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Which "first books" should I have in my preschooler's library?

Topics: Reading

Your preschooler will naturally develop preferences for specific subjects (trains, animals), storytelling styles (rhymes, songs), and genres (scary, silly, adventurous). It's not uncommon for a young kid to fixate on a certain book and demand to hear it over and over again, with consistent wording each time (i.e. no skipping pages!). So, in addition to choosing classic books, award-winners, and favorites from your own childhood, you can let your child's interests guide you. For book ideas for all ages, check out our Essential Books Guide for Kids and Teens.

In general, you're looking for books that are age-appropriate, key into where your kid is developmentally, and that your kid enjoys – and hopefully you do, too! Here's some age-by-age guidance and a few book suggestions:

Toddlers: For this age, look for picture books with imaginative illustrations that help build an understanding of basic vocabulary and numbers. Take into account pro-social messaging, dependable adult characters, and cultural diversity. Avoid violence and scariness. Try:

Three-year olds: The most appropriate media for this age help develop basic vocabulary and number sense. Select books that teach a simple message or that model social lessons like how to share and be a good friend. Be cautious about scary stuff. Try:

Four-year-olds: Anything that creates school readiness -- ABCs, simple sentence structure, basic numbers -- or that teaches basic scientific concepts (like gravity). Pro-social messaging, positive role models, and stereotype-defying can have a big impact. Take your kid's lead on scary stuff (some 4-year-olds like a little bit); avoid sexy stuff. Try:

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