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The Best Books For 4-Year-Olds of 2020


Many 4-year-olds are on the cusp of learning to read, and their attention span for read-aloud books is growing. Finding the best books for your 4-year-old can feel overwhelming, though.

So I’ve put together a list of my favorite books for 4-year-olds, plus recommendations from teachers and librarians in my family and other parent picks.

Top 6 Books for 4-year-oldsWhy It's BestMom Rating
Todd Parr's It's Okay to Make MistakesBright fun art, positive message about learning from mistakes♥♥♥♥♥
Tish Rabe's There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)Nonfiction, based on Dr. Seuss, full of space facts♥♥♥♥
P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog. Go!Classic early reader, vignettes about dog activities♥♥♥♥♥
Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo and MoreCute illustrations, funny characters♥♥♥♥♥
Mo Willems's Waiting Is Not Easy! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)Funny story, easy text for new readers, expressive illustrations♥♥♥♥♥
National Geographic Children's Books Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)Facts on many topics, short blurbs, full of photos♥♥♥♥

25 of the Best Books For 4-Year-Olds 

Little Critter Collection

Image of Just a Little Critter Collection (Little Critter)

Just a Little Critter Collection is a great introduction to the Little Critter series.

This collection has several of the classic Little Critter books like Just For You, I Was Just So Mad, Just Go to Bed, and When I Get Bigger. I remember these from my childhood, and my children have loved them too.

What I love about these books is how Little Critter often tries so hard to be helpful and do things himself, but he makes a lot of mistakes. I think 4-year-olds can really relate to the struggles of wanting to be independent.

There are newer Little Critter collections, but I prefer the classics. I think they have more heart and capture a child’s quest for independence better.

Bear Snores On 

Image of the Bear Snores On (Storytown)

Bear Snores On is a book my aunt loves and gives frequently as a gift, which is how we got our copy.

In rhyming text, it tells the story of Bear, who is sleeping for the winter, and his friends. They decide to get together for food and fun in his lair, but Bear keeps sleeping through many new guests and activities. Your kids might be surprised at what happens when he wakes up.

The illustrations are cute, and Bear’s emotions are relatable. The rhythm is fun to read aloud.

There are many other books about Bear and his friends as well, including Bear Wants More (The Bear Books) and Days with Bear: Bear Feels Scared; Bear Feels Sick; Bear’s Loose Tooth (The Bear Books).

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Image of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is the first book in the Pete the Cat series.

A groovy cat, Pete, is enjoying taking a walk and singing about his new white shoes. But as he goes, he steps in various things that change the color of his shoes. For example, strawberries turn his new shoes red.

Instead of getting upset, Pete keeps a positive attitude about the situation and keeps singing about his newly colored shoes.

The illustrations are not too realistic, but they are bright and fun. Your child might learn to roll with the punches a bit more after seeing Pete do it.

There are many other Pete the Cat books, like Pete the Cat and the Treasure Map and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.

I Really Like Slop! 

Image of the I Really Like Slop! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)

I Really Like Slop! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) is part of the wonderful Elephant and Piggie series, which are great books to read aloud or to let a child read themselves as they learn.

In this installment, Piggie shares about how much she likes to eat slop, which stinks and attracts flies. Piggie wants to share with Gerald, but he refuses to try at first.

He decides to make Piggie happy by giving it a taste, and he is glad he tried it for his friend.

As with all the Elephant and Piggie books, the easy text is mostly dialogue and some sound effects. The illustrations convey the action and emotion. The drawings are simple and funny.

My other favorites in the series are I Will Take A Nap!, Let’s Go for a Drive!, I Broke My Trunk!, and Should I Share My Ice Cream?.

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Image of It's Okay to Make Mistakes

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes has a great message that even parents need to hear sometimes.

This Todd Parr book features people making various everyday mistakes (spilling milk, not tying shoes well). Each scenario is followed by some good things that can come from mistakes, like meeting someone new or being able to ask for help.

Todd Parr’s illustrations are not very realistic, but I think kids like that they look more like their own drawings. They are colorful and funny, too. The message of this book is great for showing kids that everyone makes mistakes and learns from them.

There are many other great children’s books by Todd Parr, like It’s Okay To Be Different (Todd Parr Classics), This Is My Hair (Todd Parr Books), and Reading Makes You Feel Good (Todd Parr Classics).

Go, Dog. Go!

Image of the Go, Dog Go (I Can Read It All By Myself, Beginner Books)

Go, Dog. Go! (I Can Read It All By Myself, Beginner Books) is a book that’s great to read aloud to your child or to have 4-year-olds read themselves if they are starting to read.

This is a classic title that you probably remember from when you were a kid. There isn’t really a plot, but the book features dogs doing all sorts of things: driving cars, going swimming, on a ferris wheel, etc.

Of course, there’s the recurring section where a female dog is asking a male dog if he likes her hat. The book culminates in a big dog party.

The illustrations are fun, and the text is easy. There is some practice of opposites and colors in the book as well.

There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System

Image of the There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library) features the Cat in the Hat and his friends sharing facts about planets and constellations.

In Dr. Seuss style, the text rhymes, though some parents find it more clunky than actual Dr. Seuss books. The illustrations are in his classic style as well.

Parents say it is great for 3- to 5-year-olds who love to learn about space, even if there may not be much new information for kids who already know a lot of space facts.

Other similar books are Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?: All About Weather and On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects.

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why

Image of the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)

The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books) is a great nonfiction text for preschoolers.

There are many “why?” questions your 4-year-old has probably asked you, with plenty of photos and short, age-appropriate answers. Questions include why balloons float and why people’s skin is different colors.

There are also experiment/activity suggestions and pages where kids can find the things that are odd or wrong in a photo.

Some parents find a few answers are incorrect, but most think it is a great book for preschoolers to learn about the world around them.

There are other books in the National Geographic Kids Little Kids line, if your child has a specific area of interest. Check out National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of the World, and National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Weather.

Click, Clack, Moo and More

Image of A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More (A Click Clack Book)

A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More (A Click Clack Book) includes Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and the next two books about Duck, Farmer Brown, and their barnyard friends.

The first book focuses on Farmer Brown’s cows. They find a typewriter and use it to ask the farmer for electric blankets to keep warm. When it seems like the cows and the farmer have found a solution, sneaky Duck steps in.

The next books in the series focus more on the mischevious Duck and how he and Farmer Brown are at odds. My entire family (especially my husband) loves the humor of Duck books.

Besides this collection of the first three books, we love Duck for President (A Click Clack Book). There are many other books in the series now, but we haven’t been as impressed with the others.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Image of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a classic from 1939 that your 4-year-old’s grandparents probably remember.

The book tells the story of Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, his steam shovel. New kinds of big diggers are taking all the jobs Mike and Mary Anne used to have.

But Mike won’t give up on Mary Anne and finds a town that needs a cellar dug for its new town hall. He promises they can dig the cellar in one day. The town gathers to see if they can.

The book is a bit old fashioned and the text can get a bit long (there were lines I regularly skipped as I read it aloud). But my son who loved trucks really enjoyed this book. My husband has fond memories of it from his childhood as well.

Geraldine’s Blanket

Image of Geraldine's Blanket

Geraldine’s Blanket is a book my sister really loved as a child.

Geraldine the pig has had a special blanket since she was a baby. Now she’s getting older, and she still likes to take it everywhere with her.

Her parents tell her she’s getting too big for it. They say it is falling apart. But by the end, Geraldine comes up with a way to transform her blanket and keep it nearby.

Some 4-year-olds may be reaching a point where they are conflicted about keeping a lovey, blanket, or animal nearby. I think they can relate to Geraldine’s dilemma.

But some parents don’t like how Geraldine’s parents talk to her about her blanket. They don’t show a lot of empathy as they get upset and hide it from her. So consider how you would talk about their responses with your child.

Stuck

Image of Stuck

Stuck is a book my mom (a former teacher and children’s librarian) brought over to read to my kids.

This book tells the story of a boy named Floyd, whose kite gets stuck in a tree. He attempts to get it down by throwing a variety of other things up into the tree. Those include his shoes, a boat, and a whale.

The story is funny, and the pictures are vibrant. The author uses language that sets up an adventure, like “It all began…”

The text is handwritten in cursive, which some parents like and some thought was hard for even them to read. It won’t be a good one for a young child to try to read themselves.

Harry the Dirty Dog

Image of Harry the Dirty Dog (Harry the Dog)

Harry the Dirty Dog (Harry the Dog) is another classic book I remember from my childhood (and grandparents may, too!).

The main character, Harry, is a white dog who hates to take baths. When he hears it is time for one, he runs off. While on his adventures around town, he gets really dirty.

When he decides to head home, his family doesn’t recognize him because he looks like a black dog now. He has to get over his dislike of baths to show who he really is.

The illustrations are fun, 1950s style with plenty of detail. I think many 4-year-olds will relate to the topics of baths and getting dirty, whether they in favor of them or not.

There are some other books about Harry as well, like No Roses for Harry! and Harry and the Lady Next Door by GENE ZION.

Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV

Image of The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV

While it’s hard to pick just one Berenstain Bears book to list, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV is a classic with a message many of our kids still need.

The series follows a family of bears who live down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country. The first books have Mama, Papa, and Brother Bear, but Sister is in most of them as well. More recent books have baby Honey as the third child.

Too Much TV tells of the time three members of the family wind up watching a lot of TV. So Mama decides to ban the TV for a week. At first it is tough to find other things to do, but after the week, they find they don’t really miss it.

The great thing about this series is that there is a book for just about any topic a child may face. The stories are told with humor as well as being relatable. Your child will feel like part of the Bear family.

Some other good classic ones are The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor, The Berenstain Bears & Too Much Junk Food, and The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies.

The original series is by Stan and Jan Berenstain, but their son Mike is carrying on the series. Many books with Mike’s name on them also feature Christian and church themes. Check out these Living Lights books: The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You!, The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors, and The Berenstain Bears Bedtime Devotional: Includes 90 Devotions.

Christina Katerina and the Box

Image of Christina Katerina and the Box

Christina Katerina and the Box is another book my mom recommended.

When a new refrigerator arrives at Christina’s house, she is really excited to have the box. She turns it into a castle, a clubhouse, and many other things using her imagination.

Though the language is a bit dated, the illustrations are life-like and expressive. Kids still like to create things out of big cardboard boxes, so I think 4-year-olds will relate to the scenario.

For a book with a similar topic, try Not a Box and its companion, Not a Stick. They are more for toddlers, but they can help spark your 4-year-old’s imagination as well.

The Snowy Day

Image of The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day is another classic children’s book from the 1960s.

A little boy named Peter wakes up to the first snowfall of the season in the city. He spends the day exploring all the new possibilities: making footprints, snow angels, snow balls, etc.

The illustrations are mixed media and beautiful. The story is more calm and slow, not fast-paced or plot-heavy.

One reason the book has become a classic is that it was one of the first children’s picture books to feature a multicultural urban setting. The main character is black, and his snowy day is one many children will relate to.

Peter also is in several other books, including Whistle for Willie and Peter’s Chair (Picture Puffins).

Teddy’s Favorite Toy

Image of Teddy's Favorite Toy

Teddy’s Favorite Toy is a book about a little boy whose favorite toy is lost.

The main character is Teddy. His favorite toy happens to be a doll, with good fashion sense and amazing fighting skills. But Teddy’s mom must help save the day when his doll goes missing.

I think the storyline helps normalize boys playing with dolls if they want to. William’s Doll was the book about boys and dolls I grew up reading.

While I prefer how William cares for his doll like a parent (as opposed to Teddy’s doll’s fighting skills), reading the taunts William faces doesn’t sit as well now. I don’t want my son expecting to be teased for wanting a doll. Just having it be a fact of Teddy’s life is a more modern take.

Penny and Her Marble

Image of Penny and Her Marble (I Can Read Level 1)

Penny and Her Marble (I Can Read Level 1) is by author and illustrator Kevin Henkes, who created Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

In this book, another little mouse, named Penny, finds a shiny blue marble in a neighbor’s yard while out walking her doll in her stroller. She picks it up and takes it home, but she starts to feel guilty. Is the marble really hers or did she steal it?

Her mom can tell she’s out of sorts, but Penny won’t say what’s wrong. The next day, she sets out to make things right.

While I wish Penny had felt like she could tell her mom what was wrong, I think the way her guilt is portrayed is realistic for 4-year-olds. It could give you and your child a good opportunity to talk about what you would want them to do in this situation.

This easy reader is split into short chapters. It may be a little long for 4-year-olds to read themselves. I think it is a good read-aloud length, though.

There are several other books about Penny, including Penny and Her Song (I Can Read Level 1), Penny and Her Doll (I Can Read Level 1), and Penny and Her Sled.

Amazing Grace

Image of Amazing Grace (Grace-picture Books)

The teachers and librarians in my family also suggested Amazing Grace (Grace-picture Books).

Grace is a girl who loves stories. She loves hearing them. She loves to reenact them herself as well.

When she finds out her school is putting on a play of Peter Pan, she is determined to win the lead role. Her classmates tell her she can’t be, though. She’s a girl and she’s black.

Luckily, Grace’s mom and grandma are there to tell her she can do anything she puts her mind to. She gets to see a black ballerina perform and presses forward with her audition.

The illustrations are realistic and convey emotions well. Most parents love the message that your gender or skin color shouldn’t hold you back from your dreams.

There are other books about Grace as well, including Princess Grace (Grace-picture Books) and Bravo, Grace!.

Fairy Tales: A Beautiful Collection of Favorite Fairy Tales

Image of Fairy Tales: A Beautiful Collection of Favorite Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales: A Beautiful Collection of Favorite Fairy Tales is a good way to introduce your 4-year-old to some classic stories.

This collection includes eight favorites, including the Gingerbread Man, Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, and Snow White. So it’s a nice mix of princess stories and other fairy tales written specifically for younger kids.

The illustrations are cute and colorful, though some parents found a few were scary for their young kids. It seems that some of the endings have been altered from the traditional stories. 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things: For Little Learners Who Want to Know Everything

Image of My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things: For Little Learners Who Want to Know Everything (My Very Important Encyclopedias)

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things: For Little Learners Who Want to Know Everything (My Very Important Encyclopedias) is another nonfiction book that covers many topics your 4-year-old is curious about.

It features a mix of photos and illustrations to share facts about animals, people, and planets. There are even some “once upon a time” stories included among the factual info.

Your child will learn is how to say hello and goodbye in various languages, differences between dinosaurs (with pronunciation help for you!), and the tallest buildings. It doesn’t go in-depth on any topic, but it will help answer your child’s basic questions and whet their curiosity.

If there’s a topic your child wants to know even more about, try My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals, My Very Important World: For Little Learners who want to Know about the World, or My Encyclopedia of Very Important Adventures: For little learners who love exciting journeys and incredible discoveries.

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook

Image of Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook: Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook: Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together offers a chance for you to bring your 4-year-old into the kitchen and help with meals.

Aimed at kids 1 to 4, this cookbook is full of healthy recipes. It gives you tips on what your child can help with as well as general safety tips for having young kids in the kitchen.

I tend to get frazzled when a child asks me if they can help with dinner, and I don’t have a plan for what they could help with. But planning on a recipe from this book with directions already given would eliminate that problem.

Flipping through the book to pick out a meal and then helping with it may make your child more excited to try something new as well. Though not all parents got this result, I think it’s a great idea to try.

Teaching your children to help with cooking is a fantastic skill to give them. It’s one that may benefit you as they get old enough to cook dinner on their own and give you a break!

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Image of What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? encourages younger children to think critically about animals.

Instead of starting with an animal and giving facts about it, this book poses questions like “What would you do with a nose like this?” with several animal noses on the page. Then you can give your child a chance to think about what the different noses would be good for.

On the next page, your child will see full pictures of the animals who have those noses with a fact about how each uses it. At the end of the book, there is some more info about each animal if your child wants to know more.

The illustrations are also lovely. They are made from cut paper, much like Eric Carle’s work.

One of the creators, Steve Jenkins, has some other similar books as well. Check out Biggest, Strongest, Fastest and What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?.

Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World

Image of Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World

Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World is another great nonfiction book for 4-year-olds curious about the world around them.

The book contrasts different land and water forms on back to back pages. First, see a lake, then an island. Next, see a bay followed by a cape.

There is barely any text as the information is conveyed through bold pictures and the comparisons between illustrations. I think the very short text will invite conversation around each page.

Monster Phonics

Image of Monster Phonics (Blaze and the Monster Machines) (Step into Reading)

If your 4-year-olds is reading themselves or wanting to learn, Monster Phonics (Blaze and the Monster Machines) (Step into Reading) is a great early reader set.

My son loved reading these at age 4. They aren’t the very easiest readers out there, but the text is short and fairly simple. Each of the 12 books has a different vowel sound focus to strengthen phonics skills.

With stories featuring favorite Blaze characters, they are a fun way to spark interest in reading. The books are pretty small (the case is about as long as my hand), but the carrying case is nice.

There are similar sets with Paw Patrol (Paw Patrol Phonics Box Set (PAW Patrol) (Step into Reading)) and Disney Princesses (Disney Princess Reading Adventures Disney Princess Level 1 Boxed Set) as well.

How We Selected Books For 4-Year-Olds 

Funny books are a hit

Many 4-year-olds have a good sense of humor. Most of the fiction books I have picked have an element of humor, whether in the story itself or the illustrations. I find I also enjoy reading funny books to my children.

Books 4-year-olds can learn to read

Though many choices are best for an adult or older child to read aloud, I have included some books that 4-year-olds can read themselves if they are starting to learn to read.

Classics and newer options

I’ve included classic and contemporary books for your child. It is nice to read them some of the same books you enjoyed as a kid, but there are plenty of great books from more recent years your child will likely enjoy.

Nonfiction

While many of my choices are fiction books, nonfiction books are important for 4-year-olds, too. Many kids this age have a natural curiosity about the world. It’s good to nurture that by learning about a variety of topics or by finding one topic they will want to know everything about.

Not too long

While many 4-year-olds can sit and listen to a book for longer than toddlers can, I have chosen picture books that aren’t too long. Chapter books may still test your preschooler’s attention span. The longer nonfiction books can easily be read one section (or just a page) at a time.

FAQs About Books For 4-Year-Olds

How do I pick a book for a 4-year-old?

There are many books that are great for 4-year-olds. Choosing one with engaging pictures will help. Pay attention to a book’s length so you don’t get one that’s too long. Find a book about an interest your child has, like dinosaurs, princesses, or vehicles.

It’s nice, when possible, to read the book yourself before you read it to your child. Then you can ensure it is appropriate and that you won’t mind reading it a few times. Many preschoolers like repetition.

How can I help my 4-year-old learn to read?

Some 4-year-olds are ready to learn to read on their own. If your child seems interested in learning, you can give it a try.

Providing them with books with easy text is a good start. Take time when you are not busy to sit down with your child to work through them reading the book. Help them sound out the words they don’t know.

If they get frustrated with their mistakes or want to stop, don’t force them. Four is an age to develop a love of reading, not to force the skills.

If your child does not seem ready to read on their own, that’s OK! Keep reading to your child. Point out letters and words you see in books and everyday life. Talk about the sounds letters make.

Point at the words while you read a book. Ask about what your child thinks will happen next in a book or why a character made a certain choice.

All these early literacy activities will help build their literacy so they will be ready in the coming months or years.

Is Harry Potter a good book to read a 4-year-old?

I love the Harry Potter series, but I would not read any of them to a 4-year-old. While the later books are darker and scarier, even the first ones are too scary for my preschooler. 

I also don’t think a 4-year-old could really comprehend the text very well or appreciate all its nuances. You may be robbing them of some of the joy of discovery they could have had in a few years.

Save Harry Potter books for when your child is older. I would say maybe at age 7 or 8 you could begin reading them aloud.

What are good gifts for 4-year-olds?

Books make great gifts! Any book mentioned above is likely to be a hit. But if you don’t know what books the preschooler in your life already has or will like, we have other gift ideas for 4-year-olds. Check out Best Gifts for 4-year-old Boys, and Best Gifts for 4-year-old Girls.

Wrap Up

Four is a wonderful age to continue to build your child’s literacy skills before they head to kindergarten.

There are lots of great books for 4-year-olds. Two of the best are Go, Dog. Go! and It’s Okay to Make Mistakes.

Go, Dog Go! is a classic book with fairly easy-to-read text. Its illustrations of dogs doing all sorts of human activities are charming.

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes is full of bright, child-like drawings and funny situations. Its message that we all make mistakes and we can learn from them is great for 4-year-olds.

Megan Ryan
Megan Ryan
Megan Ryan is a stay-at-home mom to three kids in elementary school. She is also freelance editor who enjoys editing novels and Christian books. She still has a lot to learn about being a mom, but she's happy to share the lessons she's already learned.

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