My most favorite thing about being a mama–besides snuggles, of course–is reading to my kids. I remember once lamenting to an older, wiser coworker of mine that I was afraid my kids wouldn’t like to read: “I’ve never met a child who didn’t like to cuddle up and be read to,” she said.
That’s certainly the case in our house. I’m not a crafty mom or an “I know! Let’s do something that’s going to ransack the house I just spent an hour cleaning!” mom (I know, I know…babies don’t keep and the housework can wait. But I like laundry. I really do.) But I am a reading mom. I’ll stop pretty much anything I’m doing to read to Gabby if she asks. I love watching her fall in love with some of the same characters I loved as a kid and I love pulling out the books she loved as a toddler now that Emerson is a little older. I can’t wait for what lies ahead for all of us: Amelia Bedelia, Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter (!!!!!).
On any given afternoon, we can knock out 10 books, easy. And although Gabby tends to be open to any book anywhere, she does have those ho-hum favorites that I can recite with my eyes closed (I’m serious about that. It’s a party trick I should really pull out more often.) But there are some books that I don’t mind reading over and over and over and over again and some that she doesn’t mind listening to over and over and over and over again (and yes, there are some that I’ve hidden in the laundry room because I can’t take it anymore. Ahem.) These books are the ones we’ll exclaim over when she’s 16: “Oh man, remember when we read Moo Ba La La La every single night?” (I really did read this to her from memory via Facetime when we were on vacation.)
Here are some of our favorites! Lots of classics, plus some that we’ve discovered happily by accident. If you have a little one, the English major in me highly suggests a book for the next birthday or just-because gift. The mom in me says do it for the snuggles–no kid has minds being snuggled and read to.
Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
Of course this made our list! We actually don’t own too many Dr. Seuss books, a problem that I would rectify immediately if I loved my children, but Gabby is just getting to the age where she gets the delight and silliness of his books. Green Eggs and Ham is already making her laugh.
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Gabby can pretty much recite this one on her own now. I’m not sure if we read it so much because she loves it or because it was Caleb’s favorite when he was a little boy, but Max now feels like part of our family.
The Going to Bed Book, Sandra Boyton
We have (and love) lots of Sandra Boynton books, but this one and Moo Baa La La La stand as our tried-and-true favorites. We read this one every single night for at least a year, and now it’s moved to Emerson’s room.
Angelina Ballerina, Katharine Holabird
This was one of the books I used to bring to my mom in the middle of the night to read me back to sleep. I got it for Gabby when she was 3, and we have read it almost every day since. I credit Angelina with Gabby’s intense adoration for all things ballet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Emerson’s first words were, “She worked very hard for many years until at last, she was Mademoiselle Angelina, and people came from far and wide to see her lovely dancing.”
Olivia, Ian Falconer
Oh, Olivia! She makes us smile. Gabby particularly appreciates the page where she has to go to time-out. We have the original Olivia book, but we’ve lately gotten some of the others at the library, and they’re all fun for all of us. Olivia knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it, and we like that spirit in our house (though she does have to go to time-out, which we understand in our house, too.)
Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
We loooooove Harold. I never read this one as a child, so I fell in love with how witty it is as an adult. I could (and do) read this one over and over. It’s the perfect length for a before-bed book, when Mama is ready for lights out. (Also, I’ve had my eye on this shirt for Gabby for approximately 12 years but haven’t pulled the trigger.)
Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
This was the first book Emerson ever heard! (A big deal for his nerdy parents.) I meant to be really specific about which book we chose to be his FIRST EVER, but then I was really tired and he happened to be there when I read this to Gabby before bed one night when he was a few days old. Even though it was an accident, it’s pretty quintessential, so we were happy.
Every kid loves Goodnight Moon. I don’t know why, so don’t send me an email asking me to explain it. And I kind of agree with this assessment that it’s a weird book. Even so, there’s something perfect about ending on “Goodnight noises everywhere” and turning out the light and going to get the ice cream you saved to eat after the kids were in bed.
The Winnie-the-Pooh Storybook, A.A. Milne
If you’ve never read the original Pooh stories, go ahead and buy this for yourself (actually, I’m pretty sure we did buy this before we had kids.) The stories are achingly sweet and a little bit witty, and they’re the perfect sing-songy beat to help little kids’ eyes get nice and heavy. (She is actually reading Angelina below, of course.)
Llama Llama Red Pajama, Anna Dewdney
I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Little llama, what a tizzy! Sometimes Mama’s very busy. Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama” to my own little llamas. Enough times that I can quote it off the top of my head and get it right.
We have lots of Llama, Llama books, but this first one is by far our favorite.
On the Night You Were Born, Nancy Tillman
This is more of a Mama favorite than a kid favorite, but I love Nancy Tillman’s precious books. What a joy it is to whisper this over my children as I tuck them in: “On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.'”
Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book, Richard Scarry
Gabby got this book as a gift and kind of forgot about it for awhile. One day, though, we found it in the back of the book basket, and her love affair with Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm began and the fire has yet to go out. We have a couple Richard Scarry books, which mostly focus on Busytown and the characters who live there, but this one in particular has been a home run.
Emerson loves looking at this book! And, admittedly, chewing it. But the pictures are so bright that he will flip through for a good 10 minutes (plus there are pictures of many animals, so after we do our calculus lesson for the day, we often look at the pictures and say the animal sounds. You know, if we have time before his French lesson.)
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name and Baby’s Hug-a-Bible, both by Sally Lloyd-Jones
What a gift these books are to our family! The Jesus Storybook Bible is a kids’ Bible, but it ministers to Caleb and I every time we read Gabby a story. And, as the name suggests, each story directly points back to Jesus. Baby’s Hug-A-Bible is much shorter–only eight stories, I believe–and is the sweetest way to introduce your little one to the Word.