Today is the second part in a series about book recommendations to give as gifts for Chritmas – or any time, really. The first part dealt with why books make a great gift, and continuing after this installment we’ll look at books for elementary through junior high (that age group will be covered in two parts, one for girls and one for boys) and teens.
I mentioned in the introductory post that my list of good books for toddlers through early elementary will consist of books that are classics. I’m probably not abiding by the traditional definition of that word; to me it just means that they are OLD. None of them have been published within the last ten years or so, possibly twenty. It’s not that I have anything against newer books, nor do I have a diabolical plan; I am just not familiar with read-aloud books that are more recent.
Now y’all, this does not imply that I am old, so don’t even go there. :-)
What it does mean is that there is a LOT of good children’s literature out there. And how fun is that? In fact, I did an informal Facebook poll with the following question: “Name your favorite book to read aloud to your young children: GO” – and I was surprised at the percentage of books I have never even heard of. I can see I need to read up on this subject, lol. But the fact that most of the pollsters answered with more recent books confirms for me the need to bring back to the discussion some of these older titles, just so that they won’t be forgotten.
What are the criteria for a book to be on this list? These are books that I have read personally, the ones our family kept coming back to over the years with all of our children. And perhaps even more crucial, these are books that I enjoyed reading as much as my children liked hearing them. Because we all know that anytime a child falls in love with a book, he is going to want to hear it over and over again — so we’d better like it as much as they do! :-)
MY picks of good books for toddlers to early elementary:
All right, then, enough with the preliminaries; let’s start looking at my book picks for those young children in your life (listed in no particular order):
- Green Eggs & Ham, by Dr. Seuss. Many people LOVE Dr. Seuss; many people can’t stand him. I am probably in the in-between camp, which is why I am not recommending all of his books. Even as a child I DETESTED The Cat in the Hat; there was just too much anxiety in that one for my comfort level. Also, some of his books are actually quite difficult even for an adult to figure out… But Green Eggs & Ham rolls nicely off the tongue, and the pictures are fun to examine (the train tracks go so many crazy places!). The words are real words, not some Seussian nonsense; and they are simple, which means that this book is a great first book for the child to read aloud himself. Another example of this type would be The Foot Book. And hey, who doesn’t secretly keep hoping that there really would be REAL green eggs and ham? (Honorable mention, with a nod to the season, is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Did you catch my reference to it in the post about our Dollar Store Christmas?)
- Curious George, by H.A. Rey. The adventures of George the curious monkey and his owner, the man in the yellow hat (who has such a kind face, have you noticed?), are legendary. Any of these stories are well worth purchasing; we even bought all of them in one volume for one of our little girls. Today she is at college and still keeps it on her shelf, although the cover is torn off and the pages are very worn. The artwork is one of the things that keeps you coming back to this book — which I think is true of most of the ones on this list. Pictures are very important for this age of reader! :-)
- anything by P.D. Eastman. This author has written SO MANY good stories! The book you see in the photo, The Best Nest, is the very one I had as a little girl. The birds go looking everywhere for a place to build a better nest, and (spoiler alert) find that the one they had is really the best of all. Another absolute favorite of my siblings and me is (and I’m using the present tense on purpose, lol) Go Dogs, Go. Does it make complete sense? Perhaps not. But it still strikes a chord of fun for parents and their children. “Do you like my hat?” “No, I do not like your hat.” “Goodbye.” “Goodbye.” Dialogue can’t get much better than this, people. :-)
- Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney. Oh, this one made me cry the first time I read it. Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare are in a competition to see who loves the other more. Any loving parent will just eat this up, and the kid you are snuggling with while reading it to him will like it, too.
- Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. The cadence of this story is so soothing, the images so comforting, that it is THE PERFECT bed-time story. In fact, it is my husband’s favorite story of all the ones on this list. If you look carefully at the pictures, you can see the bunny from The Runaway Bunny, another book by the same author.
- The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. The story of a stuffed rabbit who wants to become “real” and finds out what that really means… sigh. Stories about sacrificial love can be few and far between, and so it is good to hang onto one when we find it. Our children are never too young to be exposed to higher, better thoughts. They often understand them better than we do.
- any of the Frances books, by Russell Hoban. I love this little badger girl named Frances. She is one plucky little animal. My personal favorites are A Bargain for Frances, where Frances trades with her friend and is unhappy with the deal; and A Baby Sister for Frances, where she feels unimportant and decides to run away. The illustrations are adorable, her parents are the best, and the overall tone is happy. I love books that keep me smiling the whole way through.
- A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Now this one really is a classic under the accepted definition, lol. It is a wonderful introduction to poetry for the younger child. The topics of the poems are ones that kids can relate to, and the simple rhymes and engaging rhythm draw the child into the more innocent world of days gone by. “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing ever a child can do!” is the beginning to “The Swing,” one of my favorites.
- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, by Engelmann, Haddox, and Bruner. Okay, I know this is not a story book, per se, but I still include it on this list of books to get for your younger child. I taught all my children to read with this book, starting most of them from age 4. I can’t say enough good about it. It tells you what to say word-for-word and also what answers to expect from the child. By the end of the book they can read at about a 2nd grade level. I will be writing a fuller review later, but suffice it to say that this can be your go-to reading instruction manual.
- Leading Little Ones to God, by Marian M. Schoolland. This is a devotional book to read and talk over with your kids. What I love about it is that it deals with real theology, not dumbed-down Bible stories. It talks about who God is, and who we are in relationship to Him, and what Jesus did. Then it goes on to discuss how to live as God’s child, what prayer is, fellowship with others, and even a little about future things — in short, it hits most of the typical topics of the gospel and discipleship, but for young children. It does all of this with short readings, each of which has accompanying discussion questions, a memory verse, and a prayer. The doctrine is solid and the writing is very winsome for children. You can have wonderful, growing times reading through this book together.
Facebook poll of good books for toddlers to early elementary:
Back to my Facebook poll: I think it only fair that I honorably mention the books that were recommended more than once. They obviously have something going for them and will be the first ones I
inhale do further research on. They are: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?; Make Way for Ducklings; Bear Snores On; and Stand Back Said the Elephant.
Remember to come back to see my picks for the older children in your life. Or better yet, subscribe by entering your email in the box in the sidebar to get every new post in your inbox as it’s published — then you won’t miss a thing! :-)