Somewhere between ages 2(ish) and 4(ish), something magical starts happening when a book is opened. Instead of being a of words and sound, reading a book becomes a story where stuff happens. Book characters start becoming friends that kids like to hear about over and over.
Some would argue that children these ages should be read a diet of well-respected literature (think Great Books educators), while others argue that any book a kid loves is a great book. In our opinion, while not any book is a great book (oh, we've had some doozies of bad books), teaching the practice of reading any book is better than the practice of turning to handheld devices and TV. So carry on with the mind-building literature AND have fun with whatever book it is that your little ones love to read.
A few recommendations from the mind-building camp:
- Andrew Lang's rainbow of fairy tale books (e.g. The Blue Fairy Book, The Red Fairy Book, etc)
- Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (we like this edition, but you can also check out this list on Goodreads-- #5, Zelinsky's Rapunzel, was huge at our house in preK and K)
- The Complete Hans Christian Anderson (if you are a purist - and why bother if you are not - go for this edition). Side note: obviously, we like the fairy tales. Why so many? This description of Anderson vs. others may be enlightening.
- Winnie the Pooh stories and poems by A. A. Milne
These are some great books as well, not necessarily found in the greatest halls of literature, but valuable nontheless, or SO FUN in the preschooler's point of view:
- George and Martha - love these gentle friends! - by James Marshall
- Madeline series by Ludwig Bremelmans
- Curious George by Margaret Rey
- Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Once again, there are so very many lovely books out there, we also offer a list of lists to inspire further exploration! There is certainly overlap among these, but each has a few gems as well.
- Our favorite list: From the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Kindergarten Canon: the 100 Best Children's Books
- Greatschools.org's Favorite Books for Preschoolers
- From littleheartsbooks.com (a gentle parenting website) 25 Must-Have Books for Preschool Bookworms
- Parenting.com's Best Books for Preschoolers
A couple of caveats! As some children this age may be starting early reading skills, it is important to note that great learn-to-read books are not typically also great read-aloud books at the same age. Secondly, many kids may still want to read their favorite books and stories from a younger age. There is nothing wrong with this! In fact we find it builds reading skills and comprehension, and encourages independent reading (they probably have those books memorized anyway!).
On the developmental side, preschoolers also love to build, create, and knock down, especially when YOU help them! Check out our Guidecraft "old-school" building blocks, a set that will last generations, as well as our fun wooden arches and tunnels for enhancing building block creations (as well as about every other kind of imaginary play!).