The best children’s books: 2-4 year-olds


I always love to find new lists of must-read books, best books, top ten books and so on. It gives me the chance to either discover books I haven’t seen before (not having been raised on English books) or to rediscover some. This time it’s a list from The Guardian The best children’s books which has made me think of the possibility of using them in the EFL class. The list of books chosen for 2-4 year-old native speaking children can be used in EFL for students from 3 to 7 year-olds and the list goes like this: (descriptions from Amazon)

The elephant and the bad baby, by Elfrida Vipont

The Elephant takes the Bad Baby for a ride and they go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta down the road.’ They help themselves to ice creams, pies, buns, crisps, biscuits, lollipops and apples, and the shopkeepers follow them down the road shouting and waving. All ends well as the Bad Baby learns to say ‘Please’ and his mother makes pancakes for everyone.

The snail and the whale, byJulia Donaldson

One tiny snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of a whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail who saves the day.

My friend Harry, by Ken Lewis

Like many small children, James has a special soft-toy friend. He’s an elephant called Harry. He and James go everywhere together – around the farm, on holiday, to bed. Then, one day, James starts school – and Harry stays at home. Will James miss his special friend?

Where the wild things are, by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. If you disagree, then it’s been too long since you’ve attended a wild rumpus. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s colour illustrations (perhaps his finest) are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder.

– Dogger, by Shirley Hughes

Dogger is the endearing story of how Dave’s beloved Dogger was lost and found. Winner of the 1977 Kate Greenaway Medal, Dogger is a timeless classic which, in simple words and detailed pictures, shows the distress the loss of a toy causes a child, as well as the reality of family life. Filled with humour and Shirley Hughes’ deft touch, this is a book for young readers to tackle by themselves, as well as a delight to read aloud.

– Not now, Bernard, by David Mckee

A humorous story in which a young boy is exasperated by his parents refusal to listen to him, so he decides to make them take notice.

– Gorilla, by Anthony Browne

Hannah’s father never seems to have time for her and so she is often left alone and lonely. She loves gorillas and longs for one for her birthday. On the night before her birthday she wakes up to find a parcel, containing a toy gorilla, by her bed. Disappointed she goes back to sleep. Later that night though, something magical happens–a real gorilla appears and takes her on a magical journey.

-Once there were giants, by Martin Waddell

Once there was a baby in the house – and to that baby, Mum and Dad and Jill and John and Uncle Tom were giants. But little by little, that baby grew up – until she became a giant too. This book is explores the stages of life and development.

– Goodnight moon, by Margaret Wise Brown

Perhaps the perfect children’s bedtime book, Goodnight Moon is a short poem of goodnight wishes from a young rabbit preparing for–or attempting to postpone–his own slumber. He says goodnight to every object in sight and within earshot, including the “quiet old lady whispering hush.”

I have left a story that I personally like a lot for last, one that also has many features for the EFL class. It has a repetitive pattern, simple and everyday vocabulary and alliteration which helps with the practice of some ending sounds.

Just be careful, your kids might want to sleep after listening to this story!


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