At 4 and 5 kids love long picture storybooks. These are some of my favorite books of all time, because they have enough space for real plot development without giving up the pictures.
Some five-year-olds will be ready to listen to chapter books, but a word of warning here: don’t start chapter books too soon. The consequences can be DIRE. True confession: I was SO EAGER to read the Little House books with my daughter that I started WAY too early. She not only rejected them at 5, but refused to go back, and I now have a 12-year old girl with pioneer impulses–she knits and sews and cooks–who has NEVER READ the Little House books. All I can do is hang my head and pass this hard lesson on to YOU.
Early chapter books with pictures can work, especially if the chapters break down almost like short stories. Pippi Longstocking is a good example.
Another appealing choice is nonfiction books packed with little bites of information. My son spent several years studying a set of Sesame Street Dictionaries we got at a yard sale. They are divided into small blocks of content with pictures and text in each. There is a certain developmental moment when this format is tremendously appealing.
Similar books include the DK Eyewitness Books on an endless array of tantalizing subjects (Pirates! Mythology! Rescue Vehicles!), and visual dictionaries, particularly (for 5-8 year-old boys) Star Wars and Lego.
Girls love this sort of book too, but are usually attracted to different subject matter, like fairies, animals, and crafts. Okay, I didn’t want to say it, princesses too. Go ahead and give in. It won’t last, I promise.
Great Picture Story Books for 4 and 5 year olds
- Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
- Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
- Boy + Bot by Ame Dickman
- Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep by Maureen Wright (great for learning about rhymes).
- Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
- Ballons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
- A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker
- Zen Shorts, The Three Questions, and Zen Ties by Jon Muth
- How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
- Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McLosky
Some of my favorite self-readers:
- Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
- Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo