Toddler Storytime: Favourite Read Alouds

This post will feature 20 books that worked really well in my last run of  Toddler Storytime.  In case you missed it, here are the other posts focusing on this age group:


For toddlers, I usually only do two books and a felt story.  Maybe three books if they are all really short.  But for the most part, it’s just too hard to keep their attention for a third book, and we do more “get the wiggles out” activities instead.  And I never hesitate to skip pages or summarize the ending if a book just isn’t working.

I always start with the longest book and move to the shorter one last.  Pop-Out books have been a huge hit with my storytime crowd, so most weeks I include one of those.  Without further ado, here are my favourites!

1. Peek-A-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti; illustrated by Stephanie Peterson

Peek-a-MooA lift-the-flap type book that encourages kids to guess the sounds animals make.  I love the repetition of “Guess Who?”  Cimarusti has a whole series of these books and I’ve had success with all of them.

2. Giant Pop-Out Pets

Giant Pop Out PetsA great book for teaching parents how to ask questions while they read and for teaching toddlers how to make predictions.  Two clues are given on the left page, leading to a pop-out pet on the right page.  You can also get the ocean version, food version, or bug version.  I love ending with this book as it grabs their attention.

3. If You See a Kitten and Whose Baby Am I? by John Butler

If You See a KittenOr pretty much any book by John Butler!  Short, simple sentences and bright, clear illustrations.

4. What Will Hatch? by Jennifer Ward

What Will Hatch?This 2013 book got me at first read.  Most of the toddlers can’t guess what will hatch from the eggs, but it’s a great opportunity to show caregivers how to ask questions and point out things in the illustrations.

5. Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri

Spots Feathers and Curly TailsA classic for a good reason. The pictures are large and realistic. And you can have lots of fun making the animal sounds.

6. Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

Monkey and MeBefore I read this one, I have all the caregivers practice the chant with me – “Monkey and me, Monkey and me, Monkey and me we went to see..”  Then it becomes more like a song we sing between all the animal pictures.

7. Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort

The Seals on the BusI limited myself to one singable book for this list, but I absolutely love singing books in toddler storytime.  The parents always get a kick out of this one when the people on the bus go, “Help! Help! Help!”  Please check out our Pinterest Board for more singable books.

8. I Went Walking by Sue Williams

I Went WalkingI often promote this book as a read alike to Brown Bear, Brown Bear because of the repetition.  Another great book for learning to make predictions. I’m sensing a pattern here!

9. RRRalph by Lois Ehlert

RRRalphSometimes you need to throw in a book that will make the parents laugh too.  Lots of wonderful sounds in this book to help kids develop phonological awareness. And I will never get over the uniqueness of Ehlert’s illustrations.

10. Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker

Big Fat HenMy favourite counting book for toddlers!  Also a great plug for the importance of nursery rhymes.  We’ll usually sing a bunch of nursery rhymes after reading this book as well.

11. I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

I'm the Biggest Thing in the OceanColorful, large pages.  A funny ending.  I’ve never had this book stay on the shelf after using it in storytime. And if the toddlers are getting restless, it’s easy to skip some of the pages in the middle without disrupting the storyline.

12. No, David! by David Shannon

No, David!My two-year-old niece Sophie has loved this book since she was a baby.  I’m not sure if it’s because the kids get to be the one saying, “No!” or if she liked the pictures.  But David was one of the first names she ever learned to say.

13. The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli The Birthday BoxLeslie Patricelli – my personal storytime goddess!  This book is more of a story than her other ones that feature opposites, but I love it for it’s emphasis on creativity and imagination.  And how many parents have given their child a gift only to have the package become the object of desire?!

14. Toot Toot, Beep Beep by Emma Garcia

Toot Toot Beep BeepGarcia is another author of books that I think are just right for toddlers.  This one satisfies all the youngins going through the “I must have all things car and truck related” phase.

15. Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? by Barney Saltzberg

Cornelius P Mud Are You Ready for BedA read alike to No, David!, this book features a little pig who has a different idea about each bedtime routine. On each page, we talk about what Cornelius should be doing. And who can resist the name Cornelius!

16. Wow! Ocean! by Robert Neubecker

Wow OceanEach page only has two words and the focus of this book is more on the detailed drawings. As I scan this book across the room, I tell parents to point out things their child likes or perhaps doesn’t know yet.

17. Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton

Dinosaurs DinosaursThe dinosaur force is strong in many toddlers and this book has the perfect amount of short sentences to capture their attention.

18. Busy Boats by Susan Steggall

Busy BoatsLots of different types of boats in the one, and I use it as a chance to teach toddlers new vocabulary.  Be specific – they will absorb!

19. Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas

Pumpkin TroubleI read this one at our Halloween Storytime and it was a huge hit! The kids loved shouting out, “pumpkin” and the parents were laughing out loud.  Jan Thomas has many great toddler books, but this one is my favourite.

20. Bear About Town by Stella Blackstone

Bear About TownI would have never picked up this book if it hadn’t been left on the storytime shelf by the previous Children’s Librarian. Each page has one sentence describing what Bear does on each day of the week.  The illustrations are so bright and colorful, and I had a parent comment afterwards that she loved the activities Bear did on each day.

That’s all from me!  What are your favourite books to read at Toddler Storytime?

28 thoughts on “Toddler Storytime: Favourite Read Alouds

  1. The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner (no relation)… The kids LOVE this pop up book, and laugh when frog has to use his brain and mouth to get out of trouble!

    1. Oh yes, that is a great one! My 3-year-old niece loves it. Have you seen The Long-Nosed Pig also by Faulkner? Very similar concept/storyline.

  2. My two favorite read alouds for the toddler crowd are “Hi, Pizza man!” by Virginia Walter & “Freight Train” by Donald Crews. Both books allow for sounds and motions and lots of group participation.

    1. How could I forget Freight Train! I love using that one as a felt story too. I’ve never read the other one so I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

  3. I’m excited for all these new book ideas! Some I’ve used, but most of them are new to me. Some of my favorites to read at toddler story time are “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox, “Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons” by Litwin and Dean, and Waddell’s “Owl Babies.” I also LOVE me some toddler story time. Thanks for this great post!

    1. Awesome suggestions! My niece loved Where is the Green Sheep? so much she had it memorized at 2 years. Thanks for your comment!

  4. There are so many! My favorites at the moment are There are cats in the book by Viviane Schwarz and Pet the Cat: I love my white shoes by Eric Litwin. Thank you for this wonderful site!

    1. Thank you, Andrea! I love the books you mentioned too!

  5. Thanks for the great list! I’ve had good success with Watermelon Seed (Pizzoli), Monsters vs. Kittens (Jones), and Digger Dog (Bee). I also like pretty much any Elephant and Piggie book and Kevin Henkes’ books for younger kids. And I wish Hi, Pizza Man was still in print!

    1. I love The Watermelon Seed! We still have a few copies of Hi, Pizza Man in our system so I’ll have to check that one out. Thanks for all these titles!

  6. Thanks for these book suggestions! I’ve also used quite a few of these, but what I love best about this particular post is you sharing with us WHY you use each book and HOW. Sometimes I see a book I like ( like Pumpkin Trouble!) and I can’t figure out how to make it work with the toddlers. Your posts are sooo helpful!

    Also, to share: Sue Williams’ “I Went Walking” is a great springboard for creating songs to fill out a theme & pull out the puppets with! This week we’ll be doing “Fall Friends” at Toddler Storytime so I’ll be singing the “I went walking” part and following with, “I saw a squirrel / Climbing a tree! I saw a skunk / Digging through leaves! I saw geese flying / High above me!” etc. Since it is a call and repeat song, it keeps them engaged, even though they don’t already know the words, and it also shows them different animals from nature that they might not think about normally. For a long time I was too insecure to use puppets. Now I pull them out whenever I can to show word to image recognition and for just plain keep-em-listening power!

    Thanx again – you guys are so helpful and inspiring! My programming colleague and I adore you!

    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! I’m working on a Favourite Storytime Books 2014 that will be very similar in style so keep an eye out in the new year. I love how you’ve adapted the “I Went Walking” book – it’s brilliant! Can’t wait to try that out in my own storytimes 🙂

  7. P.S. Oh! I was so absorbed in sharing ideas I forgot to share one of my favorite books (that you didn’t already have listed!) It’s an oldie: “Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill. Great lift the flap book with more opportunities for toddlers to yell “NO!” without getting in trouble 🙂 Thanx again!!

    1. Love that one! Thanks for reminding me of its greatness.

  8. If you are not familiar with Bark,George or The Very Lazy Ladybug. They are awesome storytime books.

    1. Oh yes, I use Bark, George all the time, though my toddlers have trouble sitting through the whole thing. I’ve never hear of The Very Lazy Ladybug so I’m putting it on hold now. Thanks for the rec!

  9. I have a three year old grand daughter who is blind, and I’ve decided to record great stories for her as a Christmas gift. Her memory is phenomenal and she can recite verbatim stories like Pete the Cat that her teacher has read only once to her class.
    Can you suggest appropriate read alouds for a child who cannot see but can only imagine. I’ve spent a career teaching college and middle schoolers, so my toddler reading repertoire is rather deficient. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Elaine, firstly, what a wonderful grandmother you are! The challenge you face is that so many picture books rely on the illustrations to tell the story or to add humour. For the Christmas season, I think a book like The Mitten by Jan Brett would work fantastic. Other options are Mr. Pusskins by Sam LLoyd, Sophie’s Squash by Pat Miller, Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay, or The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton. There’s also The Charlotte Zolotow Award for the best text in picture books that I think has great options. Another resource to know about is A Story Before Bed. Lastly, if you have someone else who can record with you, the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems are hilarious and engaging. I hope this gets you started!

  10. Thank you so much for your help. I’m armed with a great list and headed for the library and/or bookstore. Holiday Blessings

  11. I just had a very rambunctious toddler, just turned 2, come to my preschool story time. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Her parents would really like her to come to the story time and I had only done babies or preschoolers and older. I was thrilled to find your blog. You are a life saver! Using some of your ideas, I am hoping that next week goes better.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! Toddlers can be the trickiest age, but they will also become your biggest fans. Wishing you a happy storytime 🙂

  12. I’ve just discovered all your extremely useful advice! I’m a Volunteer Coordinator at a public library & I’m often busy training/advising my Story time Volunteers with different story time techniques! 🙂
    I’m not quite sure if anyone’s mentioned this above, but I love Eric Carle’s ‘Dear Zoo’ (lift the flap). Short, to the point & keeps them guessing!

    1. Oh yes, I believe you are referring to the classic by Rod Campbell. I included that on my list of favourite felt stories for toddlers, but the book is just as good. Thanks for reminding me of this gem!

  13. Hi Lindsey,
    I love your page! I was wondering if you use normal sized books for story time and if so are they big enough for all the kids to see?

    1. Yes, I do use normal sized books, though I try to choose picture books with larger pages if I know my group will be big(40 people). I find the over-sized books too hard to manage with one person (turning pages, reading, and sitting it somewhere). My storytime space isn’t that big so I think everyone can see the pages. That’s another good reason to choose books with interactive elements or repetitive refrains – even if they can’t see all the details they can participate. I know other libraries that project the book pages to really large groups or use eBooks.

  14. We tried “Monkey and Me” at toddler storytime two weeks ago and it was a big hit! We practiced marching in place to a steady beat before we began, and then we chanted the book together. At each reveal, I invited the kids to move like the animal on the page. It was a workout, and it kept the kids engaged, and it was fun! After another reading or two (we’ve had requests to read it again already!) I am thinking of trying it without the book, and using animal puppets to switch up what’s revealed and what animals we pretend to be. Thanks for the great idea!

    1. Oh, I am totally stealing that idea! We acted out the book Hop by Jorey Hurley in toddler storytime last week and it was a hit too. I’d never thought of doing it with this book though – that’s just brilliant! I also love the idea of telling it a different way. I try to do that as often as possible as it helps kids internalize the story and play with language. Thanks so much for the ideas!

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