This month my son and I chose (together) 15 new books which he enjoyed tremendously. Some of these stories for kids he even memorized, from other stories others, he learnt an important lesson and from most, he learnt at least one new thing or word.
- Winnie’s Midnight Dragon
- Bear Says Thanks
- Little Owl’s Bedtime
- Momo Goes Flying
- Giraffes Can’t Dance
- Little Whale
- Pat-A-Cake Baby
- Pirates in Classroom 3
- Captain Jack and the Pirates
- Eric Makes a Splash
- The Gruffalo
- Boogie Bear
- Higgledy Piggledy
- The Smeds and The Smoos
- The Emperor of Absurdia
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When To Start Reading Stories To Kids?
I’ve been reading stories to my son ever since he was a few days old. And he’s always enjoyed it. But I never chose books according to age. The books he manipulated as an infant were of course age-appropriate.
But the books I read to him to calm him down or put him to bed were always above his level. I am convinced this helped because now he is 3 and he can speak fluently two languages. I would not recommend this if you don’t know for sure which books to choose.
Don’t forget to get your Fun Interactive Book for Preschool and help your little one learn in a fun way! Just follow this link.
For a better understanding of how to approach reading stories for kids, make sure to read How Important Is Reading? However, there are many guidelines out there that help you easily decide what type of books you should read for each age group.
There are many teachers who suggest that if there are more than 5 difficult words on a page, the book is too difficult for the child. Read this article from ReadWriteThink, a website that I’ve used a lot as a teacher, that offers great advice on how to choose books for your child.
The Stories We Loved This Month
Ever since we moved to England, I’ve been taking my son to the library weekly. At first, we went for the activities they organized there, but at the end of each activity, my son would walk around the library, choosing books and flipping through them curiously.
He was only 15 months but since then we’ve been taking 10-15 books home every two weeks. He was always involved in what books we choose and I’ve always kept in mind which ones he enjoyed most so that I could choose more of the same type in the future.
Almost 2 years later, we still go to the library as often as we can, considering the lockdown, and still choose books together and read them every day. We want to share with you our favourite stories for kids. We will share them each month in the hope that we could inspire you with our choices or help you decide what books to read.
Before you read any further, make sure to take a look at the phonics and vocabulary worksheets we designed based on some of the books discussed in the article. Simply subscribe and get instant access to 12 amazing free worksheets.
by Chris Riddell
I love this book because of the unique drawings. The universe of sky fish and umbrella trees, flower beds and pillow hills fascinated my son. Every time we read it he discovers a new element on the page as we follow a little boy’s adventure. The little emperor tumbles out of bed and gets dressed with the help of the Wardrobe Monster.
He puts on a crumply coat, a bobbly hat and a pair of jingle-jangle socks. After he has breakfast, followed by supper, he tries to have lunch. But his lunch hatched. A little dragon flew out of his egg. So, he decides to go on a dragon hunt. My son’s favourite part of the book is when he chases the dragon “
The Emperor of Absurdia called for his tricycle chair and set off on a dragon hunt. Which took quite some time. He looked in the flower beds and up the umbrella trees. He looked under the pillow hills and over the bouncy mountains.
“It’s no good” said the Emperor, climbing down from his tricycle chair. “I can’t find that little dragon anywhere”. But as you can imagine this was all just a dream.
What We’ve Learnt From The Emperor of Absurdia
Apart from the fact that your little one’s imagination will be taken to a new level by discovering all the hidden eyes, and flower-shaped birds or animals, with this beautiful stor for kids your child can learn beautiful new words such as jingle-jangle socks, snuggly scarf, bobbly hat, crumply coat, which are easy to remember because of the nice ring they gave to them.
My son is also eager to read two other books by the same author which we found on the back cover:” Once upon a Wild Wood” and “Wendel and the Robots”.
by Julia Donaldson
Ever since we brought this home, my son had been eager for me to read it to him. And because we love all of Julia Donaldson’s books, he loved this one too. Once again, the illustrations are charming.
All the interesting beings and strange elements from unknown planets captivated my little one. There is a squoon here, not a moon, and the trockles, the glompoms and the jerberrycoot complete this unique new scenery.
Janet, a member of the Smed family, wants to play with Bill, from the Smoo family. But the two families are not allowed to interact because of their preconceptions. They seem strange to each other for various reasons: they sleep in funny things called beds, they drink black tea, they wear strange shoes.
However, Bill and Janet sneak out and play together and many years later, they decide to wed. They even have a baby, a purple one of course. But in order to be together, they go to another planet. The two families travel the universe searching for the missing couple.
After spending some time together, they realise they can be friends even if they are different.
What We’ve Learnt From The Smeds and The Smoos
There is a very beautiful lesson to be learnt which is the final message of this amazing story for kids: “Play with the Smeds and play with the Smoos/Play with whichever friends you choose/ Then close your eyes and while you snooze/ Dream of the Smeds and dream of the Smoos.’
Just like all of Julia Donaldson’s stories for kids, this is a rhyming book and so my son was able to learn it by heart in less than two weeks. He also learnt lots and lots of new vocabulary, nibble, disturb, nasty, dreadful, clambered, to name just a few.
Higgledy Piggledy- The hen who loved to dance
by Francesca Simon
I’ve been planning to read this book for my son for some time now. And I’m glad I finally did. He loved it. It is a very beautiful book about a hen who loved to practice her pirouettes, twirling and whirling.
While all the other farm animals did their job, the horse pulled the cart, the cow gave milk, Higgledy Piggledy danced. And her skills proved to be the only ones to help Max, the cat, who got stuck in a tree. In the end, her passion for dancing rubbed off on everyone and Higgledy Piggledy started to give dancing lessons to everyone on the farm.
What We’ve Learnt From Higgledy Piggledy
Although the illustrations are not as vivid as what we usually find in stories for kids, they are quite realistic and simple. The language is also very accessible to children, and we did learn some new words: twirling and whirling, mutter, huddle up, glide, gracefully.
We’ve learnt that it is ok to keep doing what you enjoy doing even when people tell you otherwise. Oh, and we’ve also learnt that you cannot help a cat who got stuck in a tree by giving her milk, or wool, which seemed quite logical even for a three-year-old.
Momo Goes Flying
by Kes Gray
This is a book my son absolutely loved. It is from the series Get Well Friends by Kes Gray, a great writer. He is, in fact, one of the top ten children’s authors in the UK. Momo Goes Flying is the story of a cheeky monkey who ends up in the hospital with a sore arm.
How could a monkey get a sore arm, you may wonder? Not by waving hello for too long. That nasty monkey kept throwing fruit on the head of the animals below. Don’t you worry, she got what she deserved. A long green snake catapulted him through the air. And after a few ouches and a couple of moans, he ended up apologizing to all the animals he hurt.
This is when nurse Nibbles comes in, a most peculiar individual. A cute, gentle mouse nurse who likes to look after all sorts of animals.
“Hello, I am nurse Nibbles and these are my get, well friends. In my hospital, I have lots of comfy chairs of ALL shapes and sizes. Which is a good job because poorly animals come to visit me from ALL over the world”.
What We’ve Learnt From Momo Goes Flying
Oh, we did learn that it is not ok to throw things and hit. Although we do like to throw things, we never aim at somebody. We learnt to say sorry when we do something wrong and that it is a very good thing to look after animals who hurt.
We love Nurse Nibbles, and I think my son loves her because he perceives her as a good and caring character. I truly recommend this story for kids because of the message of the book, the funny and child-friendly illustrations, and the vocabulary which is quite simple.
by Giles Andreae
Another book that we loved tremendously is Giraffes Can’t Dance. I believe my son loves it because he was able to memorize large chunks of it very quickly. It is a rhyming book and it has this effect on children.
Apart from this, we love the story: in the jungle, there is a dancing competition and the only animal who is really bad at dancing is the giraffe. All the animals make fun of him and he feels really bad.
However, as he was walking home he met a cricket who gave him the most beautiful advice I came across in children’s books so far “Sometimes when you’re different/You just need a different song.”
Our clever giraffe fully understood the message. And can you guess what he did? She started dancing again. But this time he was aware that “everything makes music/ if you really want it to”. He became such a great dancer that all the animals wanted to know his trick. Do you want to know it too? “We all can dance, he said/When we find music that we love”.
What We’ve Learnt from Giraffes Can’t Dance
We also love this story for kids because of the wonderful vocabulary it uses. My son learnt so many great words, difficult ones: prance, bold, daft, clot, sigh, swaying and so many more. Another thing we learnt was that it is ok to be different, it is in fact better.
And just as the Smeds and the Smoos judged people because they were different, so did the jungle animals. But we know that by doing this we can hurt people’s feelings. So, it is bad for us to do it. That is the best lesson children can learn at this age.
by Joyce Dunbar
What a lovely book! Beautiful illustrations, very sweet indeed ! (and I’m not sweet-talking you). They had to be sweet. I mean come on, a baby baking a cake? And eating it? With three other little ones? Don’t tell me your heart isn’t melting. So, let me walk you through it.
A baby, whose name we don’t know, wakes up in the middle of the night. I guess! We don’t know for sure, we just know that everyone else was sleeping. Haven’t you people heard of baby monitors? Why leave a baby use the oven unattended?
Anyways, he was not alone. He was with Candy Baby, Jelly Baby and Allsorts Baby. Guess they were hungry too!
This is another rhyming story for kids which my son likes to march and chant around the house, screaming at the top of his lungs “It’s waking tiiiiime!”. (That’s how the baby begins his baking ritual, the sadistic little fellow).
My son’s favourite part of the book is:
“With a mutter mutter mutter
Pitter patter comes the butter
Oh so yellow shiny yellow
Holler “Hello Yellow”.
What We’ve Learnt From Pat-a-Cake Baby
We’ve learnt lots of vocabulary. I’ve even learnt new words myself. He knows so many words, in chunks truth be told, but who could blame him? Try this “ And here’s the sugar, ditzy sugar/Oh so glitzy, oh so glossy/And we’re frisking while we’re whisking ‘til it’s/Flitter, flotter fluffy. It’s whisking time!”
What’s flotter? Even my thesaurus went “Did you mean flitter?” Have you people ever used it in a sentence? Bonkers!
by Julia Donaldson
What a beautiful book! We were hooked after the first reading! This is the first one we read from Julia Donaldson’s stories for kids. And my son was about 2y and 3 months when he was able to memorise all of it! It’s that good!
If you’ve never read it (could there still be someone out there who never read it?) the story is all about a brave little mouse who tries to save his skin by inventing a terrible horrible monster: the Gruffalo.
“But who is this creature with terrible claws
And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws?
He has knobbly knees and turned-out toes
And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.
His eyes are orange and his tongue is black
He has purple prickles all over his back.”
But what do you know? The creature is, in fact, a real one! But the clever little mouse manages to outsmart him too. And in the end, the mouse becomes the most feared creature of the woods.
We absolutely loved the unique illustrations and the ease with which you can learn vocabulary, not to mention the great plot.
What We’ve Learnt From The Gruffalo
Well, first of all, we learnt all of it by heart. And implicitly great vocabulary, such as: stroll, wart, knobbly, feast, burst, hoot. Children will also learn that you can be brave and strong even if you are tinier than all the others.
But what I love the most is the fact that your little one will learn about emotions by making use of the situations presented by identifying and discussing the reactions and feelings each one evokes.
by David Walliams
I must start by telling you that I laughed more than my son when reading this book. The drawings are strange, but funny, and the story includes little bits of adult humour that parents can enjoy:
“It is impossible to clamber all the way up to the bottom.”/ ” If you think you have seen a polar bear flying a helicopter, please consult a doctor.”/ “ I love you brown fur, said the white bear/Yuckety yuck yuck yuck, exclaimed the littlest one”.
The story brings together a polar bear and a brown bear, who at first couldn’t accept each other because they were different. But they end up having babies of different shades of white and brown. How can a polar bear and a brown bear meet, you might wonder?
Well, climate change has something to do with it. Although the author might want to make you believe that it’s the poor polar bear’s fault for eating too much. “The animal must have eaten too much for lunch again because the part of the iceberg she was lying on has snapped off and floated away.”
When the polar bear reached the rustling forest where the brown bears lived, she was greeted by an army of stampeding brown furry creatures. And the poor polar bear soared through the air, crashed, bounced, always hoping that things couldn’t get worse.
But they always did. Until she got caked in mud and became brown like the rest of them. The silly brown bears finally realized they were not different at all.
What We’ve Learnt From Boogie Bear
The vocabulary is a little bit more difficult, so I would not recommend this story for kids under 5, but there are always exceptions. But please consider there is a great number of difficult words: hurled, wobble, humongous, on one page alone. And each page has at least 2-5 such words.
But your child will learn many new words and will have fun reading the story and looking at the silly pictures. My son also learnt that we shouldn’t be afraid of and refuse what we don’t know. And he also learnt that people are not that different.
by Valerie Thomas
This is a book my son himself chose and he absolutely loves it. It is quite difficult in terms of vocabulary and number of words, but the story and drawings are so captivating that it’s difficult not to love.
Although mostly dark and a teensy weensy scary, the illustrations are hilarious. This book is part of a series of stories for kids: The Winnie the Witch series, but so far we’ve only read this one.
In the book, Winnie and her cat Wilbur, wake up in the middle of the night because a baby dragon got in the house. Together, they help the baby dragon get back to his mother, but in the process, they destroy the house and cast lots of spells. When they finally go to bed, it’s almost daytime.
You will love the Winnie character, so strange, and odd-looking, but somehow lovable. And Wilbur is the scariest, fuzziest cat you’ll ever see. The other books from the series seem just as funny: Winnie In Winter, Winnie Flies Again, Winnie’s New Computer, Winnie at the Seaside. My son wants to read all of them.
What We’ve Learnt From Winnie’s Midnight Dragon
My son memorized the first 4 pages and remembers almost all of the sounds from the book: “ding,dong,boing! / crash,bang, clang/ smash,splash, crash/’. He also learnt to recognize the word Abracadabra, we are still working on spelling it.
And he also learn many new words: peeped out, poked, wobbled, shook, swish, but again most of the new words are remembered in chunks of language. What your little one can also learn from the book is that witches cand be kind and nice and that we must help others just as Winnie helped the baby dragon get back to his mother.
by Karma Wilson
You will love this story of some friends who help another friend whose cupboards are bare. The bear has bare cupboards (funny pun, I know). And because it is winter time and he is stuck in his lair, the bear wants to prepare a feast to invite all of his friends. However, his friends come to visit him and one by one they bring different treats to share. And the bear says thanks.
Once the hare, the mouse, the badger, the gopher, the mole, the raven, and the wren arrive with yummy treats, the lot sits down to share a picnic. However, the bear feels bad because he has nothing to share.
“Mouse squeaks, “Don’t fret
There’s enough, dear Bear
You don’t need any food
You have stories to share.”
We love the amazing drawings and the friendly animals, the plot, and the fact that this too is a rhyming story for kids. The vocabulary is not very difficult, but I would recommend this book for children over 4, but again there are always exceptions and you know your child best.
What We’ve Learnt From Bear Says Thanks
Due to the fact that this is a rhyming book, your little one will be able to memorize large parts of the story. And along with these chunks, children will learn words such as: feast, bare, sigh, lair, tromp, flap, flitter. My favourite part of the book is the end :
“In a cave in the woods
In a warm, bright lair
the friends feel grateful
for their good friend Bear.”
This is an excellent book that teaches children to share, to be grateful for what they have and to help one another.
by Peter Bently
This is another rhyming book that is fun to read. Three little boys, Jack, Zack, and Caspar, are at the beach and are building a galleon. They sail the seas and meet a pirate ship. They follow the pirates, but they are stopped by a tropical gale.
Their adventure ends when they need to abandon the ship which was completely destroyed by the rain. Marooned on the island, they search for the pirates’ lost treasure.But the pirates find them first.
“Jack, is that you?’ called the pirate. The pirates were none other than their parents. ” But those pirates were friendly/They shared out their treasure/ and added three ice creams/just for good measure.”
What We’ve Learnt From Captain Jack and the Pirates
Although this is a rhyming story for kids, the vocabulary is quite difficult and my son was not able to memorize it like the others. There is a specific pirate and sailing vocabulary: galleon, stern, bow, prow, bosun, mainmast, booty, marooned.
What we did learn is that you can be very creative when building a ship and we did try to build one out of cardboard. We played pirates and used some of the simpler vocabulary my son remembered: “Anchors away! / Aye, aye captain!/ Man overboard/ Treasure ahoy”
by Debi Gliori
We were delighted with the illustrations and the beautiful animals portrayed in this book. There are owls, frogs, mice, butterflies, all so very friendly and cute. In the story, Little Owl refuses to go to sleep. A flat no.
And he asks his mother to read another story but to no effect whatsoever. He keeps on asking for different things and his eyes refused to stay shut. Just like my little owl. But mine is not a night bird! And still, his eyes refuse to shut.
After repeated tries, his mother manages to convince Little Owl that the sooner he goes to bed, the sooner tomorrow will come. Makes sense, right? But when you tell it to a little one, it makes even more sense. And Little Owl finally fell asleep. And although this strategy hasn’t worked for us yet, it’s still worth a try.
The vocabulary is not difficult, the animals are very child-friendly and the story has a happy ending, making it a good bedtime story for kids. The book is part of a series, and we can’t wait to read the others “Little Owl’s Egg” and “Little Owl’s First Day”
What We’ve Learnt From Little Owl’s Bedtime
There are many new words that my son learnt: snuggled up, nodded, lumpy, shy, tuck in. My son even learnt to spell dark and mummy. What you will learn together while reading this book is that falling asleep is hard work, and it needs lots of time, but if you persevere, you will eventually be able to do it. You just need to find the right strategy.
Eric Makes a Splash
by Emily MacKenzie
I was particularly attracted by this book for kids because of the illustrations that are simplistic, yet unique. The animals are charismatic, even goofy sometimes, and Eric is a very believable scared, fuzzy little creature.
He was afraid of everything, but especially of trying new things. Luckily, his friend Flora the rabbit helps him overcome his fears. When he is afraid to climb in the park, he encourages him to pretend he is a spider and her advice works every time.
When he overcomes his biggest fear, that of swimming, he is now able to be braver than Flora and he becomes the one to help now. He encourages Flora to go down the slide together and they manage to do it
” They made it all the way to the bottom together/Because best friends are always there when you need them”.
This is excellent advice and a great ending to the story.
What We’ve Learn From Eric Makes a Splash
The most important thing my son learnt from this story for kids is that you can overcome your fears. I am Flora, his fearless friend, and he is Eric, who is quite afraid to try new things too.
But he managed to overcome his fear of climbing a tall frame in the playground because of this book. I used it to teach him it is ok to be afraid but that just like Eric, he can overcome his fears too. And that I am always by his side, just like Flora did with Eric.
He also learnt lots of new vocabulary, although the book hasn’t got many difficult words: fuzzy wuzzy, brave and fearless as synonyms, whirl, dip, soaring.
Pirates in Classroom 3
by Alison Donald
As the name suggests, pirates go to school in this book. But not to learn. No, they are looking for treasure. What would a treasure be doing in a classroom? That’s what the children were wondering too. But to their surprise, they found it.
I have no idea how by pulling a lever, they opened the gates to the ocean, meaning they were literally just above sea level. The funny thing is that they even had stairs leading to the bottom of the ocean where the treasure was hidden. Who might have designed such an ingenious hiding place? And why haven’t I got one in my basement? I guess we’ll never know.
But here’s what’s even funnier: one of the boys finds another treasure in the classroom, under the alphabet, because X always marks the spot. Are you kidding me? Two treasures in one place? And one of them easily reachable? Boy, have I sent my child to the wrong school!
The last page I’m guessing is written for parents, as no child would be able to grasp the semantics of this short exchange:”Oh, my Bitsy..You were so brave! (the pirate to the teacher)/ Call me Daphne” (goes the teacher).
What We’ve Learnt from Pirates in Classroom 3
There are many difficult words which would make this story more suitable for kids over 6, but my son is 3 and he enjoyed it quite a lot. He even remembered lots of words, to name just a few: gasp, sift, tugged and heaved, lever.
But again, I must mention that at this age children learn chunks of language and might not be able to remember or use some of these words in isolation. They do become part of their passive vocabulary which at some point in the future will become active, meaning they will be able to use it freely in various contexts.
by Jo Weaver
I was surprised to see that my son chose this book because the drawings are inspired by real-life and are black and white. I do believe that he chose it because I love whales and I’ve probably inspired this love to him too.
Little Whale is made up of a series of real pictures taken in the ocean. It centres around the journey of a mother whale and her calf to warm waters where all the other whales are waiting for them.
It is a wonderful book if you love sea life. And although it is black and white, the book is truly moving because these are rare pictures of a calf and his mother captured in all their might.
The vocabulary is not simplistic and seems more suitable for 5-6-year-olds. There are difficult words such as shallows, drifted, sparkle, nudge, vast, shimmered.
What We’ve Learnt From Little Whale
We discovered that children’s books are not all about illustrations, but about the feelings they stir. Simple and real-life drawings, even black and white ones, can have the same effect as hilarious and colourful ones.
My son didn’t focus on the vocabulary though, and I am not sure he remembered any new words. But we did talk about sea creatures and their journey from cold to warm waters. So learning did happen.
We read to learn, we read to imagine, to find inspiration, or to share a moment. There are so many reasons why we choose books and even more why we choose specific stories for kids. No matter the reason, read.
Read and enjoy the story, enjoy the moment, read, read, read! If you read, your children will read! They learn that books matter! And once they discover the pleasure of reading, they will never forget it!
We share all of our ideas on our Facebook group Learning Activities for Kids.
Hi. I am Monica, an experienced ESL teacher and early years student, mother to a preschooler and passionate reader.