Picture Books

A Few of our Favorite Picture Books

Picture books. The delight of children everywhere. Some books are simple, some are memorable, some have illustrations that deserve viewing in a museum. There are museums devoted to artwork from children’s literature, and someday I’d like to visit one.

In our house we went through picture books by the dozen. We owned a handful of favorites, but mostly we checked them out from the library. Picture books are the natural bridge between little board books and books for early readers. They are for snuggling, reading aloud, pointing out things in the story and talking about. A young child who experiences lots of picture books is well prepared for the next steps of learning to read.

Our library has a whole room-size section devoted just to picture books. We read every book we could find that had a fireman or construction equipment on the cover. We read plenty of others, too. Don’t neglect the children’s non-fiction section.  There are plenty more picture books in that section that may interest your child. Here is a list of just a few of our favorites.

Fix it Duck1. Fix-It Duck by Jez Alborough – We loved this book! “Plop! goes the drip that drops in the cup. Duck looks down and Duck looks up. ‘A leak in the roof, Oh, what bad luck! This is a job for… FIX-IT DUCK!” Duck has plenty of confidence, but the more he fixes, the worse it gets. The illustrations are marvelous and the story is perfectly written, including the surprise ending. Alborough has written and illustrated many other picture books and they’re good, too, but I think this one is his masterpiece.

If you give a mouse a cookie2. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is perfection in a picture book. A little boy gives a mouse a cookie so the mouse asks for a glass of milk, so then he wants to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he asks for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim… It keeps going until the mouse runs his little host ragged. (The mouse may remind you of a preschooler in your life.) Felicia Bond’s illustrations are delightful. There are a number of other “If You Give a” books in this series, although none of them quite measure up to this one. My favorite of the others is If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

Jamberry3. Jamberry by Bruce Degen – Jamberry is just bursting with fun. As a boy and bear float down a river picking berries, the nonsensical rhymes are memorable and the illustrations leap off the page. Caution: the rhymes will stick!  “One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry!”

Pancakes for breakfast4. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola – We loved this little picture book, and it is truly a picture book because there are no words.  Tomie dePaola illustrates the story of a lady who wants pancakes for breakfast, but everything seems to go wrong. A nice story for children to “read” to themselves, although mine always wanted me to “read” it to him anyway. We still use the pancake recipe included in the book.

Fireman Small5. Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee – Of all the fireman books we read, this series was the standout. “In the middle of town where buildings stand tall, there lives a little man called Fireman Small.” Kids can relate to little Fireman Small who single handedly saves the day. The text flows very well as a read-aloud.

Little bear6. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik – The Little Bear series is intended for early readers, but I am including it in picture books as an example of the type of early ready you can read to your children before they are able to read to themselves. My son first heard the story of Little Bear when he was only two, and what followed is detailed in Duck’s Story. The original is a sweet story of Little Bear’s adventures as he makes Birthday Soup and flies to the moon. We were delighted to find additional Little Bear books that introduce more characters and are just as sweet and playful.

I'll follow the moon7. I’ll Follow the Moon by Stephanie Lisa Tara – We didn’t know about this exquisite book soon enough to use it as a bedtime story, but I’m listing it anyway because if I’d known, it would have been one of our favorites. A beautiful story of baby turtles hatching and following the moon to find their mother.

Little house8. 9. 10. Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton – These classics are some of our other favorites. I was going to write about just one so I asked my son to pick which he liked the best, but he said they were all even.

What’s the favorite picture book in your house?

Categories: Children's Books, Picture Books, Reading, Reading to children | Leave a comment

Sit – Stand – Walk: How Children Learn to Read (Part 1: Sit)

This is the first of a three-part series on the process of learning to read.

As different as children are, they still go through the same basic steps to learn their first skills.  Think of a child who learns to walk.  First, they have to learn to sit.  No one jumps out of their bassinet and walks without first learning how to sit.  Then they become mobile, in whatever form that takes. The next step is to stand.  Somehow, they figure out how to stand on their feet.  Finally, they start taking steps and toddle before they become proficient walkers.

I think reading has similar steps to it. This series of posts is abouat the steps I’ve observed kids go through as they learn to read.  I’m not an expert – this is simply based on the observations of a mom who also happens to be a children’s book author, so I pay attention to this stuff.

Part I: Sit

The common advice is that to prepare a child for reading, you should read to the child.  Among other things, this communicates to the child that books are fun, those little squiggles on the page represent words and it increases the vocabulary the child is exposed to.  Some say you should start reading to your child during infancy.  Some say you should read 15, 20, or 30 minutes a day to your child.  We weren’t very regimented about it, and the main reason I read to my son was not to create a great reader but just because it was fun!  That, and he was always on the go so it was often the only time I could get him to sit next to me and snuggle.  We didn’t really do the bedtime story thing – we read when it was convenient or when I needed something for us to do.

I never gave much credence to the advice that you should introduce books at infancy, but we were given a couple chewable books as baby shower gifts and I let my son have them when he was still in the bassinet.  The books included a little board book with black and white pictures in the style that babies are supposed to be able to see.  One day I set the book in front of him upside down.  My husband noticed, and so I said, “What difference does it make?  He’ll think it’s something new.”  In response, our infant bawled his cute little head off until I turned the book right side up.  Hmmm.

From books-to-chew-on we progressed to little board books.  These are great because they are mostly indestructible and are small enough for little hands to hold and turn pages.  Some board books teach colors, some teach numbers, some are good for bedtime, vocabulary or just plain fun.  The library has them by the hundreds, but you’ll probably want to buy your own because the ones from the library often come pre-chewed.  When you feel your child has outgrown this stage, put the books away, but don’t get rid of them, yet.  You’ll find out why in Part 2: Stand.  I’m going to write a separate post about some of our favorite board books soon.

At the board book stage, I also introduced reading newspaper inserts, specifically the fliers from large hardware stores.  My son would point to the pictures of various tools and want to know the names of each one.  One day I got tired of saying, “Saw.  Saw.  Saw,” and I told him the full names.  “Reciprocating saw.  Table saw. Compound miter saw.” (I knew what they were because I read the description in the flyer.) After that, he really impressed people with his vocabulary.

From the little board book stage, children move on to picture books.  These stages overlap a lot.  Picture books have thinner pages which are hard for little hands to turn, and they have more text.  Now there is time for a longer story to develop.  These are the books that children want to hear over and over and over and over and…  If this drives you crazy, check out picture books from the library and return them when you’re done.

We found some absolutely delightful picture books and I’m going to write a separate post about those, too.  Besides traditional picture books, we read some early readers and chapter books.  My preschooler was happy to play with his toys while I read and so I even read chapter books with few pictures.  We read both volumes of the original Winnie-the-Pooh.  Each chapter in these books stands alone and I was frequently begged to read his favorite chapters.  We read children’s story Bibles from cover to cover (not all at once) multiple times.  We read early readers (1st-2nd grade reading level) and these were often his favorites.  We also read numerous alphabet books and these reinforced the concept of the names of the letters and the sounds they make.  Find alphabet books with good rhyme and meter that include your child’s interests and they will want to hear them over and over until they are memorized.

I’m calling exposure to books, vocabulary and the alphabet, SIT.  All this experience sets the stage for the next step: STAND!

Categories: Board Books, Children's Books, Picture Books, Reading, Reading to children, Sit Stand Walk | Leave a comment

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