Reading is a big part of our family life.
We started reading books out loud every night when our firstborn was just an infant, and it became so ingrained into our routine that our children automatically know to go pick a book after their jammies are on and their teeth are brushed. We have had many, many favorite books throughout the years, but some stand the test of time as all-time favorites to read together. I broke them down roughly into age group/reading level, although even our seven-year-old daughter still enjoys reading some of the board books from when she was a toddler!
We will always keep our old standbys on hand:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle
- Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Even when my children outgrow them, I will keep them for future nieces/nephews and just to pass down when the kids are grown up. We have found some modern favorites as well:
- any and all books by Sandra Boynton
- the gosling series by Olivier Dunrea
My kids love the Sandra Boynton books because they are silly and rhyming, and we all adore Gossie and friends because they are such simple, funny stories with adorable illustrations.
This tends to be the age when children appreciate either a good laugh, sing-songy verses, or amazing illustrations. We go through phases when my kids will pick Dr. Seuss books for a week straight, which usually results in a tongue-tied and tired mommy. I do love the classic Dr. Seuss books from when I was a child, but sometimes it’s nice to read something that doesn’t have so many made-up words (and pages!).
We are huge fans of anything by Mo Willems, most especially his Elephant & Piggie series. Those books are quick, action-filled, and my kids love to do the voices for the characters themselves.
Some of our current favorites are:
- Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
- Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Dragons Love Tacos is not only amusing, but since tacos are my kids’ favorite meal, they especially love this book! My oldest son has really latched onto Love You Forever, a poignant story about a boy and his mother that never fails to get me choked up at the end. I always love it when a child finds a book so special that they want to take it to bed with them after reading so they can explore the pages on their own. Love You Forever has been in my son’s bed every night for the past week.
Two of my favorite preschool-age books to read aloud are:
- Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker
- Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh.
Steam Train, Dream Train is so beautifully illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld that kids want to stay on each page longer than it takes to read it just to look at the pictures. I have a soft spot for Mouse Paint, not only because it teaches children the basics of primary colors and color mixing, but because the mice in the illustrations are actually quite cute and clever. It’s one of those books that kids can pick up on the words easily, and they often help me “read” it.
Books for Older Readers/Chapter Books
Reading chapter books aloud started when our daughter was four and a half and my mother sent her some Junie B. Jones books she found at a yard sale. It was my first introduction to the world of Barbara Parks’ popular Junie B. Jones series, and I am so glad we started with these books! They are quick chapters with easy-to-read words, yet the stories about the ever-precocious Junie B. are truly hilarious. My daughter and I often laugh out loud when reading these books, no joke!
Another series that we have read together at night is a series near and dear to my heart – the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read these books over and over as a young girl, and it was such a pleasure to read them again as an adult. These were definitely books that I am glad we read together out loud when we started them at age five with our daughter, since a lot of the words were difficult and/or unfamiliar. It was also a great conversation starter about such things as Native Americans, and how and why the language we use to describe them is much different now than it was in the time of Laura Ingalls.
We have read a couple of Roald Dahl books with the older children as well – Matilda and The BFG, which were huge hits. The movie adaptation of Matilda is quite good, and has become a family movie night favorite in our house. I look forward to reading more Roald Dahl books with them in the future, they are the most wonderful mix of adventure, comedy, and feel-good stories. We have also enjoyed the classics Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It has been really fun to read these books out loud together and then watch the movies to see the differences between the story and the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the newer, live-action version of Charlotte’s Web recently when we rented it for our family movie night.
The book that my daughter and I are currently reading at night before bed, In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe, promises to be a new favorite chapter book series for both of us. It is about a group of four girls who accidentally find themselves in Never Land among the fairies, including Tinker Bell. We are only about halfway through the first book right now, but we are both enjoying it very much.