I heard long ago that picture books are the first literature and first art that a human experiences, so we should choose the best. This list contains some new favorites as well as long loved classics.
The beauty of reading to children and grandchildren is that you can revisit favorites from your past and discover new favorites.
There’s twelve books that made the cut, but my top three picks for Three Year Olds from Grandma are Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Little Blue Truck and Mercy Watson to the Rescue.
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Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
Farmer Brown has a problem.
His cows aren’t happy and they express their displeasure via typed messages.
The improbability of the situation makes it endearing.
A simple, amusing story sure to please ages three and up.
The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
I love The Little Blue Truck for it’s message about friendship and community. The truth is, we need each other. There comes a point in everyone’s life when you need help. At that point, you need someone you can call. You also need to be willing to help other people. Everyone needs their network, their community of support.
The Little Blue Truck depicts this principle in a colorful, concrete way with a pleasing rhyming style.
Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle
Eric Carle uses his unique artistic style to tell the story of a boy who wants a pancake for breakfast.
First he must track down each ingredient from threshed wheat to milk from the cow.
The simple progression from field to table is fascinating and as oddly satisfying as a pancake with strawberry jam on top.
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkin
A peddler walks through town selling his caps and carrying his entire inventory on top of his head.
A run in with a bunch of mischievous monkeys puts him in a pickle.
Another simple plot line and satisfying conclusion.
Lola Dutch by Sarah and Kenneth Wright
Lola Dutch is a girl with many passions and interests.
She flits from one to another with energy and excitement. The world is her oyster.
Bear, Pig, Crane and Gator are her partners in crime, as well as caretakers. I love her enthusiasm for life and her many and varied passions.
I’m just waiting for someone to make a Lola Dutch plush toy I can give to my grand daughter.
Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Desdney
The Llama Llama books have a good rhyme, tell a simple story and have beautiful illustrations.
Llama Llama, Gram and Grandpa is when Little Llama spends the night at his grandparents’ house but forgets his fuzzy Llama.
Out of all the books in the Llama, Llama series, this is a great one best pick to get from Grandma.
Three year olds are a great age to read to. They’re old enough to follow simple story lines, they can appreciate good pictures and they can be taught to respect the pages of a print book.
Their language is exploding which makes it so fun to introduce new vocabulary that they can absorb effortlessly in the context of story.
A critical quality of books for three year olds is that they need to be infinitely re-readable. A favorite book will be requested again and again and again.
The best books can hold up to a lot of re reading, but eventually, you will get tired of them. Here’s my best advice: Take the books you’re tired of back to the library. If they’re books you own, take them out of rotation. Even though a three year old can remember a book they can’t see, but distraction is a powerful tool. Introduce some new books to help them forget.
The joy of reading to children depends so much on mutual enjoyment of the child and the adult. So, the best books have to be rereadable, the ones that can be read hundreds of times and still capture the imagination of both the child and the adult.
Switch out the books as often as you need to in order to keep both audiences happy.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Harold and his purple crayon is a timeless story.
Wielding his crayon, Harold creates the world around him, adventuring and solving problems as he goes.
Harold’s world represents the possibilities of imagination.
To me, it also speaks of the idea that we can create our own lives. That we posses within ourselves the ability create the environment around us, to choose the ending to our story.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
I think that the heart of this book, the reason it’s touched so many people for so long is it articulates one of our greatest human needs, the need for belonging. God sets the solitary in families. We need to belong to someone. We all need to be part of a family. We need to be connected to other humans. We have to be able to describe that relationship. Spouse. Friend. Parent. Child. Aunt. Grandma.
When we see Corduroy’s longing for home and family and Lisa’s desire to take him home, to accept him and make him part of her family, it’s heart-warming. We can identify with that deep longing and feel so satisfied when it’s met.
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Mr. and Mrs. Peters have given birth to seven persnickety eaters.
Each child has a limited selection of food they tolerate. As the family grows, Mrs. Peters works harder and harder to please everyone.
A wry look at family life told in pleasing rhyme and captivating illustrations.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
For more than a century, Beatrix Potter books have delighted children.
They are just as delightful today as they were a century ago.
Peter Rabbit lives with his mother and siblings, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton tail.
Unlike his siblings, he is not obedient. Maybe that’s what makes him so endearing.
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban
I like the Frances books. Russell and Lillian Hoban are able to describe what matters to kids in an engaging way. Frances is a badger who has all the problems and joys of little humans.
Bread and Jam for Frances tells the story of when Frances refuses to expand her palate, and sticks to only one food—bread and jam.
The funny little songs and poems she makes up are catchy and engaging.
Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo
Mercy Watson is a pig who lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson and is tucked into bed every night with lullabies. She’s in love with toast with a great deal of butter. My grand daughter and I are in love with her.
In the house next to them on Deckawoo Drive lives their opinionated neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln, thinks pigs belong on farms, not in houses.
Quirky characters and simple plot lines make this six book series a delight for all ages.
My favorite quote comes from the first book. “What would we do without Mercy?” Indeed.