stomp and move around while imitating the animals in this book. Not only can your toddler learn about the animals, but they can move around as well.

clap your hands

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

This book was a favorite in my house and it is now available as a board book. Hooray. I love the illustrations in this book along with the rhymes and silly directions. “Clap your hands, stomp your feet. Shake your arms, then take a seat”. This is the perfect book to get your toddler dancing and moving to a book.

Books About Love for 4-year-olds

Love Matt De La Pena

Love by Matt De La Pena

This sweet, gorgeously illustrated tale showcases the different kinds of love. It highlights how love stays with you and makes you stronger.

I also loved that it pointed out the different actions people take to show their love without saying words. I get teary-eyed every time I read this story.

Love Monster and other Valentine's Day Books for Toddlers

Love Monster by Rachel Bright

Everyone needs love and everyone should be loved for exactly who they are.  Monster goes out on a mission to find just that in this book.

Love Monster is a great book for a 4-year-old monster fan.

I love you Stinky face and other Monster Books for Kids

I Love You, Stink Face by Lisa McCord

This grossly-cute board book is a lovely bedtime story for the little monster in your life. This story is all about a mother’s love.

Whether the baby is an alligator, a swamp creature, a one-eyed monster, or an alien, the mother in this tale shows a way to love her child!

Interactive Books for a 4-year-old

press here

Press Here by Hervé Tullet

When it comes to interactive books for kids, Hervé Tullet is the king! In Press Here and his other books, kids push, tap, shake, and interact with the pages. This is a book for a 4-year-old to read again and again.

Tickle Monster and more monster books for kids

Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

This baby monster book is a wonderfully interactive picture book for kids. As you read it, it instructs you where to tickle your child!

When you read this book to your little one, you get to tickle and they get to laugh.  After all, laughter and books should go together.

Sold individually or as a kit, we recommend the kit for the fun tickle monster gloves. Put on the gloves and tickle along with the tickle monsters. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers alike love this one. Be warned – it’s not great for bedtime because it can get kids in quite a goofy mood.

Appropriate for Ages 2-5
Important note: Some children love being tickled while others do not. Take cues from your child.

Pizza Cook in a Book and more books for 2 year olds

Pizza! An Interactive Recipe Book by Lotta Nieminen

This adorable book is the perfect way to keep your little one engaged while reading. They can stir and mix while learning how to follow directions. When you are done, why not make a pizza to eat for dinner? You can have your child help put on all the toppings! Or you can engage in pretend play with this adorable Melissa and Doug set.

Family Books for 4-year-olds

the big bed

The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan

At some point in any parent’s life, their child will try to convince them that they NEED to sleep in mom & dad’s bed. This hysterical story takes it a step further as the child attempts to kick daddy out of bed…permanently. Everyone in my family loved this story and it’s a frequent bedtime request. Bunmi Laditan is the author behind the famed Honest Toddler account. 

Between Us and Abuela

Between Us and Abuela by Mitali Perkins

The border wall has been in the news for a long time now for political reasons. But this book is not political. It’s about an American family making its way to the border wall to see their Abuela on the other side. A heartwarming story about how nothing comes between family, this is a book to be read at every age level.

and tango makes three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

An amazing story about two male penguins adopting a penguin. Adorable text and photos will expose your child to this unique and true story while also teaching a lesson that there are many different kinds of families.

Why We Love This Book: This book is a cuddly way to teach a child that love is love.
Appropriate for ages 1-5
Find this book in
Zoo Books, Banned Books, Father’s Day Picture Books, Books for a 2-year-olds, Best Books for Newborns

Creativity Books for a 4-year-old

Not a

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

The bunny in this book can find amazing things to do with a box. When you read this book with your child, not only will inspire creativity but you will allow them to think “outside the box” literally and figuratively.

After you finish reading it, try setting up a creation station with boxes, paper towel rolls, scraps of paper, tinfoil, googly eyes, and more. This educational book for 4-year-olds is a winner!

Beautiful oops and other imagination books for 3-year-olds

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

A good imagination book inspires creativity but also teaches a lesson. The lesson in this book? It’s OK to make mistakes.

Beautiful Oops is a 3-D book that shows a mistake, and then how the artist turns it into a masterpiece.

It’s a great book to reference when talking to your children about mistakes and how to fix them.

Mix it up

Mix it up by Herve Tullet

This book is amazing. Although you can use this book with older kids, the fun of this book is not only learning the colors but beginning to learn how to colors mix to make new colors. Let your baby try some finger painting to try this for themselves.

Why We Love This Book: This book can be used in so many ways to promote learning while giving children a chance to interact with the book.
Appropriate for ages 18months-4 years
Find this book in Books About Color / Books for a 2-Year-Old / Interactive Books For Children

Feelings Books for 4-year-olds

The Rabbit Listened

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

This is one of my favorite books for 4-year-olds. I gift it all the time. When Taylor is sad, every animal tries to help by offering different advice from shouting to crying but they don’t make the sadness go away. But the rabbit sits there and listens. What a lesson for kindness, empathy, and dealing with emotions!

Why We Love This Book: A wonderful way to explore sitting with sadness.
Appropriate for ages 2-6
Find this book in Books for a 4-year-old / Books about Feelings/ Bunny Children’s Books


Niko Draws a Feeling by Robert Raczka

There are so many wonderful things about this book.  Nico loves to draw but he doesn’t draw like other kids do.  He draws what he feels inside.  If only we could all express ourselves this way. My kindergartener loved it so much that he asked me to read it to his class.

In My Heart by Jo Witek and more books for 2-year-olds

In My Heart by Jo Witek

Kids need to learn all about their feelings in a way that is safe and comfortable. The tactile pages in this board book will please little hands as the hearts cut in the center get smaller and smaller.

Why We Love This Book: Children will learn to identify feelings with simple words that explain what each feeling feels in their bodies and minds.
Appropriate for ages 2-5
Find this book in:
Books about Feelings / Books for a 3-year-old / Gender Neutral Baby Books

Did you find any books for a 4-year-old to add to your home library? For more options check out our list of books for 3-year-olds or age up to early readers with our book suggestions for 5-year-olds.

Want books for 4-year-olds to help with their pre-reading skills? We created this list of educational books with tips on how to teach your children.

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