You might think the best book to read to your young child is one they’ll love. One that, when you close the final page, makes them shout, “Again, again!” One that, before you even say, “Go pick out a bedtime book,” is already in their hand and waving in front of your face, an old and familiar friend.
Or you might think that that book, the one you’ve read 652 times and counting, should meet its untimely death in a pizza oven.
While it’s a good thing that your kid wants you to read the same book over and over—after all, the repetition can bring about a sense of security—it can start to fray on your nerves. To say the least.
Maintaining sanity is easier, however, if you choose excellent books from the outset. The kind of books that you won’t mind reading for the hundredth or thousandth time.
Here are my picks for Books-That-Stand-Up-to-Multiple-Readings:
Olivia (by Ian Falconeris)
Olivia is a busy little girl who wears out her mother, but this little piggy is so dang charming:
“In the morning, after she gets up, and moves the cat, and brushes her teeth, and combs her ears, and moves the cat, Olivia gets dressed. She has to try on everything.”
The Pete the Cat books (by Kimberly and James Dean)
“Pete said, ‘But wait! Grumpy Toad made a mistake. This is true. Let’s give him a second chance. That’s what friends do!’”
“Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type” (by Doreen Cronin)
The story is somehow silly and grown up at the same time—Farmer Brown’s cows go on strike because he won’t meet their demands:
“Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We’d like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows.”
Parts (by Tedd Arnold)
What a great sense of humor! This poor lil dude is convinced he’s falling apart, which will keep you chuckling even after the dozenth read:
“Next day when I was outside playing with the water hose, I saw that little bits of skin were peeling from my toes. I stared at them, amazed, and then I gave a little groan, to think that pretty soon I might be peeled down to the bone.”
Rosie Revere, Engineer (by Andrea Beaty)
This story—encouraging little Rosie to follow her dreams without embarrassment or fear of failure—is so touching, you might never not tear up when you read it to your daughter or son:
“Her great-great-aunt Rose was a true dynamo who’d worked building airplanes a long time ago. She told Rosie tales of the things she had done and goals she had checked off her list one by one.”
I Like Myself! (by Karen Beaumont)
Here’s a positive book with a lovely message. Even if it’s the seventh night this week you’re reading it, you’ll feel good about reading:
“I like me wild. I like me tame. I like me different and the same.”
The Pigeon books (by Mo Willems)
The lessons in the Pigeon books are important ones, teaching kids to handle the word “no,” how to ask for things, how to share. The stories are fun and simple and familiar to anyone living with tiny humans.
Take “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!” about, yes, the pigeon finding a hot dog, and his curious (and innocent?) chick friend, who says, “I have a question. I’ve never had a hot dog before … What do they taste like?” The pigeon gushes about the snack for a while before realizing the chick may have ulterior motives, saying … “Wait a second. This hot dog is MINE. I found it!”
The Book with No Pictures (by B.J. Novak)
No matter how many times you read this, it’s going to make you laugh. That’s the whole point: to get grown-ups to laugh because they have to say silly things:
“Here is how books work: Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what. That’s the deal. That’s the rule. So that means … Even if the words say … BLORK. Wait—what? That doesn’t even mean anything. Bluurf.”
All things Dr. Seuss
Since 1937, when the first Dr. Seuss book—“And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street”—was published, these books have been staples for little kid libraries. Why? Well, we love books that rhyme, don’t we? They’re fun to read, and, if we pick right, we can find plenty of Seuss books with a pretty killer message.
Take “The Lorax” and his message of preserving the forests:
“NOW … thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there’s not enough Truffula Fruit to go ‘round. And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!”
In the Night Kitchen (by Maurice Sendak)
Some of the best stories for kids have hidden messages, an extra layer for adults. “In the Night Kitchen” has incredible artwork and a kooky storyline for kids, but according to Sendak, his book actually references the Holocaust—just not in a way little ones would understand:
“(…) the bakers who bake till the dawn so we can have cake in the morn mixed Mickey in the batter, chanting: Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it! And they put that batter up to bake a delicious Mickey-cake.”
(Disclaimer: This book has had its share of controversy because protagonist Mickey is naked. It’s still one of my personal favorites.)
Any books by Nancy Tillman
The illustrations in these books are especially gorgeous—bold and dreamy—and the stories are sweet.
Take the opening of “On the Night You Were Born”:
“On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.’ Because there had never been anyone like you … ever in the world.”