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A Parent’s (and Librarian’s) Recommendations for Books to Read with Toddlers

Post by Danielle Allison
Posted March 19, 2013 in Kids & Book News, NoveList K-8 Plus

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What a joy it is when work and home complement each other. At work, my job revolves around books. At home with my son, Gabe, I also spend a lot of time with books -- reading is an activity that we both enjoy and I love being able to introduce him to special books. Below are some of my personal favorites that I recommend for other parents (and teachers and librarians too - anyone can share a special book with a child!). Try these with a toddler in your life!

Note: I developed this list based on my interview in the April issue of Kids & Books.

The author and her sonOn the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. Rhyming text in this quietly lovely book depicts how nature and animals in the world celebrate the specialness that is a child’s birth.
Gabe was born at 6:45 pm and this book just works for me. I tear up every time at the last line. The illustrations are beautiful and Gabe likes to be snuggled and told about when he was a baby and when we met. I never knew how interested children would be in that, but he is fascinated by our first meeting and the first bath and how I had to hold him and do everything for him!

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. A mom’s tribute to her son through different life stages.
The copy we have is actually the copy my mom read to me every day! Really funny to read when you have your own 2-year-old!

The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle. Told in verse, an amusing story of a mysterious pirate who promises treasures to entice sailors to a faraway island.
This has a lot of the graphic novel elements and the last page folds out to the top, which is interesting. It has a kind of a unique cadence to it and has a funny twist at the end.

Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss. Through his inimitable characters and art style, Dr. Seuss makes ABCs and their sounds quite fun!
Thanks to my colleague Dawn Towery for recommending this one! Silliness and ABCs rolled into one.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duckey Rinker. Truck-loving children will enjoy this story of how (personified) construction vehicles get themselves ready for bed.
This one never gets old, even for me. The images are quiet, but detailed and it’s a great bedtime book. I’d say we read this on average 3 times a night and no, that’s not a typo!

Roadwork by Sally Sutton. A rhythmic fiction book about what big trucks and other road machinery to to get roads built. Includes a glossary of machines.
I read it as sort of a chant. When we pull up at a stoplight and there is construction, Gabe immediately starts saying, “Plan the road, plan the road, mark it on the map.” Again, never gets old. The illustrations are really colorful and it’s fun.

Good Morning, Digger by Anne F. Rockwell. Clear, bright illustrations complement the words, which include sound effects (“Grr-clank!”) as machines work to build a new community center.
We got this book from the library and I keep having to check it out. I’m going to buy a copy. Very cute; digger and “digger’s friends” are building a community center.

The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon. A turbocharged version of “The Three Little Pigs,” only in this book, young big-rigs are trying to preserve their own individual garages against the threat of the wrecking ball.
It’s a little dark, so not for babies, but toddlers. It’s all about the big bad wrecking ball coming for the rigs, and he gets melted at the end. It leads to lots of fun times, so definitely not a bedtime book. After we read it, Gabe hides in his tent and mommy (aka ‘the big bad wrecking ball’) knocks and says, “Little rig little rig, let me come in!” and he squeals. It’s a fun take on The Three Little Pigs.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Classic story of the mean-spirited Grinch trying to prevent Christmas from coming to the village of Whoville.
I know it’s meant to be a Christmas read, but it’s totally an all-the-time read now. Gabe loves it, particularly because his dad reads it in a ‘grinch’ voice. This year, he saw the movie on Christmas Eve and was impressed, but still wanted the book to be read after watching. That made me feel like a good mom, let me tell you!

Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin. ABCs like you’ve never heard them, with rhythm and rhyme galore as they race each other to the top of the coconut tree.
This book is awesome; it just has everything for Gabe’s age group. Gabe loves the bright colors and even before he could really talk, he loved the “Uh, oh!” part and laughed when the letters fell from the tree. He likes looking at the letters in the back and identifying them, and the fact that they’re large and brightly-colored keeps his attention.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. The Story of Mike and his shovel, Mary Ann, who move to a small town after losing their jobs to powered shovels then find a new job.
This one is much longer than I remembered and Gabe is only just now to the age where he’ll sit through the whole thing, but he loves it. A good one for kids who love construction. He likes picking out things (like the old-school fire engine) from the pictures.


Danielle Allison catalogs juvenile fiction and nonfiction at NoveList where she’s also the team lead for collecting and recording author web references to add to NoveList. She regularly contributes postings on books she’s reading and is a member of NoveList’s Juvenile Brain Trust, a weekly collaboration to coordinate cataloging and content..