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The Best Books For Children Ages 1 to 3

Updated on August 8, 2020
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I have a BA in history and creative writing and an MA in history. I enjoy politics, movies, television, poker, video games, and trivia.

The Importance of Reading

Nothing is more important to a child's intellectual development than reading. Resist the temptation to sit your kid in front of the television. For as long as you possibly can, spend time with them each day reading a book to them. Your child will reap the rewards. I guarantee it. These are some great books to start with in developing your child's love for reading.

My wife and I began reading to our children every night at bedtime since they were infants. They are now 9 and 11 and they love to read. My oldest son has been the best reader in his class almost every year of school. When they are struggling for something to do, they will almost always turn to a book.

When a parent brings up children on television instead of books, the children turn to TV first. In fact, I've seen many kids who simply won't read. It's rather sad. They want television. They don't want books.

An appreciation of books does so much for kids. It improves their vocabulary. It helps their writing. It always gives them something if boredom sets in.

Reading books to your children from an early age is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Going to Bed Book

I've read this one so many times that I can recite it from memory, as can many parents. More than any other, this book was the central read in my son's bedtime ritual. One of his first words was exclaiming "exercise" when Sandra Boyton's silly animals finished brushing their teeth then head upstairs. A wonderful book that's easy to read and helps kids with phonics, like so many rhyming books.

The Foolish Tortoise

Eric Carle is the author of a number of kid's books. He's also an illustrator. My sense is that "The Mixed-Up Chameleon" is the most popular of his books, but I much prefer this one. The former is kind of cute because it's obvious that kids had a hand in developing the story. With this one, the narrative is much more clear. It's about a tortoise who decides to leave his shell so that he can be faster. Only, he finds that he still isn't fast enough. Ultimately, he realizes he should have appreciated his shell more.

Llama llama red pajama by Anna Dewdney
Llama llama red pajama by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama

This book is a recent discovery for us. It came at a perfect time. I've always had trouble getting my son to let me leave the room as he falls asleep. I've mostly had to sit there until he's out. I think I can credit this book, and the cute story of a llama throwing a fit. Because he's trying to go to sleep and his mother is downstairs, Llama becomes upset. It helped my son understand that just because we're not in the room, we're still right there.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boyton
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boyton

Guess I Much I Love You

This is perhaps the lovliest of all the children's book stories. It's about a young rabbit and his parent trying to outdo each other in the expression of their love. If the baby rabbit expresses his love by how high he can jump, the parent is able to love his baby just a little bit more. When the baby rabbit thinks he's finally got a distance that his parent can't match (all the way to the moon), the parent puts him to sleep and the book ends with one of my favorite lines: "I love you all the way to the moon, and back."

Where the Wild Things Are

I think more than most children's books, this one challenges the imagination. And to be honest, it's probably for kids a little older than three. However, I think you can never start to early challenging kids to imagine things outside of their own world. Here, Max's mother sends him to bed without his supper. Upset, Max imagines himself king of the wild things. But Max becomes lonely and misses his mother. He returns to the real world. There he finds how much his mother loves him because his dinner is waiting for him and it's still hot. This was one of my favorite books as a kid.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I realize that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is an outlier on this list. While I might not recommend this for a one-year-old, three-year-olds are perfect. Depending on how much you read each night, it might take a few months to finish the first book. Your child might be four or five or six by the time you finish the series.

We've gained so much by exposing our children to Harry Potter at a young age. Parents probably feel strongly about The Chronicles of Narnia or even Star Wars. Those are but two examples. That's how our kids feel about Harry Potter. It's such a huge part of their lives. To think they understand the power of books so well makes us proud.

When your children appreciate the power of books, when something connects with them, it changes their life. That's one of the best roles for a parent.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Allen Donald


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