Weekend Dialogue: What are the best books to read aloud?

This is more for the picture book folk out there although it's germane to novelists as well. After all, you often read excerpts of your work at school visits and booksignings. And before you submit anything, you should always read it out loud to either yourself or someone else. You'd be amazed at the number of missing words you find. Reading aloud also finds and fixes stylistic errors. So, reading your own work is always very important.

But what is the best book in general for reading aloud? I ask because I read to a group of 30 toddlers this morning. I'm in a small children's play, and we had gone to a local bookstore (in costume) to sing and interact and read to the children. I read some variation of The Little Engine that Could, and my partner read the Ferdinand bull story. I can't think of its actual title. The books were both poor choices. The kids got squirmy, even with interactive questions. My book was long and repetitive, and the kids did not enjoy the repetition. They flat out found the Ferdinand story boring. I was surprised because they are both classic picture books. I didn't select our books, but I wouldn't have thought we would have any difficulty reading them. And no, it was not our abilities. I have been onstage since the age of 3. I've done successful school visits. The books just weren't fun.

So what do you think the best read aloud books are? Use the comments link below to respond. Oh, and be sure to say what age the book should be read to. After all, a good read aloud to a 3 year old is not the same as one for a 13 year old.


Anonymous said...

How old were the toddlers? If by toddlers you mean 2 years old, then I'd say good luck with that! In my experience, 2 year olds will sit for (OK, don't kill me when I say it, but) rhyming picture books that are very short. You have to be able to turn the pages frequently. Goodnight Moon is a good 2 year old (and even 3 year old) book. Repetition can work really well if done right. The Mouse Book (which is out of print) is excellent. Upwards towards 4 and 5 years old (which I wouldn't consider toddler), they can handle a lot more, but still nice, vivid pictures are good. Nightmares, Monsters, etc. A good one that comes to mind is 1) Some by Mercer Mayer - There's a nightmare in my attic or closet, or whatever it is. 2) Zen Shorts (but I biased because this is my personal favorite). I think at this age, the pages still should turn relatively frequently. They can handle quite a bit more text, but chapter books are still a bit away.

web said...

I find it to be a pretty rare story book I actually enjoy reading aloud. Rhyming books and poetry go over much better, for both of us. Or chapters of classic fiction. I have never cared for long picture books.

Some exceptions from my son's shelf:

_How Many Elephants?_ (Concept books are generally fun to read.)

_I Love You, Mr. Bear_

_There's No Such Thing as a Dragon_.

I'd put these in the 3-6ish age range.

The Buried Editor said...

I have to admit that, like I said, I didn't pick the books. I would have picked something with rhyme and/or something with very few words and big pictures. These books were also small -- like 4x4. The kids could barely see it.

Frankly, I had planned on doing Little Bunny Kung Fu and not just because I edited it. You can sing it (it's to the tune of Little Bunny Foo Foo) has big pictures, and only a few lines per page. But, I didn't plan it, so oh well.

And yeah, when I say toddlers, I meant toddlers. Average age had to be 30 months.

cloudscome said...

Books my two year olds have loved:

Dinosaur Roar! by Pual & Henrietta Stickland
The Wheels on the Bus Ill. by R. W. Alley
Itsy Bitsy Spider Lamaze board book (anything that you can sing works)
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret wise Brown
Love Songs of the LIttle Bear by Margaret wise Brown
Richard Scarry's Busiest Fire Fighters Ever! (anything R. Scarry, and just about anything Firefighters, short and exciting)
Hug! by Jez Alborough
The Best Mouse Cookies by Laura Numeroff & Fleicia Bond
Machines at Work by Byron Barton

Most of these have worked best as lap books, not to groups. I think groups of two year olds are going to be squirmy and prone to wander, no matter WHAT the book or entertainment is... it is just the way they are. Can't sit still with so much world to explore!

Gaijin Mama said...

How about EVERYONE POOPS by TAro Gomi? That sounds about right for that age group.

Anonymous said...

When I "taught" and I use that word loosely two-year-olds in a day care, they LOVED Brown Bear, Brown Bear. That one is still in print and I think there's also a version about a polar bear too. Any of the books by Sandra Boynton work well for toddlers too.

Becky said...

I'm a home educating mother of three kids (ages almost 9, seven, and almost 6) who spends a lot of time reading aloud, and I well remember the toddler stage (especially trying to read aloud to preschoolers with a squirmy toddler). Not to mention that it's one thing to read aloud to one or two toddlers, but 30 is something entirely different.

Little Engine and Ferdinand have been favorites around here for a long time, but I'd say you'd have to be a preschooler at least to enjoy and appreciate them fully. Books around here that toddlers have enjoyed, and again my audience tends to be smaller, are along of the lines of "Cowboy Small" by Lois Lenski (though this too is a small book), "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", the "Jessie Bear" books which are lovely AND rhyming. And I second "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and some of the Byron Barton books.

I seem to remember that my eldest's playschool had some hugely oversize versions of picture books that were perfect for circle time. They may have come from Scholastic.

fusenumber8 said...

The greatest toddler book to read aloud is out of print and will probably remain so. It's called "The Noisy Counting Book" and is by Susan Schade (recent author of "The Travels of Theolonius"). Librarians across the country that have discovered this book have found that there is no substitute. It is perfection incarnate. No other book, not even Maisy, wrangles the attention of the toddler aged and wins. If you can find it, hold onto it for dear life. It's worth its weight in gold.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't say much for the bookstore staff's book knowledge if they gave you these long lap books to use with toddlers. Definately NOT for group sharing. That staff needs a good workshop so they can learn what books work well with what age groups.

For twos and under, some of my favorites are:
Spot's bedtime book.
Busy Toes.
Busy Fingers.
I went walking.
And others mentioned already.

-librarian/ writer/ grandmother

The Buried Editor said...

I didn't make it clear. The bookstore's staff did NOT pick out the books. The publicity person for our play did. I can guarantee they wouldn't have picked those books either. They do a story time every week and know how to pick and read books for kids.

MotherReader said...

Sorry I came late, but for 2's and 3's I would read:
-Bark George by Feiffer (funny, short, big pictures, group participation when the kids join in on the animal sounds)
-Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems(funny, short, big pictures, group participation when the kids say NO to the pigeon)
-Snip Snap! What's That? by Mara Bergman (brand-new, suspenseful, bright, ask the kids to answer the question posed "were they scared?")

TraceyJaye said...

What about David Shannon's books? My three year old won't sit still for ANYTHING EVER but she loves hearing about David and the trouble he gets in. The books are very very short but the pics are so fun!

Anonymous said...

I have read to 2 year old groups for 3 years now. It is actually my job. I also love the NO DAVID books and Bark George (works for 2 year olds and up!) Any of the Dinosaur books by Yolen have been a hit as well. I would also suggest Come Along Daisy and Daisy and the Beastie by Jane Simmons.

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