10 Best Books For Three Year Olds: Getting Your Young Reader Started Right

Discover the best books for three year olds to help your little one boost their literacy skills from the start.

It’s fun to search for the perfect book for your three year old. As a parent, there’s nothing better than watching your kiddo find their favorite books. Rhyming, picture, and interactive books can all have their place on your child’s bookshelf.

We’ve gathered the best books for three-year-olds to help you stock your bookshelves with the stories that will help them learn to love books from the start. If you like this topic, you’ll love our metaphor examples for kids!

Here Are The Best Books For Three Year Olds

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A green caterpillar with a red face and green and yellow eyes is curved across a blank white background

Parents everywhere are familiar with Eric Carle’s classic tale of the caterpillar who munches his way through delicious treat after delicious treat in preparation for his transformation. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great fit for young readers of various ages. Kids love Carle’s simple, bright illustrations that carry them through every page of the story.

In addition to providing an entertaining story, the book teaches the basic science skill of how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, which can be used as a metaphor to help kids understand that difficult times can often turn into something beautiful. You may also find our list of the best books for one year olds helpful.

“Now he wasn’t hungry any more- and he wasn’t a little caterpillar any more.”

Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Picture Puffins)
  • Carle Eric (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 28 Pages - 11/28/2002 (Publication Date) - PENGUIN (Publisher)

2. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
An orange, red, blue, and green crayon hold up a sign with the book’s title, as well as the author’s and illustrator’s names

This New York Times bestseller is a hit among preschoolers and parents alike. In this sweet story, each crayon gives its reason for going on strike. Adults will find the crayons’ complaints hilarious, as they mirror those of many people in the workplace. Kids will love watching the crayons finally get over their gripes as they work together to create a masterpiece.

This book is great for only kids and siblings who struggle to work together. The story is also a great fit for kids who have trouble expressing themselves artistically—they’ll love getting to know all of their crayons once they learn to associate each fun personality with a different color.

“You have not used me ONCE in the past year. It’s because you think I’m a girl’s color, isn’t it?”

Drew Daywalt, The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Quit
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Drew Daywalt (Author) - Drew Daywalt, Marichelle Daywalt, René Ruiz (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/04/2022 (Publication Date) - Listening Library (Publisher)

3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A child in red overalls and a green t-shirt stands with open arms as a green tree drops an apple

The Giving Tree is a classic tale of selflessness, as it follows the story of a tree giving all it has to offer to a boy. The story begins with the boy eating apples from the tree and enjoying climbing from the tree’s branches. As the boy gets older, he uses the tree to make money by selling the apples, uses the tree’s branches to build a house, and uses the tree’s trunk to create a boat.

The tree remains happy to give at each stage of the boy’s life. Finally, at the end of the book, the tree has nothing left. The boy is an old man, and he tells the tree that he’s still happy to be with his old friend, as now, he simply wants a place to stop and rest. The Giving Tree hits home in a different way for parents than for kids, but all parties will revel in the joy of this classic. This story can be perfect for kids struggling to interact with others positively, as it’s a helpful reminder that being nice to the people around us makes us feel good.

“I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.”

Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree
The Giving Tree
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Silverstein, Shel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages - 02/18/2014 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)

4. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
A boy wearing red and white striped pajamas holds a bundle of balloons while floating through the sky

As a parent, it can be tough to find the right words to let your kids know just how proud of them you are. In The Wonderful Things You Will Be, you’ll find ideas of acceptance, love, and celebrating dreams that will stick with your child for a lifetime.

The story is perfect for reading to a baby in utero and can be a fun fit for children to hear time and again as they grow older. As children grow, they can add their own thoughts to the story, as the book naturally invites parents to ask kids questions about their hopes and dreams.

This book is the perfect gift for expecting parents at a baby shower or for your child (some reviewers have also given it as a graduation gift, as its message applies to big and little kids alike). The pastel colors of the illustrations are calming, making this book a good choice for you to start or end the day with your child.

“When nights are black and when days are gray—you’ll be brave and be bright so no shadows can stay. And become anybody that you’d like to be. And then I’ll look at you, and you’ll look at me, and I’ll love you, whoever you’ve grown up to be.”

Emily Winfield Martin, The Wonderful Things You Will Be
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Emily Winfield Martin (Author) - Ari Meyers (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/05/2020 (Publication Date) - Listening Library (Publisher)

5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
The words “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” are in a text bubble next to a cartoon blue bird

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus captures exactly what a little one feels when they can’t get their way—and gives them agency to decide whether it’s the right choice to let the pigeon be in charge. In this interactive story, kids and parents get to talk about what it means to say no, and how an outside perspective can provide new insight. Parents can encourage conversation with their kiddos about the best ways to encourage following directions, even when it goes against what a person wants to do.

Kids will love getting to shout at the pigeon, and adults will love watching their little ones connect the pigeon’s need to drive the bus and their wishes to do things their parents don’t allow. Preschool teachers find that this book can be the perfect way to transition from the fun of the playground back to following the classroom rules. This story is a part of a series, allowing kids to return to their beloved pigeon time and again.

“I’ll be you best friend! How ‘bout I give you five bucks? What’s the big deal!? It’s just a bus!!”

Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Mo Willems (Author) - Mo Willems (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/04/2012 (Publication Date) - Weston Woods Studios (Publisher)

6. Room on the Broom by Julia Donovan and Axel Scheffler

Room on the Broom by Julia Donovan and Axel Scheffler
A woman with a large nose, red shirt, purple skirt, black cape, and black witch had rides on a broom with an orange cat at the front of the broom. The image is set against a blue night sky background with a golden moon, green trees, and falling leaves

This fun story is perfect for Halloween or any other time of year. Young readers get to follow a witch as she flies through the sky, collecting more and more characters along the way. Her kindness to her new friends helps her when she encounters a monster near the end of the story who wants to—gasp—eat her!

Her broom-riding crew joins together to create a figure too scary for even a swamp monster to handle, and they ride off into the night together, safe from harm. Kids will love listening to the changing voices of their parents as they create each character, and they’ll be reminded of the importance of being nice to people and animals they encounter in the walk of life, as kindness is often returned tenfold. The singsong rhymes of the story will have your young reader speaking the story from memory in no time.

“The witch had a cat and a very tall hat, And long ginger hair which she wore in a plait. How the cat purred and how the witch grinned, As they sat on their broomstick and flew through the wind.”

Julia Donovan and Axel Scheffler, Room on the Broom
Room on the Broom
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Julia Donaldson (Author) - Josie Lawrence (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/15/2020 (Publication Date) - Listening Library (Publisher)

7. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
Blue cartoon puppet saying “Hello, everybodeee!” in a text bubble against a brick building and blue sky background with a Sesame Street sign

Lovable Grover of Sesame Street fame narrates this delightful story in which he asks readers not to turn the next page. This tale gives little ones a perfect chance to do something other than what they’re told and can help to ease the fear of monsters at night. The book is perfect for ages two and up and can give kids and parents a chance to interact as they work through the book together to discover who awaits on the final page.

The Monster at the End of This Book can provide a fun way for kids to explore their imaginations—parents can ask kids what they think the monster in the book will look or sound like and discuss how the ending was different from what they expected. If you like reading children’s books, you might also enjoy our list of the best books for two year olds.

“I told you and told you there was nothing to be afraid of.”

Jon Stone, The Monster at the End of This Book
The Monster at the End of This Book
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8. I am a Bunny by Richard Scarry

I am a Bunny
A brown bunny with large pink ears wears a yellow shirt with red overalls. He is standing under a red mushroom with a white stem surrounded by rain.

Parents worldwide feel a sense of nostalgia when they hear the first lines of I am a Bunny, as kids have loved this favorite book with colorful illustrations for decades. In addition to following the life of a bunny, kids also get the chance to explore the seasons. This is an excellent book for three-year-olds to five-year-olds and can give kids a chance to develop fun ideas that they can do to celebrate the changing of the seasons outside. You might be interested in exploring other children’s books, such as these best books for five year olds.

Parents can encourage kids to look for bunnies outdoors and imagine how their life might mimic Nicholas’s. This book is a great fit for any Easter basket but it is fun for all times of the year, especially when seasonal changes are especially apparent.

“I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.”

Richard Scarry, I am a Bunny
I Am a Bunny (A Golden Sturdy Book)
  • Risom, Ole (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 26 Pages - 01/01/2004 (Publication Date) - Golden Books (Publisher)

9. Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang

Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang
A brown cartoon monkey frowning on a red background

It can be frustrating when a child is having a tough day, and everyone around them tells them to cheer up. In this fun book, children follow the story of Jim, who, despite a seemingly lovely day, struggles to see the bright side of things. Grumpy Monkey shows kids that it’s ok to be in a bad mood, even if they can’t find a reason—as long as they’re still doing their best to be kind to others.

These stories are a great fit for kids who are having a tough day and when they’re having a great day and need to empathize with someone who isn’t quite flying so high. There are several books in the Grumpy Monkey series that help children deal with their tough emotions in a positive and productive way.

“One wonderful day Jim Panzee woke to discover that nothing was right. The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and the bananas were too sweet.”

Suzanne Lang, Grumpy Monkey
Llama Llama Red Pajama
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Anna Dewdney (Author) - Anna Dewdney (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/21/2018 (Publication Date) - Listening Library (Publisher)

10. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
A llama wearing red pajamas clutches a stuffed animal llama on a blue background with a multicolored border

Any parent of a young child knows the call from their little ones right after bedtime. Whether they’re shouting for a drink or for reassurance that there aren’t monsters under the bed, running to comfort toddlers and young children can be exhausting. In this adorable storybook, Llama Llama gets nervous when Mama Llama doesn’t run to his aid immediately.

The story shows kids all that Mama Llama is doing downstairs as Llama Llama imagines a worst-case scenario—and then shows how Llama Llama is comforted as Mama Llama explains that she’s always near, even if she doesn’t respond right away. This is the perfect book for story time or bedtime and it can help little ones remember that their parents are nearby, even if they need to wait a few moments for a response.

A cool bonus of the Llama Llama series: Mama Llama is a single parent and often shows how she manages to balance all it takes to work full-time and be a fantastic mom. This series can be a great fit for parents working to find the balance between work, life, and family, and it can help kids in non-traditional families feel represented. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of best books for soon to be dads!

“Mama Llama’s always near even if she’s not right here.”

Anna Dewdney, Llama Llama Red Pajama
Llama Llama Red Pajama
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Anna Dewdney (Author) - Anna Dewdney (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/21/2018 (Publication Date) - Listening Library (Publisher)


  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.