Stuck choosing a story – have a look at our selection of classic books for under 5s.

So many parents stress about when to start reading to their children, what should they read and my reply is always the same, something fun and simple and read it again and again.

Reading is a gift and children who read and are read to, are time and time again, proved to be better academically, this is probably not even needed to be researched it is obvious. Reading allows you to see different perspective, stretch your imagination as you go on all kinds of glorious adventures into the unknown.

For children to enjoy reading it is so important to stretch them beyond the school reading schemes. Here are a few examples of books that I have loved sharing with my children when they were under 5.

This age group love rhythmic words with lots of sounds and simple short sentences. If there is any actions these are also really popular, the choice of books is endless but the more we read to children the more they will learn to love words, quiet, fun times with mum and develop a desire to read to themselves. I make no apologies for this selection being an old classic list of stories.

A favourite with every child has to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, this has certainly stood the test of time, the lovely story is educational and entertaining. This classic picture book with bright, collage-style illustrations has been enjoyed by generations of children for over 50 years and has lost none of its appeal. Little fingers will love to follow the tiny caterpillar through the holes he leaves and to anticipate what he’s going to eat next as the page size increases with his appetite.

And with opportunities to learn colours, numbers and days of the week, this is certainly one of the best picture books ever.

A similar book that has been through so many generations is Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell this lift-the-flap, board-book format has been a favourite with toddlers ever since it was first published in 1982.

As you lift the flaps in search of an ideal pet, a host of different zoo animals will be revealed, until the right pet is finally discovered. Simple, stylish and highly interactive, this book invites constant re-reading. The sturdy flaps are perfect for small fingers to lift, and children will still love this book when they are ready to start school.

The Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd have always been popular with children as hilarious rhyming story follows Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, as he sets off for a walk in town, followed by a whole host of canine friends. Then they meet the toughest tom cat in town, Scarface Claw… 

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy is the first in the classic children’s series, originally published over 30 years ago. Written and illustrated by New Zealander Lynley Dodd, the book has delighted generations and can be enjoyed time and again by children and adults alike. The book trust have a lovely interactive link to this book

A list of books for this age group cannot be complete without including Julia Donaldson’s book The Gruffalo. In this much-loved picture book, a little mouse walks through the woods and encounters a fox, an owl and a snake.

To fend them off, he tells each about the scary Gruffalo – but when the mouse actually encounters the Gruffalo himself, he cleverly invents another tale and manages to escape from danger yet again.

Blending a suspenseful story with a rhyming text and wonderful illustrations, this is the perfect interactive picture book – and a deserving family favorite.

Another old classic has to be Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, Babies may be born in different countries, look a little different and have different needs, but one thing that most have in common are ten fingers and ten toes. This is the uniting theme of this perfect first book for sharing. From the swaddled newborn, to children sitting alone, then crawling together, and then standing, the illustrations show babies born all over the world in the country and cities, all with irresistibly chubby fingers and toes.

This book provides a great opportunity for readers to interact with baby whilst reading aloud – and when the tale turns to the baby that is ‘mine, all mine’ and supplies a final, surprise extension to the ‘ten little toes’ rhyme, the opportunity for bonding is made perfect. Accompanied by Helen Oxenbury’s lovely illustrations, this is a charming book that is perfect for little ones.

I can’t complete a list for this age group without including Sam McBratney’s book, Guess how much I love you.

Little Hare and his daddy compare how much they love each other: Little Hare loves his daddy as far as he can reach, but daddy has longer arms. Little Hare loves daddy as far as the river, and then, as he gets sleepy, he tells him he loves him up to the moon. And when he sleeps, daddy whispers ‘I love you to the moon and back’.

This modern classic is a wonderful story about love between a child and a parent, which is never too early to share with your baby. The repetitive text lends itself perfectly to a soothing bedtime read, and the loving message is perfect for bonding with your baby.

The list is endless but the most important part is to enjoy reading together.

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