I’ve written before about how I wanted Harley to be a bookworm, even from before she was born. I think that reading is so important for kids and adults. It’s about so much more than literacy, as there are plenty of skills that develop when you read to your kids.
So what should you read? There are so many great kids’ books out there. Seriously, we have a decent-sized library at home and I’m still always finding more great books that I want to buy. But these have been our favorites this year. Also, while I’m calling this post best books for a 2-3-year-old in 2018, most of these books will be great to read to a 1-year-old or a 5-year-old. But since Harley is this age, I’m working with what I know works for her age range.
(Full disclosure: Yes, I’m using some affiliate links below, which mean that I’d get cash if you buy from these links. But that in no way changes the content of this post or the recommendations that I make.)
The Monster at the End of this Book – by Jon Stone
I remembered this book from when I was a kid. I used to think it was hilarious back then, so I was thrilled to buy it for Harley. She ADORES it! She plays along being afraid while reading it and loves to turn the pages. It’s also one of her favorite books to “read” to me, and I think she’s pretty much got it memorized considering how many phrases she gets right.
Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – by Mo Willems
I saw this one showing up repeatedly on suggested reading lists, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. It’s weird, but Harley adores it. I think she likes that she gets to tell someone no, over and over again. Or maybe it’s just how silly the whole premise is. Either way, we bought a whole pack of these books, and she goes wild for them.
I like that there aren’t too many words on the pages. It’s enough to keep the action moving and not seem too short, but also quick enough that Harley gets to turn pages, and I can read it 3 times in a row without feeling like it’s taking all day.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! – by Mo Willems
From the aforementioned pack of books, this is another book starring that same pigeon, but this time with another recurring character of the duckling. It’s so adorable and even helps to teach good manners, to an extent.
Like Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, it’s well designed for lots of page turning and the right balance of long sentences and short ones.
The Most Magnificent Thing – by Ashley Spires
I just adore this book. I’ve written about it before. It’s such a unique kind of story, about a girl who wants to invent the titular most magnificent thing, but can’t get the ideas in her head to work right when she builds. She tries, gets frustrated and even mad, and eventually makes something that’s pretty close.
I love the drawings in the book, but even more, I like the message. It talks about a range of feelings, from being inspired to frustrated, to mad, to eventually persisting and working through. I think it’s an important book for ALL ages, but particularly for younger kids who get frustrated by not being able to do things.
Where the Wild Things Are – by Maurice Sendak
Growing up, I had a poster from this book framed in my room. I remember loving the book as a kid, but I couldn’t have told you what it’s about. Well, now it’s one of Harley’s favorites, and it’s growing on me again.
At first, when rereading it as an adult. It seemed so severe. Why do all these older kid’s books have children being sent to bed without dinner? Why were bedtime and food used as punishment? Seems so creepy. But now, I love the idea of Max going wild, until he doesn’t want to be wild anymore. And I love how Harley shows her emotional understanding, feeling sad for Max when he wants his mommy.
Chu’s First Day of School – by Neil Gaiman
We adore this second book about Chu, as I’ve explained before. This time, he heads to school and meets all his new classmates. And of course, there’s his amazing sneezing. So much to like in this book, and Harley often chooses it as our bedtime story.
Click Clack Moo Cows That Type – by Doreen Cronin
This one is a ton of fun to read. Harley laughs every time, even when it’s the third or fourth reading of the book. I think it’s the outrageous nature of the book, or perhaps it’s just hearing me say “Click Clack MOOOO!”
It’s a great one with the word count on the pages, too. It’s a fairly quick read, plus it lets her turn the pages a lot. Also, I suppose it shows her the importance of unions or collective bargaining. Kidding, not kidding, right?
Big Girl Panties – by Fran Manushkin
This has been part of my potty training adventure with Harley. I’m trying to stay super positive about it all, and one of the ways is by making panties seem really cool. This book helps out, plus it’s just so cute and fun to read. I think her favorite part is where the mommies and grannies and aunties wear panties.
Dragons Love Tacos – by Adam Rubin
A recent addition to our library, and an instant winner. I’d seen this one on a lot of recommended lists, and I can see why. It’s really funny, with some great illustrations and imagery, plus it’s really creative. And it helps that Harley likes tacos, and has fun imagining dragons eating tacos.
There are quite a few words on the pages, so this is probably better with kids who are at least 2 or older because you can spend a decent amount of time on each page, rather than turning pages all the time.
The Gruffalo – by Julia Donaldson
This book is ridiculously popular, and with good reason. The story of a conman mouse, told in rhyme, as he outsmarts all the other animals in the forest. Because we had read this book first, Harley even thinks that all the wild things in Where the Wild Things Are are Gruffalos.
Be prepared for a longer read with this one. It just takes time to get through the whole story. As a result, this might not be ideal if your kid is at an age where they get distracted easily. Also, if you’re usually asked for 2-3 reads of every book, this one will definitely get you to your 20+ minutes of reading time.
Llama Llama Red Pajama – by Anna Dewdney
The Llama Llama series is really popular, but this one is the best I’ve read so far. It’s a great one for bedtime, with all the bedtime routine stuff, but also acknowledges how kids can get afraid or worried. It’s also good to see how the mom character can get upset and still be sweet to her little llama. Very cute.
The Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – by Jill Twiss
Yes, I bought this after watching the related segment on Last Week Tonight. Actually, it was sold out after I watched the segment, so I had to wait a while to buy the book, and I adore it. It’s all about a male bunny finding love with another male bunny, and how they vote out the character in charge so that they can get married.
The best part of the message is how it encourages all kinds of diversity and individuality. Beyond the LGBTQ love story, which is awesome to see in a book for kids, it also encourages doing things your own way and making yourself heard by voting. All the win!
Hippity Hoppity Little Bunny – by Parragon Books
We picked this up in the build-up to Easter because Harley saw it in the store and wanted it, and she is still wild about it. Of course, for her Easter basically just means playing with eggs, going on a hunt and eating ALL the chocolate. But this book has a bunny finger puppet built into the book itself. So as we read, we make the bunny hop.
I really think this book is better for younger kids. Harley is probably about to age out of it. But she still adores it and asks for it by name, so I can’t give it away just yet. But if you’ve got a baby or a 1-year old, and you want to get them excited for Easter, this is definitely one to put on the buy list.
Vegetables in Underwear – by Jared Chapman
If you want to hear your kid laugh out loud on every page, you have to get Vegetables in Underwear. I bought it to go with our potty training adventures, and to make it clear how everyone wears underwear, how it’s a part of being a big kid, etc. But this book makes underwear so hilarious, Harley giggles at every page.
It’s a great, quick read, too. Doesn’t take too long to get through, with only a sentence or two on each page. The illustrations are so much fun and it just makes me happy to hear my kid cackle when we read it.
The Paper Dolls – by Julia Donaldson
I originally got this book when Harley was still a baby. In fact, I think it came in a subscription box. I didn’t really like it at first, finding it a bit dark. Now, I think it’s really inspiring and covering great themes.
It’s all about a girl who makes paper dolls with her mom. She imagines all their adventures, combining them with her other toys to create fun new ways to play. But when a boy cuts them up, the dolls instead fly into her memory, along with all sorts of other wonderful things. And when she grows up, she helps her little girl make her own paper dolls. Very worth a read!
What are some of your favorite books for younger kids? Do you remember reading anything great that’s weird rereading as an adult? What do you think of this list of best books for a 2-3-year-old?