Here’s a handy list of educational TV shows that came from picture books. Use it to entice reluctant little ones at storytime. Or, find shows to make screen time more educational.
When little kids have had a tablet in hand since babyhood, sometimes it’s hard to get them interested in books.
So here’s a trick:
Start by introducing them to educational children’s shows that are based on books. Then, later, when you read those books aloud, you have an “in.”
Of course, you can also start with shows that are already their favorites. You may luck out and find a book companion.
They’ll already be familiar with the characters and be curious to find out what else happens to them.
Books Turned Into Educational TV Shows for Kids
Plenty of TV shows are adapted from popular books. These are just a few of the best ones to introduce to kids. Most of these are streaming right now on various platforms, which I’ve linked up for you below.
(Disclosure: Books and Giggles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)
Ada Twist, Scientist
In the original book, Ada Twist loves asking questions and looking for answers. Yet, her parents get frustrated with her curiosity. Ultimately, though, they support her and point her towards science.
Companion books Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect provide two more role model characters for the video series. Each show features the children asking questions and solving problems.
What can kids learn? Little viewers will learn about working together, solving problems, and the scientific method – especially the asking questions part!
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Always popular Clifford The Big Red Dog is a fun book for the whole family. Children love the ridiculous concept of a giant friendly dog. In addition, Clifford the Big Red Dog is also a funny show that will appeal to a variety of ages. (affiliate links)
Very small children will be entertained by the bright colors and the giant red dog. Slightly older kids will understand the lessons and will appreciate the adventures of Emily Elizabeth and her unusual pet.
What can kids learn? Clifford is all about teaching kids kindness, friendship, and that it’s okay to be different. Teaching tolerance and acceptance starts early.
Winnie the Pooh
Lovable character Winnie the Pooh appears in the books by A. A. Milne and later in book and video adaptations spearheaded by Disney and broadcast all over the world. Winnie the Pooh teaches kids the value of friendship, creativity, and kindness.
Winnie isn’t the smartest of the animals, but he’s extremely kind and goes out of his way to be friendly to everyone around him. Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Eyeore are some of his most frequent companions.
What can kids learn? Kindness is one of the main themes of the book, as well as friendship. The friends get out of scrapes by working together and using common sense.
The Cat In The Hat
This classic Dr. Seuss book has been adapted for TV, but kids are often persuaded to read the book. Aimed at smaller kids, The Cat In The Hat is a fun, irreverent story about a cat that comes by to entertain a couple of siblings whose mother is away.
The cat starts all sorts of games and makes a mess, but cleans up after themselves before leaving, assuring the kids that their mother would never find out.
What can kids learn? Perhaps surprisingly, The Cat In The Hat has a lot of lessons to teach about honesty, responsibility, and trust. The book even asks the reader directly “What would YOU do if your mother asked YOU?”.
Thomas & Friends
Another favorite of kids everywhere, Thomas The Tank Engine is a character from The Railway Series by Wilbert and Christopher Awdry. I love the Little Golden Book adaptions of them for preschoolers.
In case you haven’t already met him, Thomas is a friendly, cheeky locomotive who gets into scrapes with his friends, Percy, Toby, and the rest of the trains. They learn about order, respecting rules, and bravery.
You can watch Thomas and Friends videos right now on Netflix.
What can kids learn? The value of friendship is central both in the books and in the show. Most often, though, it’s all about Thomas making mistakes and learning from them.
In addition, this is also a great book for social-emotional activities, as it can prompt activities like identifying Thomas’ emotions based on the book or the animation.
Pete the Cat
Everyone’s favorite groovy cat is lots of fun in video form. I love the little songs! Follow up with some popular Pete the Cat books and activities (like this button slime recipe based on one of the stories).
The original Pete the Cat books were written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. I know some people strongly prefer those classics. Apparently, Litwin and Dean had a falling out, and newer Pete books are written by James and Kimberly Dean.
Regardless of all that, I think Pete the Cat is my favorite set of books turned into educational TV shows for kids. What’s not to love?
What can kids learn? These books cover concepts like colors, holidays, feelings, sharing, numbers, and more.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Each of the If You Give… books has the same cause and effect structure. It’s fun to follow along and see what silly adventure will unfold next.
I watched just the first episode of the video series. It combines the characters of several books while staying remarkably true to their tone and aesthetic.
What can kids learn? This series is wonderful for teaching cause and effect. It’s also a perfect story sequencing book.
Arthur is an aardvark with lots of friends who has fun, gets into trouble, and learns lessons along the way.
The Arthur books come in two versions – the Arthur Adventure books like this one for preschool and kindergarten, and the Arthur chapter books for slightly older kids.
You can watch Arthur the cartoon show directly on PBS Kids, or via Amazon Prime right now.
Kids will appreciate the lively cast of animal characters. There is someone for everyone to relate to, which makes it a good watch – or a good read! – for a variety of kids.
What can kids learn? The characters in Arthur aren’t perfect, they all have flaws and make mistakes, which means there are plenty of learning opportunities to go around. They learn about lying, bullying, getting along with siblings, showing off, sharing, and togetherness.
The Snowy Day
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats won the Caldecott Award in 1963 and has been a classic winter story ever since. The 2016 video features Laurence Fishburne narrating the original text. Plus, you’ll see many additional details filled in and music by Boyz II Men.
On the other hand, the story in the book is much simpler than the video. It is about a boy who plays in the snow and tries to save a snowball in his pocket.
The video storyline, though, follows the little boy’s adventurous journey down the snow-covered city block to his grandmother’s apartment. It ends with an impromptu multicultural holiday party.
What can kids learn? For children who live where it rarely snows, this book is a lovely introduction. For all kids, you can talk about how when snow melts it turns into water. After reading the book and watching the video, you can compare all the ways they differ.
The beloved Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney have beautiful rhyming language and charming illustrations. Even better, they’re highly relatable, as they address many childhood fears and challenges.
The video spinoff of these books has the same relatable-ness and charm. However, the stories necessarily have a lot more details and dialogue.
What can kids learn? Children can learn social-emotional skills such as making friends, handling disappointment, and more.
Even in this age of increased digitalization, kids can develop a love for reading. One tactic is to leverage books turned into educational TV shows. If your children will be watching a video anyway, you may as well choose one that came from a book!