The 7 Very Best Books For 3 Year Olds In 2021 You Must Have!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 07/20/21 •  11 min read

Finding the best books for 3-year-olds is an adventure story in of itself! An adventure filled with fun colours, silly stories, charming characters and beautiful stories!

By the age of 3, toddlers can handle slightly longer stories and, as they’ve hopefully stopped eating their books by now, you can begin to introduce more complex narratives, characters and moral lessons! 

Of course, firm favourites from their early years will still remain, but now is the perfect time to expand their bookshelf and vocabulary with new books!

These 10 simple tricks for choosing the best books for 3 year olds and my top 7 picks are destined to bring a smile to your little one’s face and inspire storytime over and over again!

(Just be prepared to read them a thousand times… and then maybe a thousand more!)

10 Simple Tricks For Choosing The Best Books For 3 Year Olds

When it comes to choosing a book for 3 year olds, there are 10 simple tricks to get the most out of storytime and keep your toddler engaged…

These 10 tricks never fail when choosing the best books for 3 year olds and are guaranteed to hook your toddler into reading them in no time!

1. Choose Books With More Detailed Illustrations

By this age, your little one will enjoy looking at more complex pictures and be interested in the detail. 

They will also enjoy being able to search for particular objects in a picture too, so books that require them to search and find as part of the reading process are great for this age too.

2. Utilise Books Without Words

I know this sounds backwards… but the best books for 3 year olds are also ones where they are encouraged to make up their own story! 

Get their imaginations firing and include some books without words and encourage them to speak about what they see and what they think might be going on.

3. Pick Books That Relate To Things That They Do In Their Life

Your child will love to read books about things that they can identify within their everyday lives, such as going to the park, being on walks, making friends and learning to share.

4. Books About Big Events In Their Lives

Using books to deal with big events in your young child’s life such as the arrival of a new baby or starting daycare is a great parenting tool as they’re an ideal way to get your child to understand and talk about something that they might be finding difficult.

5. Read ‘Goodnight’ Books At Bedtime

Books should always be part of the bedtime routine but at this age, there are some lovely ‘goodnight’ books to read that set the tone beautifully for saying good night and settling your little one for a good night’s sleep feeling loved and secure.

6. Still Include Interactive Touch And Lift-The-Flap Books

This age group will still enjoy all types of interactive books and their old favourites from when they were younger will still be relevant! 

In fact, some of these books grow beautifully with your child as they find new ways to enjoy books that they have been looking at since they were younger but now are developmentally ready to appreciate them and use them in a different way. 

7. Books With Repetition Are Loved By This Age Group 

3 year olds love repetitive stories that they can learn and join in with. 

These books are ideal for improving memory and language skills too, so they are a must when looking for the best books for 3 year olds!

8. Pick Books With Simple Story Lines That Don’t Last Too Long

Simple storylines with a clear relatable subject matter are the best books for 3 year olds as they won’t be able to concentrate for too long and can get bored easily. 

9. Start To Introduce ABC Books And Simple Q&A Books

3 year olds love books where you ask questions and they answer, so this is a great time to introduce simple ABC books or books about colours, shapes and naming of objects and animals.

TOP TIP: Your child’s vocabulary and ability to learn new things will be soaring at this point so make the most of it!

10. Finally, Make It Fun!

This age group will love a funny quirky story. So choose books with crazy rhymes, funky colours, interesting characters and fun stories that they will delight in!

So, with all this in mind, what are my ULTIMATE, raid the bookshelf for, very best books for 3 year olds?

The 7 Very Best Books For 3 Year Olds

1. The Wonderful Things You Will Be By Emily Winfield Martin

What is it? A New York Times worthy best seller, with beautiful illustrations and sing-song rhymes, this book celebrates the unconditional love parents have for their children no matter who they turn out to be.

Why do I recommend it? One of the best books for 3 year olds, t​​his book is truly special and will become a firm favourite with your children. I love the concept that this book focuses on children becoming the best person they can be rather than the career successes they might have. It’s an absolute gem!

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2. Billy’s Beetle By Mick Inkpen

What is it? This book, from the ever popular Mick Inkpen, tells the simple story of Billy who has lost his beetle and enlists the help of a motley crew of people on his journey to find it.

Why do I recommend it? This has always been a huge favourite of mine since I first read it to my son 25 years ago! Young children will love the growing group of people who join Billy on the quest for his beetle as well as spotting the beetle in every picture. This book is a great example of repetitive text that will capture the imagination of your 3 year old.

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3. Giraffes Can’t Dance By Giles Andreae

What is it? An amusing and triumphant story about a Giraffe who thinks he can’t dance……but can he? 

Why do I recommend it? This is another all-time favourite of mine. I remember picking this book up many years ago and thinking how perfect it was for young children to express that it’s OK to feel awkward and different but to have a go anyway as you might be surprised by the outcome!

A guaranteed favourite and one of the best books for 3 year olds too!

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4. Be Kind By Pat Zietlow Miller

What is it? This book explores the all-important message of being kind to others but also how to deal with this gesture when it does not always go as planned.

Why do I recommend it? I have included this book as one of my top picks because its resounding message to parents is to teach your children to be kind! What is good about this book is that being kind is not always easy and is sometimes rejected. This can be tricky for young children to deal with and I love the fact that you can explore this together with this unique book!

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5. You’re The Biggest By Lucy Tapper

What is it? Another one of my best books for 3 year olds, this book explores the role of becoming an older sibling in a way that young children can relate to.

Why do I recommend it? This is a great example of how to use a book that is relatable to a child’s current life experience. It explores how your child may be feeling about the arrival of a new baby and how they can embrace becoming an older sibling in a way that is very relatable.

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6. Alfie’s Feet By Shirley Hughes

What is it? This is a lovely book from the ‘Alfie’ range by Shirley Hughes that tells the story of little Alfie who goes for a walk with his boots on the wrong feet.

Why do I recommend it? Although I have chosen this particular ‘Alfie’ story, I love all the ‘Alfie’ books as they are so relatable to this age group in their everyday lives. The subject lines are simple but I can guarantee your little one will delight in the world of Alfie as it mirrors their own!

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7. Best Word Book Ever By Richard Scarry

What is it? This is a bumper book full of 100’s of pictures, words and objects from all aspects of life that has been a firm favourite for decades. 

Why do I recommend it? This book is ideal for expanding your 3 year old’s vocabulary whilst improving their concentration and observation skills. It will provide hours of fun as you and your little one explore Mr Scarry’s fun and the very relatable world!

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There are endless places to buy books for your 3-year-old. Amazon is the first place most people think of buying books, however you can pick up books at garage sales, charity shops, online second hand book shops such as Awesome Books and Better World Books and of course, your local library.

3 Common 3 Year Old Reading Questions

These are the 3 most common questions that parents ask me about their 3 year old’s reading skills. 

1. Should My 3 Year Old Be Reading By Themselves Yet?

3 year olds will be able and should be encouraged to look at books independently. However, most children of this age cannot read yet.

REMEMBER: There may be some children that are capable of reading at 3 years, but as a general rule, we should NOT be expecting our 3 year old to read at this point in their development.

2. What Level Can 3 Year Olds Read At?

The foundations of reading skills will be laid down between the ages of 3-5 years.

Although most 3 year olds will not be able to read in the true sense of the word, they will be able to recognise that the printed word is what you are reading to them. 

By this age, they will be able to hold a book and turn pages correctly. They will also know the name of their favourite book and recall and repeat familiar phrases from these books, wanting you to repeat them over and over again.

You may even hear your 3 year old ‘pretending’ to read a book by recalling the words of the story as they look at the book on their own or just make things up as they turn the pages.

3. What Are Some Good Topics To Cover When Reading To My 3 Year Old?

Great topics for books for 3 year olds are ones that relate to what is going on in their lives, such as: 

They will also be drawn to books with funny rhymes and repetitive silly storylines!

Final Note

With whatever books you decide to choose for your 3-year-old, making reading a big part of your little one’s life is hugely important.

Nurturing a love of books in young children is one of my top 5 must do’s as a parent. 

It is a fun way for your youngster to learn so much and boost their emotional and cognitive development. As well as increase their language development, concentration and listening skills too.

It is also a wonderful bonding experience for your little one too!

So choose your favourite from my very best books for 3 year olds list, settle down on a cosy chair or in bed, snuggle up with your little one and get reading!

With love and support until next time, Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.