The 10 Best Toddler Books

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This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in May of 2016. One of the most important things you can do to encourage your little one's intellectual growth is to teach him or her to read as soon as possible. These entertaining books for toddlers make it fun and easy to get a youngster interested in letters, numbers, shapes, and colors from a very early age, and can give kids a head start at school. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Dr. Seuss's Beginner Collection

2. "Corduroy" by Don Freeman

3. Little Excavator

Editor's Notes

January 14, 2020:

Toddler age is a crucial time for a tot's development, and many experts agree that regularly reading to them is one of the best things you can do to help them along. On top of conveying important morals and messages, piquing a child's imagination, and promoting early literacy, the time spent reading together is excellent for bonding. Books also make a great supplementary toddler gift for a birthday or holiday, and a great present for expectant parents.

We wanted this list to have a healthy dose of classics and new volumes. You'll find books that help with important milestones, such as Potty by Leslie Patricelli, and vital pre-reading skills, like First 100 Words, as well as exploratory books like Where Is Baby's Belly Button? and beloved classics like Corduroy by Don Freeman.

While we still think that The Pout-Pout Fish is a charming and engaging story with superb artwork, we noted that many parents take issue with the message of the tale. Because it inadvertently deals with themes of consent and depression, it might take some extra explaining to ensure your child understands certain concepts, which may be a bit of a stretch for a kid at toddler-age.

While we feel it's important to discuss any book you read with your child, we still decided to replace it with something equally as entertaining but without the extra hurdle. We felt the newly-added Dr. Seuss's Beginner Collection is more than up to the task of inspiring and delighting children and parents alike. These five classics come in a handy sleeve that keeps them together, and includes some of the most beloved tales written by the famed children's author.

Special Honors

I See Me Personalized Personalized children's books offer a great way to further engage your youngster in a story, help them learn their name, and give them a special gift they'll cherish for life. I See Me has options for every type of scenario, from becoming a big brother or sister to activities for twins, as well as Marvel and Disney books for superhero and fairytale lovers.

4. Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late

5. My Big Animal Book

6. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

7. Dear Zoo

8. Where Is Baby's Belly Button?

9. "Potty" by Leslie Patricelli

10. First 100 Words

Choosing Topnotch Toddler Books

They simply do so through the medium of story and illustration, effectively serving as allegories instead of taking a more direct, didactic approach.

If there is one thing a parent or other caregiver can do that most benefits the emotional and intellectual development of a toddler, it is reading to the child. Young children who are regularly exposed to books enjoy enhanced social and academic development because the stories often expose them to situations involving everything from caring to conflict, and concepts ranging from mathematics to science to history and beyond.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued formal statements urging parents to read to young children in 2014, stating that the practice "Stimulates early brain development and helps build key language, literacy and social skills," according to Jeffrey Brown of PBS. The earlier a child is exposed to reading, the more likely they will be a lifelong lover of books and of learning in general. While almost any and all reading can be of some benefit to the youngster, choosing the best books for your child requires both thought and intuition on the part of the book buyer (or the one who holds the library card).

In the broadest of terms, you can divide books written for young children into two categories: those directly intended to teach a specific skill or to transfer specific information, and those intended more for entertainment and/or to stimulate the imagination. In the first category we find books designed to help a youngster learn his or her numbers or to assist with a child's acquisition of the alphabet. So too can you find books with the goal of imparting knowledge of colors or shapes, or those that are focused on a specific skill a child needs to become familiar with and then master, such as using the potty, using polite manners, and so forth.

In the other category, we have books that are principally intended to entertain and engage a child, much like good fiction does for an adult. In truth, even most of these books are generally geared at teaching some life skill such as kindness, sharing, or patience. They simply do so through the medium of story and illustration, effectively serving as allegories instead of taking a more direct, didactic approach. Ultimately, it's a good idea to balance both types of book, so a child is exposed to concepts he or she has to internalize but is not always expected to take a rote approach to learning.

And keep in mind that there are exceptions to both of these general rules, such as a number of the classic works by Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, for example -- many of the works of these two authors might seem to be neither didactic nor a morality tale. In fact, playful prose is wonderful for the development of a youngster's linguistic skills and creative thinking.

While it's always a good idea to challenge a young mind, there is a tipping point at which the vocabulary, syntax, or content of a given book will too far surpass a child's level to prove valuable. When choosing a toddler book, make sure your child understands the majority of the words in it, and be ready to elaborate on the concepts covered. (Asking questions like: "How do you think the character is feeling?" for example.) Pictures and words together help a child understand a concept with greater ease, and great illustrations help to engage a child. Just make sure that whichever book you choose you are ready to set aside if it simply doesn't catch a child's attention. Also make sure that you immediately try another book, and if need be another after that.

As Your Young Child Learns To Read

Most children will be in a stage that can be called "pre-literate" at ages four through five. They will likely recognize all letters, both in capital and lower case form, and will begin to write certain letters as well. Many children at this age can identify certain words by sight (simple words like "cat" or "dog," or their own names, for example) and may be able to sound out some words using their letter sounds, and will begin to develop phonemic awareness, which is the understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds working in concert.

As a child begins to read, he or she may internalize errors that will require later re-teaching.

On the other hand, some children will be reading by age four or five, albeit on a basic level. The time at which your child learns to read to himself or herself is exciting, and, contrary to what the initial conception may be, it is a time for ever more vigilant involvement from the parent, caregiver, or teacher, not for less attention.

As a child begins to read, he or she may internalize errors that will require later re-teaching. Make sure to give a child the space to read alone if such seems desired, but keep tabs by asking questions and for the occasional read aloud to make sure they are on the right track.

And just as soon as your child begins to read books at one level, you should find a host of books that are slightly above their reading level and continue reading aloud to the youngster. In this manner, you can maintain the bond reading together forms and can keep on challenging your child to develop and excel.

A Few Words On The Toddler Brain

A toddler -- taken to refer to a child roughly between two and four years of age -- has a lot going on in his or her brain. In fact, by the time a child has reached the third year of life, about eighty percent of their brain has already developed.

In fact, by the time a child has reached the third year of life, about eighty percent of their brain has already developed.

Much of this development comes in the form of the muscle memory required to complete basic actions like running, jumping, and balancing, and much of it comes in developing visual and conceptual fundamentals, such as identifying shapes, colors, size, distance and spatial perception and so on.

But a child can also learn an amazing amount of information that goes beyond these basics, and much of the more in depth, nuanced concepts youngsters can (and eventually must) embrace can be introduced and reinforced through books. Concepts such as compassion, patience, and fairness do not necessarily come naturally to a toddler -- the young brain may be largely developed, but the neural pathways required for advanced thinking and the many memories that help inform it still must be created.

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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