Benefits in Reading Aloud
Many studies have shown that reading aloud to a child promotes his interest in reading and hastens intellectual growth. But the benefits are not limited to nourishing his mind. The sharing of a good book in an atmosphere of warmth demonstrates the adult's love for the child. To help him feel love, the adult should encourage the child to cuddle up.
It is best to make the reading as dramatic as possible. Don't be afraid to ham it up to the hilt. Shout, whisper, laugh, cry, and above all put each character in a different voice. Also, feel free to ad lib whenever you can make the story funnier or scarier (within limits, of course). You may think that you are making an idiot of yourself, but the child will love it. With some books I have read many times to my grandchildren, I can hardly get through the first sentence before they start rolling on the floor. Yet I must add that a child will love it when you read to him even if you are not dramatically inclined. The important thing is to show that you enjoy the book and enjoy being with the child.
I have a special fondness for books with world-class examples of the illustrator's art. I will devote a whole section to pointing out the books with the best pictures. Illustrations not only hold a child's eye (for, after all, he can't read the words), but they also make a child's-level book more interesting to an adult. For both adult and child, pictures are a gateway to a world that exists only in imagination, but is no less real, for it certifies its existence in the same way that most real things do—by presenting itself to our vision. Once an adult has entered the world of the pictures, he then, in his own mind, can embellish it with the dimensions of a more complex reality and enjoy it as an adult experience.
Our favorite read-aloud books are listed below. Many of the best have gone out-of-print, yet if you are willing to pay the going price, all are still available from used book dealers. Look first at BookFinder.com, readingwell.com, and eBay. Don't be discouraged if the lowest price is $50, $100, or even $200. Any of these titles might still be gleaned at much lower prices from library sales. Garage sales in affluent neighborhoods are another possible source. Recently I visited our local Goodwill store and found four of the titles on my list. Another place to search is antique stores. But the sad truth is that many of the best children's books are becoming rarities. There is need for a new venture dedicated to reprinting and marketing children's classics.
Books for which we have written extended reviews are marked with an asterisk. Click on the title. The lists are arranged in the following categories:
- Good Stories with Outstanding Illustrations
- Established Classics Which Are Flawed but Still Useful
- Works Outstanding for Humor or Wisdom, but Not for Illustrations
- Especially for Tiny Tots
- Classic Fables and Folk Tales
- Stories from the Bible
*Adam Raccoon, a series of six books written and illustrated by Glen Keane. The first, Adam Raccoon at Forever Falls, was published by Chariot Books (David C. Cook Publishing Co.) in 1987.
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, simplified edition by Dorothy Fay Foster, illustrated by David Lamb, published by The Standard Publishing Company in 1949.
The Christopher Churchmouse Treasury, written by Barbara Davoll and illustrated by Dennis Hockerman, published by Victor Books in 1992.
Good Stories with Outstanding Illustrations
*A Home for Tandy, written by Audrey and Harvey Hirsch and illustrated by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt, published by Platt & Munk, Publishers, in 1971.
Anatole, a series of ten books written by Eve Titus and illustrated by Paul Galdone. The first, Anatole, was published by McGraw-Hill in 1956. Of those I have seen, my favorites are Anatole, Anatole and the Pied Piper, and Anatole over Paris. Throughout, there is an undercurrent of dry humor.
Andrew Henry's Meadow, written and illustrated by Doris Burn, published by Coward-McCann in 1965. Another by the same author is The Summerfolk.
Grandfather's Cake, written and illustrated by David McPhail, published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1979. The same author has written well over a hundred other books for children. Their quality is uneven, but many are highly regarded, and his best work, including the aforementioned as well as Edward and the Pirates, Lost, and Mole Music, reaches a high mark.
Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, written by Peter and Connie Roop and illustrated by Peter E. Hanson, published by Carolrhoda Books in 1985. Abbie gives young readers a much-needed example of accepting and meeting responsibility.
*Little Bear, a series of five books written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The first, Little Bear, was published by Harper & Row, Publishers, in 1957.
Madeline, a series of seven books written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans. The first, Madeline, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1939. Besides the first, two other good titles in the series are Madeline to the Rescue and Madeline in London. Three others are inferior or objectionable: Madeline and the Gypsies, Madeline's Christmas, and Madeline and the Bad Hat.
*Make Way for Ducklings, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published by The Viking Press in 1941. Other recommended books by the same author include One Morning in Maine (1952), Blueberries for Sal (1948), and Lentil (1940) for younger children, as well as Homer Price (1943) and Centerburg Tales (1951) for children who are readers.
Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, published by Viking Press in 1979. This story about old New England is poetic nostalgia that children will enjoy.
Paddle to the Sea, written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling, published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 1941. Other fine books by the same author include Tree in the Trail (1942) and Seabird (1948).
Peter Rabbit, a series of 23 books written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. The first was published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1902.
Pinkerton, Behave! written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg, published by Dial Books in 1979. This is a hilarious read-aloud, although you may have to provide running commentary to make sure the younger ones get the joke. Other books by Kellogg full of tomfoolery are A Rose for Pinkerton and The Island of the Skog.
Tales of Fern Hollow, a series of sixteen books written and illustrated by John Patience. The first, The Seasons in Fern Hollow, was published by Peter Haddock Limited in 1980. These stories with outstanding illustrations wonderfully evoke a small English country town.
Taro and the Tofu, written by Masako Matsuno and illustrated by Kazue Mizumura, published by The World Publishing Co. in 1962. This is outstanding as a parable teaching integrity.
The Adventures of Captain William Walrus, written by Michel Duplaix and illustrated by Giannini, published by Golden Press in 1972. Now hard to obtain, this was one of my sons' favorites when they were little. A tale with cute characters is told in elegant language. A child misses its elegance, yet feels its magnetic power drawing him into a fascinating world where animals are men. Or is it that men are animals of singular personality?
The Guard Mouse, written and illustrated by Don Freeman, published by The Viking Press in 1967. Other titles by the same author have also been popular, especially Corduroy.
The King's Chessboard, written by David Birch and illustrated by Devis Grebu, published by Puffin Pied Piper Books in 1988. Here is a book that combines a great lesson in morals with a great lesson in mathematics.
The Market Square Dog, written by James Herriot and illustrated by Ruth Brown, published by St. Martin's Press in 1989. Besides his books for grown-ups, Herriot has produced a series for children. The best is the one listed here. Others are The Christmas Day Kitten and Moses the Kitten (one word needs deletion). All are realistic stories told with droll warmth by a real veterinarian of the old school, who made house calls (or barn calls, as the case may be) and treated his animals as friends. The one we are especially recommending will find a tender spot in the heart of every reader.
The Marvelous Merry-Go-Round, written and illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar, published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., in 1970. The author was writer and illustrator of many children's books.
The Story about Ping, written by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese, published by Viking Press in 1933. Both author and illustrator were prolific sources of wholesome entertainment for children.
The Teddy Bears' Picnic, an old song by Jimmy Kennedy delightfully illustrated by Prue Theobalds.
The Valentine Bears, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett, published by Clarion Books in 1983. Here is a sweet tale about a loving husband and wife who happen to be bears.
Tim Mouse and the Major, the last in a series of six books written and illustrated by Judy Brook, published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company in 1973 (British edition published in 1967).
*Tinker and Tanker, a series of seven books written and illustrated by Richard Scarry. The first, Tinker and Tanker, was published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., in 1960. The author, a colossus in the world of children's books, produced more than 300 titles, among them such classics as Best Wordbook Ever; Busy, Busy World; What Do People Do All Day?; Great Big Schoolhouse; and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
Established Classics Which Are Flawed but Still Useful
*Babar, a series of six books written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff. The first was published in 1931 in France. The publisher of the English-language versions is Random House. After the author died, the series was continued by his son, Laurent.
*Curious George, a series of seven books by the husband-and-wife team of Margret and H. A. Rey. Only the husband is credited in the earlier books, although the wife did most of the actual writing. The first, Curious George, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1941.
*Little Golden Books. The books in this series, now running into many hundreds, have come out in a steady stream since the 1940s. The publisher is Golden Press (Western Publishing Co.).
Works of Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel, author of 44 children's books. The first, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published by Random House in 1937.
Works Outstanding for Humor or Wisdom, but Not for Illustrations
Owl at Home, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, published by Harper & Row, Publishers, in 1975. Lobel has also written numerous other books for children.
The Little Engine That Could, retold by Watty Piper from The Pony Engine by Mabel C. Bragg, pictures by Lois L. Lenski, published by The Platt & Munk Co., Inc., in 1930.
Thomas the Tank Engine, second in the Railway Series, 26 books written by Rev. W. Audrey and illustrated by C. Reginald Dalby, John Kenney, and others. The first, The Three Railway Engines, was published by Edmund Ward in 1945.
Especially for Tiny Tots
A Hole Is To Dig, written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, published by Harper & Brothers in 1952.
Goodnight Moon, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, published by Harper & Row in 1947.
Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, published by Candlewick Press in 1994.
Classic Fables and Folk Tales
Folk Tales Children Love, edited by Watty Piper with unidentified illustrator, published by The Platt & Munk Co., Inc., in 1934.
The Aesop for Children, pictures by Milo Winter, published by Rand McNally & Co. in 1919, reprinted by Checkerboard Press in 1947.
The Children's Book of Virtues, edited by William J. Bennett and illustrated by Michael Hague, published by Simon & Schuster in 1995.
The Three Little Pigs, author and illustrator unidentified, published by The Saalfield Publishing Company in 1961.
Walt Disney's "Uncle Remus Stories," retold by Marian Palmer from the original stories by Joel Chandler Harris, pictures by Al Dempster and Bill Justice. This book, adapted from the motion picture "Song of the South," was published by Simon and Schuster in 1947.
A Child's Book of Poems, pictures by Gyo Fujikawa, published by Grosset & Dunlap,Publishers, in 1969.
Stories from the Bible
Egermeier's Bible Story Book, by Elsie E. Egermeier, published by Gospel Trumpet Company in 1922, reprinted in the original edition and later in a revised edition by The Warner Press.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.