I used to be a toddler teacher, so I feel uniquely qualified to put together a list of books that will leave your little one saying, “Read again, please!” A few of these are legit classics, some are modern classics, and a handful might be new to you. But they have all stood the test of multiple circle times and received the world-renowned toddler stamp of approval.
So, happy reading, moms + dads!
1 | Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
Seriously, the look on your child’s face when they (spoiler alert) realize that Trixie left Knuffle Bunny behind at the laundromat will make you think they’re watching, like, a prime-time television drama unfold. It’s amazing.
2 | There’s a Wocket In My Pocket by Dr. Seuss
This is not my favorite Dr. Seuss book, but the toddlers have spoken. To be honest, you’re probably not getting through a longer, more beloved Dr. Seuss classic like The Cat in the Hat with any child younger than 3 (and re-reading the first four pages over and over and over is enough to break even the strongest person). This one is silly, bright, and bite-sized – perfect for squirmy readers.
3 | I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal
Don’t you just hate it when your cat won’t stop stealing your beloved stuffed monkey? It’s the worst, right? Seriously, this one is a simple, straightforward story that toddlers go absolutely crazy for. Plus, they find it absurdly quotable – “WheeEre’s BOBO?!” As with all kid-lit, the more you get into this one, the more your tod will love it.
4 | Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
You already know that Wild Things is imaginative, well-written, and beautifully illustrated. I know it. Your co-worker Tom who doesn’t have kids knows it. No one’s in danger of sleeping on this book. So why did I even include it? I think the toddlers would revolt if I didn’t.
This is a true “again, again!” piece of children’s literature that gives little ones countless opportunities to sink their little brains into the illustrations and try to draw their own conclusions – a vastly underrated skill in a society that pushes junior novelizations of Disney Jr. shows on children. Own it. Read it. Pass it on to your future grandkids (if Disney isn’t directly live-streaming to their lil brains by then).
5 | Press Here by Herve Tullet
Never underestimate the power of an interactive book when you’re reading with small, squirmy ones. Sure, some of the instructions are a bit complex for toddlers (Tap the yellow dot 5 times? Um, no), but it’s nothing a little on-the-spot adaptation can’t fix. Plus, I guarantee your child has been waiting their entire life to shake a book on demand.
6 | Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Repeat after me: Rhyming books are naturally appealing to toddlers + they help them develop early language and literacy skills. Okay, great. So, this one might not be your favorite (I mean, it’s fine, but clearly not written for adults, you know?) But if you’re toddler is like most tods I know, they’re either a truck kid or an animal kid – or both.
Plus, this book is really sound-driven. Not to drop another child dev fact in, but practicing animal sounds helps children develop language skills more effectively. (Like, human language skills, not that Eliza Thornberry stuff.)
7 | Germs Are Not For Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick
Honestly, the whole Best Behavior series is amazing if you need a little help preventing or dealing with some not-great behaviors, like hitting or biting. (And if you have a toddler, that’s probably you.) This one, for some reason, happens to be the favorite of my last toddler class.
Seriously, I know kindergartners who still need reminders to wash their hands after they go potty, but not a single child in my tods class ever did. (On a similar note, maybe we should start reading this book to kindergartners, too?)
8 | Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus by Mo Willems
I know you know this one, but I don’t even care, I love this book so much. Mo Willems is arguably the best of the best in kid-lit right now and this might be his best book. You will have so much fun reading this with your little one, egging them on to deny the pigeon his one true desire: to drive the goddamn bus. And you kind of know your tod will love playing the bad guy here.
Bonus: Your no-loving baby can direct some of those “no’s” toward this illustration of a pigeon – not at you (for once).
9 | Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
This book is so much fun to read. Also, it seems pretty ~empowering~ for tods – your small one will love telling off the big green monster at the end of the book with the classic line, “You don’t scare me!”
The only downside of this book for tods is how delightfully tear-able the cut-out pages are. (Seriously, does anyone with a child under the age of 3 own a fully intact copy of this book?) But of course, you can turn that into a learning opportunity about being gentle to books. (Also, please do that. Love, a former teacher.)