Books for Kids Age 0 to Tween
Whether buying a gift or stocking your shelves, here are the best books for kids, recommended by the Bank Street College of Education
Reading to a young child at bedtime is one of the oldest rituals in, well, the book. While this practice is beyond valuable, it's also important to read with your kids every day -- long before they're ready to conk out for the night.
A Unique Approach
Jeannine Benigno, of Framingham, MA who has been a Boston-area nanny for five years, doesn't waste any time: she reads to children when she's interviewing to be their caregiver. Aside from impressing the parents (and potential employers), Benigno sees the importance of bonding over a book and describes reading to him or her as a great icebreaker. "Sometimes they're a little too shy to even come over, so I'll sit on the floor with a book and just read it a little louder than I normally would, and it usually gets their interest and then they'll be over, listening, before you know it."
Once she's on the job, Benigno doesn't let the books fall by the wayside. She explains how bringing books to work, even to a child who already has his or her own collection, can maximize the comfort level, especially early on. She says, "I'll keep it in my bag and tell her, 'I have a brand new book we'll read once mommy leaves.' By the time mommy is ready to leave, there's no crying, no separation anxiety, she's just anxious to get to the books I brought."
A World of Possibility
Reading and being read to is of critical importance for kids of all ages. Lisa Von Drasek, the Children's Librarian of the Bank Street College of Education and EarlyWord blogger, sees opportunities for parents to read to their kids, even on the busiest days. "When dinner is in the oven, sit and have a quiet time together," she says. "Read the book aloud and then leave it out for the child to page through. While you're mixing or setting the table, the child is on the floor with the books. It's not just for bedtime."
As toddlers grow into pre-kindergartners, and fourth-graders become tweens, the possibilities for reading to them expand accordingly. Von Drasek offers more suggestions for ways parents can keep it up, even if there's not a book in sight. "Reading aloud should be part of what parents do, whether they're looking at the newspaper and saying, 'Oooh we might go to a movie this weekend, let's look that up,' reading aloud shopping lists, reading aloud cereal boxes -- whatever is in our environment."
Here are several of Von Drasek's picks for the best books for kids, as well as a number of the Children's Book Committee at the Bank Street College of Education's favorites. Keep in mind that every child develops at his or her own pace, and these age groups are just approximate designations. (For a more thorough look at developmental stages, check out Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14, by Chip Wood.)
Before infants have the dexterity to actually turn a page, board books are a great way to introduce them to reading. Interaction, repetition, and a sing-songy quality are great characteristics for books at this point.
Baby Goes Beep
by Rebecca O'Connell, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
Hop a Little, Jump a Little!
illustrated by Annie Kubler
I Kissed the Baby
written and illustrated by Mary Murphy
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces
by Jane Wattenberg
Simms Taback's City Animals
written and illustrated by Simms Taback
As toddlers become more aware of their environment, the books they're introduced to will focus on a broader range of concepts including colors and what's in their world.
And I Love You
by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Cat the Cat Who Is That?
written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Eating the Alphabet
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
written and illustrated by Donald Crews
In the Tall, Tall Grass
written and illustrated by Denise Fleming
At this point, kids are very aware of their surroundings, and their interests often focus on the family.
by Joy Cowley, photos by Nic Bishop
Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
The McDuff Books
by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
The Snowy Day
written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
By age 4, children are intrigued by fairy tales and folktales, and also by nonfiction. Von Drasek recommends books that spark the imagination and encourage storytelling.
by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Miss Brooks Likes Books (And I Don't)
by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley
The Three Bears
written and illustrated by Byron Barton
Time for Bed
by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer
Waiting for Wings
by Lois Ehlert
A sense of humor goes a long way for this age group, as does great language for reading aloud. This may also be a good time to start introducing chapter books.
Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue
by Molly Coxe, photos by Olivier Toppin
Brown Rabbit in the City
written and illustrated by Natalie Russell
Mr. Popper's Penguins
by Richard and Florence Atwater, illustrated by Robert Lawson
My Father's Dragon
by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie
by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Edward Koren
By age 7 (or earlier), children's personal interests are moving into the forefront. From nonfiction to fantasy, and from pets to baseball, there's something for everyone. Von Drasek suggests implementing weekly trips to the library to encourage self-selection.
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen
by Renée Watson, illustrated by Shadra Strickland
Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven
by Graham Salisbury, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
Cloud Tea Monkeys
by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard
Judy Moody series
by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
The Painting That Wasn't There
by Steve Brezenoff, illustrated by C. B. Canga
Ages 9-12 and Young Adult
Von Drasek is a huge proponent of family read-alouds as well as audio books. And while reading aloud should be prevalent among the younger set, it's valuable and fun for families to continue this practice even as the kids head out of the single digits. She says, "You can read Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and maybe not really get the really snarky, kind of sarcastic voice, but there's nothing better than hearing Tim Curry read aloud."
A Series of Unfortunate Events
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Because of Winn Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo
by Dean Hale and Shannon Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Girl's Best Friend: A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery
by Leslie Margolis
The Boxcar Children
by Gertrude Chandler Warner
by Kat Falls
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
The Beautiful Between
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
The Keepers' Tattoo
by Gill Arbuthnott
To Come and Go Like Magic
by Katie Pickard Fawcett
See the complete list of 2011's best books, as rated by The Children's Book Committee at the Bank Street College of Education.
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