Book Lists Book Reviews

6 Books to Read Aloud to a Preschooler

In the last year, Ella and I have started reading chapter books together, and it’s been ridiculously delightful.

In the last six months, particularly,  her attention span has gotten much longer, and she is legitimately THRILLED to be reading together. She’s the one begging for one more chapter, and . . . basically all my wildest dreams have come true.

Here are the ones we’ve liked the most:

Great early chapter books to read aloud to a preschooler


  • Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky. The first one is the best, but we read all three and they are all very fun, about three beloved toys who live with a little girl.
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. Holy cow, these are long chapters. But Ella loved every single one. We read three of the books in a row.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. We’re not quite finished with this one, but we’ve plowed through it in about five days. It seriously is so fun. I got teary when Charlie found the ticket (and Ella shot out of her chair, shrieking with excitement).
  • B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. This was the first book where Ella was actively asking me to read one more chapter. They’re just so sweet and old-fashioned.
  • Babe the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. I love all his books, but this is the best. Ella fell asleep during the last chapter on a road trip, and Bart asked me to finish reading it. I can’t wait to show her the movie.
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. Oh, this book was just so fun to read again. I love Beverly Cleary, and Ella was delighted by the mouse riding a tiny toy motorcycle.
By the way, a few we read that I didn’t particularly love (and, granted, I’m ridiculously, 100000% picky).
  • Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace and Lois Lenski. I love it, but was a bit too complicated for Ella at 3.5 years old.
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary. A book from a cat’s point of view was too advanced for her at just over three. And . . . I don’t even like cats.
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth Chrisman Gannett. I know this is a huge classic and everyone loves it so so so much, but I’d never read it before, and now I don’t feel like I was missing out. Ella seemed to like it fine (not tons, but she didn’t complain about it), but I was couldn’t WAIT for it to be over. Snooze-fest.


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  • Reply Carrie Jo August 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Sending some solidarity via the internet over My Father's Dragon. I was SO, so bored.

    My daughter just turned 5, so some of these might be better for Ella in a year or so, but we've loved everything by Johanna Hurwitz (particularly The Two and Only Kelly Twins and Russell and Elisa), Look Out, Jeremy Bean by Alice Schertle, Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry, and, of course, nearly every book by Beverly Cleary.

    Toys Go Out is in my library stack waiting for us. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply Michelle August 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I could've written that paragraph about My Father's Dragon word-for-word (minus Ella)! Amen.

    We read the Toys Go Out books on your recommendation–thanks! My favorite character was Frank.

    My son is just a few months older than Ella, and a few more series we liked were Mercy Watson, Boxcar Children, and Magic Tree House (I read Do I get a merit badge? Honestly, we both enjoyed them).

  • Reply Melissa August 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    My daughter turned 3 in June and we just read our first chapter book together, "Charlotte's Web" I think that I enjoyed it more than she did, but she did sit with me and listen. She would even ask for one more chapter, usually at bedtime to try her best to delay bedtime.

  • Reply Emily Kate August 21, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I read "My Father's Dragon" to Addie earlier this year as her first chapter book and it was not a hit. She liked it but it just didn't keep her attention at all. I had read it once before with my 2nd graders (my 2nd grade team was obssessed with it) and reading it again reminded me why I didn't like it much before! I'm going to try one of your suggestions.

  • Reply Kristin August 22, 2014 at 2:09 am

    It's funny because I can. not. stand Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I only tolerated Toys Go Out, but I love all 3 of the books you put on your "meh" list. Taste in books is so different and I'm so glad there are literally millions out there to choose from. 🙂

  • Reply Vanessa • Little Gold Pixel August 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Definitely bookmarking this. How many illustrations are in these books, roughly? I'm wondering how my daughter will do making that leap out of giant picture books.

    • Reply Janssen August 23, 2014 at 11:49 am

      I'd say about 1-2 pictures per chapter is about the standard.

  • Reply Hildy August 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Funny, I was going to recommemd My Father's Dragon until I got to the end of your post! My son loved it, but maybe it's a boy thing? He loved The Reluctant Dragon too, but that book isn't divided into chapters, so it's always a bit tricky to find a good stopping point. I'll have to look for some of your other recommendations, though! We're always looking for chapter books that are good for younger kids.

  • Reply Kristi August 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I'm currently reading James and the Giant Peach to my 3-year old son (his first chapter book). He loves it — albeit the first couple of chapters scared him a little. I kept reading, though, and now he's really into the adventure on the peach. I'm so excited to reread some of my favorites with him. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is on our short list.

  • Reply Fleurthefearless September 5, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Recommend too "Tumtum and Nutmeg". My kids loooooved the stories.

  • Reply Gina February 26, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    My 3 1/2 year old daughter loved My Father’s Dragon and so did I. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is on our short list. Looking forward to it.

    • Reply Gina February 26, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      We read the whole Dragon trilogy, by the way. Loved them all.

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