Toddlers are a naturally great audience for read-a-loud books. Not only do they love hearing you recite their favorite stories over and over (and over), but one and two-year-olds will enjoy hearing you read to them in animated, silly voices. This is perfect age to settle into a daily or nightly reading routine.
The more you can establish reading as a fun and expected part of your child’s day, the better. Kids thrive on routines, and this is an ideal routine to build into your day.
Here are 15 of the best books for one and two-year-olds.
I hope that you find some you can add to your collection at home! We are always looking for great children’s books over here, so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.
Little Blue Truck
This book about teamwork and looking out for one another has been one of my top “go-to” books for all three of my kids. Whether you think the Green Toad is a hero or a glory hound is up to you. Either way it’s true: a lot depends on the helping hand of a few good friends.
The Family Book
No matter what type of family you have, Todd Parr assures his young readers that every family is unique and special. Parr’s inclusive messaging about the importance of embracing our differences is delivered in his trademark style – bold, bright colors and silly scenes. This book will encourage kids to ask questions about their own families, and open their eyes to the wide range of families that exist.
Green Eggs and Ham
This book is a delight to read out loud – it lends itself well to an animated voice, and it zips along at a nice pace. With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved story has cemented its place as a children’s classic. Also, it makes me want to go to a diner.
Giraffes Can’t Dance
This book has to be one of my favorites ever. Poor Gerald is a terrible dancer and he’s super embarrassed about it at the annual Jungle Dance, which while set in the wild is basically a middle school cafeteria. When Gerald eventually finds his own rhythm (with a little help from a jungle friend) you can’t help but cheer him on. The message in this book is great for kids, and Gerald himself is about as lovable as they come.
Baby Goes to Market
This is one of my absolute favorites to read out loud to my toddler. There’s something so sweet about this baby who goes along for a ride with his mom to a local market – and ends up with a tummy full of unauthorized treats. The illustrations are gorgeous and the storyline is simple enough for a young child to follow and enjoy.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Ok I’ll admit that I don’t find this book totally enthralling. But you know who does? MY ONE-YEAR-OLD. So I’m going to have to recommend this classic book of random animals staring each other down, even though we all know they would never bump into each other in the wild. (I understand this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but believe me – it’s a classic for a reason. Kids really do gravitate toward this book).
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
This book has a great rhythm and is useful for practicing the alphabet. The story moves along at a quick clip, and you’ll find yourself almost chanting it rather than just reading it. I also really like the shorter version, Chicka Chicka ABC.
I Am a Bunny
There is nothing flashy or exciting about this book whatsoever. It’s hard to pinpoint the appeal of it, but the illustrations have a richness and simplicity to them that I adore, and my toddler loves the straightforward story. The fact that this book isn’t trendy, or silly, or particularly exciting is actually what makes it so special. This is just a little bunny working his way through the seasons.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
This #1 New York Times Bestseller has it all: irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text. This book is a hit with truck enthusiasts big and small. It’s a book that you won’t even mind reading over and over each night, because the language is used in such a soothing, captivating way. It’s no surprise at all that this book was in instant hit.
I know, there are some weird issues with this classic bedtime story (yes the bedroom is the size of a castle and that fireplace is not properly child-proofed in any way, shape or form). And yet still, the rhythm of this book can’t be beat. Just repeating a few phrases from it puts my toddler to sleep (not that that’s always the goal of reading, but it’s a win at bedtime). I would save this book for the last story of the night, and use it as a signal to your little one that sleep is on the way.
Love You Forever
The first time you read through this book you’re probably going to be thinking to yourself, huh, this book is kiiiind of creepy. But wait until you get to the end – I dare you not to cry. At heart this is not the story of a helicopter mom gone awry. Rather, it is “a testament to a parents’ love that persists beyond time and space…” (You might still think it’s kind of creepy, but I gave you fair warning).
Are You My Mother?
This is an adorable book! Sure you’d hope this baby bird would be slightly sharper in the recognition of familiar faces department. It does seem a bit odd that he is so confused as to what exactly his own mother looks like. But who am I to judge a lost little bird? He’s still as cute as can be, and you’ll find yourself rooting for him on his journey back to his mom.
Dear Zoo is a longtime favorite for many families, and it’s considered a children’s classic. Also, it’s about the zoo, and aside from barnyards the zoo is where it’s at when you’re a toddler.
The Going-To-Bed Book
This is a funny and whimsical little bedtime book. All of the characters are doing precisely the opposite of getting ready for bed (they decide to bang out a quick exercise routine before rock, rock, rocking to sleep). I think Sandra Boynton is just messing with us. My son and I both love this one, even if it doesn’t exactly model good bedtime behavior.
I Love You, Stinky Face
This book is a demonstration of how even a mother’s love can be tested to the brink of insanity by a thousand asinine questions. (Love triumphs, obviously. It would be a dark children’s book if all of the boy’s annoying questions drove the mother to leave her family, now wouldn’t it). Even though in real life I have more questions flying at me all day than I’d care to answer, I do find the Stinky Face books to be really sweet.
Llama Llama Red Pajama
This little llama is having a lot of really big feelings about going to bed. I love the illustrations, which do a great job of capturing emotions that ring true to the life experience of young children. The message that the Mama Llama is always nearby to help her little one will reassure kids afraid of being left alone at night.
Tips for Reading to Your Toddler
As you’re reading to your toddler, make it as interactive an experience as possible. Young kids love to turn the pages, and some will “read” right along with you. Don’t worry that they’re just making up words as they go – the point is that even very young kids are modeling “reading” behavior, and picking up on the enthusiasm they see you have for the activity.
It’s also great if you can get an older sibling to read to their little brother or sister! My toddler son loves to watch his older brother read, and has recently begun sitting next to him on the couch with his own books, “reading” them out loud. It’s awesome to watch.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best books for one and two-year-olds! If you have a slightly older child, you may find the 15 Best Books for Preschoolers or the 100 Best Books for Kindergarten posts helpful!
What are some of your toddler’s favorite books? I would love to hear suggestions to add to the list!
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[…] their earliest years, children are shaped by stories they’re exposed to. The best books for toddlers and the best books for preschoolers have […]