“Whenever we read together, life around us stood still while the doors to a new world opened.”
Sticking to a routine has never been easy for me. Still, somehow I’ve managed to read my three-year-old son a book almost every day of his life. He won’t sit still for most activities, but if someone brings out a book he is mesmerized. This shows me two things: we set the foundation for how our children learn about the world, and reading is an engaging way to do that.
I remember my grandmother taking us on a daily journey with stories from Reader’s Digest. The sound of her voice was melodic and soothing, like an audible hug. Whenever we read together, life around us stood still while the doors to a new world opened. These moments spent bonding with my grandma over literature are still standout moments from my childhood.
I’ve put together a list of favorite books my toddler and I read together. Let’s make books cool again, Wonder Moms!
1. Little Blue Truck board book by Alice Schertle
Written with beautiful modulation and a singsong rhyme, Little Blue Truck leads the way while teaching lessons about teamwork and resilience. The original is by far the best one, but my son has pressured me to purchase every book in the series and enjoys them all. As a matter of fact, when I asked him what his favorite books were for this article, he rattled off the names of every publication in the series.
2. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
With clever illustrations and minimal dialogue, this book provides hours of fun. It can be read day in and day out and always results in a chuckle fest. Your child will get a kick out of telling the pigeon that NO, he cannot drive the bus (it’s an interactive read)! It also gives your toddler a chance to experience the role of parent—an important lesson in perspective. I think my toddler gets a lot more enjoyment out of saying “no” to the pigeon than I ever will saying “no” to him…
3. What are Germs? by Katie Daynes
Usborne wins when it comes to educational books and non-fiction. They are famous for their lift-the-flap books and What are Germs? is a particular gem. An important lesson for the carefree toddler years, this book is packed with information that is appropriate for a six year old but digestible for a three year old. Your toddler will love lifting the flaps to reveal the germs, the different ways they can spread, and the science behind them.
4. There’s a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss
This book is a smorgasbord of the silliest concepts and vocabulary words Dr. Seuss has ever put forth. Naturally, this makes it a toddler favorite. As children begin to discover phonics, their sense of humor develops to determine what words are “silly,” and with this clever book, the result is often side-splitting laughter.
5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This classic has natural appeal for young children because of the illustrations, the clever way the pages are organized, and the exciting and colorful language used. It often ends up on “most recommended” lists for these reasons. It’s a great way to expose your child to different foods and the notion that junk foods may lead to a tummy ache.
6. What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schartz
Learn about science, colors, and animals with this novel book about how rainbows are made. A ribbon rainbow expands with each turn of the page. Children can watch wide-eyed as the rainbow expands right before their eyes. Unlike other books with three-dimensional components, this one is built to last and will withstand toddler tugging and pulling.
7. You Choose by Kane Miller
You Choose, another Usborne gem, is basically a conversation starter for you and your toddler. This is not a traditional book; there is no story and hardly any words. Instead, it is a collection of illustrations depicting scenarios for you and your child to imagine and discuss. Choose between living in a teepee or a space shuttle, traveling on a rocket or on Santa’s sleigh, or wearing a crown or fruit basket on your head.
8. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
A wonderful little rhyming tale set in Africa allows children to explore the notion of inspiration through the eyes of a lanky and clumsy giraffe. Gerald the giraffe longs to dance despite his clumsy stature. The book delivers a wonderful message about music, creativity, and individuality.
9. On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
This beautiful work of poetry is great for babies, toddlers, and young kids. I even like to revisit its beautiful prose. It teaches children how special they are with incredible tenderness and eloquence. It sets out to reveal the magical nature of birth and life. Its peaceful cadence makes it a great bedtime book.
10. The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home by David Cadji-Newby
When it comes to personalized books, this series takes the cake. Not only can you design a custom avatar and have your child’s name appear throughout the book, but you can also integrate a google map graphic of your block and home, in addition to including geographic landmarks. Unlike other customized books, the transition is seamless. It truly feels like it was originally designed to include your child.
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever done with my son is read books. Through the treasure of the written word, he has explored his imagination, expanded his vocabulary, discovered the way the world works, designed multiple futures for himself, and learned valuable life lessons. However, it is the bonding experience we have together while reading that I cherish most of all.
I can only hope that someday, my son will look back on his childhood and think of these moments spent reading together. Maybe he will remember the sound of my voice like I remember my Grandmother’s, sweetly chiding him on to imagine, explore, and—to borrow Emily Dickinson’s words—to “dwell in possibility.”
What are your favorite books to read with your child? Let me know in the comments below!★
Jamie Parganos started the Wonder Mommy blog to create a community for moms to share their stories and support one another. She is also CEO and Founder of Mommy Hacks, a subscription box service designed to help you win at parenting. Before founding her companies, she worked as a program director in the New York City public school system. A mom who wears many hats, Jamie is also a professional singer. She lives in NYC with her partner and two children, ages 3 and 6 months.