Teacher-Tested Toddler Tales: The 15 Best Books for One-and-Two-Year-Olds

Early childhood educators and experts share their favorite toddler books to add to your little learner’s library.

Toddlerhood is a great time to create a reading ritual with your child. Bring books to life with funny voices, sounds and movement. Reread their favorites (as if you have a choice) and pause to let them finish the sentence or say the wrong word on purpose and see if they correct you. Talk about the pictures on each page and describe what is happening. A positive reading experience that is fun and engaging helps your toddler build early literacy skills, develop a lifelong love of reading and nurture a stronger bond with you. 

Here are a few of our favorite toddler books to add to your collection. Be sure to share YOUR favorites below in the comments!  

All the World

Written by Liz Garton Scanlon

With beautiful watercolor illustrations and a message of love and family life, this Caldecott Honor book explores different community settings through the eyes of a diverse family.

“It has beautiful art. The words are very lyrical (in fact I’m working on adding a tune to it). And the message is one of love and living together peacefully.” – Seth Pederson, Toddler Teacher at Day Early Learning State Government Center

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Written by Bill Martin Jr., Illustrated by Eric Carle

This is a great book for all ages. It introduces colors, animals, repetition and rhyming. Kids love this book because of the sing-song nature of the words and the beautiful images. It is also easy for students to read along with the book the more familiar they become with it.

Submitted by: Trisha Satterfield, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

Circus Ship

Written and Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Circus Ship is sure to delight adults and animal-loving little learners alike. The lyrical story is fun to read, and the charming illustrations offer lots of details for tots to discover. There’s even a page of hide-and-seek animals to find.  

Submitted by: Brittany Fortman, Early Learning Indiana Manager of Communications & Engagement

Dragons Love Tacos

Written by Adam Rubin

Did you know dragons love tacos? This playful story tells all about why dragons love tacos, but beware the spicy salsa!

“It’s funny and keeps the children interested if you read it passionately.” – Alethia Minzlaff, Toddler Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Written in poetic and colorful language, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site offers the perfect way to wind down for kids who love anything on wheels.

Submitted by: Kirsten Eamon-Shine, Early Learning Indiana Director of Statewide Communication & Engagement

Hush! A Gaelic Lullaby

Written by Carole Gerber

Based on ancient Gaelic song, an extended family prepares for a storm all while the baby cries until they’re all settled around the fire and the baby is finally asleep.

“This story uses rhythm and rhyme known to help establish math skills. It also is a story that exemplifies compassion and family love.” – Dawn Johnson, Day Early Learning Quality Coach

I Love You Because You’re You

Written by Liza Baker, Illustrated by David McPhail

A mama fox tells her little fox of her unconditional love for him as she describes his many moods. A heartfelt message that also helps children identify and understand emotions.

“This book helps students learn to identify and express emotions. It also helps build self-worth and strengthens relationships between the reader and those being read to.” – Trisha Satterfield, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

I Love You Stinky Face

Written by Lisa Mccourt

Another story about a mother’s unconditional love for her child, but with a funny and not-so-sappy twist. As the mother is putting her child to sleep, she tells him she loves him, but then his imagination runs wild and the reader is along for the ride. What if I’m a big, scary ape or a super-smelly skunk? Would you love me then?  

“This story shows a bedtime ritual between a mother and her son where she tells him she’ll love him no matter what… even if he’s a super-smelly skunk named Stinky Face!” – Matt Miller, Center Director at Day Early Learning Federal Building

Little Blue Truck

Written by Alice Schertle

A wonderful story about a friendly little blue farm truck who helps his friends teaches children a lesson on kindness. Little Blue Truck is great for helping young toddlers identify animals and their sounds. It has a simple, rythmic story that’s short enough for younger toddlers, but has rich and delightful illustrations that older toddlers can build on. Sure to be a favorite.

Submitted by: Brittany Fortman, Early Learning Indiana Manager of Communications & Engagement

Llama Llama Red Pajama

Written by Anna Dewdney

We love the Llama Llama series for exploring various social and emotional themes. This particular story addresses the trials of bedtime and separation anxiety. The wonderful illustrations bring feelings to life as Baby Llama wails for his mama in the darkness of his room. The reassuring message “Mama Llama’s always near, even if she’s not right here,” is easy for toddlers to understand and repeat when they’re experiencing their own feelings of separation anxiety.

“My student’s love the story because of the rhyming and the cute pictures.” – Larissa Freeman, Office Manager at IU Health West Day Early Learning

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too

Written by Anna Dewdney

Another Anna Dewdney favorite, this time for dads! An involved and doting father helps his daughter build a playhouse out of a cardboard box, takes her to the store, gives her a ride on his shoulders and makes dinner. A great daddy-daughter book with the same great illustrations as the llama llama series.

“It shows different gender roles than what is considered typical.” – Alethia Minzlaff, Toddler Teacher at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center


Written by Leslie Patricelli

Light on words, but full of fun, “Potty” takes your toddler through the process of going potty and the feelings and questions that come with it. Toddlers will laugh out loud as you act out all the faces the boy makes as he says sits on the potty for the first time and waits for the “Tinkle, Tinkle, Toot” to come. A great introduction to prepare for potty training.

“My daughter loves listening to me read this book or reading the book to herself. She loves acting out the different things she sees in the illustrations. It has helped her prepare for potty training so much.” – Trisha Satterfield, Pre-K Teacher at Day Early Learning at Phalen Leadership Academy

Raindrop, Plop

Written by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

A vibrant springtime tale that follows a little girl on a rainy day. She counts the raindrops up to ten and then goes inside for a bath and counts back down. The short, rhythmic text is easy for toddlers to memorize and provides them with the opportunity to “read” it on their own. The charming and detailed illustrations are fun for little readers to pour over and discover nature.

“This book is great for counting, colors and observation of texture, nature and other surroundings.” – Christopher McCastle, Office Manager at Day Early Learning State Government Center

The Gruffalo

Written by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

A clever mouse takes a stroll through the deep dark wood and meets a fox, an owl and a snake along the way. He outwits his enemies by inventing a terrible creature to ward them off – the Gruffalo. With playful and rich illustrations and a surprising twist at the end, The Gruffalo is sure to be a favorite.

Submitted by: Brittany Fortman, Early Learning Indiana Manager of Communications & Engagement

Where the Wild Things Are

Written by Maurice Sendak

A timeless classic perfect for the toddler crowd. Caldecott Medal-winning picture book Where the Wild Things Are tells the tale of a boy named Max who was sent to bed after making mischief of one kind or another.

Where the Wild Things Are can be a great, engaging story! Children can help “roar their terrible roars” right along with you!” – Matt Miller, Center Director at Day Early Learning Federal Building

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


Curious about how literacy skills develop in our classrooms? Explore more about our curriculum for one-year-olds and two-year-olds today!

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