The 12 Best Books for 3-Year-Olds of 2022

From educational to funny stories, these books will spark any kiddo's interests

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Kids love being read to, and there are many benefits to reading with children. With 3-year-olds, books are a valuable learning tool. When your preschooler listens to you read aloud, they are building critical thinking skills and gaining knowledge of emotions, facts, vocabulary, and sequencing.

Reviewed & Approved

"Pete’s A Pizza" is the hilarious story of a young boy named Pete whose dad turns him into a pizza when Pete's bored on a rainy day. For an animal book, we recommend the "Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus."

The best books for 3-year-olds make learning fun and can be a great way to broaden their world view and introduce them to more diversity—of skin color, culture, class, ability, body size, family makeup, gender expression, and more. We carefully considered diversity, material, age recommendations, and value when reviewing products.

Here are the best books for the 3-year old in your life.

Pete’s A Pizza

Pete’s A Pizza

Source: William Steig

"Pete's A Pizza" ranks high on our list because this story is hilarious and kids will love it. In this story, a young boy named Pete is bored. Since he can’t go play ball due to the rain, his dad makes him into a pizza. Use the funny book to spark a conversation by asking what your kiddo would do if they had to stay inside on a rainy day.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Mo Willems

The pigeon series by Mo Willems started with this now-classic about a pesky pigeon that wants to drive a city bus. Kids love it since the pigeon’s experience resonates with their own desires to do something and not be allowed. Also, encouraging kids to yell “NO” at a pigeon is always a blast.

The Feelings Book

The Feelings Book

Source: Todd Parr

Using books to help kids put words to feelings is a wonderful lesson. This simple book explores many different types of feelings that kids experience and supports the message that all feelings are valid. Don’t be surprised if this book is a perfect opener or touchstone for discussions about your child’s emotions.

Moody Cow Meditates

Moody Cow Meditates

Source: Kerry Lee MacLean

A fun favorite about childrens' emotions, this tells the story of a grandfather bull teaching his grandson, the cow, how to calm his angry thoughts and use a “sparkle jar.” Teacher Cynthia Garcia says the kids in her classes “all love to see the thing the young cow does when he is angry, and we then make our own sparkle jars in class to help us recognize our own thoughts and attempt to tame them.”

Little Blue and Little Yellow

Little Blue and Little Yellow

Source: Leo Lionni

Making learning fun is easy with the right books. This book uses colors as the main characters. A little yellow blob and a blue blob are friends, and when they hug, they become green! A classic for good reason, this colorful story is filled with personality.

Letter Town

Letter Town

Source: Darren Farrell

What 3-year-old wouldn’t like a seek-and-find adventure book? In this wonderful read-aloud story, kids will enjoy hunting for each letter of the alphabet as the letters are busy gallivanting throughout the town. This one is a great example of how books make learning fun and engaging.

The Mitten

The Mitten

Source: Jan Brett

A beautifully illustrated tale of a snowy adventure, this animal-filled book follows the story of a lost mitten and all the curious animals that explore that mitten. Use this book to teach kids about which came first, and they’ll enjoy remembering and ordering all the animals in the book.

The Hello, Goodbye Window

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Source: Norton Juster

A wonderful book for many reasons, this story follows a granddaughter and the everyday relationship she has with her grandparents. The mixed-media illustrations showcase a mixed-race family doing everyday things, which is so important for kids to see.

Super Satya Saves the Day

Super Satya Saves the Day

Source: Raakhee Mirchandani

Meet Satya, a precocious Indian-American superhero living her life. Satya believes she needs her cape to save the day, especially when conquering one of the tallest slides in her town. However, her cape is stuck at the dry cleaners, so what will Satya do? Children will be inspired by Satya as she learns she can still be a hero even without her cape.

Big Red Barn

Big Red Barn

Source: Margaret Wise Brown

A perfect book for preparing your child for bedtime, this animal-centric classic meets all the animals that live in the big red barn and then goes through each of their evening routines. Written by beloved author Margaret Wise Brown, this calming book helps kids slow down before going off to bed.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Courtesy of Amazon

Eric Carle’s books are all amazing, so picking just one is very hard. Young kids will love learning about how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, while they also learn about counting and days of the week. Since the caterpillar literally eats through the book, kids will love the unique format of this classic.

Press Here

Press Here

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

An amazing book for kids who are already familiar with touchscreen devices, this book asks readers to “press here”, shake the book, and engage in so many ways. Wildly creative and truly interactive, kids will think they are moving the colorful dots and shapes around with their hands, breath, and imagination.

Final Verdict

It’s so hard to choose just a few books for young children, so add all of these to your library request system! If we have to pick just a few, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" (view on Amazon) is a classic for good reason, "The Feelings Book" (view on Amazon) can be such a helpful resource for kids to reference, and "Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" (view on Amazon) is just plain fun.

What to Look for in Books for 3-Year-Olds

Re-Reading Value

Kids can find joy in so many stories and it doesn’t take much to delight them. You'll likely notice your child participating more when you use emotion and emphasis while reading. Doing this makes a story come alive for children, and they'll want to hear it again and again. Plus, reading to kids helps them think critically.

While reading a story over and over again may drive some parents and caregivers crazy, for children it's comforting and actually good for them. It can help children learn new sounds and words. And the more they participate in a read-aloud, the more they will grow their confidence in reading.

Learning Made Fun

Books make learning fun in so many ways. Whether it’s naming feelings and talking about how to express them; identifying shapes, letters, and numbers; or following the sequencing in a story that can turn into a lesson about what comes next, books can sneak in so many teachable touchpoints. 

One of the best ways to ensure your child is having fun while learning with books is to simply ask them what book they'd like to read. If your child has questions about a story after completing a book, respond with enthusiasm. It's also fun for both of you if you ask your child to tell you about the story.

 Diversity

Providing racial and cultural diversity in books is so meaningful for young children. Incorporating books that show diverse characters doing familiar things can stretch a child’s mind and help them see that people may not all look, act, or be alike.

The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents and caregivers, "As there is not one type of child, there should not be one type of story." Help children celebrate differences while recognizing similarities and learning more about people.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is it important to read to your preschooler?

    Reading aloud to your child is the single most important thing you can do to support their literacy skills. Reading to your child brings books into your family culture and helps kids develop an appreciation for written language.

    Children who are read to acquire lots of knowledge and vocabulary words. They are exposed to new language and concepts, such as medieval knights or ocean animals. Reading also introduces your child to many early literacy concepts such as reading a book from left to right, turning the pages, and using a table of contents.

  • When should my preschooler start reading?

    Generally children learn to read between the ages of 4 and 6, but it is often closer to age 6. Preschool-age children can learn the sounds that each letter makes, and may be able to blend sounds together to read short words like "bed," "cat," or "dad."

    Playing games with words and letters and reading a wide variety of books to your child will help support them as they learn to read.

  • What are fun ways to teach reading?

    Teaching reading can and should be fun. Try playing a game of "I Spy" with a group of small objects. When giving a clue, say, "I spy something that begins with mmm" or "I spy something that ends with "/t/". This helps children develop sound awareness.

    As your child begins to sound out short words, create a word scavenger hunt. Write words on index cards and have your child match small objects, like a toy pig, a toy hen, or a small rock, to their words.

  • How can picture reading help preschoolers?

    Picture reading helps preschoolers build a basic understanding of what reading is. Reading the pictures develops the concept that print is information that we can decode. It also introduces children to sequence and to reading from left to right.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of an 11-year-old son, an 8-year-old son, and a 4-year-old daughter.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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