I absolutely love curling up with my children and reading them a great book. Recounting stories that spark their imagination and cause their creativity to run wild is priceless. However, I'm a work-at-home mom with a busy schedule and sometimes I just need five minutes to myself. Rather than turning on the TV or handing over an iPad, I have found that beautifully illustrated children's picture books can entertain my kids when I don't have the time to stop what I'm doing and read to them.
Because my youngest can't read quite yet, getting him to look at a book by himself for more than a couple of minutes is hard. This list of picture books for kids to read is great to reference when you're looking for a book that will keep kids engaged despite not being able to read yet.
Illustrations are often what keep kids entranced in a book while you read aloud to them. Choosing books with bright, engaging pictures or detailed scenes that perfectly portray what the words on the page describe is a wonderful way to keep children entertained by books whether you are reading with them or not. For me, keeping these types of books on hand or checking them out from the library is a lifesaver.
1. 'Where The Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak
This timeless classic is one that I enjoyed so much as a child. Where The Wild Things Are tells the story of a mischievous little boy and all of the adventures he creates in his imagination, brought to life by beautiful illustrations. Children will love flipping through the pages to see this story told through pictures.
2. 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle
Pretty much anything by Eric Carle could be on this list thanks to his captivating style. While the illustrations in The Very Hungry Caterpillar are simple, they are bright and engaging to keep kids interested. The story of what the caterpillar ate is cleverly told through pictures and keeps kids counting page after page.
3. 'The Runaway Bunny' by Margaret Wise Brown & illustrated by Clement Hurd
This oh-so-sweet story about a mother rabbit and her bunny child is an endearing classic. The Runaway Bunny features illustrations that are timelessly beautiful and show scene after scene of the baby bunny trying to run away, but the mother rabbit's never-ending love prevailing.
4. 'Stellaluna' by Janell Cannon
Stellaluna is a beautifully illustrated picture book for all of the nature and science lovers out there. The detailed illustrations tell the story of a bat named Stellaluna on her journey to find her home, and depicts all of the animals and habitats she encounters on the way.
5. 'The Rainbow Fish' by Marcus Pfister
A bestselling children's picture book, The Rainbow Fish features watercolor and line-drawn illustrations that are entrancing. Each page features unique foil-stamped areas that are eye-catching to easily draw children in thanks to their glittery nature.
6. 'The Forest' by Riccardo Bozzi & illustrated by Violeta Lopiz & Valerio Vidali
The illustrations say so much that The Forest doesn't even have a title on its cover. The use of embossing and die-cut techniques in combination with bright colors found in nature creates a visually stunning effect that is seen page after page.
7. 'A House That Once Was' by Julie Fogliano & illustrated by Lane Smith
A House That Once Was tells the story of two children exploring an abandoned house. This poetic picture book is filled with gorgeous imagery that allows the story to come alive with an expressive use of color and conceptually abstract illustrations.
8. 'Dreamers' by Yuyi Morales
Yuyi Morales tells the story of her journey as an immigrant from Mexico with her son in Dreamers. Impressive drawings and vibrant colors help make Morales' beautiful story leap off of the page. This autobiographical picture book is also available in Spanish.
9. 'Florette' by Anna Walker
The watercolor illustrations in Florette are stunning. With the perfect balance of imagery and detail, scenes of the main character, Mae, longing to grow a garden at her new city home come to life beautifully.
10. 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' by Beatrix Potter
This beloved classic was first published in 1902, but remains a popular picture book to this very day.The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been re-printed with restoration to the original artwork that makes it even more vibrant and detailed than ever before.
11. 'Pongo' by Jesse Hodgson
Pongo tells the story of an orangutan who journeys through the jungle in search of the sun. The book is filled with masterful illustrations that depict all of the intricacies of the jungle from the forest floor to the tops of the trees.
12. 'The Snowman' by Raymond Briggs
The illustrations in The Snowman are so captivating, they serve as the only explanation of the adventure story of a boy and a snowman. This book without any words is the perfect way to introduce pre-readers to the joy of storytelling through art.
13. 'Before She Was Harriet' by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
The breathtaking watercolor illustrations in Before She Was Harriet pair perfectly with this story of strength. Winner of a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, the imagery on each page is absolutely stunning.
14. 'King Of The Sky' by Nicola Davies & illustrated by Laura Carlin
15. 'Imagine' by Raul Colon
The gorgeous imagery in Imagine! tells the story of a boy who enters the Museum of Modern Art in New York and experiences art coming to life. An intriguing mix of watercolor and colored pencil creates a texturally pleasing design that allows readers to get lost in the detail of each page.
16. 'Sidewalk Flowers' by JonArno Lawson & illustrated by Sydney Smith
In this wordless picture book, the illustrations serve as the primary source of storytelling. Each page of Sidewalk Flowers features exquisitely detailed black and white drawings with small, yet bright pops of color.
17. 'The Snowy Day' by Ezra Jack Keats
Made using cutouts and watercolors, the illustrations in this classic tale stand the test of time. The Snowy Day has captured the hearts of kids and adults since 1976 with the beautifully colorful story of a child in an iconic red snowsuit exploring a fresh snowfall.
18. 'The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs' by Jon Scieszka & Illustrated by Lane Smith
The True Story Of The Three Little Pigs is a twist on a classic story as described from the wolf's point of view. Gorgeously detailed drawings are found on page after page of this tale with a style that keeps readers watching to see what happens next.
19. 'The Patchwork Quilt' by Valerie Flournoy & illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
This may give away my age, but I vividly remember The Patchwork Quilt being read on the show Reading Rainbow when I was a kid. The stunning drawings and colorful depictions of family values passed down through generations are timeless.
20. 'A Color Of His Own' by Leo Lionni
This picture book is perfect for younger kids to thumb through on their own. The pages of A Color Of His Own depict a chameleon and his exploration of the colors that make him unique in comparison to the colors of many other different animals. Brightly colored illustrations leap off of the page in stark contrast to the white background.