Get book recommendations, tips & advice, and more tailored to your child's age.

Thank You!

The perfect book picks are on their way.

You're all set!


Ask the Librarians:
What Are the Top 3 Books to Read Before Starting Kindergarten?

ask the librarian books before kindergarten
Photo credit: Spaces Images, Blend Images/Getty Images
  • Rebecca Gueorguiev, Great Kills:

  • I’m rocking it old school this time, with some books that are geared toward the older preschool crowd.

  • Ask Mr. Bear

    by Marjorie Flack

    Originally published in 1932, I can see why this has stood the test of time. Young Danny meets a menagerie of farmyard animals, each willing to give him something for his mother’s birthday gift, all of which she already possesses. Recognition of animals and their respective sounds, sequencing, autonomy, and generosity are all themes in this brightly engaging cumulative tale. And surprisingly, the kids are reciting parts of it to you by tale’s end.

  • Caps For Sale

    by Esphyr Slobodkina

    In my opinion, Caps For Sale is a masterpiece! The story is great. And the art! Let me just say, that Slobodkina really knew what she was doing with the layout — especially the scenes leading up to when we finally get to meet those mischievous monkeys. Cause and effect, sequencing (darn if I can quite remember which caps go on the top, but the kids do), frustration, tolerance, and emotions all come into play. The conflict is believably real, and it’s eventual resolution quietly satisfying — another classic that is a heavy hitter in a subtle way.

  • Corduroy

    by Don Freeman

    Also available from:

    I haven’t met a person yet who has not developed an affinity for this inquisitive and adorable teddy bear. Corduroy possesses all the qualities of a preschooler — a sense of adventure and wonder, emerging independence, and curiosity, which is maybe why he continues to be a hit generation after generation. Other hidden themes include using one’s imagination, a sense of accomplishment, problem solving, and of course, friendship. What 4-year-old, or adult, can’t help but identify with all that?

    Also available from:

Those are my picks and it was hard limiting it to just three. Whistle for WillieOfficer Buckle and GloriaChicka Chicka Boom Boom … it’s like Sophie’s Choice. Gosh I love kid’s books.

  • Sue Yee, 42nd Street Children’s Center:

  • Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales

    by Lucy Cousins

    I'm sort of cheating with this one because it's a collection containing many folktales all retold for preschool listeners with Cousin's bright and colorful illustrations. I chose this because a lot of teachers assume children come in knowing or have been exposed to the European folktales and a child from a different cultural background who doesn't know them may be at a disadvantage. Folktales are also simple but repetitive so children can anticipate what will come next and make predictions. Warning: Cousins has the original endings on these tales — the wolf gets decapitated (“Red Riding Hood”) and boiled (“Three Little Pigs”).

  • Harold and the Purple Crayon

    by Crockett Johnson

    This is an old (originally published in 1955) but timeless classic exploring the power of your imagination. All you need is a crayon and you can go anywhere and do anything. Kids will want their own purple crayon to draw their adventures.

  • Jazz Baby

    by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

    I love the rhythm of this book that begs to be read aloud. Some kids do join in, but the majority just like to sway to the beat. It also introduces some musical terms such as: "sings scat," "toe taps," "soft shoes," "hip hop," "bebop," and "tempo". The text fits perfectly with the rhythm as it swings up or down and wraps around the illustrations.

  • Peggy Salwen, St. Agnes:

  • The Story of Ferdinand

    by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson

    Also available from:

    With its humorous black and white illustrations this is a story that all parents can relate to and that comforts all children. Ferdinand, a little bull, has a mother that understands him and lets him grow to be a gentle creature instead of a bull that wants to fight. But when Ferdinand accidentally sits on a bee, the young reader sees the funny consequences. This classic book has been a favorite for many generations and is one I really love.

    Also available from:
  • Each Peach Pear Plum

    by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg

    Also available from:

    With Tom Thumb leading the way, fairy tale characters come together for a picnic with a delicious plum pie. The illustrations are full of detail and the "I spy" feature makes finding the character very satisfying. Listening to a rhyming story and looking for the hidden characters make for a book to be read over and over.

    Also available from:
  • Mouse Paint

    by Ellen Stoll Walsh

    Learning the names of colors and what primary colors mix together to make other colors is the job of three curious white mice. After they have fun playing and dancing in found paint they leave some of the paper white because of the cat. Not only does the reader get to anticipate the color change, but they can also enjoy the humor of a story about three sly mice.

Got a question for the Librarians? Email us at