By Julie Merberg
Reading to your child is a great way to have one-on-one intimate time together. Piles of research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other reputable sources have shown the benefits of reading to your child and that children learn best by interacting with actual humans (as opposed to screens). And we also know that speaking to little ones, even to pre-verbal children, is the key to building their working vocabulary. Books provide a wonderful focal point for these interactions. More importantly, many children love to listen to a short, thoroughly engaging story. And parents, given good material, can really shine as entertainers. Having a selection of books at home that are really fun to read (and we've found are guaranteed to please) will help foster literacy and a love of reading. Many books come in both board book and picture book versions. Board books are recommended for babies up to three because they are indestructible, while kids older than three can gently turn (not tear) the pages of a hardcover picture book which provides a bigger canvas for illustrations. Here are 10 books we recommend to get your library started:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. Why? This beloved classic is a beloved classic because of its lilting rhythm; the elusive mouse; the sometimes predictable, sometimes surprising rhyme scheme; and the coziest orange and green room ever. You pick.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Why? The die-cut holes on every page are irresistible to tiny fingers. And Eric Carle’s vibrant collage illustrations are always a crowd pleaser.
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. Why? There are very few words in this book—the adorable pictures tell the story of a very clever gorilla. You can help pointing out details the first few times you share it with your child—until he or she wants to take over the telling.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Why? I honestly have no idea, but kids love this book, and can learn their letters while they’re at it. Grownups—you almost can’t help morphing into a jazz musician when you read it.
Moo, Baa, La, La, La! by Sandra Boynton. Why? Reading this book is like singing a catchy song. And the adorably illustrated barnyard animals are having such a good time that you can’t help yourself either.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. Why? For kids who may have a hard time understanding emotions, there is no confusing the hilarious pigeon’s expressions of unbridled desire and frustration—and everyone is in on the joke. All of Mo Willems’ pigeon books are winners.
Press Here by Herve Tullet Why? This thoroughly interactive book is like an iPad. If an iPad required you to actively engage.
When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. Why? Really expressive visuals illustrate a story about a little girl who has a tantrum, and then figures out how to calm herself down.
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Why? The perfect rhyme scheme gives little ones an opportunity to jump in and finish the sentences. Also, what may be a familiar concept—kids who will only eat one kind of food—is treated (and resolved) in a completely entertaining way.
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. Why? You will never guess the reason George can’t bark—and you will laugh out loud at the characters’ expressions on every page.
Editor's Note: If you are interested in purchasing any or all of these books, click on the book title and you will be directed to Amazon to purchase. Thanks!
Julie Merberg is the founder and president of Downtown Bookworks, a New York City-based children’s publishing company whose mission is to keep children engaged in reading and in the world around them. She and her husband (a writer) and their four sons live in Tribeca where Julie spends her days running around downtown between home, work, and the kids’ schools. Pretty much every single night, she can be found reading to her 2 youngest boys from the top bunk.