Ten picture books for an epic childhood

How many times have you said, “When I was young, I just roamed outside. I could play all alone!" We are all learning together to do our best as parents and teachers in a very busy world. Regardless of whether you live in the country or the city, life can be busy.

We might not all have time to go to the bookstore for hours on end or let our kids roam but we can certainly take advantage of small moments. We can create a magical story time at bedtime or take a fun title along for the ride. The children's author, Emilie Buchwald, once said, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." It seems there is so much pressure today around the age at which a child begins to read that we forget the most important piece of reading is comprehension and enjoyment. All of the work we do on teaching skills will be lost in the long term if children aren’t having fun.

Below are ten books that are sure to create a childlike spirit in any adult, remind us to slow down and help our children do the same.

Corduroy by Don Freeman - Few of us remember dressing up nicely to go shopping but this story will make you long for that time period. It will bring to mind your favorite childhood lovey or stuffed animal. It's impossible to read this story without feeling cozy and warm.

Blueberries for Sal By Robert Mccloskey – This book is a breath of fresh air for busy families. The black and white images, old car and illustrations of the countryside will make you dream of simpler times. (Anyone else addicted to ‘We Bought the Farm’ on HGTV?) I love the fact that Sal isn’t dressed in tutus but simply in play clothes, enjoying the outdoors. The sounds of “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk,” as the blueberries drop into the pail is fun to read. Not to mention it reminds us to feel less guilty about all the work that comes along with parenting, as Sal plays and wanders while her mom works. 

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure – McClure's illustrations are uniquely created and Rylant's words teach simplicity and gratitude. This book allows a fresh perspective to slow down. Rylant writes, "A day brings hope, and kindness, too/ A day is all its own/ You can make a wish, and start again,/  you can find your way back home."

Tell me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb - This is simply the sweetest book in our house. Timmy Bear and his mother recount the day before falling asleep. My daughter and I loved the idea so much that we started trying the same activity at bedtime. While we aren’t recounting a hike in the country or watching each sunset, I am still able to experience my child’s days through her eyes by listening. This activity usually reminds me how small she is and how big and magical the world seems through her eyes.

Home by Caron Ellis - It doesn’t matter where our home is found or what it looks like. Having a home is special and truly a gift. This book's illustrations appeal to both adults and kids and also help children imagine a life different than their own.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper - Because after reading it several times your children will be chanting, “I think I can, I think I can,” when doing something new for the first time. The book is one of our first lessons in “mind over matter” and the power of “positive thinking.” But it's also a classic! Kids love the blue engine with a wide smile (perhaps the original Thomas?).

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton - Almost every Virginia Lee Burton book looks as if it should be in an Anthropologie. They are quaint, charming and sentimental. The Little House tells the story of how the big city was built around a tiny home and how the house finds its way back to the country. It shows kids how times change but something’s will always be the same. No doubt this book will have some adults remembering a special family home. My kids and I have read it more times than I could count. 

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats - What a magical feeling to wake up to freshly fallen snow outside of your window! This book captures that feeling and the collage images are so engaging for young kids. Ezra Jack Keats is considered revolutionary in the teaching and library (and also nerdy reading specialist) world because he created diverse characters. Considering recent research on the lack of diversity in picture books, it gives us all the more reason to add this one to our children’s library.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey - This book will make any child “awe” at the baby ducks trying to keep up with their mama duck. The story of how a duck family finally decides on the perfect home and then must figure out how to navigate their way there will probably resonate deeply with most young parents.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn - We each have memories of missing our family at school or maybe at our first sleep over. This sweet, sweet book helps parents come up with new ideas to comfort your child during these times. In the book Mrs. Racoon makes up a family secret called the Kissing Hand when Chester Racoon is nervous to go to school. 

What are the books that defined your childhood? What are your favorite titles to read to your children or students?

Happy Reading!