My favorite books to read to kids are a varied group, both in topic and appropriate age range. Some of them are what I consider kids classics from when I was a young child. Others are more recent discoveries made through my teaching and book reviewing experiences.
1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I first heard Charlotte’s Web when I was in Montessori kindergarten. Our teacher read it aloud to us. Every time I read it after that, I cried when Charlotte died. Now, I like to share the story with kids in kindergarten and beyond. I usually follow it up with a screening of the cartoon version of the movie. It has different meaning for kids at different ages and is fun to visit again in later years. Out of all of E.B. White’s books, I think this one is my favorite.
2. Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Kids love to hear adults try to read Fox in Socks , as our tongues get all tied up. It is a classic book that has been enjoyed by many generations, and will continue to be a favorite for more to come. I love to experiment with reading this book faster and slower, to test my own articulation. Have fun with it by also having your child read it after you! Then, you can have fun with the rhyming words and trying to create your own version.
Be sure to also check out other Dr. Seuss classic books.
3. Germs Are Not For Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick
I came across Germs Are Not For Sharing when I was doing children’s book reviews for my blog. It teaches young children where germs hide and how to prevent them from spreading. The text is simple and repetitive, making it easy for really young children to remember. I like to read it every year as part of our Montessori grace and courtesy lessons. The children walk around saying, “Germs are not for sharing!” That demonstrates that they understand and remember the book.
This book is a part of the Toddler Tools series of books that should be read aloud to all toddlers and preschoolers!
4. Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani
One of kids’ favorite songs is “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Our singing version includes verses about a great big spider, sung in a great big voice, and a teeny tiny spider, sung in a teeny tiny voice. We can add to our enjoyment of the song by learning new “verses” in Iza Trapani’s version.
You can’t just read Itsy Bitsy Spider . It must be sung, instead. Add to your enjoyment by trying some of her other books.
5. Just For You by Mercer Mayer
I am madly in love with Mercer Mayer books, particularly his Little Critter series of picture books. Ask my friends, kids, and family, and they can tell you that Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter is my favorite. Out of all of them, though, Just For You is my favorite.
It’s the story of Little Critter desperately trying to come up with something special to do for his mother.
Everything he tries to do becomes a disaster, such as carrying the groceries, but the bag broke. The illustrations are great, as Mom is becoming visibly exasperated, yet full of admiration for her son’s attempts. Finally, at the end of the book, he comes up with the best thing ever.
My sister and I had a video of this book when we were kids. I love to mimic the voice of Little Critter while I read it.
This book is more appropriate for those in preschool and kindergarten, but parents will relate to the pictures.
6. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a classic Halloween story that begs to be read aloud. A little old lady is walking in the woods, and she keeps encountering clothing on the road. Each piece tries to scare her, but she tells them that she isn’t afraid of them. She keeps walking a little faster, though, and finally gets home. Suddenly, there is a loud pounding on the door, as the clothing has caught up to her! She comes up with a creative solution as to what to do with them.
As you read this book with children, mimic the sounds in the book through body movements. The kids get really into it!
7. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a character on whom I probably subconsciously based my ways of interacting with children. She had a unique way of taking a step back to observe children, and never got upset with them. She had magical ways of “curing” children’s bad habits and retraining parents in their management styles.
There were four books originally penned by Betty MacDonald. They were Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle; Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle; Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm; and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic. Magic is my favorite of the four, but the first one explains who she is and what she does. Each chapter has a different “cure” in it for a different childhood ailment.
A few years ago, Betty’s daughter Anne released some more Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories that her mother had left behind after she died. The latest book is Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Some of the individual chapters from each book have been turned into their own picture books so that younger children can also enjoy them.
8. The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
My aunt gave me The New Kid on the Block as a Christmas gift one year. I’ve never tired of reading the silly poems inside. Two of the best ones to read to kids are “Gussie’s Greasy Spoon” and “Bleezer’s Ice Cream,” simply for the gross out factor. Natalie Merchant even recorded “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” as a song. Jack Prelutsky has a CD available of him reading his poems.
9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
I remember my teacher reading The Polar Express to us in the fourth grade. It was the book that really drove home to me that there was no Santa Claus, and how sad it was that adults no longer believed. I started reading it out loud to my students about fifteen years ago. The best reading was when I acted out the story. I was wearing a pair of pants that had two pockets on each side. When I got to the part where the boy reaches into his pocket, only to find a hole, I pulled out the empty pocket on the same side that had the bell. I was looked so convincingly sad, that one little boy literally had tears in his eyes. Then, when the bell (which was really a second one) magically reappeared in the gift box, I almost cried, because that little boy had such joy on his face!
While I have never been able to completely recapture that magical read-aloud experience, this book still remains one of my annual favorite books to read to children.
10. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The poems in Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends are great for reading aloud to children. I vividly remember my Montessori kindergarten teacher reading these poems to us, so I continue the tradition with my kids. “Boa Constrictor” is one of our favorite poems to recite at circle time. As I would only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, I became a little partial to “Peanut-Butter Sandwich,” though my mouth has never quite gotten so stuck. And, of course, “Hungry Mungry” was fascinating as he literally eats the world around him.
Some of the poems are not quite as entertaining, but that is okay. Children learn about rhyming by listening to poetry, which helps their phonemic awareness.
Shel Silverstein recorded an album of many of his poems. Add to the reading of this book by playing the CD on occasion. Also, check out his other poetry books and CDs for kids. I also discovered once that you can read “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to the instrumental introduction of “Immortality” by Pearl Jam. Try it some time.