Many a baby-sitter has been flummoxed by not knowing the surest way to get a child to sleep; even more parents have grown tired reading the same book over and over and over to their children. Some books are simply more fun to read every night or more interesting to read, even for adults. These books have long demonstrated their ability to withstand both child and adult frustration through an unbelievable number of readings.
The order of these books is not at all related to the quality of book, but ascends in order of recommended age of the children hearing them.
1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Everyone knows this book, everyone loves this book, and for good reason. Brown’s soft, lilting simple story of saying goodnight to surroundings has definitely proven timeless. Ideal for the infant to the toddler, Goodnight Moon will always be a classic.
2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archaumbault. This is another well-known classic, but for the opposite reason; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fun, boisterous book to be read aloud. Indeed, contemplate reading it quietly to yourself and you’ll see just how quickly it loses its fun function.
3. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin. The only Sesame Street book on this list, I loved it as a child and have read it as an adult. I’ve even given it as a gift. Available in both board book and picture book format, rewrite your child’s concept of “monsters” with this story told by Grover, everyone’s favorite blue Muppet.
4. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. An excellent book for young boys in particular, this picture book tells a story every child (and every adult!) can relate to – that of, indeed, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
5. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Certainly another classic, this story again lulls children to sleep easily, especially if you sing the song as the mother in the book does (and as my mother did, reading it to me). You may have to overlook the semi-creepy part where she drives across town and climbs a ladder up to her adult son’s window, but the point when the son stands at the top of the stairs – just thinking of it makes me want to cry. And hug my mother.
6. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Another Munsch book, I admit it, this remained one of my favorite stories, even when I performed it as a monologue in high school. Certainly geared towards girls, all children are given laughs as well as truth in this often overlooked gem.
7. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. A simple book to read with simple, Silverstein drawings, this is a great book for a variety of ages. Very young children may not find much fun in it, but ages six and up can appreciate the art and later the meaning of the book.
8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We all know about Zuckerman’s famous pig and Charlotte’s Web is another classic for all the right reasons. Friendship, love, self-esteem and loss are all themes of this book, which is divided into easy-to-read chapters.
9. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. An excellent book for bonding with your tweens and teens, the story of Winifred and the Tucks speaks volumes more than the slim chapter book would suggest. Be sure to discuss the issues involved with your child and this will become a favorite.
10. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. Of all of Lois Lowry’s award-winning (and for good reason!) books, Gathering Blue is the best for reading aloud to your 12-16 year olds. Lovers of The Giver may wonder about its absence from this list, but many of the same themes are in this book as well, along with more dialogue, making it a read-aloud winner.
We begin reading to our children before they can read themselves; don’t stop simply because they grow able. Reading picture books and chapter books at the age appropriate times can allow a healthy, positive love of reading to be fostered into your child and a shared interest in the rocky times to come.