The Essential Early Years Reading List

The Essential Early Years Reading List

I absolutely love reading.  I learnt to read very early, and consumed books with a voracious appetite.  Although I don’t have as much time to read these days, it’s still my go-to relaxation activity.  I love being swept away into another time or place, being introduced to characters I will love and hate, and watching a spectacular 3D movie inside my own head, with no special effects required.  I love becoming so engrossed in a story that I don’t hear when someone speaks to me (although I’m not sure my husband or daughter share my joy on that one!).  I also appreciate the skills I’ve acquired through my constant (sometimes obsessive) reading; I find it easy and quick to extract information from signs, textbooks, websites, journal articles, and, well, anywhere text is found, really.

Even more than reading on my own, I love sharing books with children.  I delight in the humour, rhythm, and beauty of the words and pictures that have been created by the world’s finest writers and illustrators.  I enjoy throwing my whole body into becoming the various characters as I read their words aloud, and nothing makes me happier than making children laugh, or hush, or shout answers enthusiastically.

I would like to share my very favourite children’s books with you.  This post is far from an exhaustive list of all the fantastic children’s literature that exists; it’s merely a list of the books that, in my experience, are virtually guaranteed crowd-pleasers (and that I most enjoy reading aloud).  They’re the ones I make absolutely sure to include in my classroom program every year, when others might come and go depending on the mix and interests of the kids.  If a book that you or your children love isn’t on the list, please add it in the comments.  I may not have heard of it, or forgotten to include it.  Listing favourite books is definitely a two-way process!

I can’t possibly rank these, so I’ve put them in alphabetical order by author surname.

  • Alexander’s Outing by Pamela Allen
  • Waddle Giggle Gargle by Pamela Allen
  • Belinda by Pamela Allen
  • Where’s Stripey? by Wendy Binks
  • The Wrong Book by Nick Bland
  • A Nice Walk in the Jungle by Nan Bodsworth
  • Edwardo, the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham
  • Why? by Lindsay Camp
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
  • Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd
  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
  • Possum Magic by Mem Fox
  • The Magic Hat by Mem Fox
  • A Particular Cow by Mem Fox
  • Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French
  • Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
  • Magic Beach by Alison Lester
  • The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Marvin K Mooney by Dr Seuss
  • Green Eggs & Ham by Dr Seuss
  • Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet
  • Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan
  • The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jenny Wagner
  • The Pigeon Books by Mo Willems
  • The Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Jesse by Tim Winton
  • My Nanna is a Ninja by Damon Young

Before I finish, you might wonder why I haven’t included age ratings on the books.  This is because I don’t really think they are necessary.  All of these books can be read and enjoyed by children in all stages of early childhood.  They will take from them what they can at each stage.  In fact, reading to babies before they can use language themselves has been proven to be beneficial for both language development (which is also linked strongly to cognitive development), and social bonding.  And if you’re wondering when they’ll be too old to enjoy them, my now-15-year-old daughter still likes to hear me read these books aloud.  There are shades of meaning and depths to characters that an 8-year-old will miss, but that a grown mind will greatly appreciate.  I never get tired of reading these titles.

I hope you, too, find some books on the list that you enjoy reading aloud, and that spark your child’s interest and become the first step towards a life-long love of reading.

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