10 Classic Picture Books to Read with Your 3-5 yr old

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
~ Emilie Buchwald, children’s author

Reading aloud with your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent. Sharing great stories, big ideas, and funny tales together will help to create bonds that last. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to read, especially for the younger child whose attention span is short.

Even though my 4 yr old is listening in while I read books far above his level, there are times when we steal away to enjoy a special book just for him. Most of the books I will share have been in print forever, they are truly classics, and I have enjoyed them with all 6 of my kids over the years. While they are books that are geared for the younger crowd, they are in no way simplistic. I truly believe that well-written books, even for youngsters, are all that should be gracing your shelves.

Life is too short to read poorly written books, don’t you think?

This list is not comprehensive in the least, but it should be a great starting point to begin introducing your pre-school age child to great books. These books are fairly quick reads, with outstanding illustrations, which make them perfectly suited for the attention span of a 3-5 yr old.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey is a wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated story that will capture your child’s heart and attention till the very end. McCloskey has many other books that are noteworthy, another one to check out for this age group is Blueberries for Sal.


Virginia Lee Burton is one of my very favorite children’s authors. It’s hard to put her books in order since I  love them all dearly. Little House is a particular favorite of ours. It tells the story of a well-built house who watches the city grow up around her until she realizes she truly longs for the quiet simplicity of the country. There are so many lessons within the pages of this book that are naturally given to your child as you simply read.

Another favorite is Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I actually have my husband’s original copy that his mother saved from 30 years ago. Just like his father, my son wanted to read this story over and over and over again.  There was a time when we read it 4 times a day for over a month. I’m being serious. It’s possible I could even quote it. If you have a little boy, try this book. I know he’ll love it!

I got this book for my 4 yr old for Christmas and he has asked to read it every day. It’s a sweet story of a forgotten bear in a department store and the little girl who finally brings him home. He has great adventures and finds love and a friend. This is definitely a book you should read with your kids before they are too big.

The Snowy Day is a book to savor, to read slowly and allow your child’s mind to imagine what adventures they might have in the snow. I have read this book to many kids and every time it captivates them. I’m not even sure why, but it hasn’t failed me once. Your child will love the story of Peter’s adventures in the snow as well.

My spunky daughter, who is always wanting to do right but somehow ends up in mischief, loves Madeline. The illustrations, the beautiful rhymes and the hilarious situations that Madeline finds herself in will delight you and your children alike. We haven’t read one in the series that we didn’t enjoy.

We first read The Story about Ping when my firstborn son was in kindergarten. We loved our copy so well that it recently fell apart and I had to replace it. Ping is a story that will continue to delight your children, even up into grade school.

Oh, Ferdinand! Who could not fall in love with the gentle bull who would rather smell the flowers than fight the Matador? A classic for sure and one that isn’t going away anytime soon, The Story of Ferdinand is a short book with fantastic drawings that will entertain your child and keep them engaged.


The Ox-Cart Man is a great way to introduce your child to the days of the week, months, and the change of the seasons, all while learning about life in 19th Century New England. This book is rich in historical facts and information presented in a tangible and engaging way that even very young children can understand.

It was hard to limit this list to only 10 books. There are so many that are worth mentioning. Let me know if you have any to add to this list.


“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”
~ Jacqueline Kennedy

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