I love sharing wonderful books with young children! I need to just say that again. I love sharing wonderful books with young children! I’m sure I learned that from my mother who also loves to read for recreation and personal education and sharing what she reads with her family. When she comes to visit her grandchildren, she puts children’s picture books in her suitcase. Guess what the grandchildren look forward to do with grandma, curled up on the couch?
I’m also a professional early childhood educator and mother of 5 grown children. Having taught young children ages 3 mo. to 3rd grade and supervised and trained teachers of this age group for over 25 years, I have a lot of tricks for sharing books with kids. It’s more than just opening up a book and reading the words.
What I teach my university students is that you have to prepare your child before even reading. Give them a purpose for wanting to listen. Involve them in the reading, and then discuss a thinking question at the end. Here is a template for book sharing:
Introduction. Start with an introduction and some prequestions or a discussion, i.e. “Have you ever seen a mouse? What do they look like? Do they really like cheese? (show the front of the book) This is a book about a mouse who loves to eat cheese and a cat who wants to eat the mouse. Do you think the cat will catch the mouse?“
Then, ask them to listen for something so they can develop critical thinking.
Sample Question: “While I read this book, I would like you to see how the mouse figures out a way to eat the cheese before the cat catches him.” For a toddler or preschooler, simplify the question such as, “Let’s read the book and see if the mouse can hide from the cat.”
Shared Book Experience. Shared reading involves your child in whatever appropriate ways you choose such as: chanting together repeated phrases, stopping at predictable parts and asking children to fill in a key word, echo reading, making predictions or applying to real-life experiences. Just spontaneously involve her while you are reading like having her fill in the missing rhyming word, for example. Or saying, “Look at this page. How many baby kittens do you see? Let’s count them together.” Or asking, “Why do you think this lion looks so unhappy?” Chanting together repetitive phrases is one of my favorites. When you have a repetitive phrase, like “Chica Chica Boom Boom!” ask the child to say it aloud with you on every page it appears. Be sure to track your finger along so she can see how the words translate into the familiar sounds.
Discussion after reading. Example: Did the mouse get the cheese? How did the mouse outsmart the cat? Then talk about what kinds of pets they know of. Do you have a pet? What do you feed them?
I don’t always use have a pre- and post critical thinking question. But I always figure out a way to introduce the book, get a child involved in wanting to hear what it is about, and involving him while I read. We also discuss the message afterward and relate to real life or react meaningfully to it. The purpose here isn’t to teach reading or early literacy skills (except a little when you do the rhymes together) but to have him enjoy listening to great stories, seeing the beautiful illustrations, and thinking and discussing themes.
Here is a list of GREAT books for young children, ages 2-6. I deliberately chose them for their simple themes, illustrations, and brief text. You can read them in under 5 minutes. A lot are Caldecott award winners. Some are even wordless or have few words, which lend themselves for more participation and interpretation of what the child thinks is happening on the page and what might happen next. Many are build-upon or repetitive stories, and others are rhyming, which is really important for early readers to hear often. You want good read-alouds and these are very rhythmical.
So…you’re welcome! Have fun reading every day. Be prepared to hear, “Read it again, mom!” That’s the highest compliment you can earn.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian
Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberley
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
ANYTHING by Eric Carle (Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Lonely Cloud, Home for Hermit Crab, etc.)
Chica Chica Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
White Rabbit’s Color Book and Brown Rabbit’s Shape Book by Alan Baker
It Looks Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw
Flotsam or Tuesday by David Weisner
Any short and fun book by Dr. Seuss like “Green Eggs and Ham” “Foot Book” And “Red Fish Blue Fish”
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahberg
Not at Box by Antoinette Portis
Inside a Barn in the Country by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
No David! by David Shannon
Kitten’ First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
Llama, Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (and there’s other versions as well)
The House at Night by Susan Marie Swanson
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger