Christmas is just around the corner and we’ll be using the excuse to add to our library of children’s books. A bedtime story has been part of the routine since the Rascal was only a few months old. Study after study has shown the many benefits of the bedtime story for children. Though apparently the benefits are greater when it’s the father that does the bedtime story. The Rascal has been an avid ‘reader’ since he was old enough to sit up, turn pages, and babble to himself. Hand him a new book and the whole world will have to stop and wait while he sits down to peruse it. There may be other presents to open, or interesting activities to do, but he will insist on examining every single page (“Read this one!”) before you can get his attention again.
A love of reading is one of the most valuable skills you can impart to a child. The ability to concentrate and to learn new things will last a lifetime. Here are some of the firm favourites we’ve discovered over the last few years. Quite a few of these came to us courtesy of the local library. With the advent of ereaders it’s been a very long time since I last set foot in a library, but now that I have a toddler we’re back a couple of times a month. Wonderful as books are, they can be an expensive habit. The library is a brilliant resource that has helped us select the children’s books that absolutely have to be added to our collection.
The age range below is just a very rough guide of when the Rascal was most attracted to the books. He still likes them all, and will for quite some time. All of these books are suitable for reading to a much a wider age range though some have not survived the intense use by a toddler very well. These are mostly new books for me aswell, but I’m looking forward to introducing my childhood favourites to the Rascal as he gets older.
Ages 0 – 1 year
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The classic bedtime story. Admittedly the illustrations of the enormous bedroom (un)tastefully decorated may leave you wondering what all the fuss is about, but children love this oh so simple bedtime story. Perfect for very young children. You can read some interesting facts about Goodnight Moon to understand the continuing appeal of the book better (and why they are rabbits!).
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A simple story following the life of a caterpillar who eats his way through a weeks worth of food before building a cocoon and transforming into a beautiful butterfly. Little fingers will enjoy exploring the holes the caterpillar has made in the pages. There’s a whole bunch of merchandise available based on the illustrations and plenty more books by Eric Carle. While the books are great, we also found The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories by Eric Carle lovely to watch. We found it on Netflix, and it’s ideal for putting on when you want your child to calm down and relax for half an hour.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
It seems like every child gets a copy of this book. We were gifted the noisy book version complete with buttons for the animal sounds. The zoo keeps sending unsuitable animals out, before finally the perfect pet arrives. Depending on the version you have, there are flaps to open up and discover the animals inside.
I’ve written before about our experience using baby sign language both initially, and also one year on. Classes can be expensive, but this dictionary is beautifully illustrated and will provide you with all the basic signs you need. The Rascal could be found browsing the pages long after he’d mastered the signs.
Cozy Classics: Les Miserables by Jack Wan
This was a present from a friend and is a lovely idea. Lots of classic books made suitable for very young children. I didn’t think you could distill Les Miserables down to a mere handful of words… but this book does an admirable job of it. This particular one was useful for helping our toddler identify the emotions people feel.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram
In each page Little Nut Brown Hare describes how much he loves his father, and his father responds with how much more he loves his son. I’ve included this book as the Rascal did love it and the illustrations are sweet, but I didn’t personally like the overly competitive aspect of this one.
Why I Love My Daddy – Daniel Howarth
A nice book for fathers to read at bedtime. All the animal babies describe the traits they admire most in their fathers. There’s also a Why I Love My Mummy book aswell, though we haven’t read that one.
Ages 1 to 2 years
Count to 10 with a Mouse – Margaret Wise Brown
Another book by the author of Goodnight Moon. We loved this book. Learn the numbers with this inquisitive mouse as he eats his way through the pages all the way to ten, and back again.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker Rees
Gerald the Giraffe is dejected after being told by all the other animals that giraffes can’t dance. A friendly cricket advises him to listen to the music he can feel around him and Gerald discovers that giraffes most definitely can dance to their own beat.
Baby Badger’s Wonderful Night by Karen Saunders
This was a random pick from a book store. It’s a very sweet tale of a baby badger who is scared of the dark until his father takes him on a walk and shows him that there really is nothing to be afraid of.
Frog On The Log by Leyland Perree
A slightly bizarre tale that the Rascal still quite enjoys about a frog who finds himself stranded on a log, begging help from everyone he meets until he gets assistance from an unexpected source.
Night Monkey, Day Monkey by Julia Donaldson & Lucy Richards
This book was suggested to us because it contains both monkeys and the moon. Both of which were extremely popular with the Rascal at the time. In this story the night monkey and day monkey discover how different the world is for each of them when they explore it together.
Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson & Alex Scheffler
Another monkey story. In this one the little monkey has lost his mother. A butterfly tries to help him, but has strange notions about which animal might be his mother. This is a fairly typical children’s story, but one they always seem to enjoy.
by Chris Judge
The Rascal adores these books that are illustrated by the talented Irish illustrator Chris Judge. In addition to the books there are two apps (The Lonely Beast ABC and The Lonely Beast 123) that provided plenty of toddler entertainment on occasions where we were travelling abroad and needed something to distract him.
Ages 2 to 3 years
“We meet a lot of magical and wonderful creatures throughout our lives. There are just the first. We hope you meet a whole lot more.” This lovely idea was brought from concept to reality by four fathers. On the website you provide the child’s name and a special personalised book is sent out to you. The boy or girl has lost their name at the start of the story and they embark on a strange journey meeting bizarre characters who ultimately help him/her spell out the name they’ve forgotten. You can see videos of the finished product on the website. The book is really good quality.
The Jungle Book (Disney the Jungle Book) by Rudyard Kipling
A good Disney staple for every family. The Rascal loves the characters in the book/film and is busy collecting all the characters to add to his already extensive toy animal collection.
Diggory Digger and The Dinosaurs by Peter Bently & Guy Parker-Reeves
Dinosaurs. There’s something about them that captures the imagination of children. In this romp, Diggory the Digger finds himself on an underground adventure where he meets not one, but two dinosaurs.
The Dinosaurs are Having a Party! by Gareth P Jones & Gary Parsons
Yes, more Dinosaurs. These ones are having a party with a special guest who just might find himself on the menu if he’s not careful!
You and Me, Little Bear by Martin Waddell
This is a beautiful story about a little bear who just wants to spend time with his father. I love the sentiment behind it that reminds us how important it is to make that time with our children amongst all the daily chores. The Rascal requests it so often from the library that it’s been ordered for Christmas. “Just you and me playing… together.”
The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell
A little girl and her mother have a late night adventure together. Another heartwarming story reminding us to savour the precious everyday moments in life with our children. “Remember this time. It’s the way life should be”.
Beegu by Alexis Deacon
A cute little alien finds herself all alone on Earth when her spaceship crashes. Her adventures before she finds her way home lead her to the conclusion that children are much friendlier creatures than adults.
By Dr Seuss
These books don’t really need an introduction. I find the series a bit hit and miss. Some of the books I love, some I really hate. These three are our favourites so far. The Cat that started it all is an obvious choice. “Oh, the place you’ll go!” is a wonderful tale full of a surprising amount of valuable advice for life. And finally “Green Eggs and Ham”. A rather silly, but enjoyable story. The Rascal wanders about reciting lines from all these books.
Some other books that we’re looking forward to checking out at some point include:
- The range of books from Northern Ireland’s rising star Oliver Jeffers
- Close Your Eyes by Kate Banks
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Picture Puffin) by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson & Alex Scheffler
- The Runaway Bunny (Essential Picture Book Classics) by Margaret Wise Brown
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury
- Corduroy (Picture Puffin) By Don Freeman
Have you any other suggestions of children’s books that you’ve loved for us to add to the Christmas wishlist for our three year old?