Books for 3-5 year olds

Parent Q&A

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  • German children's books?

    Jul 15, 2018


    does anyone know where to get a decent supply of german children's books? I read English and German books to my 4-year-old daughter, but I' m running out of ideas where to get german content (new or second hand). Is Amazon the only option, really?

    Thank you in advance!


    Try Moe's Books on Telegraph, if you haven't already. They have a small selection of used foreign language children's books, primarily German, Italian, Spanish, and French.

    Have you tried the library? I've found a lot of foreign language used kids books at The Bookmark in Old Oakland, including one German board book (I was hoping to learn, ha). That would be more hit-or-miss than the library, though. 

    I just discovered them, but haven't tried them yet: Shipping is free for orders over 150 Euro.. (haven't decided on the books yet, but if you don't hit the 150, we can order together)


    I've bought German books from Book Depository ( They are a UK company with free shipping worldwide and a good selection of German kids books. Also, make sure you catch the Bay Area Kinderstube yard sale, which happens every spring in Albany ( they always have lots of used German kids books for sale.

    The East Bay German International School has a nice collection of German children's books. This year they are planning to have community days throughout the year, when you can borrow books from the library.


  • Audiobooks for younger kids

    Apr 22, 2017

    If your younger kid (preschooler/kindergartener) likes audiobooks, how do they listen to them? Are there mp3 players that work well for this...That maybe the child can even operate by themselves? Maybe something that can be used with headphones or plugged into speakers? If you have a non iPod/Apple (husband hates Apple products) solution that your family loves, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks!

    I had more success playing audio stories in a stereo while my children were resting/napping.  Young children might be more interested in the earbuds than the words that are played!  

    However, I imagine that listening to a book while reading along would be beneficial for young children.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Reading chapter books to 4 and 5 year olds

March 2012

I would like to start reading chapter books to my kids (ages 4 and 5) at night, before bed. Now, we read short books, where we get the whole story in one sitting. Am I pushing it? Is it too young to read long stories (many nights)with more complex plot lines and characters? Of course, in my mind, I have books like Harry Potter and the Hobbit, but I realize that those are still a few years off. What age did you start reading long (4+ nights) books to your kids and what books did you read? We can't all fit into any one bed, so for the most part I was thinking that I would sit in a chair and read while the two kids were lying in their beds.... is that what you did? If your kids ever fell asleep during the story-- do you stop there, or re-read that section again the next night? I know my mom read to me, but I can't remember anything about the logistics.... and I don't remember the early titles!! can't wait for chapter books!!

My two boys (4 and 7) are both able to enjoy non-fiction chapter books and, to some extent, fiction chapter books. However, non- fiction works better for us. The 7-year-old really is at the edge of getting into more complicated fiction, and the 4-year-old isn't ready. So we are not at the 4+ nights stage. We tried Harry Potter but the 4- year-old absorbed incredible detail about insignificant plot elements (!) and wasn't able to pick up the larger scene-setting and story arc. The 7-year-old just wasn't into the magic aspect of it all. You may have better luck picking something that appeals to both with your age spacing.

We've talked about (and talked up) what a cliffhanger is so I use this as a way to crack open longer books and stop partway through. Most longer books take 2-3 nights max. Tonight, e.g., we read an advanced early reader book about the discovery of King Tut's tomb and I told them the cliffhanger was waiting to go inside the tomb, and we stopped at the chapter that describes this. We've also read junior science books (e.g. Seymour Simon's books) and the Juliana Hatkoff wild animal rescue books (Owen and Mzee, Leo the Snow Leopard, etc.) this way.

We sit together on a rug and floor cushions in their room and then they get into bed after we're done. I ''prepare'' them by asking them what happens after we've finished reading x number of books and they respond that it will be bedtime. This is pretty routine now, but when they were younger it was essential to stave off the ''one more book!'' bedtime delay tactics. If they drift off (rare), I'll stop, explain quietly to the awake child that we'll save the story for tomorrow, and then we do pick up a page or two back the next day.

Recently we introduced longer (e.g. Stuart Little, The Rescuers) books on CD and will try to actually read the same books in the next couple of months.

In terms of fiction, the My Father's Dragon books are what worked out well for both kids (when they were just 4 and 6) as have the Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse books. All good on cliffhangers, too...

As they get older, you can also have the older child (who presumably will be reading first) pair up with you on reading to make ''easier'' narratives more interesting. Books aloud reader too

I would highly recommend that you just jump in and try a longer book. I started reading ''real'' books to my son when he was 3 or 4. We read Dragon in the Sock Drawer, Dragon in the Driveway, The Little Prince, and the first two Harry Potter books before he turned 5. Although he bounces all over the place while I read, and often asks me to explain things (and clearly missed what's going on at times), he understands much more than I had expected, has been building his vocabulary quite a bit, and absolutely LOVES it (save The Little Prince for later, though, I learned). I've stopped reading him the Harry Potter for now because the story gets a bit intense in later volumes, but he is still asking me for regular updates of the non-scary parts. We are now on a quest for what to read after Harry Potter. Have fun with it, and see what happens. I have SO enjoyed reading these books with my son, and am so glad that my mom gave him the first book, which I thought was too advanced. NB

I'd visit a library or bookstore with them and look around together for a book. Let the kids choose, providing them with info about characters and story that you can remember about the book.

We have done series books in our house. My husband read the Narnia series to our 4- and 6-year olds last year. I have since read the Little House books. I plan to visit a library with them to let them choose the next one. I think that choosing power is important for kids.

We read upright and together on the sofa with me in the middle. It is a night time ritual and they know that after getting ready for bed we'll begin. Typically I'll read for 20 to 30 minutes. Choosy Readers

Beverley Cleary books! We read all of them to our 5-year- old son. Also the Magic Treehouse series - not as well- written but quicker reads. Kristine

Welcome to the fun world of reading! I started reading chapter books to my oldest daughter when she was almost 4 and she was ready! We started with part of the Betsy Tacy series, the Little House series, and a whole lot of Beverly Cleary books and then over the course of the next couple of years read some more challenging books like EB White's Trumpet of the Swan and Alice in Wonderland. She was immersed and, when I asked her questions to gauge reading comprehension, she was clearly understanding and comprehending even when she was four.

My younger daughter seems more restless about reading; she's 3.5 now and while she likes being read to, she is not obsessed with reading like our oldest daughter. We have read her some simpler books (i.e. Frog and Toad series, Mouse Tales and Mouse Soup) and some Easy Readers (i.e. Poppleton, Henry and Mudge, etc) and will be trying out some chapter books soon, probably Little House in the Big Woods.

One way or another, reading with children is great! Regarding Harry Potter, I tried reading it to my eldest when she was in kindergarten and it scared her too much at that time (the Wizard of Oz book was another one that scared her). However, she learned to read in the summer between kindergarten and first grade and this year at age 7 has read books 1 through 4 by herself and is seriously thrilled by the books, reading, and life in general. Sometimes timing is everything. Erin

Hello, Every child is different, and you'll find what books your kids like. I have a son who is now 6 and we have been reading chapter books for a couple of years. At age four, he liked:

My Father's Dragon series (3 books) Little House in the Big Woods The Mouse and the Motorcycle (3 books in series) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

At Age 5, he liked: Stewart Little Henry and Ribsy (and other books in this series) Abel's Island

My niece liked: B is for Betsy (and other books in this series) All of a Kind Family Betsy Tacy The rest of the Little House books Boxcar Children

There are lots of great easier chapter books out there. Our librarian pointed me to some of these. If you start reading and they are restless or uninterested, stop and wait a while. I wanted to make sure I didn't push too early and ruin the experience. My sense is that Harry Potter would be too advanced for most 4/5 year olds, as would the Hobbit, but there are likely some children out there who would enjoy the stories.

Also, my son still likes to take breaks between reading chapter books. My tendency is to want to start a new one as soon as we're done, but he will often want to read some of his older picture books, and I try to follow his lead, while introducing the chapter books gradually. chapter book reader

Check out the Magic Treehouse Series. Perfect for kids the age of yours (whether they are boys or girls). They will be engaged and will be able to follow along. It may take 2-4 nights to finish them. We started reading Harry Potter with our daughter about mid-way through kindergarten. She loves it. anon

There are many benefits of reading aloud to children, especially chapter books: the soothing sound of your voice (doesn't matter if you're reading a foreign language - they like the sound); learning new vocabulary - they figure out the meaning from the context and if they can't, they ask; the ability to follow a more involved plot - they can indeed do it by age 4/5. As for falling asleep while listening - ask them the next night ''what do you last remember? where do you want me to pick up?'' So, in other words, start now! Go ahead and plunge into Harry Potter, Hobbit. Many generations grew up listening to the Narnia Chronicles or Winnie the Pooh being read aloud. Or go for shorter, funnier books - Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl were my first intro to chapter books. I discovered the longer, stranger classic folk and fairy tales in our libraries - my kids loved those. Talk to your librarian - they know the classics, the newly popular, the ones that are fun to read aloud (do you like to get into character? do voices? do you like rhythm/rhyme?). Mom of Two

I recently started reading a few short chapter books to my 5 and 3 year old. I don't think the 3 year old quite has the attention to really follow the plot over several nights, but she still likes it anyway. And the 5yr old loves the more involved stories, and is excited to be in charge of the bookmark. I haven't explored too many books yet, so I'm looking forward to other responses you get. But one series we all really like is the Mercy Watson books. They are fun little adventures of a pig named Mercy Watson, and each has about 12 chapters. The chapters are very short, so you could actually read the whole book in a night, but we usually read only 3-4 chapters in a night, to make it last for a few nights. (They always ask for ''one more!!!'' so I usually tell them I'll read 3, so I can add one more if I feel like it.) When we are in the middle of a book, I start by asking them if they remember what happened so far. We look at the pictures from the beginning of the book to remind them. As for logistics, I usually lay next to the 5yr old, so she can see the words as I'm reading or try to read some on her own, and then show the pictures to the 3yr old (whose bed is nearby, but not angled so she can see while we are reading). Sometimes she comes up on her big sister's bed.

FYI - We also tried the Ivy and Bean books, but I wasn't as much a fan, mainly because there was some mean-girl pre-teen behavior that I'd rather not have emulated just yet! enjoying chapters

Dick King Smith! The very greatest thing about having kids! Theres a lovely little series called ''Sophie's Snail'' It goes about four pages between illustrations. Promise me you'll enjoy him with your kids. He was such a lovely Brit. Contributed so much to my kids upbringing. Also ''My Father's Dragon'' Reenie

My friend's son is seven, and he loves Captain Underpants. I don't know if your kids are old enough for that, or if you would even like it. It does have chapters, however. I remember reading a very long version of Pinnochio when my kids were little, and that could not be finished in one night. When they were older, we loved reading ''A Wrinkle in Time'' together. Even when my son was in middle school, and had trouble going to sleep, I would read to him. I remember reading a little bit of Earl Stanley Gardner's ''The Case of the Grinning Gorilla'' to him, and he would go to sleep after a couple of pages. That book took months to get through. It's wonderful that you are reading to your children, as it is so important. You're a good parent

your kids are definitely old enough for chapter books - just make sure that the chapters are short! My kids are 4 and 6 and, for the past year, we've been really enjoying the Boxcar Children series and also the Magic Treehouse series. I've heard really good things about the A to Z mystery series too -but for whatever reason, they don't hold my kids' attention. Can't Wait Until the Harry Potter Years!

My kids are 4 and 6, and we started reading multiple-night books to them a lot more in the last half a year, and the kids love it. Here are some books we've read: Abel's Island (William Steig), Magic Tree House series, shortened versions of classics (Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels). I worry somewhat about stealing from their future young reader library, i.e., what they would/could be reading themselves in 3 or 4 years, but I assume/hope there is a whole world of good stuff out there, so it'll be okay if I ''steal'' some for reading out loud now. --

This past year My 4 year son and I started to read Pippi Longstocking and we enjoyed them together so much. It really was a bonding experience because we laughed so hard together. It is nice because each chapter is short and not totally dependent on what came before. Another idea is fairy tales. I have not ventured out to other chapter book. I have heard before that there is still a lot for children to gain from picture books and not to rush them too fast into chapter books. I have also exercised some restraint because there is something to be said for saving some of these wonderful chapter books for when the children actually take up reading themselves for them to discover and enjoy. But, there is something nice as well to read with your parents. A really wonderful book I play to read soon and I think is great for kids is Salmon Rushdies Haroun and the Sea of stories. Looking forward to what others have to say. Heather

I recommend starting with the Pippi Longstocking books, and also the Milly-Molly-Mandy books. We read these endlessly for years to both my daughter and my son. They are really linked stories more than novels. They're completely innocuous -- you don't have to edit anything out (unlike Harry Potter, which we edited quite a bit in the early years). When you're ready for a little bit of mild gore, Treasure Island is wonderful to read aloud. Lucy

I just wanted to throw a shout out to the ''Fablehaven'' series. I have been reading them/with my 8 year old. We share pages. They are fantastic, not quite as dark as Harry Potter and my boy is riveted. The author of the series is Brandon Maul and there are 6 books I believe. They have centaurs, satyrs, fairies, imps, the works. Really well written and paced perfectly for the age. Hope you try them out! Leslie

Here are some great books that have amazing visuals to help transition to chapter books or to satisfy an older child who wants something with more meat and younger child who needs pictures:

The Brian Selznick books (he wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck). The movie was decent, but the books offer a completely different experience with amazing charcoal drawings that are more than just illustrations; they actually move the plot along.

The Bone Series. These are graphic novels for kids. We have read this entire series multiple times.

The Big Book of Tashi: couldn't find these at local stores, so had to order, but these are wonderful. The author basically retells old myths or classic stories through this kid Tashi who moves to a new city and becomes friends with a boy named Jack. Because the stories are old stories, we've had fun going back to the originals with our kids. a reader raising readers

Book of poems - good for pre-schoolers

March 2012

My 2 1/2 yr old daughter has really liked ''Twas the night before Christmas''. She regularly picks it for bedtime reading - and she's started reciting parts of it. We'd love to get another book or two of these sorts of 'story poems'. The only I know of is Shel Silverstein. Would love to hear some other ideas. What has gone over well with your young kids? mom of a poet

Many picture books, from ''Green Eggs and Ham'' to ''Goodnight Moon'' to ''Madeline,'' are essentially story poems. If you think of it that way, there are tons of options out there. If you're seeking actual poems turned into books, look in the juvenile 811 section of the library - one of my favorites, sophisticated but with a wonderful sing-songy rhythm, is Robert Frost's ''Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'' illustrated by Susan Jeffers. For shorter poems, my kids enjoyed ''Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young,'' compiled by Jack Prelutsky and containing everything from Ogden Nash to Prelutsky himself. Have fun exploring - I love reading rhyming books out loud! JP

My son loved Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks, and the follow-on Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers, both by Calef Brown. Weird, funny, and great illustrations. And each one is the perfect length for the bedtime routine. It's been about 10 years and I can still remember each poem and the different voices I would use to read them! Fran

Robert Louis Stevenson! Stephanie Brown

I'm coming in a little late on this one, but in case it wasn't exclusively Christmas poems you were interested in, the poems my son found most entertaining were: Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss, the Shel Silverstein books, a Big Treasury of Children's Verse I got for him (sorry, I can't remember the exact title, but it contained many of the traditional English favorites such as Little Boy Blue, etc.), and Robert Louis Stevenson. Basically anything that rhymed worked. When I was little, my mother took a course in poetry, and she was enthusiastic to the degree of sharing adult poetry with me. I loved Lewis Carroll's Twas Brillig, but I also latched onto Browning's My Last Duchess and Keats' Eve of Saint Agnes (which is kind of racy!). I was probably six or seven. It's really the sound and richness of language that can pull a kid in, and if you're in, you're in for life. Compliments to you for wanting to initiate your little one into the fun and beauty of verse. poetry-loving mom

Douglas Florian has some wonderful poetry books for kids. On the Wing, Beast Feast, and Insectlopedia are just some of his books. The reading level is age 5+ but they are great for read alouds for younger ages. Jen

Try a good Mother Goose anthology or A Child's Garden of Verses (Robert Louis Stevenson). When she's a bit older check out Jack Prelutsky's books, and the anthology Poetry Speaks to Children. Visit your local library and talk to the librarian who handles children's literature-- these people are a great resource! Kristen

There's a children's book version of ''The Owl and the Pussycat'' with beautiful illustrations. Not sure of the author (Brett? maybe?) but it's a love book with lovely rhymes. -poem lover

My father used to read this for me when I was a little girl growing up in India -- A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Almost 40 and still remember some of those poems. Happy reading! anon

Ladybug Magazine includes poems in every issue and we have one of their anthologies of poems from the magazine. Your daughter might like both a subscription to the magazine and one of the books. Anon

This is a book that is out of print so you'll have to get it used but I can still quote from it. *The Golden Treasury of Poetry* by Louis Untermeyer. I was tiny and my dad read it to me and I adored it. I read it to my kids. Also, Dr. Suess books rhyme and give that magical quality that poems have. Poetry lover from the beginning

Check out all the books by Karma Wilson. My almost-3-year-old loves them. They're all written in verse, with lovely, large illustrations and a good sense of humor. My daughter also likes the Duck in a Truck series by Jez Alborough. And maybe your daughter is ready for Dr. Seuss?

Also, I'm not sure where you live, but the Rockridge library has a section of kids rhyming/poetry books, so it'd be easy to browse those. Just ask a librarian where they are. A Rockridge Mom

My son also likes poetry. Volumes with illustrations are especially good for that age group. We like:
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children, edited by Caroline Kennedy
Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color, Mary Le Duc O'Neill
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot
Also Shel Silverstein, as you mentioned. reading family

Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses. I still remember some of these by heart! I think you can find a lot of the poems online for free. Claire

My kids and I have absolutely loved any of Calef Brown books. They are so witty, clever, and the illustrations are fantastic. I never tire of reading them. The first book called ''Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks'' is the first one. He's written several more over the years. They are so funny that it's my ''go to gift'' for anyone with young kids now. lisa

We really enjoyed ''When we were very young'' by A.A. Milne. Kevin

judith viorst has a couple of good collections. poetry mama

Whiffle Squeek -- if you can find it. em

Zin, Zin, Zin a violin! by Lloyd Moss (my son loved this one so much that he had it mostly memorized at the age of 2.5) Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson .. Berenstain Bears books (in the Reader section at the library) .. The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill Peet .. Also make up poems with her. My son loves to do this at dinner time. We start him off and see if he can add a line: There was a bear whose nose was runny, so he went to buy some honey... toddler mom

What fun! I have a number of ideas... first, ask your local children's library for an anthology of children's poetry, which will have great stuff for little ones by some of the best poets (think, ''Tyger Tyger burning bright''). Also, some classics-- A Child's Garden of Verses, Mother Goose, plus Winnie the Pooh and the Alice in Wonderland have fun poems in them (''Jabberwocky,'' ''You are old, Father William''). Also, Ogden Nash and Edward Lear for wonderful humorous poetry. Finally, how about songs-- many of which have great rhymes... I was thinking of the classic children's songs, but also of musicals, most of which rhyme -- Cole Porter, but even newer stuff as well. Sounds like you have a neat adventure with your little one. Enjoy! Poet and don't know it

First of all, thank you to all other responders to this thread - I've been looking for suggestions for poetry and rhymes for my toddler son, and the suggestions have simultaneously brought back childhood memories and given me great new resources! I did want to chime in about one of my all-time favorite rhyming books: The Giant Jam Sandwich, by John Vernon Lord. The story is unique and fun, the illustrations are wonderful, and the overall message about what can be achieved when you work together is timeless. Enjoy! C

Flamingos on the Roof, by Calef Brown! Silly, fun, whimsical, and wonderful illustrations. Both my boys (now 3.5 and 6), have loved this book for several years. Allicater Gatorpillar is a favorite. 10 cent haiku is a great one too

Have you read the book Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip I LOVE this book still. It is funny and has wonderful illustrations. I remember my dad reading poems out of this book for me as a child. Bobbie Jo

Books that model good behaviors for 3 - 5 year olds

Dec 2011

Context: I read an interesting chapter in the book NutureShock (Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman) about how to improve sibling relationships. There is a researcher who showed that books about conflict resolution are actually detrimental. 90% of the typical conflict resolution book is about the problem brewing and 10% about a happy resolution. It turns out the kids remember and practice the 90% more than the 10%. Evidently there are books out there that model the positive behaviors, but I don't know them.

Request: I'm looking for books that model good behaviors for 3 - 5 year olds. It would be useful to have a title and the positive behavior that book models. ie. 'Anna's Book' models a toddler reading alone to a stuffed animal after parent can't read book to daughter again

I don't have particular topics that I'm looking for, but here are a few brainstorm type ideas:
- how to include others (ie. don't exclude someone)
- what's a nice way to stick up for oneself
book lover

Let me share my favorite book site: I'm an infant-toddler teacher and my beloved mentor, Julie Olsen Edwards, is the brains and soul behind this web site. She coauthored the recent book ''Anti-Bias Education for Our Children and Ourselves'' and she vetts every book in the Peace Library. A great thing about this site is the search function, where you can enter parameters and get a list of recommended books. And just reading through the various topics is inspirational. I just glanced at the (new) list of Anti-Bias books that Julie recommends, and found this one that seems directly applicable to your question: ''New Moon Pegi Deitz Shea (Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, PA, 1996) A loving, gentle, older brother hurries home from school each day to show his baby sister the wonders of the moon and teaches her first word, ''luna'' (moon). (Also shows culture)''

The saddest part about the library is that it includes some fabulous books that are out of print (''What To Do About Pollution'' comes to mind). But I've been slowly building my own library and have had good luck finding many of the out-of-print classics. Good luck finding what you need. Carol

There is a good series called ''Learning to Get Along'' by Cheri J Meiners. They are simple, short books that focus on a particular subject - titles include ''Join in and Play'', ''Be Polite and Kind'', ''Share and Take Turns'', ''Try and Stick with it'', etc. They're not very exciting storytelling, but they explain concepts in easy-to-understand terms, and include at least some of the subjects you mention. Jeanne

Our almost-3 year old loves the Frog and Toad books (by Arnold Lobel), and they show a lot of cooperation and caring between friends (as well as persistence, problem solving, tackling projects, and other positive behaviors). There are four of them:

Frog and Toad are Friends (1970)
Frog and Toad Together (1972)
Frog and Toad All Year (1976)
Days with Frog and Toad (1979)

Our son also loves books of ''Mutts'' comic strips, which I realize does not exactly contain a long narrative structure, but which has two best friends, Earl and Mooch, going on various adventures together. Our nearly-3 year old will often designate himself as Mooch and our 16 month-old as Earl, and then invite his brother to come play with him. (Or, well, demand that he do so, but close enough for us, for now.)

There are also the Piggie and Gerald books by Mo Willems. I haven't read them all, but if I remember correctly, the two best friends often take on some conflict or adventure together.

A really great question -- I look forward to other responses! Jennifer

Try ''D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners'' (or something like that) for toddler/preschool etiquette. By Marc Brown. Amalia

''You Can't Say You Can't Play'' is one that is used in our kids Jr Kindergarten class that we quote from regularly, even 10 years later. Book Lover too

Little House series and older books in general. Spring Hill Farm. Twig. etc. Fairy tales can be good for a slightly older child, if you pick one where the bad behavior comes from the troll, witch or wolf, and the virtue belongs to a heroic child.

BTW, I totally agree with your impulse here. I think what we don't show our kids is as important as what we do show them. The problem you describe (90% conflict and bad behavior, with 10% resolution and good sense) is worse on T.V. Even on PBS. Want you kids to learn how to whine and fight? Turn the T.V. on. Best of luck. Elisa

I didn't see the original post, so I dont know what age group you are looking at, or whether you are looking for books for kids to read or to be read to, but I'll put in my two cents anyway. These are books I have read to my daughter, between ages of say, 5 and 11. I still read to her, and love the closeness and discussions that have come out of these books (and I believe they are gender neutral).

Isaac Bashavis Singer- Stories for Children (and a he has a few other children's stories collections, all good). Moomintroll Books Various books of Russian, Jewish, and other central European Folk Tales. Some are of the Russian tales are grisley, so pre-read if you or your kid is sensitive).

When she turned 9 or so, I started to read to her western classics that have kids in them: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Silas Marner. Also Jane Austin, which may not be as interesting to boys (Emma, Pride and Prejudice)but my daughter loved the whole relationship pieces of these.

We took these books really slowly, I often had to stop and explain what was going on, but I really enjoyed revisiting these and we had so many great conversations about human beings, good and evil, resilience, relationships, justice etc.

(By the way, she still reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other such stuff . . . ) Mommy Loves the Classics

Reading to both a 4 and a 7 year old

June 2011

I'm wondering if any parents out there have had success ''crossing reading interests'' with their kids so that they can read to both of them at the same time... I guess age matters (this used to be easier when they were both younger). My oldest will be 8 in a few months and she's an advanced reader, mostly wanting to read to herself, but I (selfishly?) crave the connection of still reading together. My 4-year-old likes longer books lately (William Steig, some chapter books like Mercy Watson and Mr Putter and Tabby). I wonder if there's something I'm not thinking of that would enchant them both? Loving to Read Mama

You might try hidden object books like the ''I Spy'' or ''Can You See What I See?'' series. My kids (3 and 5 years) both love these books and they take turns picking which page to look at. If the older kid is finding things too fast or getting bored waiting for the little one to catch up, have her help the younger one along by giving clues to where the objects are. aw

If the older child is a good reader, and you want family time... why not have the older child pick a book and read it to the younger one? They'll enjoy it and so will you! bookworm

Have you tried the Magic Treehouse series? By Mary Pope Osborne? My husband and I have read all of them (there are about 45 books in the series) with our 7 year old daughter and they are fantastic! Start with the first one in the series and work your way through. The series is about a brother and sister who find a treehouse filled with books, and when they open a book, will be transported back in time to be a part of the story. Most of them are factually based, and I've learned a lot by reading them, actually. In the beginning of the series, the brother writes notes in a journal that he always carries with him. When my daughter was ''too shy'' to read in front of us, we could always get her to agree to read Jack's journal entries since they are short and easy to read. Now, she's reading on her own and we really miss the books. I think the stories would be fun for a 4 year old too. book lovers

My 4 and 6 (almost 7) year olds love The Faraway Tree stoires (Enid Blyton). It's 560 pages. The adventures are fun but fairly bite-sized so your younger child won't get lost in a complex plot. Very imaginative.

I think it is set in the 1930s. Three kids move to the edge of The Enchanted Wood which has a tree with various magical creatures and lands. They climb the tree and have many adventures. Anon

Our kids are about the same age and we have all enjoyed sharing books like Charlotte's Web, Wind and the Willows, All of a Kind Family, Magic Treehouse series, James and the Giant Peach, etc. A newer graphic novel called the Invention of Hugo Cabret worked for the different ages too. Book lover

Good Chapter Books to Read Aloud to 4.5 Year Old

April 2010

Hi. I'm looking for recommendations on good chapter books to read aloud to a 4.5 year old girl with good language skills. Just to give you an idea of parameters... She's really enjoying listening to the Magic Tree House Series, but I'd like something that's better written and has more complex and beautiful language. We really liked the Lighthouse Family books by Cynthia Rylant. But Little House in the Big Woods is a little too hard for her and she starts to lose interest(chapters are too long...) Thanks for any suggestions! Megan

Here are some ideas:
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Ramona Quimby, Age 5
Rabbit Hill (may be too flowery in language, but you could truncate the parts with the father rabbit going on and on). The same author has a book called 'Edward, Hoppy, and Joe' which is absolutely wonderful for younger kids, though it is out of print and has some dated sections (particularly the chapter on going 'Out West' which need editing by a careful reader)
James Herriott's Treasury for Children (chapters which are really distinct stories by an English country vet-- with beautiful pictures, appeals both to my 4 1/2 year old and my 8 year old)
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books -hoping to get more ideas from the other responses!

I'd suggest the E.B. White books (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan), Wizard of Oz series, Boxcar Children, My Father's Dragon and the two sequels, the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (especially Ramona the Pest, about Ramona starting kindergarten),and Jenny and the Cat Club series. bookworm

a few suggestions:
'My Father's Dragon' (and sequels) by Ruth Stiles
'Mrs. Piggle Wiggle' series by Betty MacDonald
The original A.A. Milne Pooh stories
maybe too easy/not so 'chaptery,' but I also really like the Amanda Pig books by Jean Van Leeuwen happy reading!

My son enjoyed the Dragons of Blueland trilogy by Ruth Gannett. I think we also read Winnie the Pooh at that age. reader

Audio books for car rides with 3-year-old

Jan 2009

Does anyone have any CD recommendations for 3 year olds? I want to listen to stories in the car, but can't seem to find any on Amazon. Jenny

1) Library. Main branches have the most. Ask the librarian - sometimes branches file them in two sections (with music and in their own section of audio books).
2) Search ''Books on CD'' in Amazon. I particularly recommend the Rabbit Ears Treasury.
3) Other titles I'd recommend: Winnie the Pooh treasury, Paddington, Beatrix Potter, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. There are also lots of nice compilations of fairy tales, Aesop's Tales, and folk tales told by one or different readers. Mom of Two

My 3-1/2 year old son is crazy about this boxed set, which my sister sent me from Ireland. It's called ''The Gruffalo and Other Stories'' and it's a set of 6 cds, each with a different story (and related songs). The stories are read by Imelda Staunton and they're packed with music and adventure. Lisa in Oakland

we really enjoy ''the house on pooh corner'' as read by jim broadbent. he does great characterizations for each animal and it's really fun to listen to. i'm pretty sure he's recorded the first pooh book as well. we bought ours at cody's last year (sigh), but i've seen it on amazon as well. eowyn

Check out your library...they usually have a pretty good selection... Jan

Try Uncle Wiggly's Storybook and Good Luck Duck, both by Jim Weiss. I think he has others targeted at this age, as well. Lisa

Preschooler books with a moral message?

Sept 2008

Any recommendations for preschool (boy) storybooks with a moral, but non-religious message? My partner and I have not resolved the religious upbringing issue (him a slightly observant jew, me a believer in the beauty of all religions).

I'd like to start reading my son stories with a moral message - how to be friends, how to act and speak toward others, how to do good deeds, how to be kind and generous, etc. But without having to explain who or what god is. guide

Check out the original Thomas the Tank Engine books - there are great morals throughout and my son loved the stories. The trains have personalities and challenges and always learn something along their adventurous ways. My son is older now, but we read them together for a few years and both enjoyed the stories. train mom

Aesop's fables Crystal

The ''Arthur'' books are great for this. There's always a message--don't try to cover up when you did something wrong, be fair, keep your promises, etc. We bought a set of 8 books that specifically identified each books moral theme on the cover. Carrie

The Mr. Rogers book series gives those moral lessons in the same way as the tv show - gently and in the context of life. Most preschool ''moral'' books are heavy-handed and not much fun to read--I'm sure you've noticed that your child will choose some books to hear over and over, while others languish. If the point of the book is to transmit morals, he will mostly not be interested. Truly the best way to teach morals to preschoolers is to practice them and be sure to share your thinking with him, e.g., ''Even though I'm busy I want to make some muffins and visit Mrs. Smith because I know she's feeling lonely now.'' Liisa

I'm not wild about the illustrations, but the Bearenstain Bear series of books are pretty good at addressing all the moral topics you mentioned. I've seen them in most libraries, but they're also reasonably priced paperbacks you can find in Longs. Ellen

As a 'person of faith' AND an educator, I find the sort of books you describe hard to find and very much needed. A colleague recently gave me Amy Krouse Rosenthal's 2006 book ''Cookies: Bite-Size Lessons.'' It's right on target, with a wide range of children's ethnicities portrayed and the so-called moral message more simply an illustration around the sharing of cookies. There is a Christmas book due out later this year and it will be interesting to see if that is equally accessible to all kinds of families. Jimmie

We really like the VeggieTales set of books and movies. They are produced by very Christian people, but I find the christianity in them to be very subtle. The TV shows always end with a bible verse, often from the old testament. And the early shows were generally bible stories (David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, etc). But many of the shows are also spoofs on other shows/movies (like Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, etc). Anyway, each is geared toward a ''christian value'' like honesty, sharing, love your neighbor, etc. I find them very entertaining and hilarious, and good clean fun. You can easily avoid the more directly religious titles if you are okay with a generic reference to ''God''. Bryan

Maybe your looking for something more didactic, but I think many of the Dr. Seuss books have a strong moral imperative. The Sneeches, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who, Yertle the Turtle all deal with timely issues about religious intolerance, racism, environmentalism, the power of one etc. They're also a heck of a lot of fun. My kids and I have had many heady discussions (even at the preschool age) stem from these books. Happy reading. Lynn

Dr Suess! start with Yertle The Turtle and other Stories and go from there. morals without the guilt factor

Because of You by B.G. Hennessy and Hiroe Nakata
One Winter's Day by M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jane Dyer
The Wonderful Happens by Cynthia Rylant and Coco Dowley
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell reading mom

Chapter books I can read to my 4 year old

Oct 2007

I'm looking for some chapter books that I can read to my four-year old that will hold his interest but not be full of content that is too old for him. He has been reading by himself for awhile, so I would like to leave the picture books for him to read to himself and get some books that I can read to him at night that may not have tons of pictures. It would also be great if each chapter built on the one before it, rather than each chapter be a brand new story (e.g. Frog and Toad books). We already have winnie-the-pooh. Are there other choices out there? Thanks for any guidance. Jen

The author of Make Way for Ducklings wrote two very gentle chapter books as well. They are called Homer Price & Centerburg Tales (both are about the people that live in the same small town as Homer Price). Very gentle books, with humor. My son loved to hear us read them to him and well as read them to himself as he grew. Have you tried reading the Little House on the Prairie books? These are great too. Stephanie

You'll get lots of suggestions for this, but my two cents are the ''Mouse and the Motorcycle'' books by Beverly Cleary. There are three of them. I read them with my daughter when she was four and we both loved them. Nancy

We read the following to my daughter when she was 4: Mr. Popper's Penguins Some of the Beverly Cleary's: Romona Quimby, Age 5 (? the one where Ramona goes to kindergarten), Ribsy, Henry Huggins, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and its sequel, Ralph S. Mouse
Rabbit Hill
The Quigleys, and the rest of that series by Simon Mason. My daughter loved this series (and still does one year later), although some editing may be required, or you might want to read ahead to decide if the content is OK with you.

She also liked the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, but they drive me nuts. Each chapter is also distinct in those books. Also, you might check out Holling C. Holling's books. We have Seabird and Paddle to the Sea.

I can't think of any others right now, but I hope you get lots of answers, because I'm always trying to find chapter books that won't scare my sensitive daughter, but will keep her engaged. Caroline

My 4-year-old son has enjoyed having us read aloud from the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald, as well as ''Mr. Popper's Penguins.'' Reader

Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
Charlotte's Web
Stuart Little
Mr. Popper's Penguins

we started my almost 5 year old son on chapter books over a year ago, and have had alot of fun with it. It is fascinating what little ones are capable of retaining and comprehending! (Naturally, here is also alot of explaining, reminding, and reviewing too.) Some of the ones we've read in the past year include Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (we've read it 3x times already), Charlotte's Web, James & the Giant Peach and Stuart Little. We also have read some of the Magic Tree House books, which are a little less complex than the titles above, but he hasn't been as interested in those. Some of the books do deal with some heady issues (ie. poverty in ''Charlie'', death in ''James'' & ''Charlotte'') but kids this age are pretty unfazed by such themes, and better at processing these tragic themes and moving on that most adults! Try them out; you can always revisit if he doesn't seem too interested. We still mix in picture books too, but are currently half-way through the second Harry Potter book (my husband and I practically fight over who gets to read to my son each night!) Have fun with it! Bookish Mom

My Father's Dragon - a three book series, fabulous!! The Magic Treehouse Series. If you have the stomach for obnoxious bathroom humor that four to nine year old boys love, try the Captain Underwear books. Any thing by Dick King-Smith, like Babe. Nanu

We've been reading chapter books with our 4 year old as well. We've already done Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, which were both fun to read, and are now working on the Ralph mouse books by Beverly Cleary (The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Ralph S. Mouse and Runaway Ralph). She's pretty excited about getting a new chapter each night at bedtime and finding out what happens next. jk

I would recommend the Magic Treehouse books as good begining chapter books. They have a few pictures but are mostly text. They have short chapters and engaging plots (but still tame enough for the little ones). Reading mom

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little by E.B. White
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Most Roald Dahl books, not just the well-known ones, but also the shorter ones - i.e. Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Minpins
The Mouse and the Motorcyle, Ribsy and other books by Beverley Cleary
The Cricket in Times Square - George Seldon
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (recently discovered that book is very different and much better than the film)
Mom of Two

There is an great book for book recommendations for reading aloud, it is called the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It is an incredible book that is updated every few years. My mom used it as a guide to pick out chapter books for our family when I was young and I have many fond memories of the books we read. You can also visit his website, It's a must have for every parent and recommends books for every stage of reading aloud. Happy Reading! Jen

I can recommend The Faraway Tree Stories, The Wishing Chair Stories, or anything by Enid Blyton. She is British, and so you won't be able to find any of her books here in bookstores, and will probably need to find them on Amazon. They may take a while to get here, but they are well worth the wait. Enid Blyton fans

I recommend the Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, and also the Magic Treehouse books. --a mom

We have been reading 'The Magic Treehouse' to our 4 yr old. We love this series for a/ the suspense b/ the number of books - there are 28 of them (that i know of) that are broken up into a series of 4 that build on each other c/ the fact that there are not that many photos and d/ little Annie is the brave one michelle

My kids really liked the Magic Treehouse books. They are formulaic, to be sure, and you'll get totally sick of them at some point, but most kids I know seem to enjoy them. Plus, each story has an easy-to-digest history lesson attached. Many of the stories have a correlating nonfiction background book. For example the Magic Treehouse book ''Revolutionary War on Wednesday'' has the kids traveling back in time to the Revolutionary War, and the companion book has kid-level facts and points of interest about the war.

This is a great question to ask your local children's librarian! Here are a few titles popular at our house:
Mr Popper's Penguins
Charlotte's Web
Boxcar children series
Little House on the Prairie series
Stuart Little
- we all love chapter books!

I have been reading the Magic Tree House series to my 1st grade daughter and almost 4 year old son. They love the books and each one threads into the next. My youngest is captivated and I really enjoy the stories myself! Erin

I would recommend any chapter book by Linda Sue Park such as the Newbery Award Winning book A Single Shard or books by Laurence Yep such as Dragonwings and Child of the Owl. I would not recommend Cricket in Times Square because it is racist. Chinese people wear Japanese Kimonos. Chinese people are portrayed as not knowing when to stop bowing to each other. A Chinese man speaks VERYstereotypically with all l's instead of r's, i.e. ''Oh, velly good.'' As a school teacher, I would NEVER allow my students to read this book. In such a diverse community as we live, this book is so damaging. But if anyone insists on still reading it, I hope the parents are teaching them not to be ignorant and racist by discussing how awful the stereotypes and misrepresentations are in this most ignorant, racist book. Here's another review.

Encyclopedia for inquisitive 4 year old

May 2007

I have an inquisitive 4 year old daughter. I want to get her the first set of encyclopedias with lots of interesting pictures and easy to understand explainations. Any suggestions out there? Mother of a 4-year old

I just bought ''Big book of knowledge'' from DK. It's not an encyclopedia SET, but it's a terrific book for exactly what you are looking for, on all sorts of topics. I partly bought it for my daughter (who is inquisitive but has a limited attention span for things that require active thinking, i.e. ''work''), partly for a neighbor kid who is extremely inquisitive and loves those kinds of books, and ok, partly for me. I couldn't put it down the first few days, even though my daughter was tired of it. So you should check it out as a first step. It will probably be PLENTY for a 4 yr old, and you'll learn from it, and an added bonus: you can take it with you when you travel! The back of the book says $17.99, but I think I paid less than that at a book fair. It says it has 200 categories (even how they came up with the categories, which covers almost everything, is fascinating), and 3,000 photos and illustrations. At least check it out before you go for an encyclopedia, which might be better when she gets a little older.

I really like the encyclopedias by DK Publishing. My almost-4yo son has adored the DK First Encyclopedia (for ages 4-8) for the past year. It's packed with pictures and has nice simple explanations. They also make a 2-volume set for slightly older kids called the DK Illustrated Family Encyclopedia. The way I see it, once they outgrow these kid encyclopedias they're ready to use the ones at the library or do research online. JP

We bought a set called ''Young Childrens' Encyclopedia'', and my son absolutely loved it. Before he could read very well he enjoyed the pictures, and once he could read he read and reread every volume, and branched off from the little stories/articles into books from the library on subjects that he encountered in the encyclopedia. It has great illustrations, mixes stories with more fact based short articles and even poetry. We give it five stars!!!! pliew

You might stop by your local library and ask the children's librarians what they recommend. You can also test-drive a few. If you really want to make an investment, World Book has a junior multi-volume encyclopedia (I think it's called Student Explorer, or something like that) that's very good. It's still much too old for your 4-year-old, though, being more appropriate for a third-grader, and costs somewhere around $600. Or if you want a single-volume general encyclopedia for little kids, Kingfisher makes a nice one. Kingfisher also makes specialized topic encyclopedias -- animals, the human body, etc. Children's Librarian

Chapter books for 4 1/2 year old

Jan 2007

My 4/12 year old daughter has recently shown some interest in chapter books. I have the Junie B. series (which I'm luke warm about); My Father's Dragon series (which we love) and I'm going to start The Magic Treehouse series. Does anyone have any other recommendations for chapter books that are age appropriate for a 4 year old? Thanks. Alicia

Try The Boxcar Children books. My daughters started reading them at about that age and one daughter read the entire series (well over 100 books) in order! Judy

We like Pixie Tricks by Tracey West alot. It is a series. Magic Tree House is good. Of course anything by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Maltilda and any of the others. Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Borrowers or anything by Elenor Estees (Pinky Pie, Ginger Pye, The Witch Family amoung others.) The Pixie Tricks series is about the length of the Magic Tree House if you like that length. Reading Moma

Catwings (and follow-up books) by Ursula LeGuin Commander Toad by Jane Yolen I'd also go to the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library and talk to one of the librarians. They've been great when my child has asked for new books and authors. You might also consider picture books -- many of them are written with more complex language than chapter books, and they also develop your child's visual literacy. mother of a reader

My kid loved Iris & Walter books, Henry & Mudge, Wizard of Oz (I thought they were too old but he didn't!), Junie B Jones, The Elmer Dragon ones, Betsy-Tacy, All of a Kind Family, Lois Lowry's Sam books (all about Sam etc.), nate the great, oh, boy so many good books to discover! The library has a nice section of early reader chapter books--try it out! happy reading mama

Starting at about the same age, my son and I (who also loved My Father's Dragon) did A Mouse Called Wolf, the Ralph S. Mouse series, all of the Winnie the Pooh books (the originals by A. A. Milne), Charlotte's Web, Babe the Gallant Pig, Frog and Toad are Friends, the Wind in the Willows, and, believe it or not, the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia (I'd planned on saving those for awhile, but my son INSISTED -- and LOVED them). A bit harder, but still enjoyable (think a year from now) were the Shy Stegosaurus books, The Enormous Egg, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, and Stuart Little. Karen

My husband and I found wonderful books for children that we enjoyed too by going back a few generations of authors. EB White's books, Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, for instance, were popular with our four year old. My son enjoyed many of the Little House on the Praire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I did a bit of editing as I read for a number of issues about Native Americans, but otherwise they were pretty good.) I find the Beverly Cleary books much better than the June B. Jones series. You might try visiting the library or an online resource and scanning for titles that you remember liking from your childhood. That worked for us. Whitney

Good read alouds for 4-5 year olds

Dec 2006

I am looking for good books to read aloud to my 4 1/2 year old. He likes chapter books and we have read ''Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'' and ''James and the Giant Peach'' and ''My Father's Dragon''. But now I just don't know what other books to read to him. Any suggestions? Rochelle

here are read-alouds that my 5 year old has enjoyed: (and some caveats)

Dr. Dolittle and follow-ons Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Flat Stanley (and follow on books): 1950's home, father works outside the home, mother doesn't, no diversity My Father's Dragon (sweet kid and not nice world, and he does fine!) The Cricket in Times Square (again, a sweet book, follow-ons good too) Carbonel, Prince of Cats The Castle of Grumpy Grouch, by Mary Dickerson Donahey (hard to find...1905 and 1948, about a princess who loses her temper, which runs away, she has to go find it, and meets talking animals, rescues a prince, etc. on the way) Jenny and the Cat Club (about a shy cat joining a group of cats, follow-ons great too.) The Wizard of Oz The reluctant Dragon The old man mad about drawing: a tale of hokusai, by Francois Place and William Rodarmor (an apprentice to a famous painter in the 1700's, told from the child's eyes). Half Magic by Edward Eager (a tad sexist, the mother works only because there is no father). Stuart Little Mrs. Pepperpot stories (again somewhat sexist as the woman cooks and minds the house etc.)

MAGIC TREEHOUSE BOOKS!!! My son loves them! He's very sheltered (just turned 6) and it's been hard to find books that are complex and fun, without being too violent or scary.

Other books are things like Thornton Burgess (adventures of reddy fox, for example), but the magic treehouse books are beloved. BTW, you can buy CD's in which the author reads the books (or get them at the library) and my son absolutely adores them.)

Curious George is OK - if you can get beyond wanting to bap the buy in the yellow hat for endangering wild animals.

We're reading Paddle to the Sea right now, too. It's very nice. good luck!

Here's a list I just pulled off of Amazon for the FUTURE. This is for 7 year olds who are reading at a 7 grade level. I like it because the content is a bit circumscibed. readermom

My just turned 5 year old has enjoyed The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web, and we are currently reading Stuart Little Peri

All About Sam, and any of the Sam books would be great. Debbie

When my son was 4 1/2, we started reading the Captain Underpants books. Also, that's about when we began the awesome Magic Treehouse series. We tried a few Little House on the Prairie books. Nanu Clark nanunanu [at]

3 year old doesn't have interest in books

Aug 2005

My 3 year old daughter ( she will be 4 in October) still doesn't show much interest in books. The only times we can read to her is right before bed time and even that is sometimes a drama.

If I pick the books out she screams. When I let her pick the books out it' usually picture books or baby books. She is growing up billingual ( German /English) and does pretty well in both languages. She also attends a German preschool. Usually I read the German books ( I am German) and my husband ( the english speaker is reading the English books). We never mix languages. I only speak German to her and her dad only speaks English to her. She actually doesn't want me to read English to her. Since it gets harder to translate her books the older she gets I thought I read her some Books in English but of course she hates that. I do have German books too but sometimes I want to pick something new. When I go to the library with her she doesn't want me to read to her the books even when I translate it into German. She wants to look at it herself. When I tell her '' let's go read some books'', she sais no right away and takes the book out of my hand. At preschool she also doesn't show interest in books. After lunch the kids have reading time and the kids who don't want to be read to can go outside. Of course she never sits in the reading corner and instead runs outside with the 2 year olds. Since she is almost 4, I am starting to worry about it. She is an active child but not hyperactive. I am worried that she is going to have problems in school if this continues. All the other kids in her preschool ( except some 2 year olds) show interest in books. I know that reading to a child is important but how can I read to her when she doesn't let me. I am seeing myself fighting homework with her in the future. anon

I think you should stop trying to read to her. it looks like it is becoming a power struggle, and she probably feels that. let her do other things she enjoys doing best. or sit beside her and read your own book... so that she knows it is an enjoyable activity for you. but don't force it on her. she will eventually earn to love books, but at her own pace. a reader

It sounds like a classic power struggle dynamic (normal for 3-4 year olds) that just happens to fall on an issue that you take very seriously. Unfortunately, perpetuating the power struggle by trying to get your daughter to spend more time with books is not likely to achieve the results you want.

Your daughter has clearly decided that reading is an area of her life that warrants her control. The reasons for her decision may range anywhere from feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities she associates with reading to feeling that it is simply the one area of her life she has the greatest opportunity to control. It is normal and healthy for a child of her age to want control over her life. And, at her age, it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to change her mind. However, that does not mean that the issue cannot be resolved successfully.

My professional recommendation is that first, you take one month to completely let go of any and all emotional investment you have in her reading related behaviors. This step is absolutely crucial to successful short- and long-term resolution of this issue. During this month, do your best to not mention her reading in any way, shape or form. As a matter of fact, if she (by some miracle) chooses a book at bed time and asks you to read it, make sure to BE VERY MATTER OF FACT about agreeing (maybe even asking her to wait a minute while you finish what you are doing, before sitting down with her.)

When that month is over, get hold of some books that are the closest thing to picture books you are comfortable having her read. DO NOT OFFER TO READ THEM TO HER. Instead, at bed time (or any other convenient time), settle down in a cozy chair and read them to yourself (genuinely enjoying them.) If she asks you to spend time with her, let her know that she is welcome to join you in what you are doing, and that you are going to finish what you are doing (reading) before doing anything else. Take a couple of weeks to establish this patter of behavior.

If these steps bring about change in her attitude, you are on your way, and it would be fine to gradually and gently (with no pressure) begin offering to read to her.

If these steps do not change her attitude at all, my guess is that there are some deeper reasons that she is resisting books. She may have had what felt to her like a traumatic experience around reading, or she may somehow have the idea that if she never reads, she won't ever have to go to 'real' school (which she may, for some reason, fear having to do.)

I hope you find this helpful. nechama

Science book/picture book for ages 4-7

Aug 2006

Hi, I am looking for picture books about science or nature for ages about 4-7. Anybody have any favorites? sally

There are so many -- what kind of science? You should totally go to the library with this question. For two series that cover many topics, try ''True Books'' (formerly known as ''New True Books'') -- solid if uninspired -- and ''Magic School Bus'' -- makes even potentially dull topics (water treatment plant, anyone?) interesting. Seymour Simon has many science books with fabulous photos. But there are so many great ones!

Off the top of my head (all on the younger end of your spectrum):
Growing Frogs -- French and Bartlett
Actual Size -- Jenkins
Red-Eyed Tree Frog -- Cowley
How Much Is a Million -- Schwartz and Kellogg
Children's Librarian

The Usborne series of books is really good, and they publish works at several different levels, so it's easy to find one that is right for your child. The Nature Center at Tilden Park, near the Little Farm, stocks lots of them.

You might also just browse museum stores, like at the Academy of Sciences, or at the Exploratorium. I often find good stuff there. Good Luck Donna

I think Usborne Books does an excellent job in the nature/science area. Our favorites for our kindergartener are the one on the human body and the picture atlas of the world (with animals/foods of the world pictured as well). I HIGHLY recommend this company for books of all manner! The website of the person I buy from is below (I think you have to buy most of them online, but I'm not sure): Sharon

Usborne Books has some great science books for ages 4-7. Check out There are several different series that I like. They include the Beginners' Science Series, Beginners' Science - New Format, Beginners' Nature, Beginners' Nature New Format, the First Discovery Series (ages 2 and up), and, my personal favorite - the Starting Point Science series. If you do an advanced search (at the top of the screen), you can search for all the titles in any of the different series. Joann

We have a few titles from the ''Let's read and find out'' science series and they've been very popular with my 6 year old, and my 3 year old is starting to take an interest in them. Here's some info on the series:

We especially love ''Food Chains and Food Webs'' but we've barely even scratched the surface on the series.

The books are small and easy to handle but have a fair amount of detail at an appropriate level, and in the ones I've seen, nice illustrations - Charis

Early Reading Books

Jan 2006

My 3.5 year old is starting to read and I'm trying to find books that are simple that she can read herself. Ideally I could find books where the vowels are mostly short (versus long) since she only sounds out her vowels the short way. Just a few that she could have fabulous success with so she doesn't get so frustrated with all of the long vowels. I have no interest in pushing her -- I just want her to enjoy it. Being only 3.5 she is pretty sure that her way is the RIGHT way and I'm happy to leave it that. Ramsey

I am a reading specialist and tutor. First congratulations on having a preschool who has started reading. Of course the public library has quality children's books. One way to support the reading is to select books with patterns and pictures that support the text. That makes the reading easier. I would also like to suggest writing some books together. It is often easier for a child to read back their own words. And you have the benefit of connecting reading and writing. I also use an online source with my students called Readingatoz. The site caters to teachers, but the annual fee is reasonable and you can download books that are increasingly more difficult. And if your child is reading this early they are obviously learning from you and should progress rapidly. Carol

My early reader liked the Bob books. The first set deals with short vowels so it may be right up your kid's alley. We also read Dr. Seuss books (The Eye Book, The Foot Book, A Woset in the Closet, etc.) which are great due to their rythmic quality. Have fun! Laurel

Susan Boynton books! They're just the right size for her to hold and there's enough word repetition (and silliness) to appeal to kids her age. I would say go to Cody's on Fourth Street, let her sit down with a few and see which appeal to her. (Or try them out by borrowing from the library.) Love Children's Books

Try the Bob books ( - they're small books that come in packs. They're very easy, graduated levels, and give kids positive feedback that they can read whole books by themselves. How wonderful that your little one has started enjoying reading, and that you are encouraging her! another early reader who still loves reading

Try the ''Bob'' books. There are several series of ''Bob'' books which get progessively more difficult, but the very first series has 10 or 12 little paperback books with just 2-3 words per page, cute whimsical drawings and short vowels. My daughter began with them around age 4 -- you can buy them on line or in some of the bigger bookstores -- they come in sets of 12 little books I think. I got them used from Amazon. happy reading

There are two excellent kids bookstores you and your daughter can check out -- Lucciola (sp???) on Piedmont Avenue, and Mr. Mopps on Martin Luther King just south of Rose. They have a number of series of early readers for you (and her) to choose from. My other suggestion is to go to the main branch of the Berkeley Library and talk to one of the librarians -- they are amazing -- I remember when my daughter was very small and interested in books about dogs, Elizabeth helped us find several books that were perfect. Since then we've gotten help from many of the librarians when new topics come up. It sounds like your daughter is a natural reader. My other suggestion is that you continue to read a variety of books to her, so that she stays interested in the stories, and picks up some of the other myriad English phonetic rules. Carol

Hop on Pop would be the best-also check other Dr. seuss books. Easy words, fun & entertaining. Go Dog Go is also fun & pretty easy. Put me in the zoo is fun. I wouldn't worry about having short vowels too much, since kids also simultaneously memorize & read, until the reading takes over more. janet

Go to the library and ask for BOB books. Both of my kids learned to read these first... Mom of early readers

Beatrix Potter's books are wonderful for children as soon as they're wanting to read and they will remain compelling for years to come. You may be more familiar with Peter Rabbit, et. al, but Miss Potter also wrote several books for beginning readers. Fabulous illustrations by one of the best children's authors ever. Ann

Chapter Book on Unicorns Fairies Fantasy for 5 yo

Nov 2005

My 5 year old daughter has been completely entranced by the Narnia series, but we are almost done with them. I'm looking for any chapter books that feature fairies, fantasy, unicorns etc. that are not too scary. Picture books with a lot of content would be great too. Thank you

I have just the thing for you. My 7yo loves these: The Unicorn's Secret Series by Kathleen Duey. Moonsilver is the first book. susan

For a fun fantasy book for your 5 year old that you will enjoy reading aloud, try DragonRider by Cornelia Funke. It is delightful and not scary. Her other books are a bit darker however and so better for an older child. another parent with an avid reader

Books by Bruce Coville are a lot of fun fantasy and most are not scary. We really enjoyed listening to them on tape. Aimed at slightly older elementary school kids, but I get a big kick out of them too. I particularly like the ''Aliens'' series(Aliens ate my homework, etc), but Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher is great also. nancy

The Dealing with Dragons series, by Patricia Wrede, was one of my absolute favorites when I was younger. The books are very entertaining and very funny, for kids and adults. Amazon synopsis: ''Cimorene, princess of Linderwall, is a classic tomboy heroine with classic tomboy strengths--all of which are perceived by those around her as defects: ''As for the girl's disposition--well, when people were being polite, they said she was strong-minded. When they were angry or annoyed with her, they said she was as stubborn as a pig.'' Cimorene, tired of etiquette and embroidery, runs away from home and finds herself in a nest of dragons. Now, in Cimorene's world--a world cleverly built by author Patricia C. Wrede on the shifting sands of myriad fairy tales--princesses are forever being captured by dragons. The difference here is that Cimorene goes willingly. She would rather keep house for the dragon Kazul than be bored in her parents' castle. With her quick wit and her stubborn courage, Cimorene saves the mostly kind dragons from a wicked plot hatched by the local wizards, and worms her way into the hearts of young girls everywhere.'' anon

Fairy Realm series by Emily Rodda -- not of Narnia caliber, but not scary and was very enjoyable for my 6 y.o. chris

My parents, dad in particular, read to me every night from a very young age. I remember the Narnia series distinctly from when I was about your daughter's age. I am now mom to a 3-year-old and aunt or ''auntie'' to 5 book-loving girls, ages 16, 15, 12, 9, and 6. In our family, once a child reaches age 2, all gifts are books. Try the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, not just ''The Wizard of...'' but also the 13 (really!) or so books after that like ''Ozma of Oz'' ''The Patchwork Girl of Oz'' and so on. Amazon has them, the Berkeley and Oakland Main libraries both have them. Also try ''The Phantom Tollbooth'' and Madeline L'Engle's ''A Wrinkle in Time.'' In a year or two, she'll be ready for The Hobbit and ''The Dark is Rising'' sequence, but both are probably a little scary for her now.

Beyond that, given individual tastes, my best recommendation is my source for newer books (those that weren't around when I was a child): ''Great Books for Girls'' by Kathleen Odean. She's a former children's librarian, former head of the Newbery Committee, and the books focus on strong female characters. Outstanding resource. Also try ''Great Books About Things Kids Love'' by the same author. Both have great reads all around, and usually in tune with modern, Bay Area sensibilities. I have a gajillion read-aloud books for 6-12 year olds, but your daughter is about a year away... Lisa

Reference book for 5 year old

May 2005

Can anyone recommend a reference book for a curious 5-year-old who has suddenly started asking a million questions like, ''What is plastic made of?'', ''How do picures get in the TV?'', ''How do they make wine glasses...?'', and ''How does all that whipped cream fit in that can?'' I can answer some of her questions, but not there a good reference book for parents to keep handy with complete, yet easy to explain/understand answers? I saw a few on-line, but they seem to be all about one subject each--machines (The Way Things Work), or nature (The Way the Universe Works), etc. I'd like a big, picture-&-diagram-filled book of all kinds of subject matter, that we can keep around for years and keep referring back to...anyone have a favorite? Thanks. Heidi

We often use a website that is great for explaining things like that. Check out You may have to read along and maybe explain some of the vocabulary, but many of the diagrams and examples are really helpful. Ruth

Picture books about shyness, fear, and self-esteem

March 2005

I'm looking for picture books for my daughter (age four) that deal with issues of shyness, fear, and self-esteem.

Two right off the top of my head are: I LIKE ME! by Nancy Carlson (self-esteem) and WEMBERLEY WORRIED by Kevin Henkes (fear)

But remember you can stop in at your local public library and ask the children's librarian there--giving personal recommendations is her job! (I'm a children's librarian, and I love it when people ask questions like this...) In the meantime, my friends at the Allen County (IN) Public Library have a fine selection of online booklists they call Parents' Primer, books for young children on a variety of tough parenting topics. It's at: Booklady

Rosemary Wells has a small series of books about Edward the Unready, which are sweet and accepting of a bear/boy who is shy and still very attached to his parents. She has also written Shy Charles, a great book, also about a child who is shy, but who overcomes it in an important way. We've found her books at the Albany Library. Donna

My 3 1/2 year old daughter likes ''My First Day at Nursery School'' by Becky Edwards; ''Mommy, Don't Go'' and ''I'm Scared'' (addresses fear of dogs - but I use it for other things as well) both by Elizabeth Crary; ''Cat's Got Your Tongue? A Story for Children Afraid to Speak'' by Charles E. Schaefer.

Alternatives to Disney storybook

Jan 2004

My 3 1/2-year-old daughter has become fascinated by the Disney princess thing, despite my misgivings. One of her preschool friends has gotten her hooked. My daughter now wants to read a book of Disney stories we got as a gift every night. I'm not thrilled by the evil characters, violence (the evil witch wants to cut out Snow White's heart and put it in a box!), and passive female characters. Also, the good people are all beautiful and evil ones ugly. I try countering these messages by discussing them afterwards, but I worry that the images will stay with her more than anything I have to say. Any suggestions for an alternative book of stories she'd want to read from every night? We have other books we read, but it would be nice to replace the big Disney book with another book of stories. Thanks for any help.

You may want to try Mad About Madeline. My then 3 year old daughter loved it and she still does. It's big and packed with wonderful stories. angela

I understand and agree wtih your concern, but I was brought up on Disney, and all the other fairy tales with the same themes....evil creatures are ugly, good guys are beautiful, women are pretty, thin, passive....the manly heroes are handsome and strong, lots of dungeons and violence. I'm 51 now and pretty openminded, have my own business (as well as a great hubby adn 2 kids), pretty feminist in philosophy.... So, I guess I'd say, don't worry.... As a kid I did want to be a mommy, ballerina, princess, etc..... I think I grew out of it as I got older and saw more of the real world ! and what the possibilities are. I'd say, read all kinds of books to your daughter...her role models will be the biggest teachers for her. Good luck independant ,non-princess mommy

We ''lost'' the disney storybooks we had. Sure, there was screaming and crying, but eventually she forgot about it. She has a disney coloring book, but there aren't any stories, just pictures of the characters. We like the Francis books, Babar books (although the mom dies in the very beginning so we skip this page) Madeleine, and the Frog and Toad series. Also anti-Disney princess

I think that there are now lots of books debunking the old tinsel.

Try ''The Paperbag Princess''. Cute and not too serious. This short book is about this cool princess who was gaga over a preppy prince. He was taken by a dragon who burned all her stuff too. She went to save him, dressed in a paper bag, and she outwitted the dragon. When she went to save the prince, he chided her for her clothes, and she noted that after all, he's good looking and well-dressed, but quite a drag. - a feminist dad

My daughter went through a phase of wanting to read these books all the time too. I edited the stories: Snow White was smart, kind stong and beautiful etc. Also, I commented on things like if the animals could tell the dwarfs about the witch, why didn't they just tell Snow White so she could save herself? or people really don't get married as soon as they meet- do they? I actually didn't mind the princess phase (truth is except for those bor! ing stories) so much but if you do, don't worry, it's a phase! another mom

As an alternative to those shocking Disney story lines (dead mothers, evil monsters, weak women, etc.), I always fall back on The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. A great feminist book for preschoolers where the spunky girl saves the day. My son loves it. Good luck! Nancy

Not all of the Disney princesses are as passive as Snow White. Belle (Beauty and the Beast) and Mulan are a couple of the more self-reliant types. But as a general rule, I find the Disney books to be pretty poor literature, even aside from the gender issues. My daugher and son both really like ''Arthur's Really Useful Bedtime Stories,'' which re-cast fairy tales with Arthur characters and give females a lot more control over their lives. On the more literary side, we all really like ''Heckety Peg.'' Based on your request, you might find it somewhat intense, but your daughter will love it. She also would probably like the Oz books, if she's ready for chapter books. Ann

My son was also totally caught up in wanting to read Disney books at the same age. We had none of the books and he would read them at other people's houses and pine for them. We are a major book-reading, no tv family so this was quite a challenge. He knew that his friends were not only reading the books but watching videos of the stories, but thankfully he never pushed us on that angle. We were able to tell him that the video versions were too scary and he could watch them when he was older. I have heard that 5 is the earliest age recommended (by child psychologists, etc) for most Disney flics.

He learned that there is a Disney section at Cody's and would want to go there to read books, just so he could look at all those. I too can't stand the violence and obnoxious graphics and serious misogyny. I stopped in the middle of Peter Pan with him because of the mermaids being cruel to Wendy and each other for PP's attention. I talked to him about how it made me feel and that I didn't want to read stories that had people being so horrible to each other, etc. We also talked about how the Disney stories are actually versions of much older stories. We got a few other versions of the same stories (caveat. they are also a bit scary). I particularly like the ones by Wanda G'ag that were done in the '30s I think and have been reissued. In the frontnotes of her Snow White, there are some comments about how she did it to counter the Disney version which had just come out. We have gotten over the obsessive part of it, partly I think by letting him read some of them at Cody's, at his friend's etc. I did end up getting him a Disney paperback version of Sleeping Beauty because the short versions tend to leave out more of the violence. He hasn't asked to read that book in close to a year. Of course, I thought we were through with it entirely, but recently when asked what his favorite book was, he said ''Disney books.'' And I'm sure this will move on to bionicles or whatever his friends are doing. But part of it is inevitable. I'm grateful to have this forum to know that there are others out there dealing with the same issues! done with disney

And here's a great alternative to all those scary, sugary, precocious Disney films. I got a DVD that was made for kids and pets alike (I know, it sounds weird, but it's not). No crises, no denoument with tears and relief. No nightmares. Very authentic and reflective of a child's days and events. Calming. Great music, no dialog. Captivating, it turns out, for kids and for adults.

Wally Roo's busy day was filmed by animal lovers, the star is an Australian Shepherd dog (with parts and cameos by dogs, goats, horses, cats, squirrels, etc.). The ''plot'' is a great montage of the things that Wally does all day: doggy daycare (so much like a child's day in daycare); time in the park; a morning on the farm; and waking up at home, playing with the cats.

It's sophisticated in its utter simplicty. High quality production, delightful music. No harm or duress to the animal ''actors'' (not trained to act, they just play). And my two boys, ages 3 and 4 LOVE it. We got it at David

Books about police for obsessed preschooler

Oct 2003

My son has been obsessed with police and jails lately, and as we talk about it more, I realize he's very afraid of the police--that they are going to put him in jail. I'd like to help him understand the role of the police better and not be afraid. Can any one recommend books or activities that will help a preschooler understand that police do more than just catch bad guys and put them in jail? a mom

Slightly off topic is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman. She is wonderful. Her other books are favorites of our whole family--Good Night Gorilla & 10 Minutes to Bedtime. book-a-holic

There's a light-hearted story called ''Officer Buckle & Gloria,'' about a friendly police officer and his K-9 companion, who visit schools and teach kids about safety rules (like looking both ways before crossing the street.) Forgot the author's name but I've borrowed the book from the Albany Library before. Clarisse

''Officer Buckle and Gloria'' by Peggy Rathman is a wonderful book about a police officer who is upstaged by his dog Gloria. Its a picture book which will be loved by both adults and children. The best news? It's available at the San Francisco Public library to anyone with a library card. And yes *you* can have an SFPL card if you are a resident of the state of California. No fines on children's cards. Dorothy

The Bed Book?

Nov 2012

When I was little (a few decades ago)I remeber reading a book that I think was called ''The Bed Book''. It was about all kinds of different imaginary beds like a tree house bed and a bed in space, I think even a bed made of ice cream. I really loved this book and would love to find a copy to read to my kids. Does this book ring a bell with anyone? Does it have a different title? Just hoping to get some more info on a hazy, but nice childhood memory. Thanks, Courtney

The Bed Book is by Sylvia Plath, and I believe it is out of print. I had a paperback version for my kids purchased maybe 10 years ago, and just searched through their books, but unfortunately, we seem to have given it away. Its a wonderful story full of all types of magical beds, and worth keeping an eye out for. Helen

The book you have in mind is indeed ''The Bed Book'' by Sylvia Plath and it is a lot of fun to read aloud to kids. The copy I have was illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully and printed in 1989. I purchased it used, I think from the used toy store on Solano Ave. in Albany. Good luck in your search. Kristin

I think what you are looking for is ''The Bed book'' by Sylvia Plath, her only book for children (''A celebration of different kids of beds, including submarine beds and pocket-sized beds that grow when watered''). This is out of print. On Amazon, the cheapest copy is for $160 (collectible item), but if you just want a reading copy, you can find it used on for as low as $4.95. (Disclaimer: I work there)

Lauren Child's ''My Dream Bed'' sounds like it could also be the book you're describing. The narrator takes the child on a tour of different beds: in a tent, in a flower, in a bird's nest, in the ocean, floating in space, high atop many piled up mattresses, on an elephant's back... amicadog

Favorite books for reading aloud

May 1999

Favorite picture books for reading outloud: The true story of the 3 little pigs / by A. Wolf ; as told to Jon Schieszka ; illustrated by Lane Smith. is a good one. Dianna

I'm not sure what the actaul age range is on these, but I truly loved them as a child when they were read to me...I think I must have been between 5 and 7...

Any Roald Dahl books (a few have recently become movies), but especially The BFG which is full of funny words and an excellent young female heroine. As a note, Dahl books are sometimes a bit darker than most children's books (The Twits is a good example) so a pre-reading might be necessary sometimes.

Also, the Frog and Toad books. And The Water Babies, the author of which I can't remember. My grandmother had a richly illustrated hardback version of that. I used to sit and stare at the cover and imagine myself in that world.

We also read and loved The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down. Happy reading! Heather

We enjoyed all of the books in the Dorrie series by Patricia Coombs -- they are story books about a little girl and her mom, who both happen to be (good) witches, and their cook and cat. The little girl always wears socks that don't match, and the introduction to each book very lyrically describes this fact, and others.

Other favorites that remain on our shelf, and which we have enjoyed for years (Kate is now 8): How to Make Apple Pie and See the World The Paper Princess, by Elisa Kleven (*wonderful* Albany artist!!)

A little girl sat in the sunshine, drawing a princess. The princess's dress was like a forest. Her socks were like starry skies. Her shoes were watermelons. Her face was so friendly and brave that the little girl loved her.

The Dream Pillow The Artist Who Loved Chickens (he loved to *paint* them, an odd, lovely story) and then, segue into anything by Sid Fleishman (I especially liked By the Great Horn Spoon which is a fanciful tale about the gold rush). The Sid Fleishman books are chapter books, but are great read-aloud books for kids who would prefer their chapter stories that way...and are fun for kids to read themselves once they acquire that level of skill. Melissa

My favorite chapter books:
* Ramona The Pest, Beverly Cleary -- relates the adventures of a precocious 5 yea r old starting kindergarden. Last fall I recommended it to 2 families with kids entering kindergarden and was thanked profusely. All the Cleary books are great, but this one is particularly excellent.
* Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betty MacDonald (I think) -- even though written 50 years a go, this is a true classic. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with ingenious cures for kid s who don't want to bathe, eat, share, etc. Has humor for the adults as well.
* From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg -- one of my all-time favorite books and author. Two kids run away from home with their cloth es in their instrument cases and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they get involved in a great art history mystery. Jody

Books that appeal to 2-5 year olds

A book that appeals to the 2 to 5 year-old-age range, as well as the adults who read to them is All About Alfie by Shirley Hughes. The illustrations are Norman Rockwellesque and the four stories are a real delight. Check it out at the library. Rosemary

Book Recommendation: While attending a recent lecture with education specialist Bev Bos, she recommended the book Tough Boris by Mem Fox. It is the story of a tough, fearless, massive pirate named Boris who becomes very sad when his pet parrot dies. The narrative is very simple and kids of many ages and developmental levels can exercise quite a lot of imagination as they interpret the story according to their own needs. My three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter love this book and refer to it often throughout the day. Deborah