The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids Ages 3 – 5

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy, Cultura/ Getty Images

Summer means sunscreen, swimsuits, and — of course! — summer reading. Is there anything better than cuddling up with your child, a big stack of books, and no place to go?

Whether you’re enjoying storytime on a beach towel in the sun or indoors under the quiet hum of the air conditioner, these are our favorite books you won’t want to miss this summer.

  • Hair Love

    by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

    If you know a child that has hair with a mind of its own, they’ll appreciate this sweet story about Zuri. Zuri loves her special hair — every kink and curl! When a special occasion arrives and her Dad’s the one available to help her style it, he recognizes how special it is, too.

  • Giraffe Problems

    by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

    You might remember from Penguin Problems that it’s VERY hard to be a penguin. You know what else it’s hard to be? A giraffe — because that neck is just absurd. It’s so long, so bendy, and basically impossible to hide. Edward the giraffe is certain there’s no solution to his problem until a turtle ambles along and helps him see that an extra-long neck is actually extra-awesome.

  • Animalicious

    by Anna Dewdney and Reed Duncan, illustrated by Claudia Boldt

    It’s probably not a bad idea for your little one to practice their ABCs before school starts in the fall, but it’s undoubtedly fun with this clever and quirky ABC book from the beloved author of the Llama, Llama books. The made-up animals will have you and your child laughing out loud at this unexpected take on the classic alphabet book.

  • You’re Missing It!

    by Brady Smith and Tiffani Thiessen

    This book is for every parent who’s been guilty of staying glued to their phone while their child tries to grab their attention. (Which is to say, the grand majority of us.) You’re Missing It! is set on a beautiful summer day at the park, where the neighborhood children are enthralled by birds, breeze, and beauty — and the parents are totally oblivious to the wonder.

  • Look I’m an Engineer

    by DK

    Children are natural engineers, curious and full of imagination. This book makes it easy to tap into those qualities with simple projects that allow preschoolers and early elementary students to experiment and learn with all their senses. You’ll love the clear illustrations and easy-to-follow instructions. Summer building, here we come!

  • Carl and the Meaning of Life

    by Deborah Freedman

    Carl is an earthworm who spends his days contentedly digging holes in the earth. But when a mouse asks why exactly he’s doing this, Carl’s stumped. Why is he spending all this time tunneling? His puzzlement only grows as he meets more animals who all seem to know their exact role in the world. Is there any meaning to being an earthworm?

  • There’s a Dragon in Your Book

    by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott

    It’s pretty exciting to find an egg in your book. And when that egg hatches into the most adorable baby dragon ever? Well, that’s even better. Except every time the dragon sneezes, flames shoot out of its nose and set the book on fire. In this interactive book, the reader participates in keeping the book safe, and the results are downright delightful.

  • All Are Welcome

    by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

    For children starting at a new school in the fall, the stress of that experience can add a tinge of anxiety to summer. This endearing book is a wonderful way to talk about it with your child, helping them understand all the different kinds of children and families and teachers they’ll meet, and how they’ll be welcome no matter what.

  • The Goose Egg

    by Liz Wong

    Henrietta the elephant is perfectly happy with her serene life. But when she bumps her head and ends up with a literal goose egg, things quickly go awry. The baby goose’s flock has already flown off, so Henrietta’s responsible for raising her. She’s a great stand-in parent, raising Goose to be ready to reunite with her flock (even though it means that Henrietta will miss her).

  • High Five

    by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

    Do your kids love Dragons Love Tacos? If so, they’ll be instant fans of the new and equally hilarious book by the duo who created it. This interactive read is all about the lost art of high fiving and helps readers prepare for the annual high five contest. Get ready to get slapping!

  • There Are No Bears in This Bakery

    by Julia Sarcone-Roach

    My children LOVE Julia Sarcone-Roach’s book The Bear Ate Your Sandwich and were thrilled to discover another story by her along the same lines. In this one, a cat takes care of the bakery overnight and makes sure no unwelcome guests come to visit. But what’s a cat to do with bears that are determined to get their paws on some doughnuts?

  • Crunch, The Shy Dinosaur

    by Cirocco Dunlap, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

    Crunch is a brontosaurus. He’s also quite shy. I mean, he loves the idea of playing with you, but actually coming out from the shrubs he’s hiding behind? That’s pretty scary. If you could coax him out, that would be great. This interactive book is both sweet and funny, and a total hit with every child I know.

  • A Piglet Named Mercy

    by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

    Is there any child who doesn’t love Mercy Watson? I haven’t met many! This delightful picture book prequel gives us a peek into how Mercy arrived at Deckawoo Drive and changed the lives of the residents forever. It’s the perfect lead-up to DiCamillo’s longer chapter books about Mercy.

Looking for summer reading ideas for older kids? Check out our 2019 lists for Kids Ages 6 – 8Ages 9 – 12, and Teens.