In what seemed like the 100th time that we were organizing the house since COVID, I was cleaning out our kids’ books recently and had to decide what to keep and what to donate.
Each kid has a memory box and I was looking through the books to see what was worth putting in their memory boxes. As I was looking through the books, it took me on a trip down memory lane of our kids being babies and toddlers.
One of my favorite things to do at that age was to read to them. When we had kids, we wanted to make sure that they heard some of the classics but also some more diverse books which makes some of our favorites mainstream and some not (FYI- my wife did the work on this to come up with a more diverse selection of baby books so she gets full credit).
Our three kids are now too old for these books but if they have kids, I hope they read some of these books to them and are thankful that we kept them. My mother-in-law kept my wife’s childhood version of Frog and Toad Are Friends and my sister-in-law read a passage from it at our wedding. It was very special.
I reread some of the baby books the day I went through their books and loved reading them again. When I was rereading the books, I wasn’t thinking of the many sleepless nights when they were babies that we each spent awake and reading to them but instead I remembered snuggling with them and sometimes laughing when we would read together (Oh how we laughed reading The Going to Bed Book,The Book with No Pictures, and The Monster at the End of the Book). And laughing babies and toddlers are the best.
One good thing about Mommy Brain is you tend to forget the hard times and remember the good times.
After going through our baby books, I came up with a list of my top 20 favorite baby/toddler books. I haven’t bought a baby book in ~9 years so there may be some really good new ones that I don’t know about but his my list of my favorite ones we read to our kids:
- I Love You Through and Through
- Goodnight Moon
- Ten in the Bed
- Guess How Much I Love You
- King & King
- Are You My Mother?
- A Mother for Choco
- Rosie Revere, Engineer
- The Day the Crayons Quit
- And Tango Makes Three
- Tar Beach
- The Book with No Pictures
- The Monster at the End of this Book
- The Mitten
- Extra Yarn
- The Runaway Bunny
- The Going to Bed Book
- Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
- The Family Book
- Lottie Paris Lives Here
Once they grew out of these baby or toddler books I would read other books to them. I love when they got old enough that we read a book series. When we read a series, either I read the book out loud to them or, when they were older, they would read one, then I would read it and we would talk about it. We’d go through the whole series like that.
I have always loved series books. My mom used to read us books (often a series) on long car rides growing up. All seven of us would pile into our station wagon during the summer and travel for weeks to see the country, usually visiting family who lived all over the United States. There was lots of time in cramped quarters to fight and complain so my mom would read to us to keep us calm. She read different series including All Creatures Great and Small, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Little House on the Prairie during those long drives. After my mom stopped reading out loud to us, I spent many car rides reading throughout my life and am thankful that I can read in cars, buses, and on trains as I know many people get nauseous doing it.
My favorite book series growing up was the Boxcar Children and I remember reading it in church (ha!). I then moved onto other series such as The Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing, Ramona, Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking, Little House on the Prairie and Witch Mountain. I remember reading the Flowers in the Attic series in high school (bizarre but I read every one).
Some of the other series I have loved over the years have been: The Clan of The Cave Bear, Sherlock Holmes, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Mitford Series, #1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Clifton Chronicles, Tales of the City, anything by John Irving (not technically a series), Kane and Abel, The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series, Sunday Philosophy Club, 44 Scotland Street, Stephanie Plum, Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.
Some of these series my parents would read first and then they would give them to me when I went to visit them so it’s always been a family tradition to read the same books. My mom got me into Harry Potter in my early twenties so I read them before I had kids and then read them again with my kids.
Here are my favorite 20 book series to read with kids (in no particular order):
- My Father’s Dragon
- Miss Nelson
- Magic Tree House
- Jenny and the Cat Club
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle
- Rainbow Magic
- Harry Potter
- Elephant and Piggie
- Dog Man
- Amelia Bedelia
- Mercy Watson
- Frog and Toad
- Anything Roald Dahl (not exactly a series but I can’t not mention him)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events
- The Adventures of Captain Underpants
- Lord of the Rings
- Hunger Games
When our kids got a little older, I would still share special books with them but I would be less hands on as they moved away from wanting to read with me. My son, Jackson, is now a teenager and often he’ll read a good book or series and tell me about it and then I’ll read it and we talk about it.
I’m currently reading the Dork Diaries series with Ellie. I can’t say that I love these books and as Jackson aptly described them, “They are teen dramas written for 2nd to 4th graders with lots of OMGs! but not any real teen drama”. Exactly. Not loving the books but I’m loving that my nine year old still wants me to read to her sometimes so I will read whatever she wants to keep that experience going as long as possible.
I hope that we have instilled the love of reading in our kids and that I get to continue to read the same books as them even when they are adults (like I do with my parents) and that this tradition continues into future generations.