Top Books for Tots

I recently shared some of my favorite baby books and that got a lot of parents asking demanding I provide a list of books for tots.

By way of background, here is the criteria I used to select these books:

  • Very few words, so they make for quick, easy reads when you want to feel good about reading with your child, but also want to be able to take a shower or respond to an email.
  • Illustrations that match the story. This is important because after you’ve read the story an average of three times your tot should be able to “read” to you by looking at the pictures. This is very important if you want to be able to relax and drink that other tot.
  • Simple structures and repetitious patterns make them perfect for emergent readers (kids who are beginning to emulate the habits of good, strong readers).
  • Not super white. If you haven’t figured it out already, my pet peeve is the lack of multiculturalism in book illustrations.
  • All of the authors on this list have other books, so if your tot likes these titles, you’ll be able to easily add more books by these authors to your library.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, I give you my Top Books for Tots.

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean Author Kevin Sherry seriously nailed it with this book. Poppy received this as a gift from my lovely editor at Penguin and it is one of my fave stories to read because I can read it with my eyes closed, which means I can get a little extra sleep while still appearing to be a good mom. This book is a good example of a picture book on which certain pages have no words, so you can totally improvise, thus showing your tot that she, too, can simply look at the pictures and tell the story.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus I should have named my website MoWillemsFanGirl since I am so obsessed with him. This book is hilarious and will teach your tot the powers of persuasion and persistence, skills that tots naturally lack, of course.

Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife If I could have another baby, I would decorate its room with a Paul Thurlby theme. His artwork is hipster-chic. This nonfiction book is absolutely engrossing and will teach your tot fun facts he can share at your next dinner party. For example, bears sleep through the winter without pooping! Hormones make male monkeys go bald! Earthworms are both male and female! Who knew?!

Baby Animals Baby Animals is also nonfiction with each page showing a baby animal and listing a handful of words related to that animal. For example, tadpoles are one of the baby animals and the words affiliated with that page are frog, lily pad, pond, spots, eyes, foot, tail, wiggling, hopping, swimming. What is so awesome about this book is its ability to seamlessly teach Tier II vocabulary words (that’s eduspeak for vocabulary words that make your kid sound like a smarty pants). You can simply look at the page and say, “Look, kiddo, these tadpoles are baby frogs. They are wiggling in the pond…” or “The hatchlings are basking in the sun.” Welcome to Genius Academy.

Reading Makes You Feel Good This book is straight propaganda. It will brainwash your tot to believe that reading is the BEST THING EVER EVER EVER (because, duh, it is).

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes I hate cats, but I love this book. Not only is it delightful to read, but it will teach your tot not to cry over dumb stuff that’s really not worth crying about. As Pete the Cat says, “It’s all good.”

The Pout Pout Fish I would be remiss if I did not include a rhyming book on this list.The best part of reading this story is the excuse it gives me to cover Penelope’s sweet chubby cheeks with kisses.

I could easily go on, but I’m sure any educator or mommy reading this list has additional helpful suggestions. Please feel free to leave your Top Titles for Tots in the comments section of this post or share with @MsReidReads on Twitter. Happy reading!


    1. Love this list & everything about this blog, Ms.Reid???!
      Hannah (17 mos) is obsessed with I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean too. She also loves all Sandra Boynton’s books… Blue Hat, Green Hat is her fave of the moment. She throws all of her other books out of the way to get to those two.

      1. Isn’t it crazy how they can be so young, yet they can already have favorite books? ALL children are readers. xx

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