50+ Chapter Books for Preschoolers and 3 Year Olds

It’s a tricky business, choosing appropriate read aloud chapter books for preschoolers. This is especially true for your three year old, since — as we all know — there is a world of difference between “just three” and “almost four”.

Chapter books for preschoolers and 3 year olds.

New Kid, who is now 3 1/2, has been listening in when I read to Kiddo but he does not always comprehend the more advanced chapter books which are suitable for his 7 year old brother. New Kid likes to chat with me about stories we have read and I listen carefully because he gives me a clues as to which books he truly comprehends.

I’m by no means advocating that parents abandon picture books in favor of longer chapter books. Both have a place in your read aloud arsenal. (For picture book recommendations take a look at our INDEX of  BOOK LISTS.)

If you are looking for early read aloud chapter books, the following list should be helpful. Based on my observations of both boys, I’ve noted which books are particularly suitable the younger three year olds. And, of course, all of these books are appropriate for older kids to read alone (or to listen in on while you read aloud to younger siblings). (Note: Book lists contain affiliate links.)

Chapter Books for Preschoolers:

 my father's dragon Dragons of Blueland Elmer and the Dragon
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon. I mentioned this classic boy-on-a-quest trilogy in my post about dragon books, and it is my number one recommendation for a first chapter book read aloud.

Dinosaur Trouble. I love to sing the praises of Dick King-Smith (most famous for Babe: The Gallant Pig) as an essential go-to author for early chapter books. In this one young dinosaurs make friends and take on the scary T-Rex. New Kid asks for this one repeatedly.

 Lady Lollipop clever lollipop
Lady Lollipop. A spoiled princess chooses a pig for her eighth birthday present. During the pig’s training the princess, herself gets a bit of a makeover. Also try the sequel, Clever Lollipop. These may be good for your young 3 year old.

 mouse and mole 
Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole (series). There are a few Mouse and Mole books (Yee is one of our favorite authors) and they are in the easy reader section of the library. However, they also make good read alouds for young 3s. Also available on Kindle.

mercy watson mercy watson thinks like a pig
Mercy Watson to the Rescue. (series) Mercy is a toast-loving pig who happens to get into all sorts of crazy scrapes. Excellent for young 3s and accompanied by delicious, colorful pictures.

SuperDuper Teddy. (series) This was one of Kiddo’s first read alouds. Teddy is a four year old who gets his first job feeding the neighbor’s cats. All of the kids live in the same apartment building in NYC. There is an entire series of Riverside Kids books and most are out of print. UPDATE!!! I’m so excited that this series is now available in digital format. Check out all The Riverside Kids on Kindle!!

Jenny and the Cat Club jenny moonlight  Jenny and the school for cats
Jenny and the Cat Club (series). Averill started writing about Jenny and her gang of feline friends in the 1940s and they still hold up today.

mrs noodlekugel Mrs Noodlekugel and the Drooly Bear
Mrs. Noodlekugel. A babysitter who brings gingerbread mice to life? That’s got to be fun. My 3 1/2 year old, loves this one and asks for it all the time. He can listen to it in one sitting. Also available for the Kindle.

Mrs Piggle Wiggle
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Speaking of old ladies with funny names… you’ve no doubt heard of this one. It’s generally recommended for slightly older children, but I read it to New Kid and Kiddo at the same time and found it to entertain both boys equally.

winnie the pooh
Winnie the Pooh. A classic which needs no introduction. Also available for the Kindle.

the night fairy
The Night Fairy. A fairy must get used to living in the sunlight and along the way exhibits bravery and ingenuity while befriending other garden creature. Also available for the Kindle.

boo's dinosaur boo's surprise
Boo’s Dinosaur. Boo has an imaginary dinosaur friend, but her brother Sammy needs some convincing. This is a great choice if you are looking for a book about good sibling relationships. Also try the sequel, Boo’s Surprise, which is equally imaginative. Your three year old should be able to appreciate this one. Only Boo’s Surprise is available on Kindle.

The Anna Hibiscus (series) books were written with early readers in mind, but the stories about Anna and her extended family in Africa make excellent read alouds for even the younger three year olds.

noisy village Springtime in noisy village
The Children of Noisy Village. These books are often overlooked for the more well known Pippi Longstockingby the same author. The chapters can also function as stand alone stories about a charming group a children and neighbors in Sweden’s farmland. You might like it as an alternative to the Little House books.

Lotta on Troublemaker Street. (series) Since we are talking Astrid Lindgren books, here’s another overlooked series by her, also appropriate for young listeners. Lotta is five years old and has a bit of trouble keeping out of scrapes. If you like the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, here is her Swedish counterpart.

Emil and the Great Escape. (series) Okay, okay, I can’t resist! Here’s another Astrid Lindgren series. (There are even more if you care to investigate.)

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I first read this 1939 Newbery Honor Book to Kiddo when he was four, but we recently listened to the audio book on a road trip and 3 year old New Kid found it to be hilarious. It’s hard not to laugh at a house full of penguins.

Two times the fun
Two Times the Fun. Four stories about 4 year old twins by dependable author Beverly Cleary.

Milly Molly Mandy
Milly Molly Mandy. This is a cheerful, wholesome and charming collection of timeless stories about a young girl and how she goes through her first experiences like spending her pennies, sleeping away from home and looking after a hedgehog. Darling.

toys go out toys come home toy dance party
Toys Go Out (trilogy). I realize I’ve told you about this series a million times, but that’s because you need to read them! Jenkins’ droll storytelling style is perfect for communicating the adventures of toys when their owner is away. The featured characters learn all about life in a perfect, child-like way. If you need further convincing then just take a look at all the starred reviews. One caveat: the final book, Toys Come Home may have a few things that could be deemed scary, but you could just skip that chapter because the barf scene (that’s right!) is not to be missed.

Thornton Burgess Animal Stories. If your children like old-fashioned animal stories, these classics might be just right. Burgess started writing these stories in 1910 and there are more than 20 of them to keep you busy.

treasury for children
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. This is a collection of longer stories rather than a true chapter book, but lovely, comforting tales and beautiful illustrations will charm your young animal lover.

PeeWee’s Tale (series). A guinea pig escapes to Central Park and learns some life skills from his new squirrel friend.

 catwings return Alexander and the Catwings
Catwings (series). Cats with wings? You know there are a lot of adventures to be had! Four flying cats leave the city for the country, where they must overcome danger. Not to worry, all ends happily. This is another set of books suitable for even the youngest listeners.

Tumtum and Nutmeg book
Tumtum & Nutmeg. Here’s another one for those of you with children who love stories about animals. It was published in 2009, but will remind you of classic books like The Borrowers.
At what age did you start reading chapter books to your child? What was the book? How did it go?

If you’ve had success with reading chapter books to your three year old, leave a comment and let others know what books work for you.

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  1. says

    Awesome post! Have you read Enid Blyton's “Faraway Tree” series? My kids enjoyed that – although, it may have helped that I changed the kids' names to match my three (it's about two girls and a boy)

  2. Jen says

    Thanks – these are some fantastic suggestions. My boys are 3 and 6 and the 6 year old has only recently been asking for chapter books (he is not a very advanced reader though). The 3 year old just listens to whatever his brother likes! We've only read some Enid Blyton and Alice in Wonderland so far but my older boy has recently become obsessed with Andy Griffiths (an Australian author)to the point of harassing book shop owners if they don't have the one he is after! They are not my favourites by any means but the 13 Storey Treehouse is the first 'chapter' book that he read by himself (and it was a real struggle for him) and he was so proud of himself afterwards that I had to swallow my objections (and remind myself that I am not the book's target audience). Also, his first grade teacher told me that at lunch time the boys in her class have been sitting by themselves under a tree reading Andy Griffiths books to each other in a sort of self-organised book club so there must be something in them! It will be great to have a few other suggestions to offer him though before I go too completely crazy so thanks again for the post.

    • says

      Jen, that's so great that the boys formed their own book club! I've never heard of Andy Griffiths. I'll have to see if his books are available here in the States. Thanks for your comment!

    • Jen says

      Andy Griffiths is HUGE in Australia but I have no idea how well known he is in other countries. He's well-known for being a good author of books for reluctant/struggling boy readers keen on reading – a genre I was always very sceptical about until I had my own struggling boy reader and became less judgemental! According to my son (and the local bookshop owners he harassed last weekend), the long-awaited sequel to the 13 Storey Treehouse (the 26 Storey Treehouse) is ALREADY available in the USA. He is very indignant about this as we have to wait until 1 Sept until it is published here even though Andy Griffiths is an Australian author.

  3. says

    Great list!

    My son was about 4 1/2 when we started reading chapter books, and the first book was The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. We read many “transitional” chapter-type books before that age — text-heavy series of linked stories with continuous characters but not continuous plot, such as Pooh, Herriot's Treasury, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc.

    I describe the process of working up to true long, chapter-divided fiction here: http://fannyharvilleunschool.blogspot.com/2009/07/chapter-books.html

  4. says

    This is a GREAT list! I have a son who just turned 4 and another son who is 2 1/2, and I've discovered many of the same favorites as you! We absolutely adore Mercy Watson, and we recently read My Father's Dragon and Elmer and the Dragon, and we're currently reading Mr. Popper's Penguins. Have you read The Littles? My sons really enjoyed that one (although I found myself a little bit bored for most of it). And I'm glad you mentioned Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because I've been wondering if that was too old for them, but now I think I'll try it. I especially love this list because you have tried it out on three-year-olds! So many chapter books are recommended for older kids, but if you're reading out loud, then the younger crowd can definitely enjoy them, too!

    • says

      Amy, thanks for the suggestion of The Littles, I haven't read that one yet (although I remember the Saturday morning cartoon when I was a kid, Ha ha!).

      It's true, 3 year olds can be very tricky, but trial and error is sometimes necessary because all kids are different.

      Happy Reading!

  5. says

    What a great list – thanks for putting it together. I'm looking forward to giving some of these books a read. We started reading chapter books to my son when he was 3 (he's now 5) and some of our favorites have been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Boxcar Children.

  6. says

    What a fabulous book!! We've been reading the Magic Treehouse series, but now I have more I want to read to my girls. PeeWee's Tales and Catwings in particular look like fun choices.

  7. says

    Wow, this is a terrific list. There are a lot of books here that we read and some that we didn't. I know that I probably read some chapter books to Anna when she was 3, but now I can't remember what they were. We still didn't try anything by Astrid Lindgren, I really have to get my act together :)

    • says

      That's a tough one. There area a lot of Christmas chapter books, such as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and L.F. Baum's The Adventures of Santa Claus, but I'm not not sure I would suggest them for a 3 year old. You could try The Best Christmas Pageant Ever if your child is almost 4, but it might be better for a 4-6 year old Read Aloud. You might check in the Bridge Book/Easy Reader section of your library since a lot of series have a holiday edition.

      New Kid really likes Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, which takes place at Christmas. Technically it does have chapters, but it is so short you can read it in one sitting. Also the Mouse and Mole book series has “Winter Wonderland”, though it is not specifically about Christmas.

  8. Anonymous says

    You really love Astrid Lindgren! We read (and loved) the Pippi books with our 3-3 1/2 year old but found an Emil book to be more Swedish than universal. All time favorite was Little House in the Big Woods, but our kid was just 2 when we first read that. Wind in the Willows and the shorter The Reluctant Dragon by Graehme are high on the list. She also really liked The Secret Garden and we've read all the age-appropriate Betsy Tacy books. Also, we liked the Gooney Bird stories by Lowry. Very funny, but a bit heavy on the insults for a 3 year old.

    • says

      I do love Lindgren. It's the Swede in me. I agree the Betsy-Tacy books are also an excellent choice, but we haven't read those aloud yet (no many books, so little time!) I read The Reluctant Dragon to Kiddo (it's on my post of favorite dragon books) but I found the sentence structure was too much for my 3 year old.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. says

    Fantastic post! Thank you for rounding up so many great books. I know what I'm always looking for new books and love when I have several laid out before me. :) thank you for sharing!

  10. says

    Thanks for this list. I haven't read a lot of the newer ones yet. We've done some chapter books with our preschooler but he has trouble maintaining interest in them still. The first books he loved though, were Mary Pope Osborne's Odyssey series.

    • says

      I agree that not every three year old is ready to listen to chapter books. My current three year old is much more squirmy at reading time than my sever year old was, when he was three. We never read the Odyssey series, but I did have to read every single Magic Treehouse book!!!

      • Janice says

        I am not sure what the rush is to begin to read chapter books with three year olds. With such a wide variety of fabulous picture books with amazing illustrations out there it seems premature to rush pre-schoolers into this genre. Another genre of books that is fantastic for young children is Song picture books which are books with text tyat is a song (e.g. Wheels on the Bus)and children develop self-efficacy through their ability to follow the text even if they are not yet reading. Singing songs, painting and exploring sensory activities to me seems like a more valuable way to spend that time. I suspect that one argument might be the development of imagination by not having pictures to view however this could also be accomplished by spending time in dramatic play.

        • Mom and Kiddo says

          Janice: I completely agree with everything you say. There is no rush and the vast amount of books I read to my kids are picture books. A good article on why to begin reading chapter books to your preschooler can be found here: http://www.daddyread.com/readingChapter.html
          No one should read chapter books to any child who is uninterested and no one should read chapter books to the exclusion of picture books. There is certainly room for all kinds of books in any child’s literary education. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Sarah says

    Great list! I found this through Pinterest. We used to read chapter books to our son in his first year, just so he could hear us reading to him. We’ve read through a few Harry Potter books as well as the Neverending Story. Now that he’s older he doesn’t have the attention span and wants books that he can interact with. I’m looking forward to trying some of your suggestions. Maybe with simpler language and storylines he’ll be interested in chapter books again (because Goodnight Moon is getting really old, really fast).

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      Thanks Sarah – I also think picture books are still good to read at this age, so if he’s not willing to sit through chapter books, there are lots of great picture books. Have you seen Press Here by Herve Tullet? It’s a terrific interactive picture book for preschoolers.

  12. Angie says

    My three year-old absolutely loves Mercy Watson. My two-year old also enjoys “pig” as he calls it. My three year-old has been read the many Frog and Toad stories over and over so many times he has them mostly memorized. Lobel’s Frog and Toad is in the same league as early chapter books, as far as I am concerned.
    My six year-old loved the Magic Treehouse Series which we read to him in it’s entirety when he was an early four. Some of the later books are a little scary for preschool age kids.

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      Angie: thanks for sharing your ideas. I agree, Frog and Toad is another excellent choice and I did end up having to read almost every Magic Treehouse book to my son! It was quite the journey!

  13. JAL says

    What about Cynthia Rylant? The Henry and Mudge series, and the Mr Putter and Tabby series are both wonderful. (Although Annie I find way too girly.)

    • Mom and Kiddo says

      I agree! Those are great choices and my kids loved listening to them Mr. Putter was a particular favorite of ours.

  14. Natalie says

    Thank you so much for this list! I have just finished reading the first two Magic Tree House books to my 3.5 year old daughter and I found this post while searching for new books to read to her. I am going to start the third, while I am waiting for some of these books to arrive.

  15. Emmy says

    My 3 year old son wants to read at least 2 Berenstein Bear books each night (a favorite of mine growing up). I think it might be time to start introducing him to chapter books. Are there any chapter books you can think of that have bears as the main characters?

    Great post! This gives me some great ideas when I go to the library this afternoon!

    • MomandKiddo says

      Hmmm. That’s a tough one. There is a series called The Berenstein Bears Big Chapter Books. I have never read them, though. There is a very short chapter book called “Grin and Bear It” about a bear who wants to be a comedian. I love that one.

  16. says

    I hope I’m not repeating someone (I just skimmed over the comments), but I wanted to recommend the Mr. Putter & Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant – I don’t know that I would count them as “true” chapter books, more of a hybrid, but they are sectioned into chapters as an early-reader style. My Greek professor lent one to my (then 3-year-old) daughter – someone had given it to him because the main character reminded them of Dr. Z – and we absolutely fell in love with the series! Luckily our local library has quite a few of them. :) (I also LOVE that the main characters are seniors, which is a good exposure for kids who don’t always come into contact with senior adults.)
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_15?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=mr.+putter+and+tabby&sprefix=mr.+putter+and+%2Caps%2C335 – here’s what Amazon has. :) (no affiliate, just a link for you to see them!)

    • Erica says

      Lindsey, thanks for your comment. Yes, we love Mr. Putter, too. I agree that it’s so wonderful that the characters are “old people” (lol). We’ve read all of them and they are great to tote around for a quick read. I didn’t include them on this list for the reason you mention. I wanted to keep the list primarily to longer chapter books that would be read over a couple of days. Mr. Putter is primarily an easy reader but I agree that they are great books!

  17. says

    I had not known there were chapter books for 3 year olds. my daughter would absolutely love the mercy watson series. i don’t know…the kid loves pigs. thanks so much for the great list. bookmarking it for our next library trip!

  18. says

    I came looking for chapter books for my 3 year old twins (okay, they’ll be 4 on Saturday) because we just finished reading The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh. They found it on my shelf and requested it themselves, insisting on a new chapter every time we sat down to read. Seeing their love for it I knew I wanted to try more chapter book with them, but all the ones I could think of just aren’t relatable for 3 year olds because the characters are older and often revolve around school (my kids are not in school at this time). I think the appeal of Winnie the Pooh was that the characters were animals in an imaginary environment and I’m happy to see more of those types of books on this list. Heading to the library ASAP!!!

  19. Diana says

    I just pinned this list a couple weeks ago and am grateful for the suggestions. I have found that there are more chapter books for girls than for boys and with two boys I’m always on the lookout for good ones. Here’s a couple that we have also loved. We did the three Ralph books by Beverly Cleary (Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway Ralph, and Ralph S Mouse) and loved each one. We also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl which led me to find a really great shorter gem by the same author called “The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me”. Seriously loved this little book– such a silly story in old fashioned Roald Dahl style I think. A great starter book because it’s on the shorter end with rough drawn pictures on each page.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Diana, thanks so much for stopping by to leave your thoughts. Those books are great additions to the list. My boys loved the Ralph books, too. The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me is a funny little book but I haven’t read it aloud yet, thanks for the reminder to do so! — my 4 year old also loves Dahl’s short book, The Enormous Crocodile. Have you read that one? I like to encourage my fellow parents to read books with boy and girl protagonists no matter what gender the child is. Right now I am reading Betsy-Tacy to my boys (which many would consider a “girl” book) and they LOVE it!

  20. Kerry says

    My son loves “Owl At Home” by Arnold Lobel. I haven’t tried his other chapter books, but I think he would also love those.

  21. Emily says

    We read our four year old Lulu and the Brontosaurus, it was such a fun read. There are a couple other books about Lulu as well. Now we are reading The Fantastic Mr. Fox which she follows pretty well.

  22. Jessica says

    Thanks for this list! I bought “My Father’s Dragon” on my Kindle and my 4-year-old son BEGS me to read it every night. It is our first- so great suggestion for an introduction to chapter books. I’ve pinned this list so I can refer back to it when we’re at the library!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Thanks, Jessica. My Father’s Dragon is awesome. We’ve read all three books so many times. Even when my son’s Kindergarten class read it, he still wanted me to read it to him at night!

  23. Jessie says

    Thanks so much for the great list. We are getting ready to travel overseas and I’m hesitant to check out books from the library to go anywhere but our house. However, I found several of these on audio at the library & will be adding them to my phone for the long day of travel. :)

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Enjoy your trip! Audio books are so useful for travel. I’m so happy the list was useful for you!

  24. Lisa says

    I love this post. I had not thought of reading chapter books to my barely four year old. She loves books and will sit and listen to picture books for an hour and a half.
    We took your advice and read the my father’s Dragon books. Both the 4 yr old and 6 yr old loved them. Then we read the mercy Watson books. We can read those in one sitting so the kids don’t think they are real chapter books. My kids loved Jenny Kinsley and the cat club so much that we ordered three more of them. We have read the magic finger and are just starting mr poppers penguins. Thanks so much! You have opened a whole new world of reading for us. My 4 yr old loves these books and my six year old sneaks off with the books and reads them himself. Yay!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and tell me this, Lisa. You’ve really made my day! I’m so glad your kids have been enjoying the books and it’s nice to be able to read a mix of picture and chapter books to the kids. Happy reading!

  25. Laura says

    Thank you, thank you for this list. I’ve known for awhile my 3.25 year old has been looking for a story he can really get into and picture books weren’t fitting the bill any more, but I couldn’t find any books on his emotional level that also told an involved story.

    We just finished the My Father’s Dragon trilogy in three days, and we’re really looking forward to trying out some more from this list. Too bad the dragon leaves in the end – I had to change things up on the fly since I knew my son would be really upset with the actual ending.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the trilogy — and a little editing is something we’ve all done from time to time! :)

  26. Melissa says

    After getting the suggestion to try chapter books with my will-be-5-in-2-months Spirited daughter, to try to help her settle down for sleeping, I found this list. Also stumbled onto Mercy To The Rescue on her school’s tumblebooks today – she loved it. I have not heard of most of this list (or the ones for 4-6 yr olds) despite being a voracious reader myself starting from early 4 (I memorized Fox in Socks), so will be checking out many! I wanted to remind you/your readers of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We started this tonight as it was the only chapter book we had, and it was very well received. We also have a chapter book starring Wembley Fraggle (I can’t remember the title, its in her room where she’s sleeping), there may be other equally good Fraggle books, too – they have colour pictures to ease the little ones into wordier stories, but if they’ve never seen Fraggle Rock they might be lost. Thank you for this list!!!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says

      Thanks Melissa! I agree Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful read aloud. I didn’t read it to my kids early because of the death of Charlotte (my child was very sensitive at that age) but many preschoolers love it. Fraggle Rock is like a blast from the past. :)

  27. Noel says

    My 4 1/2 year old’s first chapter book was Benevenuto by Seymour Reit. It was my book as a child that my mother had saved. It also has pictures every couple of pages. He loved it and we are now on the search for more read aloud chapter books. Thanks for this list!

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