Whether you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, or grandparent, you want to find the best children’s picture books to read aloud and share with the children in your life. Over the last two decades, I’ve read tens of thousands of picture books and carefully curated book lists and book reviews of children’s picture book fiction and nonfiction for kids. I’ll share the BEST picture book recommendations in book lists on almost every topic and theme. Plus, you’ll also find the best children’s books to read aloud to different ages of readers.
My own passion for books for kids began early with weekly trips to the library and a home without a television. (Nothing else to do but read!) As a former elementary teacher, former literacy trainer, and parent of two, my passion for books grew every year. I read to share the best books with my students. I read to find good books to use in the classroom as mentor texts. And I read because I loved the stories, wordplay, and richness of the artwork. Honestly, I am devoted to children’s literature, reading thousands of books every year, from picture books to YA.
Here’s an example of one month of picture books that I review in on month from over a hundred read that month! (And isn’t my READ shirt the best!?)
What makes a great picture book?
The best picture books are spacious enough to allow the illustrations to narrate the story as well as the prose, which is the text of a non-poetry book. These beautiful books aren’t too text-heavy but balance perfectly with their text-to-picture ratio.
Young children love books about themes that resonate with their lives, such as friendship, family, growing up, identity, and more. Other young child-friendly themes in picture books that illuminate the world for readers include belonging, courage, kindness, feelings, accepting differences, problem solving, using your imagination, and grief. Look for books that explore new concepts like counting or colors!
Stories about these themes have many different storylines or plots, ranging from books with meaningful lessons to silly stories or informational topics. Read children’s book stories about different topics such as losing a tooth, getting a new sibling, finding something lost, learning about animals, or wanting a pet.
Young readers naturally love funny stories. Kids love to laugh, so hilarious, silly stories will always be on any list of favorites.
Of course, good picture books for kids also include memorable characters. Lovable characters are those beloved, quirky, and funny heroes that stay with you until you’re an adult. Who are your favorite timeless characters from your childhood reading? Maybe Lily of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse or Elephant and Piggie or Lola.
Also, you’ll know your child’s favorite children’s books because they will love them and beg for repeated readings. Every child will prefer some picture books over others. That’s okay. They’re forming their opinions and growing into themselves. Both my kids preferred different stories and authors. Not a problem! There are so many good books; there is something for everyone.
What are the best read aloud picture books?
Children of all ages, not just young children, benefit from reading picture books with an adult or by themselves.
You don’t have to buy the best sellers. Just try a variety of different books about different topics. Funny books are my favorite to read aloud — my kids love to laugh. I bet your readers will love funny books, too.
For young readers, it is essential to share a variety of kids’ stories, including wordless and prose books, fiction and nonfiction, classics and contemporary, about lots of different topics. This exposes them to the best children’s books that teach them about the world and introduces them to critical literary concepts like story structure, characters, predictions, and finding information.
Reading picture books builds a love of reading. It gives parents and children special time together sharing stories. Yes, I will suggest the best picture books of all time, but I also believe that ANY picture book you read with a child is best. Because it’s reading and it’s time together.
Remember that any time you can spend reading aloud to your child counts and builds important skills! When I read her stories, my oldest wiggled off my lap and ran laps around me. Instead of making her sit still, I started reading to her while she was eating. That worked much better for her. No, it wasn’t snuggle time, but it still was enriching and important.
Why read children’s stories?
As I mentioned, reading books out loud to children builds their literacy skills, including learning new vocabulary words and a child’s understanding of story elements.
Encourage your growing reader to read picture books by themselves. When children are alone with a book, they can pretend “read” the pictures and narrate the story using the pictures and parts that they might have memorized. This is a wonderful way to reinforce concepts like plot, beginning, middle, and end, characters, the importance of illustrations, and oral language. As children tell their own stories, notice their word play!
Don’t forget to include nonfiction titles in your reading selection, also. This helps readers learn new things and introduces informational reading for meaning.
Best Picture Books for Young Readers
Ages 0 to 4
Best Picture Books for Elementary Ages
Ages 5 – 8 (Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade)
Best Picture Books of the Year
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