10 Great Books for Children
If you have kids, you should have books - lots of them. Filling your house with good books is a great way to give your kids a head start in life, create family traditions and provide hours of high quality, educational, affordable fun for your family.
There are so many great books for kids it's sometimes hard to know where to start, especially if you don't read much yourself or have got out of the habit of reading for fun due to a lack of leisure time (a common occupational hazard when parenting young kids). Below are a few suggestions that are almost guaranteed to kick-start a family reading habit.
Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker’s Dozen by Dr Seuss.
Any and every Dr Seuss book is a fun, entertaining and valuable read, and when I rule the world his entire works will be compulsory reading for every child and adult in the land. This collection includes 13 of his stories and is great value for money. Wonderful for reading to younger kids and encouraging older kids to read to themselves, and, as every Dr Seuss fan knows, his work is full of significant social and moral messages dressed up as fun and nonsense.
Be warned – too many Dr Seuss books in the house increase your child’s chances of developing a serious addiction to reading . Still, as Dr Seuss says:
“The more that you read the more you will know, and the more that you know, the more places you’ll go.”
Guess How Much I Love You? By Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
A beautifully written and illustrated parent/offspring story, this book should be in every home with children in, and should be read to them often. It’s a book capable of starting a family tradition in itself, as you and your child compete to find the most creative, far-reaching, ridiculous ways of describing how much you love each other.
Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep by Joyce Dunbar and Debi Gliori
Willa asks big brother Willoughby to tell her something happy before she goes to sleep, but in true story-telling tradition, Willoughby decides to show not tell. They take a trip around the house to re-discover all the amazingly ordinary things they have to be happy about. A great story to get your kids thinking about all the things that bring them happiness and how simple and easily overlooked some of them are.
Look for the gift set versions of this book. My daughter’s came with an adorable Willa soft toy that has been almost snuggled to death, and I’ve also seen a great set with a cute themed night light to keep kids feeling safe as they drop off to sleep.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-Up Adaptation by Lewis Caroll, illustrated by Robert Sabuda
Every child should have a chance to enjoy the ridiculously nonsensical tale of Alice in Wonderland, and this particular version is a pop-up book on steroids. The pop-up design is so intricately crafted and delicately engineered that I can’t imagine ever letting my children read it unsupervised, even when they’re teenagers (perhaps especially when they’re teenagers).
This was actually my daughter’s favorite birthday gift one year (which led me to question exactly why I’d bothered with the new bike and the computer games).
Any version of this story is worth reading to your child, and reading (or re-reading) for yourself. Among all the wonderfully whimsical nonsense you’ll discover some real nuggets of blatantly obvious but often overlooked wisdom, that make a lot more sense now you’ve got some life experience behind you. I particularly like the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
"'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the cat."
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis
This was the first chapter book I ever read to my son, long before I thought he was really ready for chapter books, and he can still re-tell huge chunks of the story (and no, he hasn’t seen the movie yet - I’m a little concerned it will spoil the incredible image of Narnia he seems to have built in his imagination). He was enchanted by the idea of a witch so wicked she could put a curse on a land that made it always winter and never Christmas. In fact I think that was the first time he realised that winter and Christmas weren’t actually the same thing!
What child could fail to be captivated by the idea of escaping through the back of a wardrobe into a magical land where giants are real, animals talk, and ordinary boys and girls can become kings and queens. Tip: if you start to mislay your child more regularly than usual during the reading of this book, check the closets.
A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein
“If you had a giraffe... and he stretched another half... you would have a giraffe and a half.”
Pretty obvious but an intriguingly novel idea, and it doesn’t stop there. On every page of this book a new, bizarre and wildly imaginative “If...” is introduced. The situations that poor giraffe finds himself in (hilariously illustrated with refreshingly simple low-tech black and white drawings) will have children crying with laughter.
The repetition will also have kids of varying ages practising memory, rhyming and reading skills and the format will have them enjoying the process of guessing what will happen next to the ill-fated giraffe, who is satisfyingly restored to his original state at the end of the story.
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This is one of those picture book that is well-loved by younger children but that seems to keep its appeal as your kids grow. It’s a book that you may well find your eldest reading aloud to younger siblings, friends, stuffed animals, and anyone else who will listen.
An irresistible story of how little Max sails off,
“through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year...”
to a magical country where the wild things are.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Now we all know there’s no such thing as a gruffalo, or do we? (Many of us may also have heard of the idea that what we think we know is often the biggest barrier to acquiring new knowledge!)
In this wonderfully rhythmic and beautifully illustrated book, Mouse comes to face-to face with something he thought existed only in his imagination (am I the only grown woman who can relate to this concept?).
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Or anything by Roald Dahl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, all delightful books that come in different versions aimed at kids of different ages.
The Big Friendly Giant is noteworthy for more of that much loved nonsense that kids find hilarious. The giant’s propensity to get muddled up and come out with wonderfully appropriate made-up words is hugely amusing for kids and sometimes even more so for adults.
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, by Dr Seuss with some help from Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith
Yes I know we started with Dr Seuss and we’re going to finish with him too, if only because so many people aren’t aware of this fantastic book that the well-loved author left in draft form when he died (still writing well into his eighties). It was later finished brilliantly by Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith who both did a fantastic job of staying true to the classic Seuss style of writing and illustrating.
This is a great book for kids and adults frustrated by the limits put on the education system by standardised testing. Some would argue that the book’s main character, Miss Bonkers, sums up everything that should be required of the education system with the words:
“We’ve taught you that the earth is round, that red and white make pink,
And something else that matters more - We’ve taught you how to think.”
Now there’s a goal we should all be striving towards for our kids, and filling your house with books is a good place to start!
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