Favorite Books To Read Together

best children's books No matter what every night we read. Our days can be crazy but every night at 7:30 you will find my husband and I reading bedtime stories with our kids. Like many of you we have our favorite books to read and enjoy together. All of these 20 books are incredibly enjoyable to read which is why they are our favorites. Some of these books beg for you to use a funny voice, to sing the words, and to use over the top facial expressions. Some of these books will pull on your heartstrings and be sentimental favorites for years to come. None of these books have ever gotten lost at our house because they are always on someone’s nightstand waiting to be read again.

I welcome you to share your favorite read-aloud titles in comments to keep this list growing. All our book lists contain affiliate links.

how big is a pig

How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton is a favorite in our house. I love the felt illustrations, the detail amazes me and helps distract me from noticing that I have read it 20 times in as many minutes. The story itself is great too, it focuses on opposites in the farm yard with a zippy rhyming text. My daughter loves taking this one in the stroller while I run and because it’s a board book I can give it to her without worrying that after a few miles it’s ripped and ruined.

moo baa lalala

Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton always makes me laugh. There is something about the facial expressions of these animals that have always cracked me up, and lets be honest if the book is good for the adult reading it, it’s always a plus. This is such a fun read for everyone involved and is a great book for babies and toddlers and my son loved reading it to his little sister for a long time.

Margaret_Wise_Brown_Big_Red_Barn

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown is one of my all time favorite books to read with my kids.  The story is simple readers see a day in the life of a big red barn and all the animals inside. Each animal is introduced in the seamless text that reads like a melodic poem. It’s  calm , soothing and Felicia Bond’s illustrations are perfect, I love how the sky subtly changes as the night beckons.  A wonderful book for anytime, but especially poignant before bed.

whoever you are by mem fox

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. Every time I read this book I get goosebumps. The text reads like a beautiful poem and has a way of letting kids know that this message matters. The book is simple and talks about the differences of little children all over the world, but focuses on what they all have in common. Children of various cultures are shown , smiling, laughing, crying and the reader can see that even if the clothes , or houses or food are  different the insides are the same. I always choke up reading this book because it’s so beautiful and a great reminder for all of us that while we so often focus on what we see as different most of what we have is in common.

daddy hugs

Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz is a cute little counting book for toddlers. I gave it to my husband in 2007 for his first father’s day to read with my son and my son hated it. However in the years since it’s become a favorite and my daughter has always loved it. We read it together yesterday cuddled up in our big chair.

Tacky The Penguin

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is such a cute and funny story, your kids will love it!  Tacky is an odd bird and that is exactly what saves Tacky and his perfectly not odd companions when hunters come looking for perfect penguins. This is a sweet look at being different and being happy as pie about being different.  My son loves this book and will often point out that Tacky is proud to sing just the way he wants. I love that it can preach to kids without preaching at all. Using a silly voice for Tacky isn’t required but it is highly recommended.

Brown Bear Brown Bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. is a book that can go with a baby from infancy through toddlerhood and into the preschool years. The bold colors of the illustrations by Eric Carle are perfect for catching infant’s attention and will continue to grab it through the years. With the turn of each page the reader is left wondering what’s next, and if the reader is my son he will cut you off to tell you what’s coming next before you have a chance to turn the page. There are other titles in the series , including ; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? , and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? but this one is my very favorite!

chica chica boom boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault is one of my absolute favorite books ever. Many alphabet books are great tools but this one not only entertains it never gets old. Its text is musical , its premise is brilliant in its simplicity and kids love it. My favorite line is ” Skit skat scoodle doot. Flip flop flee. ” I hope I am conveying how much fun this book is to read out loud. I have never had a class who didn’t like it and if you don’t have it, you should!

dig-dig-digging

Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo is one of the few books we have that we have bought twice. Our first copy was so well loved that we knew when it could not be read anymore that it would be immediately replaced. This book is imbedded in my brain ( and heart) because both my children have gone through a phase where it’s their absolute favorite. The book takes readers through different vehicles like firetrucks, rescue helicopters and of course bulldozers. The text is repetitive and will get stuck in your head for days but it’s OK because your kids will recite it along with you.

I love you stinky face

I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt is a wonderful mushy book that will still appeal to kids that aren’t really into mush. A little boy in his PJs asks his mom if she will still love him even if he was a series of terrible monsters. I love that the little boy in the book keeps trying to find ways to make him unlovable and the mom keeps finding ways to love unconditionally. There is a deeper meaning here and moms will see past the fun illustrations to the real heart of this book, which is no matter what we love our children. When I found this in a thrift store and read it quickly, I couldn’t look at my son in his stroller throwing puffs on the floor without tearing up and have been getting chocked up reading it to both my children for many years since.

Everywhere Babies

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee has never been far from my daughter’s reach. The books is all about babies and all the ways they are different as well as all the ways they are the same. The text is an absolute pleasure to read out loud and has always had a calming effect on my daughter. She loves the illustrations and I appreciate the diversity of all the different families and babies. If I had to choose one book to label as my daughter’s all time favorite, this would be it.

mortimer

Mortimer  by Robert Munsch is a fun bedtime book. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, but whether reading it to a group of preschoolers or to my kids I have never had a child not sing along with Mortimer who is driving everyone bonkers by not going to sleep! Instead he is singing and making noise and not even the police can stop him.

Paper_Bag_Princess

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch has enchanted me for years. I bought it while volunteering as a leader in training at a day camp when I was a teen. It’s followed me to many schools, children I babysat and finally my own son. I can’t remember one child ever not liking it. It’s a story of Elizabeth a princess who outwits a dragon to rescue her prince. I love that the author has switched the typical damsel in distress and has the princess as the heroine. Some parents have expressed concern about Elizabeth calling the prince a “Bum” in the end of the book, personally I love it. I have always used it to explain why she was so angry, and as a reminder why calling names hurt. That said I think she is totally justified !

Goodnight-Goodnight-Construction-Site

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker will have to be renewed from the library while I wait for my copy to come from Amazon. This book is starting to get pretty popular and rightfully so, it’s a lovely book. In it busy little construction vehicles wind down for the night and fall asleep. I never thought I would say an excavator was cute but the one in the book is. It’s a wonderful bedtime book and your child will enjoy winding down with the sleepy bulldozer and his friends. My daughter completely adores this book.

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is one of those books that makes me cry just when I think of it. If you aren’t familiar with this book it’s not sad. It’s about a little boy who is acting up and gets sent to his room. While in his room his imagination runs wild and he is transported to a world where there are no rules , no parents and no consequences for bad behavior. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved most of all, even when he’s wild. I think this is an amazing love story about parents and children and unconditional love. Nothing beats reading this and having a little wild rumpus dance before bed with your own little wild things.

dinosaur vs the potty

Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea was responsible for me losing my voice last year. My kids love, no ADORE this book.  My son ends up in stitches every time we read it and my daughter laughs at him eas muh as she laughs at me reading it.The thing about this book is you must read it with gusto for it to reach it’s full potential because its story isn’t deep it’s really just about a destructive dinosaur who doesn’t go pee when he should. Sound familiar? Kinda like little kids who dump toys, bang and stomp and deny that they have to use the potty until the very last minute. It struck a chord at our house and I have a hunch it may at yours too.

Dinosaur Roar

Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and  Henrietta Stickland and is a board book that I’ve read often enough that I don’t need to look at the book to recite the text. The premise is simple, using two different dinosaurs every page illustrates a pair of opposites. Toddlers and young preschoolers adore this book and I can’t blame them, it’s adorable and a great tool for teaching about opposites.

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was a childhood favorite that I have enjoyed sharing with my own kids. This book is beautiful, even though it may take a few reads to see it’s not a story about a whining little boy so much a lesson that sometimes things do not go our way. Days can suck. It’s just the way it is. As a child I related to Alexander’s feelings of frustration and things being unfair. How often to you hear a child say “No Fair!” probably a lot. This book taps into that feeling, being little is hard but just because you are mad, or your day was bad doesn’t mean you get your way. Great book to talk about anger and frustration with your child, and it’s funny too.

dont-let-the-pigeon-drive-the-bus

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems might not need much of a review as I don’t know many parents who haven’t laughed along with their kids reading this book. But if you have never read this book let me tell you about it and why so many of us think it’s hilarious. The book opens with a bus driver asking readers to do him a favor and not let the pigeon drive the bus. This sets the stage for a wonderfully interactive reading experience with a very poorly behaved pigeon who keeps asking readers to let him drive the bus. Love this book.

trashy town

Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha is my favorite garbage truck book , and yes I have read a lot. Mr. Gilly is a hard working garbage man with one task, to clean up Trashy town. The text is so melodic I find myself singing while reading ” Dump it in, Smash it down, drive around the trashy town” . It’s not all trash all the time for Mr. Gilly though, after a hard days work cleaning up Trashy town he gets into his bubble bath ! My kids both absolutely adore this book.

 

Books About Women Who Changed History

biographies of women for kids If children do not know about the struggles history can teach them, then they won’t appreciate the rights and freedoms they have, or realize how fragile they may be. History doesn’t need to hide away until middle school you can teach it to much younger children and one of my favorite ways to do so is with picture books. Women’s history is a one of my greatest passions and sharing the lives and true stories of strong, amazing, brave women with my children is essential. Both young girls and young boys must hear these stories and dive into the lives of these remarkable women who changed the world. All our book lists contain affiliate links.

Picture Book Of Amelia Earhart

A Picture Book of Amelia Earhart (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler had both my 7 year old and I totally enthralled. This book does a great job at painting the picture of early 20th century North America and how women were treated. Amelia’s whole life is covered and the book even touches on the conspiracy theories about her death. I loved how much of Amelia’s independent spirit came through in the quotes that the author shared. My absolute favorite tidbit about Ms. Earhart is actually in the author’s note and is about her mother. Did you know her mother was the first woman to summit Pike’s Peak ? That fact opened up a huge conversation with my son about parental role models.

Picture Book Of Harriet Tubman

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler. Often when I am reviewing a book with my kids I will jot down notes. This book had only one note. ” Amazing!!!” I have always known the bare facts about Harriet Tubman and her involvement in The Underground Railroad but I loved being able to learn more at the same time as my son. Our eyes both got wide as we read her incredible story of strength and leadership. My son loved this book as well and I appreciate how the author gives details without getting lost in them.  My son told me “She was crazy brave !” and I agree. This is a wonderful book about a real American hero.

Rosa

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is not so much a biography, but it is most definitely a historical account of one woman who changed a nation.  We all know the story of Rosa Parks but no matter how well you know the facts, reading a children’s book about it makes me cry. The author has done a fantastic job setting the stage, explaining how Rosa Parks was not your typical heroine, she was just a seamstress, just like everyone else.  This is imperative to the message that a single person can stand up for what is right and  make big changes. I also appreciated that the author included so much about the women who spearheaded the bus boycott. I am 36  and I feel inspired reading this as a woman, to think of the power it can have over the younger generation excites me. This would be a wonderful introduction to learning about the civil rights movement for kids 5-10.

librarian on the roof

Librarian on the Roof! by M.G. King made me cry. The true story is about a librarian who did what she needed to do to raise enough money to make a functional children’s section in the oldest library in Texas. What she did was stay on the roof of that library for a week, and it worked. I loved the message that libraries are vital, that books open doors , and that providing access to information to those who can’t afford to get it on their own is a worthwhile cause. This book made me want to cheer, it had me spouting off lessons left and right to my kids , and it absolutely captivated all three of us. Go read this book and learn more about RoseAleta Laurell the real librarian on the roof. Maybe she hasn’t changed history the way that some of these other women did but she is such a hero and put books in children’s hands and that will change history, I am certain.

wilma unlimited

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathryn Krull  Do you know who Wilma Rudolph was? She was the African-American Olympian who became the first American woman ever to win three gold medals at one Olympic Games. But her story is even more amazing that that. She also suffered from Polio as a child and was told she’d never run. Her determination stands out and inspires. I have mentioned many times how my grandmother was an Olympic medalist so this story hits a personal chord for me. I am awed and amazed by how far women have come from their first Olympic games in 1928.

story of anne frank

The Story of Anne Frank by Brenda Ralph Lewis impressed me. I struggle with how to tell such a horrifying story to young children. I should explain that this book is not geared for preschoolers, it’s a school age book , but still it’s a daunting task.  This book helps break down the facts while including details about this young girl’s personal and family life.   This balance of historical facts and Anne’s family life is the key to why this book works. There is so much horror to digest that the little details like how Anne was a bit of a trouble maker, and talked too much in class helps to tune the reader back into the very personal story.  I think this is a fantastic precursor to reading Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl , it will give all the needed background for your older child to fully comprehend and appreciate the diary itself.

basketball belles

Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map by Sue Macy is the story of the very first basketball game played by college women. The game took place in 1896 and while we shake our heads at what these athletes were wearing at the time it was shocking. I am not a basketball player but to imagine women not being able to play simple because they are women bothers me even if it doesn’t shock me. Books like this that include activities that my own children do are important to share, it’s important to show them how many things women had to fight to do.

Madeline Knight

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventorby Emily Arnold McCully is a book that all little girls should read. I think I may buy 20 copies and give them to every girl that invites either one of my kids to their birthday parties.  The reason I think this book is so wonderful isn’t because it’s about some woman that is on a coin ( no disrespect Susan…) but because I had never heard of Mattie but I should have, we all should have. Many of her inventions are still in use today… like the paper bag that stays upright. She made history many of us just didn’t know it. Her story of invention, entrepreneurship and strength of character are stunning. She stands up for herself , learns from her mistakes, and follows her passion even though it’s not the easy or even the “only kinda hard” road. All the way she faces challenges and just keeps going. This is far more inspiring than any girl power book that I have read before, and it’s true.

molly, by golly

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighterby Dianne Ochilltree is a story I had never heard before we found this book at the library but am so glad I know it now. Molly was an African American cook who provided meals for the firefighters in a town in New York. When a fire broke out and most of the firefighters were ill she put on the gear and stood side by side with the men to help fight the fire. She is the first known female fire fighter. What I love about this story is that Molly didn’t grab the gear and start fighting because she wanted to be the first, she did it because there was a need and she was capable of helping. Being the first woman to be a firefighter was brave and Molly kept volunteering with the department for years after the first fire.

susan b anthony

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equalilty (Biographies (Picture Window Books))by Suzanne Slade is a great introduction to Susan B. Anthony and why she is so much more than just a lady on coins. Although we often think of her as a suffragette she was also  a champion of human rights and abolitionist. She fought for women’s right to vote knowing that she herself would never get the right. This book explains all that in terms kids can understand and relate to.

elizabeth leads the way

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Voteby Tanya Lee Stone made me teary eyed.  If you aren’t familiar with Elizabeth Cady Staton grab this book because not only will it catch you up on the life of this women’s rights activist, it will also let you feel her sense of justice and determination. I wrote down the quote ” …wasn’t interested in easy.”  which was in reference to her father saying she should have been born a boy so she would fit in better,  but is a great quote for anything and anyone.

Eleanor quiet no more

Eleanor: Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport is an inspiring look at Elanor Roosevelt’s life and legacy. Readers learn about Eleanor’s childhood, being orphaned and sent away to school in England where she experienced independence for the first time. It covers her romance and marriage with FDR is a sweet, loving way that won’t make your child cringe about “mushy” things but they will understand that there was real life and partnership. There is ample information about her work  over the years as a politician’s wife as well as the First Lady.  My favorite part of the book were all the fantastic quotes woven into the biography, it connects the reader to her and not just her story.

 

Best Children’s Books We Read in 2013

kids books We read and review a lot of books and these books were the best children’s books we read for the first time in 2013. Most of these books were published before 2013 so they aren’t new , just new to us.  What was the best book you read in 2013?

All book lists contain affiliate links to Amazon.com.
z is for moose

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham is a hilarious alphabet book that will have you and your child giggling throughout. The book is all about a zebra who is making an alphabet book and his over zealous friend Moose who is very very excited to be involved. So excited in fact that he can’t wait for M to be called and ends up crashing a bunch of other letters. When M does come he’s been replaced by a mouse. Moose’s reaction will turn your kids giggles into chuckles and all the while they will be working on letter recognition. Love this book!

everybody_cooks_rice

Everybody Cooks Rice  by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6 year old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well , my 3 year old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.

ballet books for kids brontorina

Brontorina by James Howe is possibly one of my new favorite books on the planet. It’s not a new book but I have never read it before. My daughter loved it and while the lesson about creating inclusive environments went over her head the lesson about being true to yourself and doing something that has never been done before didn’t. The story is about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina and while a studio initially allows her to dance it’s clear that she is just too big. The story doesn’t end there and with some help from friends who support her dream they find a way to include everyone. I dare you not to tear up when the ballet teacher tells Brontarina that she MUST dance.

librarian on the roof

Librarian on the Roof! by M.G. King made me cry. The true story is about a librarian who did what she needed to do to raise enough money to make a functional children’s section in the oldest library in Texas. What she did was stay on the roof of that library for a week, and it worked. I loved the message that libraries are vital, that books open doors , and that providing access to information to those who can’t afford to get it on their own is a worthwhile cause. This book made me want to cheer, it had me spouting off lessons left and right to my kids , and it absolutely captivated all three of us. Go read this book and learn more about RoseAleta Laurell the real librarian on the roof.

two bad pilgrims

Two Bad Pilgrims by Kathryn Lasky is a fantastic book that some parents might not like but kids will love it and learn a lot in the process.  It’s about two boys who really did sail abroad the Mayflower and whose behavior really was bad.  There is a ton of not usually shared information about Pilgrims in this book and as someone who studied colonial history I am in LOVE with this book. The format is a mix of non fiction and comic strip like narrative. I would read it to kids 5 and older although younger children will like just following the narrative. There is a ton of info in this book and it would be a wonderful tool to talk about how history books don’t always tell the whole story.

lola at the library

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn was our first introduction to Lola and I have since memorized this text I have read it so often. My daughter fell in love with this book before she was even two and we’ve read it at the very least weekly (usually daily ) for well over a year. It never gets boring to read because it’s such a calm gentle story about a little girl eager for her special trip with her mom to the library.

ganesha

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes is a cute adaptation of the Indian legend of how Ganesha came to write the epic Mahabharata. Kids will love this book without ever knowing the historical significance of the original story. My daughter absolutely adored this book because it has two of her favorite things an Elephant ( at least she thought Ganesha was one ) and candy! Ganesha breaks his trunk on a jawbreaker in this story and while having a bit of a tantrum is asked to use his broken tusk to scribe an amazing epic … he agrees as long as he can eat candy while he does it. The story is cute but the illustrations by Sanjay Patel completely suck kids in, it’s no shock that his day job is as an animator for Pixar.george

Curious George Goes to the Hospital by Margaret and H.A. Rey .  I adored this book as a child and even though hospitals have changed a lot since this book was written the story still rings true.  I remember reading this book before having to go to the hospital as a child and finding comfort in it. It’s a great book to read when you need to calm fears before a hospital stay.  I’m not the only fan of this book in our house in fact it’s one of my three year old daughter’s favorite books right now.

snowbots

Snowbots by Aaron Reynolds is funky, fun , and full of really awesome rhymes. The robot reality is a sweet one and my kids totally dug this book. We were picking favorite robots in the first few pages and loving the book more and more as we read it. The story is a familiar one but with the substitution of robots instead of humans basic snow day things get more interesting. My son loved the snowball fight and my daughter was all over the pink robot. I loved how they had cereal with gasoline and an oil bath. A huge hit with all of us.

aggie the brave

Aggie the Brave by Lori Ries is a really wonderful book that combines lessons about worry and bravery. Aggie is getting spayed and both she and her owner go through various emotions from the time they drop her off at the vet until her stitches are removed weeks later. Not only is this just a really great book to teach kids about what happens to their pets when they go into to be payed or neutered it’s also a wonderful book about worry and what it means to be brave. The love between the little boy and his dog jumps off the pages and I got chocked up when the little boy cried on the drive home after dropping the dog off for surgery. We can all relate to that feeling of driving away filled with worry. Great book!

goldilocks and the three dinosaurs

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems is a funny prehistoric spin on the classic Goldilocks and The Three Bears. There are so many funny details in this book that it’s as much for the adults reading it to their children as it is for the kids. The humor is mostly dry but plentiful and the story itself is engaging as all Willems stories are. If you aren’t familiar with this author you need to grab this and a handful of his other titles from the library asap.

the three pigs

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner is the most creative of all these fantastic books. In this book the three little pigs escape the wolf by escaping the story itself and being blown right off the page. They test out other pages and pick up a dragon and cat ( complete with fiddle) but ultimately want to return home. Together they face and beat the wolf and settle into the brick home of the third pig together with the dragon and cat. The illustrations will delight you. The perspective and imagination in this book is stunning and well worth many many readings.

 

What was your favorite new to you book in 2013?

Books About Santa

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christmas books for kids

I love Santa. My kids love Santa and nothing gets us more excited for his arrival than books. Here are some of our very favorite books about Santa to share with your kids. All books lists include affiliate links.

Babar and Father Christmas

Babar and Father Christmas  by Jean De Brunhoff was one of my very favorite Christmas stories as a child. As an adult I have had some great belly laughs at some of it’s writing .Babar books in general beg to be pre read , just trust me. In this book  Babar goes looking for Father Christmas because he wants to ask him to visit Elephant country. He searches all over Paris and finally ends up in the North Pole and finds after much effort Father Christmas. I love the details in this book, as a child I would lay looking at the pictures of Santa’s workshop and imagine what visiting it would be like. As an adult I appreciate the smallest details like how Father Christmas’s flying machine ( not a sled) has P.N #1 on it , meaning of course Pere Noel #1.

Peter Claus

Peter Claus and the Naughty List by Lawrence David. Peter Claus hopes to follow in his dad’s footsteps someday. But then he ended up on the naughty list. Peter doesn’t think the naughty list is fair. He takes his dad’s sleigh and gathers all the kids on the list and bring them to the North Pole to explain to Santa why they did some of the not so nice things. One-by-one Santa takes the kids home while listening to their tales. He agrees if the kids do one nice thing to make up for a naughty thing they still might find a gift under the Christmas tree. This is a great story that realizes it’s hard to be good all the time, but that doesn’t make them bad. ‘All people do naughty things once in a while. It can’t be helped,” Santa explained. “Saying you’re sorry is what matters most.” ( review by Carrie Anne )

guess_whos_coming

Guess Who’s Coming to Santa’s for Dinner? by Tomie dePaola is a funny book about the classic family gathering. I don’t know about you but our family Christmas dinners were more comical than Norman Rockwell and I related so well to all the different family personalities, and quirks. My son thought the fact that one of Santa’s friends brought a polar bear was hilarious, but was perplexed by the absence of any elves.  I like that Santa is exhausted by his family but in the end happy he hosted such a large family gathering.  My son liked it, and loved the illustrations  but it is a longer book so take a flip through it to see if your child is ready yet.

Oh-What-a-Christmas-282x263

Oh, What a Christmas!by Micheal Garland is a sweet story about how Santa made do when the unexpected happened. As we all know reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh but when the reins break and Santa comes crashing down they are nowhere to be seen! Luckily a rag tag group of farm animals step in and save the day. The message that it’s not the reindeer but rather the magic that makes the difference is loud and clear . I like how this book can also open a dialog about how even special days can have unexpected bumps and you make do with what you have , just like Santa in this story.Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning by Cheryl Ryan Harshman  wasn’t what I expected , it was more. It’s written in the spirit of ” The House That Jack Built” and the text builds and builds starting with snow falling on a house as children sleep and ending with Christmas morning. What I wasn’t expecting is that the author tells the story of The Nutcracker , albeit a very simplistic version, in the rhyming text as well.  The illustrations of the Rat King is a little frightening but nothing that will prevent you from reading it.

How Santa Got His Job

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky is a fun and surprisingly practical story about Santa and how he developed the skills needed for his one of a kind job.  It starts with Santa as a young man and as he keeps bouncing from job to job he acquires skills like going in and out of chimneys as a chimney sweep with ease and without getting dirty,  develops a relationship with reindeer as a zoo worker and gets chubby eating all the food at a all night diner gig!  There are more but i don’t want to spoil the story. My son loved it, especially once the elves showed up, which was when the toys did too! I know when i was a kid I wanted to know how Santa got his job, and there are movies dedicated to this so this book  jumped on the bandwagon and did a great job , it’s very cute!

Santa Duck Cover

Santa Duck and His Merry Helpers by David Milgrim is really funny. Santa duck is the duck liaison to Santa and he goes around to find out what all the other ducks want for Christmas. His younger siblings want in on the action too and start telling ducks that they can get them bigger and better gifts in an effort to out Santa Santa Duck.  Santa Duck explains that bigger and better gifts is not what Christmas is about . Christmas is about giving and sharing with your family. My son who is 6 and I both laughed at the smart alec ducks and while rude and annoying in many ways they were right when they said Santa Duck was hogging all the fun by being the only duck allowed to dress as Santa and be his helper.  Cute book !

Santa Kid

Santa Kid by James Patterson is a favorite library book in our house this year . My son inherited his love and curiosity of the inner workings of the North Pole from me and this book feeds that wonder. It also taps into something preschoolers are often seeking, power and a voice that gets heard. In the story Santa’s daughter saves the North Pole and Christmas from a corporate take over. I liked this book, and my son did too. It doesn’t focus on the religious celebration but rather on Santa and it doesn’t take a very sophisticated kid to know it’s make believe, 3 pages in my son said ” Mommy, this is a made up story right? Santa isn’t a regular Daddy, that’s silly!”  What it does is focuses on giving kids power to save something. Maybe it’s just my 4 year old but he spends all day pretending to save the day and this book spoke right to that desire to be powerful and good!

Santasaurus

Santasaurus by Niamh Sharkey is my new favorite Christmas book.  It’s perfect for all the dinosaur crazy kids and ones not even into dinosaurs will still enjoy the sweet story. Ollie, Molly and Milo are dino siblings who are getting prepared for Christmas by making decorations, eating treats and writing letters to Santasaurus. Milo asks for a trip on Santasaurus’s sleigh and on Christmas Eve he sneaks down to find Santasaurus waiting for him. I love this book because as a child I couldn’t think of anything more magical than going with Santa on his sleigh, well maybe hanging out in his toy shop, either way this brought back that wonder. The illustrations are bright , fun and add to the magical feeling of this book.

How Santa Really Works

How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow is a great book to go along with this activity. The book is styled as an expose about how Santa and his many many elves get all the work for Christmas done. I will caution you now that this is a long book, with even longer asides. I made my son head up to bed with me and the book early in order to get it read and still have time to chat about it after. I love the “insider” feel about this book and so did my son. There were many asides that made both of us giggle especially the comment about how many requests Santa gets for ponies each year. I loved that it encouraged kids to write to Santa but I have to say I sorta miss that it didn’t include much about magic. Still I can’t tell you how much my son loved this book ( I knew he would) and how impressed I was when he asked me if I thought this was how it worked. That opened a great discussion about how we imagine the North Pole and how stories and movies are just one person’s imagination and no one knows the truth .

hurry santa Hurry, Santa! by Julia Sykes is an okay book. I wanted to like it more than I did. The pictures are cute, the idea of Santa being late for Christmas morning has a lot of potential and the author tried but it just never gelled for me. I would still check it out from the library and test it out with your child, but I won’t be adding this to my must buy list.

McDuff_s_New_Friend

McDuff’s New Friend by Rosemary Wells was a classroom classic in my last year teaching. I think I read it every day for 3 weeks straight and then a few weeks after Christmas too! In it McDuff the little Westie dog saves the day finding Santa stuck in the snow! I love Susan Jeffer’s retro illustrations and the little details like the dad feeding the baby, the doggy sweaters the McDuff wears in the snow, and how Santa gave them all gifts they needed in the story .

A-Small-Christmas

A Small Christmas by Wong Herbert Yee is about as perfect a Christmas book as my son could ever read. My son is obsessed with firefighters, he rescues his baby sister all day long and the sound of sirens are pretty much a given day or night in our house. Fireman Small is a tiny firefighter that children immediately relate to because he is little. His heart is big though and so is his courage. In this installment though it’s not a fire he rushes to but Santa’s aid.  Your child doesn’t need to be as nuts about firefighters as my son is to enjoy this sweet holiday book.

What book about Santa is a favorite at your house?

 

88 Books That Teach Important Lessons

character building books for kids Books are my favorite teaching aid for any age. I love how books can open up children’s eyes to experiences they have never imagined, to discover places they have never been to ,and to feelings their heart has not yet felt. The very best part is that books are accessible. Books with tough lessons can be shared with a parent at home where answers can be given, feelings reassured ,and the story related to the experiences of the reader. Whether these books get shared at home at bedtime , at school at circle time ,or a child reads them alone at quiet reading time they are all filled with valuable lessons.

The books are listed alphabetically by author so it’s easy to print out and take to a library and find the books. I have included a short note next to each title to explain the lesson that the book focuses on. Books are subjective and there might be some lessons that I get from a book that you do not. I welcome your comments , your opinions ,and of course your suggestions . My 88 is just the start. All book titles in our lists include affiliate links.

  1. A Picture Book of Helen Keller (Picture Book Biography) by David  A. Adler tells readers that we are all different with different abilities but are all capable of great things.
  2. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen is about more than ballet, it’s about overcoming being different, accepting your body and even standing up for yourself.
  3. Parts by Tedd Arnold is a funny book with a great lesson about figures of speech. Young kids are very literal and this book helps kids see that language is not always what it seems.
  4. The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race by Stan and Jan Berenstain is about not giving up and playing by the rules.
  5. Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne is a story about how being yourself is important but also about when to depend on others.
  6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is a story about living in the moment and the fleeting nature of life.
  7. The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau is a story that teaches children about giving as well as where happiness can really be found.
  8. The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle is great for teaching telling time but it’s also a wonderful lesson in not taking the bait when someone wants to fight.
  9. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forestby Lynne Cherry is a beautiful book that teaches children about taking care of the environment.
  10. My Mouth Is a Volcano!by Julia Cook is all about interrupting. This book finds a fun way to teach kids when it’s appropriate to speak.
  11. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney  is a inspirational lesson about how we can all make the world more beautiful in our own way.
  12. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin teaches readers about the need for good working conditions, the role of negotiation,  as well as the basics of what a strike is.
  13. Duck for President by Doreen Cronin teaches readers that being a leader isn’t about being the bossy one but rather having the most responsibility .
  14. Is There Really a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis has a wonderful lesson about what is really important ( hint : it’s not the rat race) and to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
  15. The Empty Pot by Demi is a lovely book about the importance of honesty.
  16. Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio doesn’t just teach us that girls should run for President it also explains the Electoral College pretty well.
  17. Pink Tiara Cookies For Three  by Maria Dismondy is all about friendship and how to make it work when your friends become friends with someone new.
  18. Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are  by Maria Dismondy is about bullying but it’s also about doing the right thing especially when it’s hard to.
  19. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson is a fairytale like book about problem solving with a creative imagination and intelligence.
  20. Everybody Cooks Rice  by Norah Dooley is a great lesson in subtle similarities amidst more obvious differences.
  21. Her Mother’s Face by Roddy Doyle teaches readers that grief isn’t something we deal with one time and move on.
  22. The Sissy Ducklingby Harvey Fierstein teaches us that all people are unique and to respect everyone for that uniqueness not for their ability to fit some societal mold.
  23. Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming is well loved at my house for its love of history and for its lesson about standing up for something when you can see it’s value even when others do not.
  24. Whoever You Are  by Mem Fox. This book is all about finding the similarities in all people which is a grand lesson in empathy.
  25. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke teaches readers that sometimes the only person who can save you is you.
  26. Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is a lesson in resourcefulness , something in today’s disposable culture should be taught to every child!
  27. Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is a book about Rosa Parks it’s written beautifully to teach another generation about how one person can make a huge difference.
  28. All the Colors of the Earth by Shelia Hamanaka does not have a subtle lesson you will have to dig for, its lesson is simple and upfront. Children come in all different colors.
  29. Most Loved in All the World by Tonya Cherie Hegamin is a touching story that introduces children to the underground railroad as well as to sacrifices that parents make for the sake of their children.
  30. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purseby Kevin Henkes teaches children about taking responsibility for our actions and forgiveness.
  31. Shelia Rae, The Brave  by Kevin Henkes teaches us that it’s OK to let someone help you when you need it.
  32. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks is a really cute book about why trying new things is a good thing
  33. Brontorina by James Howe has a beautiful message about inclusive environments and respecting people for who they are not for who we think they should be.
  34. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston is a lesson in what makes Christmas special and more than any preachy book this story drives this lesson home.
  35. Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora is a wonderful book with a lesson in following your dreams even when you are the only one who can see that they are attainable.
  36. Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse is all about security and how children need to know that no matter what children do their parents will love them all the same.
  37. My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis teaches kids that when other people express who they are it’s not up to us to decide if it’s OK or not just because it may not fit into our narrow expectations.
  38. The Paper Princess (Picture Puffins) by Elisa Klevin has a great lesson that imperfection is not a flaw and it shows us that in subtle ways page after page
  39. Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus is one of my favorite books to turn to when kids feel like they just can’t keep up with their peers
  40. The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll teaches kids to embrace competition but to know when cooperation is a better choice.
  41. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is about being who you are no matter what environment you are in .
  42. Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester teaches children to tolerate differences in others and how sometimes what we feel most vulnerable about isn’t all bad.
  43. Fish Is Fish  by Leo Lionni is a cute book about change and the way true friendships can withstand change.
  44. It’s Mine!  by Leo Lionni  is one of my favorite books to pull out when I hear those words… a great lesson in sharing and working together.
  45. Swimmy by Leo Lionni is one of my favorite books about bravery and teamwork.
  46. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell teaches kids to be proud of who they are just as they are.
  47. The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon is an unexpectedly tender look at being different at school.
  48. Mr. Peabody’s Applesby Madonna is an important lesson about how rumors can spread and words can really hurt people.
  49. Hugo and Miles In I’ve Painted Everything by Scott Magoon is about creativity and how it never really runs out.
  50. Dinosaur Woods by George McClements is about about conservation and teamwork.
  51. Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud has such an important lesson about kindness to others and the importance of treating all people with respect.
  52. I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt isn’t just about unconditional love it’s also about meeting the needs of those you love.
  53. The Monster Princess by D.J. McHale is filled with lesson about doing what is right even when we are angry and hurt, discovering that what we dream about being may not be all it’s cracked up to be as well as my favorite message that there are ” All kinds of special.”
  54. Elmer by David McKee is all about self acceptance even when that means we must accept that we are very different.
  55. How the Ladies Stopped the Wind by Bruce McMillan is all about problem solving and that there is power in numbers.
  56. Mole Music by David McPhail tells us that the arts are vital and can nourish great things.
  57. The Mighty Street Sweeper by Patrick Moore teaches readers that you don’t have to be the best at everything to still be proud of your hard work.
  58. Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora is about how one person can make a profound impact on a child’s life and the power of books.
  59. Makeup Mess by Robert Munsch teaches kids that they are beautiful just the way they are.
  60. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch isn’t just about girl power it’s also about being resourceful and using your brain not brawn to win.
  61. Zoom! by Robert Munsch is not a preachy book. It’s lesson is that kids that use wheelchairs aren’t helpless and can save the day!
  62. Enemy Pie by Derek Munson teaches children that enemies might just be friends you haven’t made yet.
  63. The Only One Club  by Jane Naliboff has a great message that we should celebrate our diversity and tell our kids it’s not a bad thing to be unique.
  64. The Family Book by Todd Parr has a lesson I have been teaching my 3 year old lately, that all families may not look alike but all families are made with love.
  65. The I’M NOT SCARED Book by Todd Parr teaches kids it’s OK to have fears and that they can overcome them.
  66. The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite book that teaches children that it’s OK to separate from their parents because their love goes with you wherever you go.
  67. Zip, Zip…Homework by Nancy Poydar is a book about telling the truth at home and school.
  68. Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuriis a great book that can open up a dialog about getting lost or separated from a parent.
  69. Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven is a tough story to read because the lesson it teaches is that there is injustice in this world and kids aren’t immune.
  70. Ish by Peter H. Reynolds is a wonderful book about the beauty of imperfection and creativity. A must read for all perfectionists.
  71. A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo teaches kids about being different and how it can feel to be singled out by adults as well as kids.
  72. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka is a great book to teach children about point of view and to always look at both sides of every story.
  73. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak to me is a lesson in unconditional love. You can always come home where you are loved best of all.
  74. A Bad Case Of Stripes  by David Shannon teaches children to not change themselves for others but to just be who they are.
  75. No, David! by David Shannon teaches young kids that there are consequences but that even when they mess up they are still loved.
  76. The Giving Tree  by Shel Silverstein is all about entitlement and can be a great tool for teaching children about what makes a bad friend.
  77. Tallulah’s Tutu by Marilyn Singer has a great lesson about effort and achievement and how sparkly beautiful things don’t usually come without it.
  78. Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (Time-Traveling Twins) by Diane Stanley is included in this list because it’s a bang on book about the history behind Thanksgiving. I think it’s vital for kids to know this when it’s something celebrated year after year.
  79. Amos & Boris by William Steig is a lesson about the power of friendship and how when a friend needs help nothing including being small can stop you from helping them.
  80. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss teaches children about the importance of taking care of their environment.
  81. Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson teaches kids that it’s OK to go out and explore but not to forget where home is.
  82. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is the ultimate lesson about how everything won’t always go your way.
  83. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is about patience and separation anxiety. It is a good lesson for kids that those feelings are normal but that those who love them will come back.
  84. Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt is hilarious but has a great lesson about taking risks too.
  85. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!by Mo Willems teaches kids that even throwing a fit won’t change the fact that they just aren’t allowed to do some things.
  86. Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong is about living in two cultures at one time. A wonderful read for all children to better grasp what being part of an immigrant family is like.
  87. All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino is a good book to talk about how people came to the United States and why people move from country to country.
  88. Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen teaches kids that even princesses don’t fit into a simple mold.

I know you have more to add ! Add the titles that help you teach your children or students important lessons in comments.