As a teacher and bookseller I often get asked for advice on how to engage your young child with a book. For me, it seems an odd question. I have read to our three since they were in the womb, so the idea of not knowing how to engage a young child in the wonders of a book is alien concept. However, I know that I am very lucky to have come from a background of readers and natural storytellers. It is true though that many parents don’t know where or when to begin. Perhaps their own experiences have been limited or they are simply overwhelmed by the amount of ‘advice’ bandied about. For me, it’s not just about the physicality of the book, although that is key, it’s the art of being able to craft a story which captures your child’s imagination. It can be about anything. Seriously, I remember making up stories about cooking the tea, when our eldest was a toddler and our middle one was a screaming (but very beautiful) babe in arms.
Once you have them hooked on the pattern of words, they will want to explore for themselves. Cloth books, board books which become lovingly chewed to pieces, you name it, your child will love it, if you read it with feeling. Try it, honestly, it works! I have read the complete ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to a newborn and repeated the tales of my grandparents to a class of challenging year 6 pupils. The stories jump into life without the aid of a screen or app (although technologies most certainly do have a place within our children’s experiences). What engages them is you. You are the teller of these wondrous tales and children want to be mesmerised by other worlds.
At Chicken and Frog we aim to do just that, create other worlds for children and parents/grandparents…to immerse themselves in.
Here’s our top ten of first books:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle A much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simply, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children.
Peepo, Janet and Allen Ahlberg The repetitive rhymes and action-packed illustrations in the delightful Peepo! have made this stunning book a favourite for small children and their parents for many years.
Owl Babies, Martin Waddell A story in which three baby owls wake up one night in their hole in a tree to find that their mother has gone. Darkness gathers and the owls grow anxious, until at last she returns and they bounce up and down with joy.
Fox in Socks, Dr Seuss In this hilarious book, the irrepressible Fox in Socks teaches a baffled Mr. Knox some of the slickest, quickest tongue-twisters in town.
Rosie’s Walk, Pat Hutchins One disaster after another befalls the poor, hungry but clumsy fox while Rosie goes on her way, supremely unaware of the danger behind her.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen Join in the excitement as the family go on a bear hunt. Follow and join in the family’s excitement as they wade through the grass, splash through the river and squelch through the mud in search of a bear. What a surprise awaits them in the cave on the other side of the dark forest.
Toddle Waddle, Julia Donaldson There’s a hullabaloo at the seaside when a toddler takes his friends on a stroll to the end of the pier. With jaunty rhymes and bright, bold pictures even the youngest child will love this simple, playful story. Follow-my-leader has never been so much fun!
Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell A new edition of Rod Campbell’s classic lift-the-flap book. This classic lift-the-flap book has been a favourite with toddlers ever since it was first published in 1982. Now reissued as a sturdy casebound board book, perfect for little hands.
Handa’s Surprise, Eileen Browne Set in Africa, this picture book is about a girl’s eventful journey with a basket of fruit. As she walks, carrying the basket on her head, various creatures steal her fruits. She wonders which of the fruit her friends will like best, oblivious to the fact that her basket is now empty.
Yak Yuk, Michelle Robinson Meet Yak and a duck who likes all things mucky. It’s lovely weather for ducks, but Yak finds the rain and the muddy puddles rather yucky! Full of fantastically fun sounds to roll off the tongues of toddlers and parents.
by Natasha Radford at Chicken and Frog Bookshop, Brentwood