One of the most common questions I get asked by people new to storytime is what to read to toddlers. Toddlers are a tricky group. They can go from being engaged to running around the room in a matter of seconds. I’ve written before about toddler language acquisition and how we can support it through our pacing. Today I want to share a group of authors whose books meet the language development needs of toddlers and that work well in a storytime setting. I chose authors that have at least three books that fit within these parameters. I’m hoping this post can serve as a guide for those looking to get familiar with what makes a good toddler storytime book.
If I missed one of your favourites, please let me know in the comments! For even more toddler storytime read alouds, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my toddler storytime series and my annual storytime favourites booklists.
Baker’s books often showcase an appreciation for nature. He’s got a few nursery rhyme adaptations too.
- Big Fat Hen
- No Two Alike
- Little Green
I think I’ve referred to Barton as king of toddler books before. He just gets them. His books feature everyday objects.
- My House
- My Bike
- My Bus
You can sing two of these which toddlers love.
- I Like Myself!; illustrated by David Catrow
- I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!; illustrated by David Catrow
- Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Butler’s books combine adorable animals, animal sounds, and guessing games. A classic author to know.
- If You See a Kitten
- Whose Nose and Toes?
- Whose Baby Am I?
- Ten in the Den
Known for her singable books, Cabrera has an array nursery rhymes and classic songs in book format. Her illustrations are oh-so-cute.
- Peek-a-boo Zoo!
- The Wheels on the Bus
- If You’re Happy and You Know It!
- Old MacDonald Had a Farm
One of the most well-known authors for children. If you can snag a pop-up version of any of his books they are well worth it!
- From Head to Toe
- The Very Busy Spider
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
David A. Carter
A smart choice for pop-up singable books. Though his books are smaller in size, they still captivate a toddler audience. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these gems.
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- If You’re a Robot and You Know It
- Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Marie Torres Cimarusti
Your go-to lift-the-flap author! Fun and filled with animal sounds.
- Peek-a-Choo Choo!
Best known for her Maisy the mouse character, these three books have big pages perfect for large toddler groups.
- Hooray for Birds!
- Hooray for Fish!
- Maisy’s Rainbow Dream
Her diverse set of round-headed kids are the perfect addition to a toddler storytime.
- Say Hello!
- We Love You, Rosie!
- I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!
Dodd’s books feature simple sentence structure and unique vocabulary. Many of her books feature common household pets.
- I Love Bugs!
- Dog’s Colorful Day
- I Don’t Want a Posh Dog!
- I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!
If you need a monster book that doesn’t scare kids, Emberley is your author!
- Go Away, Big Green Monster!
- Nighty Night Little Green Monster
- If You’re a Monster and You Know It; written with his daughter Rebecca Emberley
Fleming has a distinctive art style and most of her books feature sparse phrases filled with wonderful unique vocabulary.
- Five Little Ducks
- Maggie and Michael Get Dressed
Fox has many books that are baby focused but most of them work really well for those just-toddlers who wobble around and explore everything.
- Baby Bedtime; illustrated by Emma Quay
- Hello Baby!; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
- Two Little Monkeys; illustrated by Jill Barton
Garcia’s books are perfect for the transportation or construction work enthusiast. Repetition and sounds effects included.
- Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
- Toot Toot Beep Beep
- Tap Tap Bang Bang
- Tip Tip Dig Dig
These books straddle the toddler/preschool line, but they can work great in a toddler storytime when everyone repeats the phrase, “I spy with my little eye” all together.
- I Spy With My Little Eye
- I Spy Pets
- I Spy Under the Sea
- I Spy on the Farm
Gravett’s books have a great rhythm without rhyming. A few have a twist ending which caregivers and older children enjoy.
- Blue Chameleon
- Monkey and Me
A master of gentle nature themed books. Great for seasonal reads.
- When Spring Comes
- A Good Day
- Little White Rabbit
If you need a great pop-up concept book look no further. These capture the attention of wriggly toddlers and show off a wide array of animals.
- Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors
- One Spotted Giraffe: A Counting Pop-up Book
- Animal Opposites: A Pop-up Book
Litwin’s books feature predictable text patterns with short songs interspersed. Great for preschoolers too, the key to getting them to work with toddlers is getting the caregivers to sing along with you. They make great felt stories too.
- Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes; illustrated by James Dean
- Pete the Cat: My Four Groovy Buttons; illustrated by James Dean
- Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Known for his Froggy books, London also has a collection of transportation themed picture books perfect for toddlers. And don’t forget his animal walking sounds book!
- A Train Goes Clickety-Clack; illustrated by Denis Roche
- A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa; illustrated by Denis Roche
- A Plane Goes Ka-zoom!; illustrated by Denis Roche
- Wiggle Waggle; illustrated by Michael Rex
Bill Martin Jr.
You may recognize these from your own childhood. The repetitive structure is perfect for toddlers. Bonus tip: You can sing them to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; illustrated by Eric Carle
- Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
- Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
Simple text and big pages make these books perfect for toddlers. These may be out of print, so grab a copy if you see one!
- I Love Animals
- Giddy-up! Let’s Ride!
Murphy’s books are great for promoting a loving, positive relationship between toddler and caregiver. They’ve also got great animal sounds.
- Say Hello Like This!
- A Kiss Like This
- Good Night Like This
Il Sung Na
Dreamy illustrations fill these wonderful books about animals.
- Welcome Home, Bear
- The Opposite Zoo
- A Book of Babies
Known for her adorable board books, Patriceclli also has some picture books that are perfect for toddlers.
- The Birthday Box
- Higher! Higher!
- Faster! Faster!
Rosen has all sorts of different stories for little ones. Try reading one of his poems to highlight poetry even for toddlers.
- The Bus is for Us!; illustrated by Gillian Tyler
- Tiny Little Fly; illustrated by Kevin Waldron
- A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young; illustrated by Chris Riddell
Sandall only has two toddler storytime gems so far but I’m including her here because I just know she’s bound to another soon! Her third book, Everybunny Count! comes out this year so I’ll update this page after I’ve read it.
- Everybunny Dance!
- Follow Me!
April Pulley Sayre
Sayre is a prolific writer and has tons of storytime gems. Her non-fiction ones are top notch featuring wondeful vocabulary and stunning photographs of nature.
- Full of Fall
- Best in Snow
- Raindrops Roll
- If You’re Hoppy; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Shea’s dinosaur series is great for those little ones who just need to roar!
- Dinosaur vs. Bedtime
- Dinosaur vs. The Library
- Dinosaur vs. The Potty
Join Smee’s group of animal friends for different adventures. You can act out these books or have toddler jump in a lap for some bouncing or rocking while you read. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these!
- Splish- Splash
Sturges’s books are great for celebrating a child’s love of different things. Short, simple sentences paired with boldly coloured illustrations are a great combo.
- I Love Bugs!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
- I Love Trains!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
- I Love Trucks!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
In Taback’s series readers guess the animals hiding behind the flaps. Fold out pages make for a lovely surprise for toddlers.
- Simms Taback’s City Animals
- Simms Taback’s Farm Animals
- Simms Taback’s Dinosaurs
Tafuri’s books feature repetition, short sentences, and lots of farm animals.
- All Kinds of Kisses
- The Busy Little Squirrel
- Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails
- This is the Farmer
Thomas has a great sense of humour and even if the toddlers don’t completely get the jokes the caregivers will.
- Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
- Pumpkin Trouble
- Rhyming Dust Bunnies
Those are my picks for toddler storytime authors to know. Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments!