Reading together is one of the great pleasures of parenting. It means more than reciting words from a page in the hope kids will learn to read for themselves. It means discovering worlds and ideas together. I hope this collection helps other parents and children to discover the universal pleasure of reading together.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe – ages 4 to 8
Adapted from an African folktale, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters has universal appeal as it tells the story of two beautiful girls – one kind, the other mean spirited. This kids book offers all the best experiences of reading together. With stunning art work, African cultural references and universal morals, this Caldecott Medal winning book is well worth a space on a child’s book shelf.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Moel – ages 4 to 8
Children love repetition, especially in kids books while reading together with a parent. While Tikki Tikki Tembo doesn’t offer the constant repetition of kids books like The Napping House, it does lend itself to funny moments as parents attempt to repeat a long and cumbersome name. In fact, that tiresome name is the reason for the children’s troubles in this fairy tale. Chinese cultural references and interesting folk art work keep reading together fun for parents and kids alike.
The Tree in the Ancient Forest by Carol Reed-Jones and Christopher Canyon (illustrator) – ages 4 to 10
If repetition while reading together is what you’re looking for, try The Tree in the Ancient Forest. Each page builds on the one before it to detail the life of an ancient Douglas Fir. Stories for kids are often fairy tales, but a few kids books like this one offer lessons based only in fact. This kids book uses plant and animal facts and stunning art work to paint a picture of a food web. With such fine art work and a guide to the forest creatures included, this story book has something to offer both younger and older children.
Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf – ages 4 to 8
A kids book that illustrates kindness as the best path is always welcome. Reading together from this old favorite presents a chance to discuss cultural differences and the traditions leading to Ferdinand’s day in the fighting ring. The main purpose of reading together from this kids book is the illustration and discussion of inner strength.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and Michael Hague (illustrator) – ages 4 to 8
If you’ve ever watched a child treat a toy as if it had feelings, it’s easy to understand the appeal of The Velveteen Rabbit. Told through the eyes of a stuffed rabbit, children and parents learn of the transformative power of love in an old school kids book. The illustrations are well drawn and unobtrusive. No kids book collection should be without a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit.
Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan – ages 6 to 12
Kathleen Ragan traveled the world in search of stories that empower young ladies. Bound in one book is a collection of fairy tales from a range of ethnicities. This kids book does not feature art work in the way of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Instead, Fearless Girls uses storytelling to paint pictures of ladies who know how to help themselves.
Very young children may have trouble with the language of this book. However, if you are of a Charlotte Mason mindset, this is the kids book for you.
Rainbow Crow, A Lenape Tale by Nancy Van Laan and Beatriz Vidall – ages 4 to 8
Rainbow Crow is a fairy tale featuring animals in a time before humans existed. It is a story of altruism, much like The Giving Tree. According to this Lenape fairy tale, the crow gave up the rainbow hues of its plumage and the song in its voice to save fellow inhabitants of the Earth. Folk art style paintings lend this kids book interest enough for the very young as well as adults.
The Gift of the Sacred Dog by Paul Globe – ages 4 to 8
“He is as the wind, gentle but sometimes frightening.” What better description of the sacred dog, gifted to the people to help them through hardship. This kids book offers a folk tale describing how Native Americans acquired horses. With folk art style illustrations, this one is sure to become a favorite.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClausky – ages 4 to 8
I remember this kids’ book being used to teach us kindergarteners that the police officer is our friend. You don’t have to be a Boston native to appreciate Make Way For Ducklings (but it sure does help!). The accurate references to Boston landmarks in this kids book offer a touch of history as two mallard ducks try to find a safe place to raise their ducklings. More than just a cute kids book, it offers a fairy tale of kindness and responsibility in an urban setting.
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema – ages 4 to 8
Careful! Reading together from this kids book could become a nightly ritual. Again, lovely art work sets off a story of responsibility and fantastic ingenuity, this one set in Kenya and featuring the Nandi people. With storytelling based on the repetitious pattern of The House That Jack Built, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain illustrates the relationship between nature, animals, and humans.
This list is far from comprehensive. Reading together from kids books means following leads into new worlds and in new directions. I hope you can continue the journey by compiling your own list of favorites.