The Top 5 Picture Books to Read to Children

In the soft glow of the bedside lamp, as you turn the pages of a picture book, magic comes alive. There, in the melodic words and vivid illustrations, lies the incredible power of storytelling that can spark young imaginations and sow the seeds of a lifelong love for reading.

Sharing a book with a child is not just a bonding experience; it’s an educational journey that develops language skills, enhances cognitive development, and fosters empathy. It’s also a great way to connect parent and child, creating a series of memories that will last a lifetime.

ThinkFives tapped into the wisdom of hundreds of teachers through our survey to curate a list of the Top 5 picture books they recommend for reading to children. Each of these books, through their unique stories and mesmerizing illustrations, encapsulate the magic of childhood.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Published in 1969)

Synopsis: This charming book follows a caterpillar’s journey into becoming a beautiful butterfly, devouring an array of foods along the way.

Why Teachers Recommend It: The story provides an engaging way to introduce concepts like numbers, days of the week, and the lifecycle of a butterfly. It initiates discussions about healthy eating and growth.

Why Children Love It: Children are drawn to the bright, collage-style illustrations and the caterpillar’s playful, insatiable appetite. The interactive, die-cut pages add an element of surprise and tactile engagement.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Published in 1947)

Synopsis: This timeless classic is a soothing, rhythmic lullaby that bids goodnight to everything around: from the red balloon to the quiet old lady whispering “hush.”

Why Teachers Recommend It: It’s an excellent book for teaching children about everyday objects, routines, and the concept of saying goodbye or goodnight. The rhymes enhance phonemic awareness, an essential pre-reading skill.

Why Children Love It: The serene narrative, combined with the detailed and comforting illustrations, creates a calming bedtime experience. Children enjoy spotting and naming familiar objects in the great green room.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault (Published in 1989)

Synopsis: In this lively, rhythmic tale, the letters of the alphabet race each other to the top of the coconut tree.

Why Teachers Recommend It: Teachers love this book for its fun, engaging way to teach letter recognition. The rhythmic text aids in language development and recall.

Why Children Love It: The rollicking text and the bright, bold illustrations captivate children. They adore the playful letters and their high-spirited antics.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (Published in 1964)

Synopsis: This poignant tale portrays the enduring relationship between a boy and a selfless tree that gives everything to bring him happiness.

Why Teachers Recommend It: Teachers appreciate the profound themes of love, sacrifice, and the consequences of taking nature for granted. It instigates valuable discussions about relationships and environmental responsibility.

Why Children Love It: The story’s simplicity and emotional depth move children. They connect with the loving tree and the evolving relationship between the tree and the boy.

Any Book by Mo Willems

From the hilarious “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” to the heartwarming “Knuffle Bunny” series and the delightful “Elephant & Piggie” books, Mo Willems’ works are a treasure trove of humor, emotion, and brilliant storytelling.

Synopsis: Willems’ books, teeming with expressive characters and witty dialogue, deal with themes like friendship, emotions, and problem-solving.

Why Teachers Recommend It: Willems’ books are perfect for teaching kids about emotional intelligence and resilience. His easy-to-read text, filled with dialogue, is perfect for beginning readers, and the humorous scenarios present opportunities for children to problem-solve along with the characters.

Why Children Love It: Willems’ characters, be it the stubborn pigeon or the endearing Elephant and Piggie, resonate with children. They find the humor, the expressive illustrations, and the relatable dilemmas irresistibly engaging.

What picture book would you recommend to a parent?


  1. I would recommend any books by Patricia Polacco. I love that a lot of her books incorporate her family history, and her books are wonderful to teach theme. 🤩

  2. Love, love, LOVE these! The Giving Tree has always been one of my faves, and Goodnight Moon was a staple for my own kids bedtimes! 🌳🌕

  3. I’d add any of Peter Reynolds’s books (The Dot, Ish, Say Something, etc.) and Kathryn Otoshi’s books (Zero, One, Two, etc.).

What do you THINK?

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