Best Books for a 3-Year-Old: Create a Love of Reading

Best books for a 3-year-old

It is crazy how fast your baby becomes a walking, talking toddler. Their vocabulary explodes as does their need to explore everything. What books are good for a 3-year-old? Storytime needs to be engaging and fun which is why we made a list of the best books for a 3-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, board books for bedtime, 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 3-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.

Novel Ideas 30

Table of Contents

How do you read with a 3-year-old?

Be patient and be sure to let your child guide you. They can choose the book or “read” the story to you. Allow opportunities for lots of repetitions. This is why we chose these books! With endless re-read of these books, you make like them as much as your child.

3 year old gifts

The Best Gifts For 3-Year-Olds: Toy & Book Presents!

You’ll find more books for 3-year-olds in this gift and book pairing list!

Counting Books for 3-year-olds


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.

ten nine eight

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

I love this counting-in-reverse story that starts with 10 toes and ends with a child tucked in for bed. The story features a Black father and baby which is sadly a rare site in books for 3-year-olds.

This award winner has been a classic bedtime story for more than thirty years!

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

counting books

12 Playful Counting Books for Kids of All Ages

If you are looking for more books for a 3-year-old, we have great counting books!

Good night books for a 3-year-old

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 3-year-olds is the first in a series.

the going to bed book

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

Boynton’s books are filled with humor, bright colorful pictures, and wonderful rhymes.  They are completely addictive. We read these books until they fall apart (which for a board book is difficult to do).  The story makes no sense but that is part of the reason that we love it so much.

bedtime stories

32 Best Bedtime Stories for Kids, Toddlers, and Babies

if you are looking for more bedtime stories to create nighttime bonding with your two-year-old, these are our favorites.

Alphabet Books for 3-year-olds


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

ABC Touch and learn alphabet books

TouchThinkLearn: ABC by Xavier Deneux

I love when books have texture. That added tactile element can make the difference when it comes to engagement for some kids. This book is tactile and a feast for the eyes. 


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 3-year-olds

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 I 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 / Animal Books

Each Peach Pear Plum and 12 other amazing baby books you've never heard of.

Each Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This adorable eye spy book has wonderful pictures, featuring nursery rhymes and fairy tale characters.  The rhyming makes it memorable and easy to recite. It’s a perfect book for a 3-year-old.

Books Set at Daycare for a 3-year-old

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.

The Kissing Hand and other first day of school books

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Little Racoon is heading off to school for the first time but is worried that he won’t feel comfortable in his new surroundings.

Mrs. Racoon teaches him about the kissing hand so that he can have a piece of home in his heart wherever he goes. This is a must-read in my opinion.

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 3-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!

Freight Train and other books for a 1-year-old

Freight Train by Donald Crews

This is another classic book for kids that has both trains and colors. What could be better? The simplicity of this book adds to the fun. If you have a child who can only sit for a very limited time, this book is a perfect choice.

Why We Love This Book: High contrast images, introduction to colors, perfect for train-loving children.
Appropriate for ages 0-3
Find this book in Color Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / Learning Books for 1-year-olds / 2-year-old Books / Classic Kids Books / 3-year-old Books

Books About Colors

20 Vibrant Books About Colors for Preschoolers and Toddlers

If you are looking for more color books for your toddler, these are our favorites.

Season and Nature Books for a 3-year-old

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 book about winter depicts a boy exploring his city neighborhood after a snowstorm. It’s the perfect book for a 3-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 3-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.

spring is here

Spring is Here by Taro Gomi

A wonderful tale that introduces the concept of seasons. Watch as the field changes through the year and the cow grows too!

Beautiful illustrations make this a mommy favorite too. It’s a must-have nature book for 3-year-olds.

Rhyming Books for 3-Year-Olds

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.


Jamberry by Bruce Degen

This was Kirsten’s favorite book to read to her kids and as soon as you look at the pictures and start reading it, you will understand why. The rhythm of the story and the non-sensical rhymes make the book completely captivating. 

A boy and a bear head out on an adventure to pick berries in this delightful classic kids book. Marshmallow Cattails? Waffle and butter lily pads? Yes, please!

As a bonus, there is counting in this alliteration picture book as well. No list of first books for baby would be complete without this adorable read.

Why We Love This Book: It has rhythm and rhyme, counting, and alliteration, and it is adorable.
Appropriate for ages 0-5
Find this book in Alliteration Books / Counting Books / Rhyming Books / Best Board Books / Kids Food Books

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!

We have 31 Amazing rhyming books for your emerging reader

31 Great Rhyming Books

If you love books with rhymes as much as we do, these rhyming books for 3-year-olds will be right up your alley!

Animal Books for a 3-year-old

giraffes cant dance

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

Gerald is a giraffe who wants to dance but things that is can’t. Thanks to a friend who encourages him, Gerald finds a way to embrace his differences.

Why I Love It: I absolutely love this book about following your heart and being true to yourself. The 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.
Appropriate For Ages: 2-4
Find This Book In: Animal Books / Books for a 4-Year-Old / Rhyming Books

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.

Goodnight Gorilla

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

This book is hilarious and a favorite in our house to this day.  The sweet animals and the completely clueless zookeeper are laugh-out-loud funny.  One of my oldest son’s first words was “armadillo” which says something about how amusing this book is.

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

3 year old gifts

The Best Gifts For 3-Year-Olds: Toy & Book Presents!

You’ll find more books for 3-year-olds in this gift and book pairing list!

Classic Books for 3-year-olds

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 3-year-olds that shows a parent’s unconditional love for their child.

Owl Babies and more gender neutral baby books

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

This book subtly reinforces the fact that Mama (and Dada) come back. It also shows that sometimes animals get anxious feelings. For babies, the white owls and dark night forest are mesmerizing before they can see in color.

Why We Love This Book: This is a great one for working parents looking to teach little ones about separation anxiety. I found read it to my children when I went back to work.
Appropriate for ages 1-4
Find this book in
Books about Feelings / Books for 1-year-olds / Book and Game Pairings / Gender Neutral Baby Books

Books for a 3-year-old’s Motor Development

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.

barnyard dance

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boyton

Sandra Boyton is a go-to author and illustrator for a reason. She makes the most fun books for 3-year-olds!

This one is no exception with a group of animals dancing to a rhyme that your own child can dance along to! Your toddler will want to read this on repeat.

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 for 3-year-olds About Love

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 3-year-old monster fan, particularly around Valentine’s Day!

Love you forever and more books for 2-year-olds

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

The words of this book run through my head and I cannot read it to my kids without crying at the end.  I adore this book for 3-year-olds about the unconditional love a mother has for her child. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

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 3-year-old

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.

Going on a bear hunt

Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

I loved reading this book to my kids. There is something about the family adventure that was so much fun. We would go over pillows, under the table, upstairs, and through chairs in our search. Not only was this the perfect way to learn prepositions, but it also made the book interactive.

This book is filled with repetition which is also good for child language development.  It is filled with onomatopoeia- the best words to convey sounds and sensory input that I just love: squelch, squerch; swishy swashy; etc.

Why We Love This Book: It is interactive, helps with language development, has wonderful pictures as well as repetition
Appropriate for Ages: 2-6
Find this book in Educational Books for 2-Year-Olds / The Best Books for a 2-Year-Old


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.

Why We Love This Book: Encourages imagination, promotes language development (following directions), interactive.
Find this book in Educational Books for 2-year-olds / Interactive Books for Kids.

Family Books for 3-year-olds

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.

mama mama

Mama Mama by Jean Marzollo

A sweet rhyming book about a mother’s love (or father’s if you get that version too.) Featuring mama and baby pairings from the animal kingdom this book allows you to point out new species to your little one.

Why We Love This Book: Rhyming words, introduction of animals.
Appropriate for ages 0-4
Find this book in Newborn Books / Best Board Books / 1-year-old Books / 2-year-old Books / Bedtime Books / Classic Kids Books

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 3-year-old

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.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

I think this is the original book about the power of the imagination. It’s a classic book for 3-year-olds for a reason. The worlds that Harold creates with one purple crayon can inspire anyone’s imagination.

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 3-year-olds


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.

The Feelings Book and more books for 1-year-olds

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr

This is a classic feelings book for 3-year-olds for a reason! Todd Parr uses his signature colorful illustrations to showcase the range of emotions we all feel from time to time. Have your little one make the faces in the book for more fun!

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 3-year-old to add to your home library?

For more options check out our list of books for 2-year-olds or age up with our book suggestions for 4-year-old.

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