Books! The undisputed, undeniable, heavyweight champion of all educational and bonding experiences wrapped up in one beautiful package. In a world full of tablets and mobile devices that have in large part obviated the medium for adults, books for children have never been more desirable or useful. They’re affordable, essential and one of the few things everyone will agree are important tools in the growth of a young mind.
Everyone has their favorite books from childhood and great, new books are cropping up all the time. In this write-up we’re going to try to give you a good, short mix of picture books for various ages of children that span the generations. There will inevitably be some disappointed readers out there who don’t see any of their favorites, but that only speaks to the breadth of options out there and the passion that people tend to have about books. Also, give us a break! The list is only ten long and hey, that’s what the comments are for, right? We would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on our list after you’ve read it!
So without further ado, here we go! Our favorite picture books to read to children.
1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (1963)
Having just had its 50th anniversary in 2013, Where the Wild Things Are remains one of the most uniquely illustrated and imaginative children’s books of all time. It has a refreshingly dark tone about it and explores imagination and loyalty while brilliantly capturing the spirit of a young boy who instinctively defies his parents and has to deal with the alternate reality in which it leads him. With a subtle, cerebrally touching language structure, this book distinguishes itself by not hitting you over the head with the message. It’s exceptionally fun and interesting to read and look at, especially for a children’s book.
2. The Grouchy Ladybug, by Eric Carle (1999)
Eric Carle has over 70 picture books under his belt and this one is our favorite for a pretty good reason. Right around the time when children begin to get a good grasp of language, they also become pretty bold and demanding, generally speaking. We’re talking about two and three year olds here in case I’m being too vague. And this is where the lessons of The Grouchy Ladybug become especially relevant. It’s all about the importance of good etiquette, being friendly being accepting of individuals of different types.
3. Hola! Jalapeño, by Amy Wilson Sanger (2002)
In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, many parents take teaching their children a second language very seriously. Hola! Jalapeño is our favorite bilingual kids book from Snack Series… mostly just because of our insatiable craving for all things Mexican food. They do have other entries into worldly entrees with Yum Yum Dim Sum, First Book of Sushi, but this one is actually bilingual and delivers each page in its full English and Spanish glory. Enjoy!
4. Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson (1955)
Along with Where the Wild Things Are, Harold is is one of those books that really pushes the imagination of a child to reach new heights. The essence of the power of imagination is conveyed brilliantly as Harold creates all of his nighttime fun out nothing but a simple, purple crayon. Taking twists and turns all throughout Harold’s imaginary city, this book isn’t another book that takes you to a different world, but shows you how you can make your own out of almost nothing. It has a sweet tone, great message and will surely prime your child for an interesting dreamscape before bed.
5. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and Anita Jarem (1994)
One of the kinder, gentler picture books to read before bed. Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare engage in an adorable competition of out-loving each other through quantifying their love for the other by comparing it to the things around them and the feats they can accomplish with their body. We love this book because it inevitably leads to you competing with your own children in describing your love for each other, which feels pretty amazing.
6. Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, by Jimmy Fallon (2015)
Jimmy Fallon’s goofy antics have been making us laugh for years. He’s now trying his hand at a children’s book, undoubtedly inspired by the arrival of his two daughters. It’s a very simple book, but quite funny. Some kids may or may not get the humor, but the the farm animals are drawn hilariously and this book makes a great gift for new dads to read to their kids.
7. The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch (1992)
The Paper Bag Princess is a lovely book with a fascinating role reversal theme to it, where the princess saves the prince and outsmarts the dragon. With a great message for an increasingly egalitarian society, this book is a Thanks Mama favorite for having the gumption to break the mold while still creating a thoroughly entertaining, hilarious and well illustrated picture book. We love it!
8. Today I Feel Silly, Jamie Lee Curtis (1998)
Feeling silly is just one of the moods that this book helps get your kids in touch with. From the famous actress Jamie Lee Curtis, Today I Feel Silly is aimed at getting kids to identify 13 different feelings and it even has a little mood wheel at the end that will show the protagonist’s facial expressions change on the fly depending on the mood you select. It’s aimed at kids just out of toddlerhood, but could be appropriate for littler kids who have learned a little bit about how to express how they are feeling. It’s a great book that will help with one of the most challenging parts of parenting and childhood, getting to know oneself.
9. I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen (2011)
This book has a simple, comedic writing style that will have you and your child laughing out loud. It’s perfectly paced, simply delivered writing and art help to contrast with the outrageous and somewhat shocking finale. It’s really funny and plays with the themes of deception and obliviousness in hilarious ways. We highly recommend it.
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle (1969)
If you don’t know about this book, and a few of the others on this list, you should get out more! This is a classic American children’s picture book with a little lesson about gluttony mixed in with a well illustrated demonstrations of counting, learning the days of the week, and different foods to eat. Climaxing with a beautiful metamorphosis into a butterfly, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has a little bit of everything for a young learner to latch onto. A definite must have for any child’s library.
That’s our list of picture books to read with your kids! We hope you learned about a few new ones or reminded some essentials that may have slipped past you. There are definitely a ton of fantastic books out there for children. We’d be thrilled to hear about any of your family favorite picture books for little ones. Keep the conversation going in the comments! I know there’s probably a few disgruntled Dr. Seuss fans out there right now!