Positive, Powerful and Playful Stories for Preschool & Pre-K: The 15 Best Books for Three-to-Five-Year-Olds

Early childhood educators share their favorite preschool and pre-K books to add to your child’s library.

Continuing your reading rituals and providing a variety of books is important for your preschooler. Children this age are beginning to recognize letters and words. During story time, slide your finger under words as you read them to help your preschooler understand the link between the words on the page and the words you’re saying.

A Bad Case of the Stripes

Written by David Shannon

A little girl wants to fit in with her classmates in this outrageous story about conformity and being yourself. Little Camilla Cream loves lima beans, but her classmates hate them. She doesn’t want to be made fun of, so she pretends she doesn’t like them either and ends up contracting a bad case of the stripes.

“It teaches children about peer pressure and being yourself in an age appropriate way” – Amber Wetherholt, Infant Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

Written by Richard Scarry

For any little literature fan who loves vehicles with wheels, adorable animals or a journey, this Richard Scarry classic offers an encyclopedic (and often very imaginative) take on all people- and thing-movers. From a carrot car to fire engines, this book has something to please every preschooler. Don’t miss out on finding the cute little Goldbug on every page spread!

“It got us through long potty training times in the bathroom and more bedtimes than I care to remember. This has become one of our very favorite gifts to give pint-sized pals. “- Kirsten Eamon-Shine, Director of Communications & Engagement at Early Learning Indiana

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Written by Bill Martin Jr.

A timeless classic that is not only fun to read, but also easy for children to read along with you. Colorful bold letters help them begin to recognize both upper and lowercase letters.

“The illustrations are bold and interesting. The text is predictable and the children are able to join the story after the first reading. The older children practice identifying the lowercase letters while reading the book.” – Marti Gough, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center

“It’s a fun book for children to learn their ABCs” – Brittany Walton, Teacher at Day Early Learning State Government Center

Don’t Push the Button

Written by Bill Cotter

The ultimate “What happens if…..” story driven by children’s participation and the playful antics of a monster named Larry. A must have for any classroom or home library!

Submitted by: Sarah Sovanich, Site Supervisor, Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

Green Eggs and Ham

Written by Dr. Seuss

A classic featuring the silly, rhyming text and crazy creatures you expect from Dr. Seuss, along with the subtle message to try new foods before deciding you don’t like them.

“The sing song of it is enjoyed by all ages.” -Julie Stanley, Office Manager at Day Early Learning at Park 100

I Can Handle It

Written by Laurie Wright

This book explores the many big emotions that children experience and shows them that they can handle any of those emotions with some positive self talk.

“We have read this book many times and taught students to take deep breaths and say “I can handle it!” before using solutions to work out any issues between peers, teachers, or parents. It has done wonders for the social emotional development in my classroom!” – Trisha Satterfield, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem

Written by Jamie Lee Curtis, Illustrated by Laura Cornell

Quirky and colorful illustrations bring to life a story of confidence and self acceptance. The book alternates between a boy and a girl main character so children can see themselves in the story. From being chosen last for a game, to being called on in class, the children take turns saying saying “I”m gonna like me when…”

“This is a great book for teaching kids self-love and celebrating their unique differences.” – Trisha Satterfield, Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

Jenny and the Cat Club

Written by Esther Averill

A story of a little black cat who conquers shyness by being brave and kind. From welcoming new friends to finding our own special gifts, Averill’s sweet stories offer great chances to discuss the inevitable pitfalls and triumphs of being a little person in a very big world.

“Shortly before his fourth birthday, we started reading chapter books each day to our little book fan. This story has led to many meaningful conversations — and it’s one of our son’s favorite books of all time.” – Kirsten Eamon-Shine, Director of Communications & Engagement at Early Learning Indiana


Written by Kathryn Otoshi

Colorful, round watercolor splashes and brushed numbers bring simplicity to a book that confronts the issue of bullying. Blue is being picked on by Red, the bully. Eventually the number 1 stands up to Red and the other colors follow.

“It shows children the value of bravery and kindness.” – Sabrina Brosseit, Day Early Learning Quality Coach

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Written by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

A little girl has big dreams of becoming an engineer, but hides her quirky inventions from the world in fear of being made fun of. A visit from her great aunt Rosie teaches her that the only failure is when you give up! Roberts’s whimsical watercolor illustrations are full of fun details to explore.

“Children get to experience a story about inventiveness and persistence.” – Sabrina Brosseit, Day Early Learning Quality Coach

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Written by Patty Lovell

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon teaches children to be themselves even if others don’t accept them for who they are, because the right people will love them for being themselves.

Submitted by: Aly Harbert, Teacher, Day Early Learning at Park 100

The Completed Hickory Dickory Dock

Written by Jim Aylesworth

This story picks up where the traditional nursery rhyme left off and follows the mouse throughout his day. Children will enjoy the silly rhymes as the clock strikes every hour on the clock.

“Nursery Rhymes help children develop an ear for language. Rhyme and rhythm provide children with the different sounds that make up syllables and words. This book is particularly fun because it also allows children to count and recognize numerals and amounts.” – Karen Crow, Center Director at Day Early Learning at Fort Harrison

The Monster at the End of the Book

Written by Jon Stone

Beloved Sesame Street character, Grover, warns readers that there is a monster at the end of the book and pleads with them not to turn the page in increasingly silly ways.

“It teaches children about facing their fears. My children love it because of how I act when the pages are tied together and how heavy Grover says the page is.” – Nikkia Owens, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center

Marsupial Sue Presents “The Runaway Pancake”

Written by John Lithgow, Illustrated by Jack E. Davis

Marsupial Sue and her friends put on a play version of The Runaway Pancake, a story about a pancake who runs away before he is eaten.

“I have the version with a recording of John Lithgow reading the story aloud. The children request the book so often, they can now recite it word for word. The illustrations are hilarious.” – Marti Gough, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center

What Do You Do With An Idea

Written by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom

A story about a boy who has a big idea. With patience, perseverance and confidence, the boy nurtures the idea until it grows to change the world.

“It helps children, and adults, see the value in trusting themselves.” – Sabrina Brosseit, Day Early Learning Quality Coach

What books thrill your preschooler? Add your family’s favorites in the comments below! 


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