I have always been an avid reader, and it is a love and a skill that I was eager to pass on to my children.
The benefits of reading to and with your kids are overwhelmingly positive, with some studies even showing that the number of books in your at-home library has as much or more impact on the academic achievements of your child, than the level of education of the parents. Children who are exposed early to reading are more likely to enjoy reading, which makes them more likely to be better readers. If you need more proof, check out this list of facts about the impact of books in the home of children.
All of that aside, and even with my passion for reading and literacy, one can only read The Very Hungry Caterpillar so many times before wanting to throw it out a window. So, in addition to frequenting Chattanooga’s amazing public libraries, we also have grown a library of our own with some new and refreshing favorites that may even keep YOU entertained…at least the first 72 times you read it.
- Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border. Peanut Butter (a piece of toast with little metal arms and legs and a tiny soccer ball) needs someone to play with and goes searching for a friend. The 3D illustrations are definitely the best part of this book, followed closely by some great food puns (I love the part about Hamburger having to walk his dogs — two hot dogs, of course). My kids love the silliness of putting Peanut Butter together with some unexpected things, like a Cupcake or Egg.
- Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. You have probably seen or read one of Tillman’s other books, On The Night You Were Born, and this one follows in the same vein. The pictures are lovely and dream-like, and the sentiments are heartstring-tugging enough to make this pregnant mama think twice before reading them if I’m wearing mascara. “I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go…” I mean c’mon. My husband and kids are not as big of fans as I am; it is basically a kids’ book for moms.
- The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. These are two of my mom’s favorite books to read to the kids, and she often requests to read them when she is in town. Both stories are told through letters from different color crayons to their owner, Duncan. In the first, they share their dismay about overuse, neglect, embarrassing subject matter, etc. In the second, lost crayons write postcards about their exploits. Both are smart, funny, colorful and cute. Your kids (and you) will get a giggle over the crayon that gets eaten and then spit back up by a dog or the brown crayon that is horrified by something Duncan made him draw. (Hint: little boys who like potty humor will love this part best…)
- Little Hoot, Little Pea, and Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. These board books were passed down to me when I had my third baby and I wish I had found them sooner. Thankfully, even my oldest still enjoys them. The books tell the stories of an owl who wants to go to bed early, a pea who hates eating candy, and a pig who has to keep his room messy but secretly loves to be clean and tidy. The juxtaposition is amusing for a parent, and hilarious to a toddler. Plus the drawings are super cute and the books are short enough to hold the interest of your littlest readers.
- Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood. As the mom of soon-to-be three girls, I love stories that bend the normal princess stereotype. This twist on the classic fairy tale shows Cinderella longing to work on rocket ships, and gives her a whole new happy ending that independent little princesses will love. The fun rhyming text is also a plus for readers who get antsy.
- Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer (also the not yet released new addition to the bunch, Ada Twist, Scientist!) by Andrea Beaty. These are slightly less off the radar, but they deserve a mention since they are just so much fun to read aloud! They are catchy and rhythmic without being repetitive and annoying (plus I like that the teacher in Iggy Peck is named Ms. Greer, just saying). They also have great messages about doing what you love, even when it’s not the norm, and the real meaning of success.
- The King of Space by Jonny Duddle. One of my son’s favorites for at least a year now, it has the feeling and look of a comic book/graphic novel but reads like a kid’s story. Rex is a great hero, smart and spunky and a little bit naughty, who only wants one thing…to be the KING OF SPACE! A funny, cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for.
- Dimity Duck by Jane Yolen. Another good board book for the younger crowd, because we all need an alternative to Goodnight Moon. This one was a favorite of my oldest when she was a baby and young toddler. The pictures are sweet, the rhymes are nice, and there is a fun moment in the middle that little ones seem to love when Dimity’s friend pops out of his hiding place to surprise her. The storyline isn’t anything flashy, but all of my kids have loved and requested it enough that our copy is starting to fall apart.
Of course if you are looking for slightly more well-known favorites (great gifts for first-time parents or to add to your own collection), you can’t go wrong with The Gruffalo, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, anything by Sandra Boynton, Dr. Suess, and Mo Willems, the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney (this one is our favorite), and, for reading aloud (and nerding out) with older kids, this beautiful illustrated edition of the first book in the Harry Potter series (the second book’s illustrated version is due out in October).
I could go on and on, but some of the fun is discovering new favorites on your own! Take advantage of your library, awesome reading apps like Epic and Kindle, used bookstores like McKay’s, consignment sales, and book fairs at your kids’ schools to grow an amazing collection of your own or to share the love of reading with friends and family.