Pre-K

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids Ages 3 – 5

by Devon A. Corneal

Summer is bound to be challenging this year. There’s some uncertainty about how kids will fill long summer days if camps and pools are closed or vacations are canceled. For parents and caregivers of preschoolers, knowing how little ones crave constant entertainment, we have particular empathy for you. Although we can’t tell you when everything will get back to “normal,” we want to help the way we know best – with books that will divert and delight little readers. Here are some amazing summer books that will keep your young ones engaged no matter what the summer throws at you.

  • The World Needs More Purple People

    by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

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    From the insanely creative Kristen Bell comes a book to inspire kids to become hard-working, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and unique. In other words, this is a how-to manual for Purple People, who, as everyone knows, really are the best people you can find.

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  • Sorry (Really Sorry)

    by Joanna Cotler, illustrated by Harry Bliss

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    Saying sorry is important. It’s also really, really hard, especially when you’re in a bad mood and just want to take it out on the people around you. The good news is, you can practice and get better at it. The lesson of this charming story isn’t heavy-handed, which makes it perfect for stubborn little ones who struggle to say, “I’m sorry” and truly mean it.

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  • Elbow Grease Magnetic Play Book

    by John Cena, illustrated by Dave Aikins

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    Monster trucks? Magnets? Hours of imaginative play and storytelling? Yes, please! Perfect for quiet time after a long day of playing outside, or an indoor activity on a rainy day – this activity book will fill hours of your child’s time this summer.

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  • The Cat Man of Aleppo

    by Karim Shamsi Basha and Irene Latham, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

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    In a time when we are all struggling to make sense of a world turned upside down, true stories of humanity and compassion become especially important. Which is why this story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, and his decision to feed abandoned cats in war-torn Aleppo, is a must-read this summer.

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  • The Little Engine That Could: 90th Anniversary Edition

    by Watty Piper, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    I had the original version of The Little Engine That Could and read it so often that the cover eventually fell off. For the 90th anniversary of this beloved story, Dan Santat’s vivid artwork gives fresh life to Watty Piper’s unforgettable classic and introduces a new generation to the loveable, generous, and determined blue train, who refused to let anything stop her from getting over a hill.

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  • Bedtime Bonnet

    by Nancy Redd, illustrated by Nneka Myers

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    One little girl’s hunt for her missing bedtime bonnet is the foundation of a celebration of nighttime hair rituals in Black families. An affirmation of the qualities that make us unique and the traditions that connect us through generations, this is a heartwarming peek into the love shared in a close-knit, multi-generational family.

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  • How Do I Feel?

    by DK

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    This little guide to big emotions explores four key feelings: anger, pride, happiness, and sadness. It's often hard (even for adults!) to articulate our emotions. With simple text ideal for reading aloud, this colorful board book helps kids understand what's happening in their bodies when they experience a certain emotion.

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  • Cool Cuts

    by Mechal Renee Roe

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    In that same vein, Cool Cuts highlights the wide array of hairstyles for Black boys – and shows them how to embrace and love their natural hair and to express their individuality with whatever style they choose. Just as bright and joyful, Happy Hair is its companion book for girls.

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  • The Yawns Are Coming!

    by Christopher Eliopoulos

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    As an adult, I cannot relate to the desire of children wanting to stay up as late as they can. I have forgotten the joy of sleepovers and being the only ones awake in a quiet house, which may be why this book is so much fun. Kids will love reading along to find out if two friends can outwit the YAWNS, the SNORES, and the SLEEPIES to stay up all night long!

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  • Just Like Me

    by Vanessa Brantley Newton

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    Filled with poems about every type of girl you can imagine, Just Like Me is a joyous celebration of girls who play outside, and those who read all day, and those with curly hair and freckles, and those who long to explore outer space, and all those in between. Read this with a special little girl this summer and let her find the poem that speaks to who she is and who she dreams of becoming.

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  • Little Cities Series

    by DK

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    If you have a little explorer on your hands, then they'll love the Little Cities series. Currently featuring San Francisco, Austin, Boston, and Chicago (with New York coming next year!), pre-k readers are treated to colorful photographs of a particular city complemented by illustrations and age-appropriate text.

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  • Baby Builders

    by Elissa Haden Guest, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

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    If you have a son or a daughter who loves nothing more than watching a construction site, then this is the book for you. Babies in hardhats with shovels and bulldozers create an incredible playhouse and this book invites your child to watch the project from start to finish!

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  • The Bug Girl

    by Sophia Spencer with Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet

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    Sophia Spencer is a real little girl who has loved bugs since she was two. Sophia loves bugs so much that kids at school start teasing her. Thankfully, Sophia doesn’t let that stop her. With her mother’s help, she finds scientists who encourage her, gets her own hashtag #BugsR4Girls, and even co-authors a scientific paper. Now, Sophia is sharing her love of bugs with kids just in time for the excellent bug-watching season!

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  • Child of the Universe

    by Ray Jayawardhana, illustrated by Raul Colón

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    Even though we may feel isolated from our friends and communities, Ray Jayawardhana believes that we are all connected in ways we cannot even begin to understand. In this book, he reflects on both the uniqueness of each person and their role in the grander scheme of things. Heady stuff, perfect bedtime reading for the lazy summer nights.

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  • Who Will You Be?

    by Andrea Pippins

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    Even our littlest readers wonder who they will be when they grow up. Who Will You Be? gives parents and children an opportunity to discuss those dreams and to ask important questions about what growing up means and what is of utmost value to us in our lives.

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  • The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

    by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora

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    You are never too old to learn something new, and Mary Walker is about to show kids just how true that saying is. Deprived of a formal education throughout her life, Ms. Walker finally learned to read when she was 116 years old. Yep, 116. Inspirational doesn’t begin to cover it.

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  • I Found A Kitty!

    by Troy Cummings

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    Arfy the dog was lucky enough to find his forever home and now he’s determined to find his new feline friend, Scamper, one too. Unfortunately, finding a family for this cute cat isn’t as easy as Arfy had hoped. A great story for animal lovers, with wonderful insight into the importance of pet adoption.

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  • The Camping Trip

    by Jennifer K. Mann

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    Ernestine thinks camping sounds super fun and she’s determined to have a great time. But she didn’t realize how hard it would be to set up a tent or hike up a hill. Will Ernestine be able to overcome some unanticipated obstacles and truly enjoy her time in the woods? Maybe a s’more will help.

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  • No More Naps!

    by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

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    I know Annalise Devin McFleece does not want to take a nap, but I, like every other adult in this adorably illustrated book, would be happy to take one for her. Which suits Annalise just fine, until she actually is tired and discovers there are no naps left!

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  • The Paper Kingdom

    by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion

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    When Daniel has to go to work with his parents, who are night janitors, he has no idea he is about to go on a fantastic adventure. Not because the office his parents clean is magical, but because Daniel’s parents understand the value of imagination and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s a valuable lesson we all can learn.

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Looking for summer reading ideas for older kids? Check out our 2020 lists for Kids Ages 6 – 8Ages 9 – 12, and Teens.