My son, Small B has had books thrust upon him from birth. Being a child named after a literary character my husband and I hoped he would take to books with the same ferocious hunger that we did. Of course as much as we would have loved him to start with Harry Potter we soon discovered around one year old that it would take practice to get there.
Choosing books for a toddler is a huge task. The selection out there is immense and with the rise of social media the good authors and illustrators have taken on an almost superstar like role in many parents lives. Writing an article on books for toddlers would not be complete without mentioning Julia Donaldson and her fantastic range of books. The most popular of course being the Gruffalo, a book that my son devoured at age one, two and three. The rhythm of this book sticks with you. The scary element that the Gruffalo brings satisfies a toddlers need to roar by mimicking the books namesake around the kitchen at 5.30 am. So I could write an entire article around the Donaldson phenomenon. I would like instead focus on some different books that Little B loved with the hope that your book collection could use a few hidden gems.
Much like the successful books I’ve mentioned previously, I’d like to start with another series of books. As a family we found that series of books are a great way to start reading together. The familiarity of illustrations or characters let a toddler feel safe and comfortable with a book. They can also start to learn the words and feign reading to you by memorising each page. The Mog and Meg books did this wonderfully for us. A series of very simple books about a witch called Meg and a cat called Mog. Each book lasts only a few pages is filled with simplistic but striking illustrations, Meg and Mog usually go on an accidental adventure, often including an owl and a broom stick. Hilarity ensues and they are always home in time for tea.
Personally, I like to add another layer to these repetitive and beautiful books, by using accents and voices with the characters. So even though each adventure may looks different, the characters always sound the same for Little B and he feels a great sense of pride when he is able to predict how the characters will behave. Meg and Mog are in essence the soap opera of the children’s books. As Little B is growing these books are also helping him to learn recognising words and sounds. With large simple lettering is it easy to pick out small words and each book always contains at least one page that just contains one big cartoon onomatopoeic word. My son beams when he reads out the word “BOOM”.
Another book we wouldn’t be without during his first few years is Not Now Bernard. A classic book, I remember vividly reading it in school. It is so simple. Over thirty two pages there are only one hundred and fifty two words. The longest of these probably being “Bernard”. So why would you pick a book so simple to stimulate and entertain your toddler? Because it works. This book is full of wonderful opportunities for your toddler to shout, scream and be silly. The repetitive phrase “Not Now Bernard” is a simple sounding one and Little B picked it up immediately. He felt a giggly rush in shouting it at the book during the appropriate moments, and any book that makes him giggle is a winner for us.
The illustrations take up the majority of the page and they are bright and sparse. They do however manage to create a glorious setting for Bernard’s demise and although the story its self is lacking length the pictures are there to make up for it. You could read this book in about sixty two seconds, but when you pause on each page and discuss the pictures you could be there for hours. “What’s the monster doing?”, “What do you think Mummy has made him for dinner?” and “How is the Daddy feeling?” are a few that we discussed whilst reading this book. We have read this book so much in the last few years that it already needs replacing.
The last type of book that I’d like to talk about is the non-fiction book, Little B’s book shelf is full of fiction books about monsters, animals and fantastical creatures but he also has a fair few reference books. These books are not really ones you will technically read with your toddler. They are books to look at. Little B loves looking at pictures of trains and when he was a young toddler we would spend a lot of time pointing at different types of trains and making train sounds. He also loved looking at books with realistic pictures of animals. He would point to different ones and smugly identify the correct noises they made. When he got a bit older and speech came into play he would love telling me which train/animal/superhero was who. For some reason Mummy was always the loudest train/animal/superhero.
Choosing the right book for your toddler, in my experience, should be about choosing a book they can get excited about but also one you can too. As we know children love to copy and mimic so books you read together will feel boring if you find them so. Librarians are always very helpful to point you in the right direction to books you may enjoy together and help you find them. I have also found it very helpful to try and remember books I loved as a child, asking my parents helped with this. As much as there are some wonderful new books being released every day, I’m nostalgic at heart and feel we shouldn’t put away the children’s books from the past if they can still be enjoyed today.
MY TOP 10 BOOKS FOR TODDLERS
- The Gruffalo: Julia Donaldson
- Meg and Mog: Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
- Not Now Bernard: David McKee
- Trains (My first discover series): Sarah Matthews
- Stickman: Julia Donaldson
- The Love Monster: Rachel Bright
- I Want My Hat Back: Jon Klassen
- The Hungry Caterpillar: Eric Carle
- 10 Little Dinosaurs: Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty
- Usborne Very First words, Animals: Felicity Brooks
From Karla Mouncey-Jaggers