Our Favourite Children's Books You May or May Not Know About

Elise: For me growing up, reading was something that could entertain me for hours and transport me to places and experiences I could never have experienced first-hand.

When I was older and we started our family, I wanted my children to have the same love for books that I had. Hence, reading to my children began when my oldest child was just a couple of days old. We whipped through the pages pretty fast at first, just a bright picture and maybe an accompanying word or two. It wasn’t long before he really loved to snuggle in my arms and look at pictures and have short stories read to him. That was exactly how I’d pictured it.

Then, along came child #2. He loved to snuggle but was not at all interested in books (unless he could use them as a chew toy). As soon as he was old enough, if I produced a book, he would clamber down off my knee and drive his cars and trucks to the far corner of the house leaving behind any hopes I had of a storybook cuddle. From his earliest days he made it very clear that books were not his thing. At least not yet!

Fortunately, my next child loved books and being read to. Seeing his brother and sister snuggled on my knee enjoying a story became more and more enticing and soon he was loving the experience, as well.

Although my children have all become competent and eager readers, their appreciation for books did not come at the same age or in the same way. Some of my children taught themselves how to read before starting kindergarten and others had more difficulty learning. Due to an early exposure to books, and a love for stories and learning, they all had a great desire to read and fortunately, were able to overcome any obstacles they encountered. As with most things, the better they got, the more they enjoyed it.

Bedtime stories were a tradition in our family. Each young child got to pick a story before bed and that was read to them once they were tucked in. It was a time they all looked forward to.

Some of our older children developed an aversion to getting up in the morning because they hated dragging their tired selves around to get ready for school.

To deal with this, we started waking them up a half hour earlier! They would drag themselves and a blanket out to the living room and snuggle down while I read to them for the next 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes they dozed but mostly they were enthralled with the current story and at the end of our reading time were fully awake and ready to take on the day.

It amazed me how much reading we did in that short time each day. We read Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, the entire Narnia series, and the Harry Potter books, to name just a few. It was a time we all came to look forward to and made for a happy way to start the day.

As our library was created before the days of the internet, it was filled with books that either had been recommended to me by friends, that I had loved growing up or that I came across at bookstores and garage sales. Unfortunately, many of the books we had were only looked at a handful of times and just took up room on the bookshelves. I should have sorted them more often like Robyn does.

With my children now in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, it’s interesting to hear what books they remember loving:

Are You My Mother – I have yet to find a 3 year old boy or girl who did not enjoy this timeless classic. They love the cute illustrations and enjoy the animal voices when it’s read. And then there’s the opportunity for them to join in with “SNORT” when we get to that page. An engaging, charming book for all preschoolers (and older).

Richard Scarry (Best Word Book Ever) The large size of this book can make it a bit awkward for small readers but they seem to love the whimsical pictures and great attention to detail. It was already a bit outdated when my kids read it but the younger kids today still seem to find it fascinating and it opens up the opportunity for discussion about many items we might not otherwise think to tell our children about.

My grandchildren still love the Richard Scarry books and searching the pages for Doodlebug seems to be a multigenerational favourite.

Berenstain Bears – Brother and Sister bear deal with topics that affect small children in a sensitive and positive way. The pictures are very engaging and their home is usually the scene of lessons on safety or morals. Choose from any of the 300+ titles in this series and you can’t go too far wrong. Our kids especially enjoyed, “Too Much TV”, “Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners”, and “The Messy Bedroom”.

Li’l Critters – With interesting stories and colourful illustrations these books are engaging for young readers -toddlers to school age.

Go Dog Go – A timeless classic that teaches prepositions, colours and so much more, all in an entertaining and fun format.

Robert Munsch (Alexander and the Terrible…, Moira’s Birthday, Mortimer be Quiet….,) No library is complete without at least a couple of Robert Munsch’s books. Robert Munsch has a charming way of taking the obvious and blowing it WAY out of proportion, creating hilarious, impossible stories that are at once clever and entertaining. Almost any book in his collection will be a hit with the youngsters.

I’ll Love you Forever – This is a book that every child’s library should have. There’s something about the absurdity of a mother rocking her grown son that seems to give little ones a sense of permanence and security.

 

Our favourite Dr Seuss Books:

Green Eggs and Ham – I remember the first time I heard of this book.  My Grade 1 teacher read this newly published book to the class and we were enthralled. Each of my children and now grandchildren all know and love this clever classic.

The Cat in the Hat – The magic of this book is never lost on the younger crowd. A well-worn favourite of my library. (Estelle picture)

Oh Say Can You Say -  This book wasn’t universally loved by all my children but with several of them it was a huge hit. It instilled a love for words and saying difficult, silly things, all while learning to read. We had fun as a family with some of these rhymes and it was so popular with some of my children that I’ve included it here.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish- A favourite in our family for 2 generations. it’s a great rhyming book for beginning readers and even younger.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The fun and the meaning of this remarkable story is a book we’ve read every Christmas time for decades!

Leo the Lop and Flutterby – These Serendipity books were read and reread by my younger kids. I didn’t realize how popular they were with my kids until I accidentally sold some of them at a garage sale. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest hour.

I Am a Bunny – The cute drawings give this book a cozy and happy feeling. I bought this book for my first child as an infant and all 9 of my children loved it. Many of them now have a copy for their children who are also big fans of this very charming book.

 

Little Golden Books:

The Tawny Scrawny Lion – This story has layers of meaning that make it an interesting read for adults and children alike.

Nurse Nancy – This was a Golden Book that I loved as a young girl. It was one of the few books I saved for my own children and was treasured by them, as well. If you have issues with it being implied that girls will be nurses and boys become doctors, this isn’t the book for you but I always found it easy to correct that stereotype. Something about that book still has appeal.

The Little Engine that Could – As with the fairy tales (see below), this book has become part of our culture and if only for that reason, is a great book to introduce to our early readers. However, the message in itself is timeless and inspiring.

Fairy Tales – Stories of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man, Hansel and Gretel, and the like, are all classics that have a place in our culture. While the original versions are gruesome and violent by today’s standards, there are many lovely versions that are “sanitized” and more suitable for young children. It’s a shame that many of the young children today are not introduced to these timeless classics.

 

Robyn: Books have helped me get through some of the most potentially hazardous situations that come up in parenting. You know, the ones where you feel like you're about to enter an active mine field with 3 little boys who would rather do ANYTHING except hold your hand, or stay close, or sit on a chair. If they were asked to walk a white line sobriety test, they'd take one look at that white line, and their legs would give way from beneath them as they melted into the most dramatic puddle, sobbing, "I can't do it!!! My legs don't work!!!" 

FAIL. 

There is a reason why during a meltdown, my husband decided that our parenting motto should be "we do not negotiate with terrorists".

Having young kids is tough. Ever tried waiting in a 6 by 5 foot doctor's examination room with bored youngsters? Or using the washroom on a crowded ferry boat with a baby strapped to your chest in a carrier and your two year old trying to escape out from under the stall so they can flush everyone's toilets for them? How about being in a shopping line that's wrapped around the back of the grocery store because everyone's clearing the shelves for the apocalypse? Or 6 months pregnant in a clinic waiting room after drinking the infamous orange tang, while you and your toddler have to wait 2 HOURS until you can have your gestational diabetes blood test done?

It's situations like this that eventually moved us to one of the coldest habitable places in Canada, (aka Calgary), so that we could be close to family (ie grandparents who love to babysit). I felt like I was venturing into anxiety provoking situations nearly every day, because when you have an insatiably curious, high needs child, even a fun play date would often take a turn for the worse. 

To cope, my diaper bag was always well stocked with books that I could whip out whenever I found myself getting into hot water. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, having something to focus on would usually redirect whatever behaviour was starting, and it would buy me time, even better than toys would. Sometimes only a few minutes, but usually enough to gage the situation and figure out if I needed to abort whatever I was doing, or continue with caution.

On the rare occasion when I realized I'd left the house without books, I would stop at any store on the way and purchase some. No joke. They were as necessary to me as diapers.

I don't know if it's a result of this, or perhaps it's just in their blood, but even now my kids LOVE books. When they wake up in the morning, they usually head straight for the bookshelf in the living room, grab the coziest blanket out of the basket, and snuggle up on the couch. It's very often that I come out of bed to my three boys huddled around a book. Talk about payoff!

I'm also a big believer in exposing children to advanced topics at a young age.

Science/mathematics can be intimidating, especially if your only experience with them has been hearing people say how hard they are. However, if a child is read a simple book that explains something, like astro-physics, in easy to understand terms, there's no need for fear or trepidation. The simple explanations can then be built upon, little by little, so that when it's introduced in school, they can tackle it with confidence and familiarity, instead of fear and intimidation. A little bit of exposure can be a remarkable gift. 

Over the years I've read to them a lot. I love children's books, and I love buying children's books for my kids. It can be a bit of a problem actually. The thing is, there's just so many good ones!!!

But what I can't figure out is, why when I do a Google search for "best children's books", do I get list after list of the same ones!?! Goodnight Moon. Where the Wild Things Are. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Cat in the Hat. I'm not saying these aren't good ones, but there are SO MANY others that also deserve to be on a list. 

So, without further ado, here is a video of my favorite children's books. I hope it helps to add variety to your book collections!

 

 

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