If I’m not in the process of reading a book, I feel like my arm is missing or something. Reading, it seems, is just part of who I am. And this year, I’ve had a lot of fun alternating re-reading Harry Potter with Pulitzer Prize winners (The Goldfinch, The Orphan Master’s Son, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Grapes of Wrath) and classics like Slaughterhouse-Five. I’m not sure what’s up next after I finish Harry Potter 5, but I can usually bet on reading 10-20 children’s books a day.
Having kids presents an interesting dilemma. As a mother, you are intimately connected with your kid even before birth ... even though you don’t technically know the tiny little person who’s been kicking you for the last 20 weeks. You know you love them. But that doesn’t mean you know what they’ll be into. What will make them laugh. What their passions will be.
For all we knew, a mega-extrovert, sports-loving kid could have come along to shake up the “Ike and Alexis habitual human observers, book readers and tv watchers” vibe. We love to see and understand the world through story and song, not sports.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally open (and even excited) to being shaken up by our boys differing passions, but so far with Elliott, I’ve been lucky. He’s a lot like me in interests (reading, learning, memorizing), and interpersonal skills (would rather do just about anything than face an introduction with a new person). Something we can both work on together. Seriously, we practice it at lunch. “Hi, I’m Mama. What’s your name?” I’m getting pretty good.
I’ve been reading books to Elliott for almost 3 years now, and anyone in the reading-to-toddlers game knows that there are books out there that your kid may love, but you want to set them on fire. And there are those magical books that are fun to read, and beloved by your kid as well.
Here are 4 of Elliott’s top “obsession books” from over the years and why we both fell-head-over heels.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Elliott got The Gruffalo for his second birthday from a sweet friend who knows what’s up when it comes to parental quality of life. It’s a fun rhythmic romp through the deep dark woods and Elliott has been “waiting for mouse” ever since we cracked the cover (guess you’ll just have to read it to get that reference, right?). We’ve also read The Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom by the same author, and they are all fun.
We love the characters, the twists and turns of story and the near pitch-perfect sing-songy rhythm -- all mainstays for kid and parent pleasers!
Bonus: The BBC has done a 30 minute movie for each of the books mentioned. So you can read the book, then watch the story come alive with your kid. Right now, they are all on Netfix. I’ve watched them. Many, many times. And I still find them charming.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
I know this may sound a little over the top for a children’s book, but The Cat in the Hat is a masterpiece. The rhythm and rhyme are perfect. Simple reading words are presented over and over in a fresh, imaginative way.
The only downside? It’s like the War and Peace of picture books. So, don’t pick this one up unless you have a good 15 minutes to fret over what the cat has up his white gloves. We have gone through other Seuss phases, but I believe the Cat holds a favorite book honor.
Spoiler Alert: In a slight twist on the classic “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” Halloween costumes, the boys are going to be “Little Cat E” and “Little Cat I” from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. The jury’s still out on if Ike and I will be forced to join the fun as Little Cat D & M.
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
My mom and I stumbled upon this book in Target. We saw “New York Times Best-Seller” blazoned on the cover and tossed it into the cart for E. It was love at first read. I appreciate how this book stretches normal kid book vocabulary. I mean “Kaleidoscope” “aghast” “glum”? And I could go on! I love that my kid is exposed to these words. Yet, its dreary-silly refrain “Blub, Blub, BLUUUUUB” pulls in even the youngest listeners.
I’ve bought this for several birthday parties to share with friends. It’s a great option if you know a soon-to-be two or three year old!
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
My mother-in-law introduced us to Pete the Cat, and he’s a very cool cat indeed. It’s not a sing-songy rhyme book, but it does have a jazz-y storyteller feel that’s just as fun to read aloud. We also love that each Pete the Cat story by Litwin includes a downloadable song. White Shoes has saved my ears from many a whine in the car, and for that I will always be grateful.
White Shoes is also great for introducing basic colors and a cool, go-with-the-flow attitude even a grown-up can appreciate. We also like Four Groovy Buttons and School Shoes, check them out!
Here are a few more of Elliott’s favorites from over the years:
Ira Sleeps Over
What Do You Do with an Idea
Caps for Sale
Fox in Socks
Hop on Pop
Little Blue Truck
Bizzy Bear Series
Gossie & Gertie Series
Please share your read aloud favorites! We’d love to expand our library with some smart, fun books.