When toddlers come to love a book, they LOVE IT with the kind of love that only toddlers are capable of, from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes. It’s impossible to read the book too often because until they tire of it, their love for it is tireless. They may like and enjoy other books along the way, but there can be no substitutions for their true love. You’ll have it memorized within days and you may find yourself quietly reciting it at odd times (I myself carry a small toddler library in my mind). You’ll stealthily slip it from their grasp when they’ve fallen asleep with it clutched in their arms. You’ll make sure that you pack it each time you leave the house. In later months and years, you may go decades without picking up the book again, but then one day you’ll come across it and it will be, as they say, just like riding a bike — the words and pictures be as familiar to you as if you’d last seen them five minutes ago. Aren’t books wonderful?
Below you’ll find a sampling of the kind of books I have seen toddlers fall hard for. Please share your own favorites in the comments! And remember this advice from author Mem Fox, “Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!“.
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw. This is such a fun book to read aloud. Toddlers love the rhyming language, the hilarious flow of the story, and the combination of familiar words with more sophisticated language. I worked with one seventeen-month-old who fell head over heels for this book and, after hundreds of readings, acted out pieces of the story with farm animal toys! This one will always be high on my favorites list.
Skippyjon Jones: Up & Down by Judy Schachner. I had never heard of Skippyjon Jones until someone donated this board book to my program a couple of years ago. The book was immediately claimed by one toddler, who memorized the entire sequence of events in words and signs. His love for this book prompted me to order another Skippyjon Jones book (the delightful Skippyjon Jones Shapes Up), only to have him react with anger as it seemed to him like trickery to present a book so similar to his favorite that featured altogether different events. What he loved best of all, you see, was the predictability of the book. Many toddlers will.
Llama Llama Wakey Wake by Anna Dewdney. It’s hard to go wrong, in my experience, with a Llama Llama book. The gentle themes, rhymes, and soft illustrations are universally appealing. What toddlers love about this book, in particular, is that it mirrors their own lives. They brush their teeth! They comb their hair! And, sometimes, they have to say goodbye to their mamas too. (Dewdney’s Llama Llama books were first designed for an older audience, but toddlers can enjoy spin-offs just for them like this one and Llama Llama Nighty-Night.)
Doggies by Sandra Boynton. No book list for toddlers would be complete without at least one title by Sandra Boynton. Her illustrations and lyrical prose appeal to all ages. This book is perfect for toddlers to share with an un-self-conscious adult who is prepared to make a fantastic variety of dog sounds. In no time at all, toddlers will be assigning unique calls to each featured dog. It’s also a subtle counting book and even younger readers will enjoy pointing to the dogs in turn. (At the end of the day, do not overlook Boynton’s classic, The Going to Bed Book.) Along the same vein is the slightly more verbose Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Suess. It introduces a sequence of wonderful sounds that you can make along with the amazing Mr. Brown, including the moo of a cow, the boom boom of thunder, and the sound of a hand on a door, knock knock.
I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak lists all the sides of a toddler that you love. Just as they need to hear stories at least 1,000 times before they’re reading to learn to read, they need to hear these messages of love and affirmation time and time again. They’ll eat it up and you’ll see it reflected back at you. This is a wonderful book to share with a child.
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. When it comes to reading with toddlers, it’s a toss-up as to which Eric Carle book they will prefer, but odds are pretty good that they will be drawn to at least one. This is a close contender with the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and toddlers will choose it for it’s interactivity. The words and illustrations invite them to stretch and move their bodies in different ways, giving language to both familiar and previously un-articulated body parts and animals.
The Okay Book by Todd Parr. Most of Todd Parr’s books send a strong message that it’s “okay” to be yourself, to be different, and to do what makes you happy. This book is no exception and I love it for that. Toddlers will enjoy the bright illustrations (Todd Parr’s art is unique and delightful) and the simple, positive text.
Now tell me: which books do your toddlers LOVE?