13 Must-Have Books for 4-Year-Olds
by Esther Schanler
We’re in luck. My four-year-old has no shortage of sources for new books to add to her shelf: She’s got hand-me-downs from relatives, an active library at her preschool, a mom who works in publishing (that’s me!), and generous grandparents who are obsessive readers themselves. But no matter how many shiny, new titles she inherits, these are the books she loves (and I love) to read over and over again.
This sweet tale makes for an excellent lesson on friendship and the comfort of home. There’s also something very exciting about watching a bear roaming around an empty shopping mall in the wee hours of night.
The Book with No Pictures
There’s a reason why this title tops so many Funniest Children’s Book lists — it’s flat-out hilarious. No matter how many times we read this thing, my kid is LOL’ing.
How to Babysit a Grandpa and How to Babysit a Grandma
If your four-year-old spends any time with the grandparents, these books are a must. They’re each written in the form of an instructional manual for kids who are looking after their grandpa or grandma. I love the way they flip the babysitting duties from child to adult, and they always get my daughter cracking up.
This story is all about a girl trying to make the best of her very lazy pet sloth. Sparky! is amusing and offers up beautiful illustrations. At its core, this book is all about accepting individuals for who they are. (Also, who doesn’t love a sloth?)
Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?
Richard Scarry is a favorite in our house and this particular title really delivers. Be prepared though — these books are a treasure trove of information and will likely stir up a lot of questions. My daughter can spend hours with this one and we discover something new each time we read it.
The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends
Friendships can be pretty complicated at age four and this book is a great way to cover this territory with your budding child. The Trouble with Friends introduces us to Sister Bear’s new neighbor, Lizzy, who has strong opinions. When Sister Bear and Lizzy get into an argument, they need to learn how to problem-solve. Lessons around sharing, getting along with others, and negotiating are the themes here — practical tools for your preschooler!
Kindergarten, Here I Come!
Four is often the age when kids start getting excited — or nervous — about starting school. This delightful collection of poems gives children a peek at what they can expect, with plenty of giggles included.
The Day the Crayons Quit
This hilarious story kicks off when Duncan opens his box of crayons, only to find that the crayons have gone on strike! Duncan will have to figure out a way to make his crayons happy again so they can all go back to making art together. Highlighted by Oliver Jeffers’s trademark illustrations, expect to read this one on repeat.
The Day You Begin
The Day You Begin is essential reading to start the conversation about those moments when we feel different than everyone else, and the magic that can happen when we tap into our bravery anyways. On the flip side, it’s also a great way to talk about empathy and reaching out to others who might feel out of place.
The Rabbit Listened
Another one that scores big points in emotional literacy, this sweet picture book finds Taylor on a difficult day. All of her animal friends have ideas for how Taylor should respond to her sadness, but the rabbit just listens, which is often the best gift we can give to our friends.
Uni the Unicorn
Despite what she’s been told, Uni the unicorn still believes that little girls exist, and she dreams of what friendship might be like with one. Will she find a human friend of her very own?
How Rocket Learned to Read
Like many 4-year-olds, Rocket is on a journey of learning how to read. Luckily, he’s got a wonderful teacher in a wise and tiny yellow bird. This joyful bestseller will get your little one reading, too.
We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes, and Jim Panzee is having one of those days. But the more his friends try to shake the doldrums out of Jim, the grumpier he gets. An important (and amusing) reminder that it’s important to feel our feelings.