Before They Can Read: 12 Enchanting Picture Books for Children’s Authors & Illustrators Week

If you’re asking yourself, “When should I start reading to my baby?” the answer is today. It’s never too soon. Reading to your infant contributes to early development as they observe your mannerisms, listen to your speech, build motor skills and soak in all the colors and shapes. Trust me – you’ll blink, and your infant will soon be a toddler who can hardly sit still. But if you’ve started the routine of sitting down together to read, you’ll be able to carry this over into the preschool years and get a nice cuddle while you read new books together each day.

For little ones who can’t yet read on their own, illustrations in books are the heart of engaging imagination and captivating attention. Children’s literature is rich with beautiful art that can help a child develop a love of books (just as soon as they pass the stage in infancy where nibbling on the book is the primary intrigue).

As adults who are reading aloud to your kids, I believe it’s important that you enjoy the book, too, if for no other reason than it means you’re more likely to read it over and over again, making story time a cherished ritual with your kiddos. While there are some amazing classic children’s books which classic children’s books which every child should read, here are some children’s picture books you may not have heard of before that will inspire and get you (and your babes and tots) hooked on reading more books. What a perfect way to celebrate Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week. I’ve opened up 12 of my daughter’s recent favorites so you can see a peek at the delicious illustrations inside.

Bunny Roo, I Love You, written by Melissa Marr (@melissa_marr) and illustrated by Teagan White (@teaganwhite), is a playful and sweet book about how parents keep their little ones feeling safe and secure. The enchanting illustrations add to the warmth of the story, perfectly placed with the hand lettered words on each page. I also appreciate the whimsy of the pattern on the flyleaf. And should you ever lose the book jacket, have no fear, because the darling illustrations appear on the hardbound cover, too.

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There’s a Bear on My Chair, written and illustrated by Ross Collins, is a rhythmical read reminiscent of the sounds of Dr. Seuss. It’s a great choice for preschool and early readers to teach the lessons of sharing with strokes of humor and silliness you and your little one will enjoy. In fact, it’s an award-winning children’s picture book, honored with the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Award in the UK.

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The Perfect Hug, a Paula Wiseman Book (@pwisemanbooks) written by Joanna Walsh and illustrated by Judi Abbot (@JudiAbbot), is a delightful, rhyming picture book to teach your little ones about affection. It’s also available as a board book for young tots who aren’t ready for thin paper pages yet. This author-illustrator-duo have teamed up on a few projects, including The Biggest Kiss and their latest publication I Love Mom. These are darling Valentine’s Day gifts or any every-day-kind-of-must-read with your sweet cuddle bug. If you want to see more darling pandas and other anthropomorphized critters, check out Judi Abbot’s Instagram feed too!

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Dear Bunny, written by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Blanca Gómez (@gomezdrawings), is a sweet story of a girl and her bunny that teaches a lesson in gratitude. The cut-paper style illustrations are simple yet full of texture and charm. I appreciate the bunny somersaulting on the flyleaf pages. It’s lovely cloth binding with gold foil details on the cover are likely to also catch your eye.

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Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin (@rubingo) and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (@rubinsalmieri), is a bestselling children’s book with a fresh, mildly-absurd, tale about dragons and well… tacos, of course. It’s just the sort of silliness that kids 4 to 8 years of age can’t seem to get enough of. It’s light-hearted and offers an opportunity to “do voices” if you’re that sort of storyteller. Caution: You might find yourself with a serious taco craving after reading this one.

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I Love You to the Moon and Back, written by Amelia Hepworth and illustrated by Tim Warnes (@chapmanwarnes), is a sweet book to read to your little one as an excuse to shower them with words of affection and to demonstrate how spending time together is one way to show how much you love each other. This board book makes a great gift for a new parent or grandparent. Here are some tips for reading this one with your preschooler: point to the pictures of the bears and talk about what you see. Ask your tot what they see the bears doing together. Be warned: it will melt your heart when your tot echoes, “I love you to the moon and back.”

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The Wonderful Things You Will Be, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin (@msemilyapple), is a hopeful book. It’s softly worded, delicately rhymed and elegantly painted. “Will you stand up for good?” is just one of the questions within this book – a celebration of possibility. This book makes a great gift for so many occasions – baby showers, birthdays and graduations. And if you can’t get enough of the dreamy brushstrokes, check out Emily Winfield Martin’s other work, including her latest book, The Littlest Family’s Big Day.

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Bunny and Bee Animal Friends, written and illustrated by Sam Williams, is one of many in the Bunny and Bee series. It has a rhythmical cadence that helps little ones with language development. This has been one of my daughter’s perennial favorites since she was 6 months old. We’ve read it so many times, my husband and I can both recite it without looking at the pages. Another great pick from the series which is fitting for bedtime reading is Bunny and Bee Can’t Sleep. By the end, you’ll be yawning together.

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The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, is a clever must-read-aloud story for anyone at any age. The work of Julia Donaldson is exquisite with lyrical rhymes, a perfect primer for preschoolers learning to distinguish phonetic sounds and recognize patterns in the spelling of words. The words will also enhance your tot’s vocabulary. My daughter, at age 2, now flips through the pages of this book and tells the story all by herself. Tip for parents and teachers: check out the host of fun read-along activities and free printables at gruffalo.com – Enjoy! And if you’re delighted by this read, check out the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child, which has been adapted for the stage (@gruffchildlive).

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Books!, written by Murray McCain and illustrated by John Alcorn, is a 1962 classic filled with vintage illustrations, bold typography and vibrant colors. It might be a tad harder to come by, but ask a bibliomaniac at your local Half Price Books to help you locate a copy. It was last reissued in 2013. This book isn’t just for children either. It would make a delightful present for a reader, writer, teacher, artist, graphic designer or anyone who adores any of those things.

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Bear Says Thanks, written by Karma Wilson (@karmawilson) and illustrated by Jane Chapman (@chapmanwarnes), is one of many in the Bear book series. My daughter’s library contains every single book I could find in the series because she can’t seem to get enough of this bear and his forest friends – hare, gopher, mouse, mole, raven, owl and wren. The story teaches simple lessons and and reinforces good manners, so if you’re looking for a tool to help your little one learn to say  “Thank You”,this book is for you.

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Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book, written by Alice Kuipers (@alicekuipers) and illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, is a clever, alliterative tale about siblings learning to collaborate and write stories together. The simple graphite-pencil sketches are enriched by a collage of patterns, library card catalogs and hand lettering. If you enjoy the illustrative style, check out some of Bethanie Deeney Murguia’s other books which she both authored and illustrated.

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What’s your favorite children’s picture book? What are you reading to your kids this week? Share with us in the comments below.


Meredith is Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate. You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

One thought on “Before They Can Read: 12 Enchanting Picture Books for Children’s Authors & Illustrators Week

  1. I don’t have any children but I have several children’s books that I love!!!! (I collect classic children’s books also) To celebrate Children’s Author and Illustrator Week I am reading Peter Rabbit (the French edition) and Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart (inspired by Edgar Allen Poe).

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