Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, May: Which Book Do I Choose Today?

Walking into the children's department of the local library or a local bookstore can be intimidating, there's no doubt. Hundreds of books, organized in various ways - how do you possibly go about choosing the ones that are right for you and your child? One would think that choosing any book that is displayed is a good way to go - but not necessarily. Here are a few suggestions and tips to help you navigate through finding just the right titles for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Finding great books: general information
Follow these general tips when gearing up for book selection.
  • Think about where and when you'll be reading or using the books. At home at bedtime? In the car? While taking a family vacation? Reading aloud to a group of children? Having this general sense of your audience will help guide your book selection.
  • Leverage the library. This can't be recommended loudly enough because your local library provides several components to help you. 1. The librarians in the children's department are there to help you. Take advantage of their expertise and ask for book suggestions. And 2. If you use the library, you can try out different genres, authors, and styles of books for free, so if you pick one and it's not a fan-fave, then it's nothing lost.
  • Keep a running list of favorite books or authors in a spreadsheet or table or at Goodreads.com. Before you head out to the library or to the bookstore, bring a print out. This list lays out your groundwork. You have information to provide those librarians when they ask what you've liked in the past and you've got solid sources to go back to in case you aren't able to find anything new during that trip. This cuts down on the stress during the scenario where you're standing nearauthor letter "K" while your two year old iscreating a flood under the water fountain and your four year old is pulling down every Thomas the Tank Engine video on the shelf - you need a few books, you need them right this very second and all of a sudden you cannot recall a single author that you like.
  • Know who your resources are. Librarians, folks at the bookstores, on-line resources (found through blogs like this one), public library books lists like at New York Public Library, guides such as Great Books About Things Kids Love by Kathleen Odeon, family, friends and your children. You can always ask who likes what. I never hurts to ask.
Finding great books for infants
These are characteristics of books that you are looking for when reading with infants:
  • Nursery Rhymes are so very, very important. You cannot ever go wrong with reading nursery rhymes and simple songs with babies.
  • Board books and plastic books are great because they have chunkier pages that little fingers can turn more easily and they are able to stand up to lots of exploration - babies like to look at, touch, manipulate and even chew on books.
  • Also think about the size of the book - if you're looking for books that the baby can hold and explore, keep the book size small.
  • Books with high contrasting and simple illustrations. As they are fine tuning their visual accuity, infants are able to attend to bold and simple images more easily.
  • Babies love looking at pictures of real things in the world and there is a wide variety of board books available with photographic images for illustrations.
Suggested Reading for Infants
This list includes som
e suggested authors and publishers of books that babies enjoy to get you started. Some of the nursery rhyme books are larger volumes and others are smaller board books.
  • Baby's World Board Book Series: Babies, Baby Animals, Bath Time
  • Sandra Boynton: The Going to Bed Book, Moo, Baa, La La La!
  • Bright Baby Series: Colors, Trucks, First Words
  • Marc Brown: Finger Rhymes, Hand Rhymes, Play Rhymes
  • Tomie de Paola: Tomie de Paola's Little Mother Goose
  • Jane Dyer: Animal Crackers, Animal Crackers: Nursery Rhymes, Animal Crackers Bedtime
  • Tana Hoban: White on Black, Black on White, Black & White
  • Rachel Isadora: Peekaboo Morning, Uh-Oh!, Peekaboo Bedtime
  • My First Board Book Series: My First Truck Board Book, My First Farm Board Book, My First Colors Board Book
  • Touch and Feel Series: Farm, Dinosaur, Fire Engine, Home, Bathtime
  • Usborne That's Not My Series: That's Not My Truck, That's Not My Fairy, That's Not My Dinosaur
  • Rosemary Wells: My Very First Mother Goose, Max's Bath, Max's Bedtime

Finding great books for toddlers
These are characteristics of books that you are looking for when reading with toddlers:
  • Toddlers still love infant books - they still love to explore the contrast books, the concept books and the books with photographic images.
  • Board books are still good as they hold up to wear and tear, but don't be afraid to introduce regular books and use it as a time to help chidlren learn how to care for books.
  • Books that you can sing along to and rhymes are still great, so keep up the nursery rhymes and introduce some new ones, too. Raffi and Iza Trapani have books that you can read or sing along to. Toddlers love singing and love to see books that go with the songs.
  • Concept books: ABC's, 123's, colors, animals, every day life such as potty training, bathtime, going to the park, etc.
  • Toddlers are developing the interest to attend to books with simple story lines and they love to hear them read over and over again.
  • Books with moving parts - lift the flap, snaps, buttons, pull tabs, pop up's and other moving parts; keep in mind that these books may need to be used together to save the book from too much toddler enthusiasm.
Suggested Reading for Toddlers
This list includes some author recommendations and a sample of titles for toddle
rs. Just a few to get started - there are so many, many more great books out there. Please also see Terrific Books for Busy Toddlers.
  • Byron Barton: My Car, Trains, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Machines at Work
  • Lucy Cousins: Maisy Takes a Bath, Maisy Dresses Up, Maisy's Train
  • Donald Crews: Freight Train, School Bus
  • Cathryn Falwell: Nicky 1, 2, 3, Where's Nicky?
  • Mem Fox: Where Is the Green Sheep?, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
  • Shirley Hughes: Hiding, Bouncing, Helping
  • Karen Katz: Counting Kisses, Mommy Hugs, Ten Tiny Babies
  • Bill Martin, Jr.: Brown Bear, Brown Bear What So You See?, Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Iza Trapani: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Sue Williams: I Went Walking, Let's Go Visiting

Finding great books for preschoolers
These are characteristics of books that you are looking for when reading with preschoolers:
  • Don't pass along those board books yet - preschoolers still like to explore the same books that they looked at when they were babies and toddlers just not with the same frequency.
  • Preschoolers can attend to longer and more detailed stories now, so the variety of books opens up dramatically.
  • Keep returning to familiar genres and begin to explore new ones - nursery rhymes, poetry, folks tales and traditional tales, non-fiction books, concept books - sky's the limit!
  • Look for books that have a relationship to their daily lives: going to school, clean up, taking a bath, etc. Children love to make personal connections to books and stories.
  • Also look for books that reach beyond their world - books are a fantastic way to introduce new cultures, concepts, ideas and customs.
  • Search for books that help build on interests. For example, if your preschooler loves dressing up, look for books that relate such as Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor. If your preschooler loves trains, you are quite in luck because there are a whole stream of books about them. If you've just gotten a new pet, look for non-fiction and fiction about pets and animals.
  • Do you have an emotional or difficult topic that you need to discuss with your preschooler? An age appropriate picture book can really be a helpful tool, so ask your librarian if they have any suggestions to help you.
  • Encourage your preschooler to help with picking books. Take your time when choosing and try not to rush your child. Have fun finding new favorites together.

Suggested Reading for Preschoolers
This is a short list of twenty suggested authors who have multiple titles for preschoolers. The world of children's literature has expanded and continues to do so at a rapid rate, so please explore the many, many more wonderful authors and illustrators by asking your librarian or local book seller. Also, you can check the archives of this blog for posts with additional preschool book recommendations.
  • Jez Alborough: Where's My Teddy?, Duck in the Truck
  • Karen Beaumont: Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?, Baby Danced the Polka, I Ain't Gonna Paint No More
  • Jan Brett: Gingerbread Baby, The Mitten, The Hat
  • Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 10 Rubber Ducks, From Head to Toe
  • Doreen Cronin: Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type, Wiggle
  • Lois Ehlert: Waiting for Wings, Snowballs, Color Zoo, Planting a Rainbow
  • Denise Fleming: Lunch, In the Tall Tall Grass, In the Small Small Pond, The Cow Who Clucked, Barnyard Banter
  • Emily Gravett: Orange Pear Apple Bear, Wolves
  • Kevin Henkes: A Good Day, Old Bear, Chrysanthimum
  • Pat Hutchins: Titch, Ten Red Apples, Bumpety Bump
  • Kevin Lewis: Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, Tugga Tugga Tug Boat, My Truck Is Stuck
  • Kate and Jim McMullan: I'm Mighty, I Stink, I'm Bad, I'm Dirty
  • Laura Numeroff: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake
  • Nancy Tafuri: Blue Goose, Have You Seen My Ducking?, Five Little Chicks
  • Lauren Thompson: Little Quack, Little Quack's Hide and Seek, Little Quack's Bedtime
  • Chris Van Allsburg: The Polar Express, Jumanji
  • Mo Willems: Knuffle Bunny, Knuffle Bunny Too, The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog
  • Karma Wilson: Bear Snores On, Moose Tracks, Bear's New Friend
  • Audrey Wood: The Napping House, Silly Sally, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, Quick as a Cricket
  • Jane Yolen: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?


  1. I always enjoy getting book recommendations. Thank you for such great lists!

  2. Wow, Valerie, I could just print this list and take it to the library! I love your suggestion about keeping a spreadsheet or some sort of record of what you've read and what you like. You reminded me of so many great books I've shared with my daughter. Now I have to go redo my list for Betsy Bird's Top 100!

  3. Thank you, Valerie, for a great snapshot "all-in-one-place" listing for us! I invite your readers to visit www.rif.org to see further information we offer there as well as LEADING TO READING, a website for young children and their parents to enjoy together in English and/or Spanish. I encourage readers to give books to parents of newborns....or earlier! I am awaiting my first grandchild and have already stocked his/her (don't know yet) shelves with a long row of books...I'm keeping a list! My five great nieces and nephews got a book of the month for the first year of their lives and they know gifts from Aunt Carol will be books, and they literally call me the Book Lady at times which thrills me. My grandmother and grandfather always gave me books and I treasure those old volumes to this day. Again, thank you for the great post!

  4. Valerie,

    What a great followup to the first day! I felt I was reading my own book lists when I looked at yours - great books are wonderful any time. I was especially happy to see Mem Fox's new book "Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes". One more I'd add for preschoolers is "Baa Choo" by Sarah Weeks - it has rhythm, rhyme and repetition (three essentials of preschool books) PLUS it has inference at the end!

  5. Thanks for including the characteristics of books for different ages - that's something parents always want to know, and you explained it so well. And thanks for pointing folks to that excellent (and free free free) institution - the library!

  6. Fantastic article! Yes, visit the library and the bookstore. Talk to librarians, teachers, friends and bookstore keepers. Everyone has beautiful books to share. It's always thrilling to hear a list of excellent books. Thank you!

  7. I love the "Token Takeaway" - it's a great summary of how the process works - and why we need to read to our kids.

  8. I like the idea of keeping a spreadsheet or table or favorite authors/books.

    No only can it help organize and streamline the book selection process, it can also bring a sense of accomplishment when shared with young readers. "Look at all the books you've read!"

  9. What a wonderful post! I will print this out and post it at the bookstore here I work. I think you may consider turn this into a school project to submit. A+! Keep up the good work.

  10. Wonderful lists! We've read nearly all the books but you mentioned a few that we will need to check out sometime. One picture book my daughter loves is "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

  11. This is an amazing list!!! Thank you so much for all the great recommendations!! I think I may just print off your list for my next library visit . . . which just happens to be tomorrow!!! I will definitely be highlighting this post on my own blog!!

  12. Good on you, for putting this together so well. Although my kids are old enough not to play in the fountain, they tend to be impatient at the library. Not only do I keep a list, but I use our local's website to check availability of new books I hear about. If the book I want is checked out, I can put a reserve on it; if it's available elsewehere in the system I can have it sent over, and if it's available I can print out a list of title to grab, including a picture to make spotting easier.

  13. Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon has a web site that is very parent friendly. Find early literacy information and reading recommendations in the Birth to Six section. http://www.multcolib.org/birthtosix/

  14. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.