Nine picture books to foster a love of books and story-time in 4 to 7 year olds

Last November I had a request from a parent with a child in reception for some books for their child. They contacted me with a rather outdated reading list they had been given. Including many classic children’s picture books stories and titles by Julia Donaldson, but not a single picture book that had been published in the last 15 years on it! This got me talking to other parents and reflecting on my own children’s experiences. I realised that some classic picture books had been important to my own children’s reading journeys. I also began to realise what both parents and teachers had to get their heads around when choosing books for pre-schoolers and those in their first few years of education. Some picture books have richer language than others, and some are better suited to developing language skills than others. But, if a child is going to become a child who is motivated to read after they have grasped phonics then they need to experience being read to and sharing stories that are meaningful to them.

Some more recently published picture books are far more likely to engage a wider range of children than some of the classics. So much more is now possible in terms of pictures and picture book design, which has resulted in incredible details in some picture books. For both my children exploring the pictures in a big together was as important as the reading of the story. I’ve begun to wonder whether we talk about visual literacy enough in early years education.  Not only does engaging interaction with text and pictures, create ‘memorable moments’ of story time, with parents, siblings, and teachers it also develops visual literary, which underpins future literacy development in so many ways. Due to a specific set of circumstances including a very challenging year 3, and a having a younger brother, my daughter was happy to still be read picture books aimed at younger children all the way till year 5. I observed first hand what a life-changing difference her razor sharp visual literacy skills made to enabling her to overcome earlier gaps in reading and become the confident reader she is today.

This collection of books is focused specifically on the needs of 3 and half to 7 year olds. But, if you child is older and hasn’t yet enjoyed picture book stories and wants to read them please let them. These books may be aimed at younger children, but honestly you never too old for picture books. 

The Classics


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Classic storytelling, about a families journey to find a bear. Great word repetition. Every child should have a copy. 

Perfect for 3 to 6 years

First published in 1989



The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

This wacky and fun story has inspired and motivated generations of children to learn to read since 1957! Drawings are in distinctive blue, red and black. Great for fun vocabulary building and for spotting objects in the pictures. 

Perfect for 4 to 7 year olds that are learning to read

First published in 1957

That Rabbit belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

A heartwarming story about a girl called Emily who doesn’t want to give up her cuddly rabbit to the Queen. Emily goes on some great adventures around the world and the Queen gets more desperate by the page to convice Emily to giver up her cuddly rabbit . One of my daughters favourite books aged 4 to 5 years.

First published in 2006 but earning it’s place with older classics, stories that stand the test of time. Written by Children’s Laurette Cressida Cowell (author of how to train your dragon)  and illustrated by Neal Layton who knows how to draw in young children.

Perfect for: 3 to 8 years

First published in 2006


Not to be missed newer picture books (all of these authors and illustrators have also produced other great picture books)

Octopus Shocktopus! Peter Bently and Steven Lenton

What happens when an Octopus comes to live on top of your house? Find out in this delightful story where the extraordinary collides with the ordinary. Loads of great detail in the pictures to spot and revisit to keep kids busy for hours.

Perfect for 2 to 7 years.

What’s in the Truck? Philip Ardagh and Jason Chapman

A fantastic rhyming story that bounces along featuring many different vehicles and a great ending. Love the twist at the end with a tiara wearing princess, showing girls can definitely be into vehicles too. 

Perfect for 2 to 6 years


Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan

Set in a more peaceful Syria, the pattens and vibrant colours are brought to life by author/illustrator Nadine Kaadan. The story of a cat who tries to get rid of a Jasmine plant because it makes him sneeze and learns the value of the plant to his community. My son’s favourite books aged 5 to 7 years. It was so interesting to see how he empathised with the cats emotions in the story.  Read my full review here.    

Perfect for 4 to 9 years.

You must Bring a Hat by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

I first discovered this delightful story in the middle of my sons reception year. What struck me was how it was a great progression language wise from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt which he loved, but with the same repetitive pattern to the story. 

You must Bring a Hat has lots of humour, which comes across in the writing and in the fantastic illustrations of Kate Hindley. Who has a real skill at capturing the expressions and feelings of her characters. It starts with a birthday invite, which also introduces the reader to the idea that text and writing can take many forms.  Nigel is invited to a party, but he must wear a hat, however he does not have a hat. So in a panic he finds a monkey wearing a hat. But, when he gets to a party the rules have change and he can only come in if he has something or someone else, and so the story caries on. Then near the end there is a delightful plot twist. 


Perfect for 4 to 7 year olds

First published in 2016. 

The Squirrels who Squabbled by Rachel Bright and Jim Field 

I only discovered this book 18 months ago, and am not quite sure whey Rachel Bright ant Jim Field were not on my radar before than as there both picture book legends. My don then aged 8 and half still really enjoyed the book and could really relate to it. But, he would absolutely have loved it in reception to year 2, especially as he has two favourite animals one of which are squirrels. 

If your fed up of squabbling siblings you need this book!

The story is about two squirrels Cyril and Bruce who end up squabbling over the last nut of their season. But, in their haste they loose the nut and end up in danger themselves. The moral of the story things are better when you share and to make the most of the here and now.  

Published in 2018


There’s Not Such Thing As.. Unicorns  – by Lucy Rowland and Katy Halford 

In this story you are taken on many journeys on a hunt for unicorns. The language is quite simple. If you want rhyming or more rich language then I’d recommend one of Lucy Rowland’s other books. I chose this book because of its fun concept, a hunt for a unicorn and that it introduces the reader to the idea that you can search for clues in the pictures. It is in essence a search and find book. Where you can spot lots of rainbow coloured tails and manes but do any of them belong to a Unicorn? It takes you many different experiences on the colourful two page spreads, a farm, a zoo, camping, the seaside . Katy Halford’s bold and bright illustrations with lots of detail are perfect for young children. You could literally spend hours talking about what you see in the pictures. 



Available to buy from me at Readers that Care

Some are available to buy direct in my online shop.:

For other titles please contact me direct



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