There is nothing more special than sharing a meaningful book with a young person. As a parent and teacher, it is pure joy when a child successfully reads to me. But there are many reasons to have children listen to books being read aloud, no matter their age. What follows is a very short list of books that make wonderful shared experiences.
Birth to 3 Years
Before children begin to gain spoken language on their own they are keenly aware of cadence, tone, and rhythm. Reinforcing a child’s sense of these vocal subtleties can help prepare them for early reading once they begin to recognize letters, sounds, and words. Additionally, at this age, children need to learn the conventions of print: that books have a front and a back and that pages turn in a specific direction. Board books are tough and can withstand the explorations of a less than gentle youngster. These two books are favorite board books I share regularly with my toddler.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle.
The 40th Anniversary edition of this classic has sliding windows within the text that make it an iterractive experience for the youngest aspiring readers. The text repeats phrases and helps children identify objects and colors while exposing them to a recognizable rhythm of language.
Let’s Dance Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton
This delightful little book encourages movement and inspires repeated readings. Youngsters who don’t yet have verbal foundations can still participate. What fun it is to watch a little person learn to march, march, march all around!
3 years to 5 years
As children master the physical demands of turning pages, they become ready to incorporate their imaginations into the process of reading. Children at this age are also learning the delicate realities of interpersonal relationships. Here are two of my personal childhood favorites that speak to these cognitive needs of preschoolers.
A Boy, A Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
This little book has no written words so you and your child can make up a new story every time you read it. The format inspires quiet contemplation, and gives young kids freedom of expression through visualization.
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are two genuine personalities, the kind of sincere beings most young children can easily identify with. Each short story introduces a problem and shows how the two characters solve their problems as a team. Emerging readers benefit from the large text and an introduction to dialogue.
5 Years to 8 Years
Here are three favorites I share with students. Each of these books excels in teaching voice, one of six traits of writing that students learn to recognize as they become more familiar with literature. They are accessible and fun for kids to read over and over. Young children become independent readers with the support of repeatedly reading texts. These stories incorporate humor, tension, and memorable characters.
Cross Country Catby Mary Calhoun
This tale of Henry the cat captures emotions and helps young readers jump into longer texts through the familiarity of a picture book. The voice of Henry radiates in this text and becomes a dramatic read aloud that is also a lot of fun to turn into a performance.
Jimmy Zangwow’s Out of This World Moon Pie Adventure by Tony Di’Terlizzi
Jimmy’s adventure in outer space is one any imaginitive elementary schooler might like to have. He meets the Man in the Moon, gets milk from the Milky Way to compliment his Moon Pie dessert, and even meets the men who live on Mars. Not only is the story enchanting, but the illustrations are fantastic. This book is great to read aloud first without showing the pictures so kids can practice visualizing the text.
Squids Will Be Squidsby John Scieszka
Playing with language is one of the most fun aspects of teaching reading and writing to elementary age kids. Common phrases take hilarious twists in this fun book. Each vignette can be read on its own or out of order.
8 to 12 Years
Children at this age are ready to step into chapter books and expand their knowledge of different genres. These three chapter books are my favorites to read aloud when teaching more complicated aspects of literature, like the differences between realistic fiction, fantast, and biography.
Boy by Roald Dahl
Dahl is a favorite author of so many books, but his autobiography is lesser known. In this book, Dahl shares stories of his childhood and adolescence. Young readers learn how school was different for their grandparents and grea-grandparents, how important events we take for granted, like driving in cars and having your tonsils out, were monumental events in young Dahl’s life. This book is a wonderful compliment to an author study of one of childhood’s beloved writers.
Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
This book is the least known of E.B. White’s writings. I, for one, am glad it has never been made into a movie like his more well known stories, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. The story of a remarkable swan, named Louis, will always be one of my favorite novels.
Countdown by Ben Michaelson
This book is special to me for many reasons. First, I am a diehard fan of the Space Shuttle Program. This novel cleverly follows the stories of two remarkable teenage boys from very different lives. Vincent Ole Tome is a Kenyan Massai boy who dreams of attending school and Elliot becomes the first NASA Junior Astronaut. The twisting tale of how they eventually come to meet each other is enthralling. The book is painstakingly researched, incorporating detailed information from both NASA’s Astronaut program and Massai culture.
All books are linked to Amazon.com.