Books for Children

Good Books To Read To Young Children

In the over 40 years that I have taught nursery school and run nursery school libraries, I have of course come across some very great picture books, as well as some poor. Taste and interest varies with each child and I have my own preferences too, but in running programs for children my ultimate gauge for judging the merit of a book has been the children’s responses, or lack of. One of the key factors in the success of a story is its age appropriateness. So in the hopes that my experience can be useful to others, I’m offering a list of books I recommend according to age. These are not the newest books but rather the ones I have found tried and true. Some are in bookstores or libraries but many can only be obtained from used book stores and online. Comments and additions are welcome at nisalojo@mindspring.com (for the Nostrand Ave. Improvement Assoc. Or www.naiabrooklyn.org)

– Louise Kurshan

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Two Year Olds

Language is new and a source of delight (and frustration). Stories that incorporate noises, rhythm and rhymes, songs and fingerplays are good bets. The illustrations and stories should be clear and interesting but not overwhelming in detail. Peek-a boo is a popular game at this age and stories about hiding and finding as well as books with flaps to open and close are enjoyed. Repetition is loved- both within the stories, as in refrains, and in wanting to hear the same books over and over.

THE INDOOR NOISY BOOK (Margaret Wise Brown)

THIS OLD MAN (Carol Jones)

THE ITSY BITSY SPIDER (Iza Trapani)

WHERE’S SPOT? (Eric Hill)

TWO LITTLE MONKEYS (Mem Fox)

BEE-BIM BOP (Linda Sue Park)

TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE STAR (Jane Cabrera)

YOU’RE JUST WHAT I NEED (Ruth Krauss)

DAYS LIKE THIS (Simon James) (selected poetry)

THE HAPPY MAN AND HIS DUMP TRUCK (Miryam)

LITTLE OWL LOST (Chris Haughton)

THIS AND THAT (Julia Sykes)

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS (Maryann Kovalski)

CAPS FOR SALE (Esphyr Slobodkina)

HAVE YOU GOT MY PURR? (Judy West)

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR (Eric Carle)


Three Year Olds

All of the above plus, because of a longer attention span and an appreciation for how things really are, stories with more detail in plot and illustration. Threes like subject matter that reflects their own experiences and three year old humor (really silly sounds and mixing up what is firmly established: “What? The cat says fiddle-i-fee? That’s silly. Who doesn’t know that the cat says meow!”)

OH MY BABY BEAR! (Audrey Wood)

FIDDLE-I-FEE (Melissa Sweet)

NIBBLE, NIBBLE (Margaret Wise Brown) (poetry)

A BIG QUIET HOUSE (Heather Forrest)

PAPA, PLEASE GET THE MOON FOR ME (Eric Carle)
RAILROAD HANK (Lisa Moser)

THE LINE UP BOOK (Marisabina Russo)

SOUP DAY (Melissa Iwai)

THE BABY BEEBEE BIRD (Diane Redfield Massie)

OPPOSNAKES (Salina Yoon)

TWO SHY PANDAS (Julia Jarman)

WHO TOOK THE FARMER’S HAT? (Joan L. Nodset)

THE NEIGHBORHOOD SING-ALONG (Nina Crews)

READY, SET, SKIP! (Jane O’Connor)

COME TO THE MEADOW (Anna Grossnickle Hines)

THE SNOWY DAY(Ezra Jack Keats)

PETER’S CHAIR (Ezra Jack Keats)

HARRY THE DIRTY DOG (Gene Zion)

NOISY NORA (Rosemary Wells)


Four Year Olds

Sometimes babies, sometimes kids, fours are all over the place. They like stories with action and pictures with details to pour over. They are interested in motivation and like to offer predictions or possible explanations for the behavior of characters. They can be expressive and vocal about their preferences. “I LOVED that book!” or “Oh no, not that book, I hate that book!” They develop interests and can sometimes be obsessive. I heard a father in the library, “Another train book? But we already have so many. Well OK.”

GRUMPY GOAT (Brett Helquist)

CHANGES, CHANGES (Pat Hutchins) (wordless but fascinating)

BIG SARAH’S LITTLE BOOTS (Paulette Bourgeois)

BENJY’S DOG HOUSE (and all of them) (Margaret Bloy Graham)

THE BUNNIES ARE NOT IN THEIR BEDS (Marisabina Russo)

TOO TALL HOUSES (Gianna Marino)

BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL (Robert McCloskey)

THE RUNAWAY BUNNY (Margaret Wise Brown)

COCO CAN’T WAIT (Now called, I REALLY WANT TO SEE YOU, GRANDMA) (Taro Gomi)

UNCLE CHUCK’S TRUCK (H.N. Coulter)

WINDBLOWN (Edouard Manceau)

BUTTERFLY, BUTTERFLY (Petr Horacek)

GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT (Mem Fox)

EAT UP, GEMMA (Sarah Hayes)

THE STRAY DOG (Marc Simont)

LITTLE BEAR’S LITTLE BOAT (Eve Bunting)

FROG AND TOAD (all) (Arnold Lobel)

FIRST THE EGG (Laura Vaccaro Seeger)

CORDUROY (Don Freeman)


Five Year Olds

At 5, children have mastered a great many things. Books with longer and more complex plots, fiction and nonfiction, are all welcomed.

FRIDAY NIGHT AT HODGE’S CAFE (Tim Egan)

THE PINK REFRIGERATOR (Tim Egan)

DODSWORTH IN LONDON (and all the others) (Tim Egan)

A VISITOR FOR BEAR (and all the others) (Bonny Becker)

MR. ZINGER’S HAT (Cary Fagan)

DO YOU KNOW WHICH ONES WILL GROW? (Susan Shea)

RAINSTORM (Barbara Lehman)

THE SNOW GLOBE FAMILY (Jane O’Connor)

LIANG AND THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Demi)

PRINCESS HYACINTH: (THE SURPRISING TALE OF A GIRL WHO FLOATED )

(Florence Parry Heide)

MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS (Robert McCloskey)

THE BLACK RABBIT (Philippa Leathers)

BABY BRAINS (Simon James)

GEORGE’S STORE (Frank Asch)

PERFECT SQUARE (Michael Hall)

SWIRL BY SWIRL: SPIRALS IN NATURE (Joyce Sidman)

LIFE ON MARS (James Agee)

MAMA DON’T ALLOW (Thacher Hurd)

FLY HIGH FLY LOW (Don Freeman)

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