Seeking book suggestions to read aloud to a 3 year old
March 24, 2013 10:28 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is 3 years old, and I'm looking for recommendations for books to read aloud to her at night.

We have all the typical kid books for her age, the sort with one paragraph per page, but I'm wondering if we could start some longer non-picture books. She loves her books, and has taught herself 10-15 sight words. She seems to be able to follow a plot, and while I could just pick one at the library, I would some ideas so we can start with something great.

I know there is value in reading the same books over and over, but I am hopeful that we can move on to something that might be more enjoyable for mom and dad, too.
posted by Nickel Pickle to Education (32 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
When I was little, a very old series of books called "The Five Little Peppers" were my favorite. They were very simple, and from a very simple time, and they're in the public domain, so you could read them off a Kindle or an iPad without having to purchase anything.
posted by xingcat at 10:42 AM on March 24, 2013

My youngest daughter is four, and still loves Good Night Moon, the Berenstain Bears, Angelina Ballerina, and anything by Shel Silverstein.
posted by 4ster at 10:45 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It may be a little ambitious, but depending try Little House in the Big Woods! Laura is 5 or 6 during that book. You may also try Mister Popper's Penguins. I was probably 4 or 5 when my dad read me A Cricket in Time Square and The Wind in the Willows, and maybe 5 or 6 when he read me Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:45 AM on March 24, 2013

I loved the Five Little Peppers books and many others of the same type and era when I was a kid. But in retrospect there are some racial and sex politics that are really really messed up. So I'd be careful to pre-read anything from that era.
posted by bq at 10:47 AM on March 24, 2013

ANYTHING by Mo Willems. My personal favorite is the super-meta "We Are in a Book!"
posted by feistycakes at 11:00 AM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

Go to the library. This worked wonders for my 3-year old nephew. The children's section always has a good selection of books on display. We would check out three books every week. He got to participate in choosing the books, learned how the library works, and the importance of taking care of borrowed books. Also, the children's librarian is an excellent resource, especially if the child has some specific interests, i.e. dinosaurs, fire trucks, as well as topical stuff, i.e. weather, holidays, potty training.
posted by shoesietart at 11:07 AM on March 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I think my boy was 4 when we started reading the Ramona books.
posted by elmay at 11:11 AM on March 24, 2013

Anything by Michael Rosen. He's wonderful. We're Going on A Bear Hunt is a particular favourite in our family. I have clips of my brother reading it to my nieces from they were tiny and they're always totally absorbed. It's actually quiet interactive in how you're supposed to read it and kids find it really fun to listen to. The rhythm of it is also good for reading just before sleep. This shows Michael Rosen himself "doing" it.

Enjoy everything you try, reading to kids is one of the joys of life :)
posted by billiebee at 11:19 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, library visits, definitely!

These are picture books, but do you have Voyage to the Bunny Planet ? - they are great. Also, she is kind of obscure now, but Mary Chalmers wrote books for pre-school kids. Books like Take a Nap, Harry, are sweet and your daughter could read them herself. The Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik (illustrated by Sendak) are charming.

Moving on to books written for older kids, the early Betsy and Tacy books might work.

The Five Little Peppers would work with some judicious parental editing. As bq says, pre-read and think about either cutting out or explaining the difficult stuff.

The first two Little House books are also a good suggestion.

At that age, I loved some of the classic fairy tales of the Grimm brothers (not the darkest ones). Pullman has done a nice version. Here's some guidance on Grimm stories that might work for younger kids.

Also check out the suggestions here: Non-Traditional Princess Books.

I also liked the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books; here's the first.
posted by gudrun at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2013

The Oz books
posted by brujita at 11:45 AM on March 24, 2013

The Fire Cat by Esther Averill and Cynthia Rylant's Henry and Mudge series come to mind. Great stories, short chapters, great pictures.
posted by firstdrop at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2013

My son loves the original Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. We started reading them when he was about 2, and he's always enjoyed them. We enjoy reading them too. Such fun, clever stories!
posted by Happydaz at 11:57 AM on March 24, 2013

Pippy Longstocking
posted by Swisstine at 12:13 PM on March 24, 2013

My Daughter, now 4, loves The Doll People and now we're working our way through the sequels.
posted by samhyland at 12:14 PM on March 24, 2013

The Beatrix Potter stories are wonderful.
posted by colin_l at 12:24 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Relatively simple chapter books:
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:27 PM on March 24, 2013

I loved Ramona, Berenstain Bears, Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, a bunch of other stuff mentioned above, and this really awesome book of one-page "bedtime stories" that had 365 pages in it, with one black & white picture per page. I transitioned to reading those to myself at night far sooner than any other books we had (I had good reading skills, but crap "going to bed" skills.) Which is why I suggest you take a look at books like this and this and this.

I was also a huge sucker for the read-along books that have a recording that chimes when you have to turn the page - I had some ridiculously advanced stuff (like, I don't know, a simplified Hamlet) in this format (example for Curious George, example for Shakespeare.) I went to look that one up just to make sure I wasn't remembering the Shakespeare thing wrong.

I was never traumatized by any of the classic fairytales, if that's worrying you - I must have been twelve before I realized exactly how horrible various stepmothers were in a larger "this person is basically inhumanly evil and how did I not have nightmares" sense; it just didn't have the same impact it would have had on TV or a movie screen. I do however advise you find some good stories about stepmothers if you do much with classic fairytales, because the stepmother prejudice thing is really hard to get over if you suddenly have one in your life; it even screws with women who find themselves with stepchildren!

Oh, and save the Roald Dahl for another couple of years - wait till an age where the whole "they do that in books but we never do that in our family" thing is easier to hold this kid to. You don't want your child acting like the Twits or Matilda's parents. It's significantly easier, in my regrettable experience, to make that distinction when the character is a monkey than when it is a human being, and I don't think Dahl ever gives us a Christopher Robin or Man in the Big Yellow Hat to gently push the characters in the right direction or explain they're being deeply silly. I handled Dahl OK when I was about six, but it was a disaster with my younger siblings till they were closer to eight. You do not want your child acting like the Twits. And they will, if they're anything like the kids in my family, despite not picking up any of the behavior demonstrating by Dr. Seuss's characters.

Speaking of humor, it's only a little early, IMO, for Shel Silverstein. Yeah, it says 6-8, but I think most basically-smart kids will find it funny (especially "[Sister] For Sale") earlier than that. Oh my goodness, and Boa Constrictor, and...

And, definitely seconding the library, as well as used book stores. Half Price Books always has a HUGE section of appropriate bedtime material, or at least the ten stores I've been to in my state do.
posted by SMPA at 12:33 PM on March 24, 2013

The Curious George books are great. There are so many of them! Sandra Boynton has a BUNCH of fun books -- the going to bed book is a particular favorite. And there are these "Raffi Songs to Read" books that my son adored when he was little. Down By the Bay, Baby Beluga, Shake My Sillies Out, Tingalayo, etc, a whole bunch of his songs done as books to either read or sing. Those are some I remember most fondly with my little guy. And of course, Goodnight Moon, the Runaway Bunny, and Where the Wild Things Are.
posted by lemniskate at 2:42 PM on March 24, 2013

Try going for some early easy readers such as Frog and Toad or Little Bear.
posted by clerestory at 2:56 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web, and Chitty-chitty Bang Bang went down well.

Both of my kids cried at the end of Charlotte's Web only because it was over.

To put them to sleep, I always read a page or two of whatever adult book I happen to be reading.
posted by three blind mice at 3:05 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: Both my kids liked Winnie-the-Pooh starting at around 2 1/2. Each chapter stands alone, so the kid doesn't have to keep track of the plot, and you don't have to read the whole book if you don't want to.

For somewhat more complex and interesting picture books, I recommend Beatrix Potter and anything by Russell Hoban.

A wonderful book for 3 year olds (which, sadly, is out of print, but you could buy a used copy) is Margaret Wise Brown's Wonderful Storybook. Some of the stories are delightfully weird, like the one about the little girl who gets a steam shovel for Christmas and accidentally runs over a lot of people and animals. (There's a happy ending.)

Some good first chapter books (all of which I have read to at least one 3 year old):
The Jamie and Angus Stories by Anne Fine
Jenny and the Cat Club
My Father's Dragon (and the two sequels)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Boxcar Children
the Catwings books
posted by Redstart at 3:34 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: You might try the Boxcar Children series- mysteries that are engaging but very gentle, no death or scary scenes.

There are some new Choose Your Own Adventure books out, they have updated them so that they are more for younger children.

The Magic Treehouse series- the kids in these books have adventures in lots of different times and places so you should be able to find a book that matches your child's interests.

The Borrowers, Little House in the Big Woods, The Wind in the Willows, Paddington Bear books- I loved all of these as a kid.

Picture books that adults might enjoy as well:

The Balloon Tree and Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman- the writing is wonderful and the illustrations are beautifully done and very clever (look for the mice in Something From Nothing!)

Good Night Pillow Fight has minimal text but funny enough that the adults in the family may appreciate it as well.

Also the lovely picture books by Helen Cooper- Pumpkin Soup, A Pipkin of Pepper and Delicious!
posted by Lay Off The Books at 3:35 PM on March 24, 2013

It's time to break out Eloise!
posted by BostonTerrier at 4:44 PM on March 24, 2013

For what it's worth, don't worry about necessarily discriminating your readings. I was read The Hobbit to when I was young. Not as young as three, but young enough that I remember having only vague and confused ideas about the plot. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Of course, attention span of the child matters.
posted by SollosQ at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2013

Llama Llama series!
posted by mazienh at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2013

For a 3 year old? Keep it short is your best bet. Sandra Boynton, Little Critter, Golden Books took care of most of what we needed. And Seuss, though not The 5000 Hats, that sucker goes on forever.
posted by emjaybee at 8:51 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

At that age, I was being read the Pooh books (the originals with the line drawings ever so often, rather than the modern ones with bright images on every page), Curious George, all of the Oz series, fairy tales/marchen, Little Monster series by Mercer Mayer, and Aesop's Fables. This is all night-time, longer-form reading in addition to my usual daily fair of Seuss and Sesame Street, Little Golden Books, and the like.

My daughter is 2, and she already likes the fables (they're in a paperback with one b&w illustration at the start of the story), so I'd try those, for sure. You can read as many or as few as you like and resume really easily the next night. And they're good philosophy for adults to chew on, too.

As a babysitter, I found that Cosgrove's Serendipity collection was pretty well received even by the very young. I stay on the hunt for those for my girl, myself, so you might give them a go.

Have fun!
posted by batmonkey at 9:08 PM on March 24, 2013

I highly recommend all of the "If You Give a XXXX a XXXX" series. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If You Give a Pig a Pancake. If You Give a Moose a Muffin. and many more. Big plus: fun for grownups to read multiple times, with different line readings and dramatic gasps and appropriate noises. Contains no lessons on being a good child. Or environmentally sensitive.

My kids loved going to library and picking out their own books. One had an uncanny ability to find books he liked, one mostly picked duds, but both totally loved going, and loved reading. (The one without the skill depended on my recommendations, and still does to some extent.)
posted by kestralwing at 9:34 PM on March 24, 2013

Best answer: As a non-professional but very active reviewer and recommender of children's illustrated books, I would suggest to you that you have probably not exhausted the possibilities yet for great illustrated books ("one paragraph per page") and you should not rush to read chapter books. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Have you read any of these illustrated books?

Brave Irene
A Day's Work
Butternut Hollow Pond
Dr. De Soto
Erandi's Braids
How I Learned Geography
King Hugo's Huge Ego
Stand Straight, Ella Kate
The Hello, Goodbye Window
The Paper Princess
The Sissy Duckling
Those Shoes
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
The Paperboy

If you want more suggestions on any topics, MeMall me.

The first chapter book I read to my daughter was Mrs. Noodlekugel.
posted by Dansaman at 12:03 AM on March 25, 2013

(In case you thought there was a typo, note that "The Paper Princess" is not "The Paper Bag Princess")
posted by Dansaman at 1:03 AM on March 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions, I marked the options that really addressed my question (not board books or illustrated books). Thanks, too, to Dansaman for suggestions for some new illustrated books to add to the rotation. We picked up the Boxcar series and my daughter is RIVETED, she is loving having it added to the huge pile.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2013

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