Maybe they know their ABCs, maybe they can understand the complexities of quantum physics, maybe they can’t, they’re 4. All you know is that they’ve definitely graduated from a twice-nightly reading of Goodnight Moon (praise hands, all of the praise hands) but still don’t really have the attention span just yet to sit down with you and read a chapter of Harry Potter. So what books for 4-year-olds are appropriate in this in-between time of not quite being toddlers anymore and not quite ready for school? I am incredibly lucky to have a kid who likes reading and spending time in the library, even if it is for the ready-made train set while I scour the picture books and pull things out that look diverse and interesting. Even then it’s a challenge to find books that pique his interest while helping me teach him how to be a decent human being.
However, this time between toddlerhood and elementary school is perfect for experimentation and exploration when it comes to books. This is prime picture book age; it’s also the perfect time to pick up some early reader books to get your little one interested in reading themselves. Here are some books for 4-year-olds that are challenging and entertaining for little minds who are getting ready for Kindergarten and finding out who they are in this big crazy world. And, some of these books for 4-year-olds are available on audio to make your errands a little bit more literary for your young ones.
15 Books your 4-year-old will love
1. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Julián and his abuela meet three beautiful women dressed as mermaids on the bus one day. There is a mermaid parade, and Julián wants to dress up too. With a curtain as a mermaid tail and a potted plant as a head dress, what will his abuela think? It’s a beautiful story of self-exploration, identity, and unconditional love and acceptance.
2. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (Author) and Raphael López (Illustrator)
“There will be times when you walk into a room, and no one is quite like you” Sometimes we have to go into spaces where no one knows us, and that can be scary. But we still do it. This book is a story about going to school and the power of sharing your story. How children can embrace what makes them unique and celebrate that through friendship. This book is also available as an audiobook.
3. Drawn Together by Minh Lê (Author) and Dan Santat (Illustrator)
A little boy and his grandfather are unable to communicate with each other until their mutual love for art and drawing brings them together. Showing that communication and love can move beyond words.
4. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Dreamers is the story of Yuyi Morales’s journey to the United States from Mexico with nothing but her personal strength, her husband, and their infant son. She doesn’t speak the language of her new home, so she and her son take refuge in the local library and shares the power of language and reading with her son. Yuyi Morales is an award winning children’s book illustrator, more of her work can be found at yuyimorales.com. Also available on audio.
5. Inky’s Amazing Escape: How a Very Smart Octopus Found His Way Home by Sy Montgomery (Author) and Amy Schimler-Safford (Illustrator)
Inky was getting bored with his New Zealand Aquarium home. He wanted more. He wanted to explore. Inky’s Amazing Escape is about his journey from his tank to the sea, and reminds readers where home is.
6. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Author) and Frane Lessac (Illustrator)
“Otsaliheliga” is the word that the Cherokee Nation uses for gratitude. Readers follow the community over the course of their year, from fall to summer, and sees how they celebrate their otsaliheliga. This warm book was written by a member of the Cherokee Nation and would be a great addition to any children’s library.
7. The Word Collector By Peter H. Reynolds
Jerome loves words. Small one-syllable ones to humongous multi-syllable ones—and everything in between. Jerome finds that words have the power to connect and transform. This sweet picture book is perfect for children looking to expand their language, and for understanding that words can hurt or heal.
8. I Can Handle It by Ms. Laurie Wright
It’s never too early to teach our children mindfulness. I Can Handle It is the first of Laurie Wright’s mindfulness series for children. It teaches kids positive self talk and using that to overcome obstacles that feel harder than they are. It’s a great book to help them expand their emotional vocabulary. Also available on audio.
9. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Know Exactly What You Are By Julia Kregenow, PhD (Author) and Carmen Saldaña (Illustrator)
This is a sweet book based on our favorite nursery rhyme. Instead of “wondering” though, Dr. Kregenow tells us what stars are. We learn about what they’re made of, what makes them twinkle, and how they’re born. By using the classic rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” kids can easily learn about the science behind stars.
10. Pete the Cat and the Cool Caterpillar by James Dean
Pete the Cat has found a new friend, a caterpillar. Except, just as soon as Pete meets him, he disappears. Pete must solve the mystery and find his new friend. This is a level 1 book from the I Can Read collection, a series of children’s books based on their reading development levels. Level 1 is perfect for children who are learning to sound out words and sentences. Also available on audio.
11. Pinkalicious and the Cupcake Calamity by Victoria Kahn
The town is getting a cupcake machine! But when it doesn’t work, Pinkalicious gets curious to find out why. When she does, she gets a bigger surprise than she is prepared for. This is another I Can Read Level 1 book. Also available on audio.
12. Splat the Cat: I Scream for Ice Cream by Rob Scotton
This I Can Read Level 1 book follows Splat the Cat on his field trip to the ice-cream factory. He imagines all the ice-cream that he will get to eat, but his imagination turns his tower of ice-cream into a mountain. He and his classmates have to save the day. Also available on audio.
13. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma has 6 names—Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, and that’s too many names according to Alma. She turns to her dad to find some answers and learns about all of the people she is named after, finding herself in each of them and feeling like her name fits her just right. This is a sweet story about family, identity, and love.
14. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Celebrating diversity and kindness, All Are Welcome looks into a children’s classroom. Everyone is respected and children learn from one another’s cultures. It is a lovely book that shows how classrooms are supposed to be safe spaces that encourage questioning and acceptance.
15. Splatter by Diane Alber
Red, Yellow, and Blue are on an adventure of creativity. Through their adventure they learn about their unique qualities and how those can be used to help each other. Kids will learn about the primary colors, but also about secondary colors and the meaning of teamwork. This is also available as an audiobook.
What are your favorite books for 4-year-olds?