Monday, May 23, 2016

Books for Reluctant (pre-)Readers

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."
— Kate DiCamillo

While I am immeasurably happy to have a child who loves books and libraries and bookstores, I know I am lucky. But as research mounts about the importance of reading to children, I think it is also important to acknowledge that not all kids love reading - or being read to. And while it isn't difficult to find lists of books for reluctant readers, I've found it nearly impossible to find lists of books for those who don't like books, but aren't yet reading themselves - the picture book audience. One of the best ways to ensure you don't have a reluctant reader (and prevent future reading problems) is to encourage a fondness for books well before kids are expected to read to themselves. 
Reading to toddlers sets the foundation for later independent reading. Reading problems can be challenging to fix when discovered in elementary school, but most reading problems can be prevented if exposure to reading starts in the toddler and preschool years. Before children can read independently, they need emergent literacy skills. These include:
  • having a large vocabulary of words and knowing how to use them
  • understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds (called phonemic awareness)
  • understanding that marks on a page represent letters and words
  • knowing the letters of the alphabet
Kidshealth.org, "Toddler Reading Time"

I've rounded up a list of books that offer different approaches to traditional storytelling. While not all of the books will be appealing to every reader, my hope is that any one of these thirty books may crack the door to a lifelong love of reading for your child. Some books belong in more than one category, but to simplify, I've only put each book on the list once.


Humorous Books
Kids love to laugh, and if you can laugh along with them, you'll foster a feeling of happiness and fun at storytime. And while there are a lot of books that kids may find funny, these will most likely get a chuckle or two from parents as well.

Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell   
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Baa Baa Smart Sheep by Mark and Rowan Sommerset 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
I Love Cake! (Starring Rabbit, Porcupine and Moose) by Tammi Sauer 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Rhyming Books
Some kids do very well with rhyming and repetition, as these tools give readers a little bit of power over the story. When kids can figure out what the next word or line will be, they feel a little magical, a little more confident...and a little more tolerant of reading.

There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Huck Runs Amuck! by Sean Taylor 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound


Metafiction (Breaking the "4th Wall")/Interactive
Playful, humorous books that invite the reader to participate help engage reluctant listeners/readers. These books each have an aspect that will pull kids into the story, from finding a dragon on each page or identifying each "culprit" to moving the story along by completing a motion and downright silliness. 

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 

Wordless Books
Similarly to interactive books, wordless books are also a great tool for engaging readers. Although this seems contradictory, wordless books allow readers to create within a basic framework - but the story can be completely theirs. What is the little girl saying? Thinking? What is the raccoon up to? Where is the boy going? All of these questions might be answered by the pictures in some way, but think of these as (beautiful!) Choose Your Own Adventure books for the very young. 

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Journey by Aaron Becker
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Wave by Suzy Lee
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound  


Onomatopoeic Books
Similarly to rhyming books and musical books, having fun with sound is an engaging way to pull readers in. Swish, swoosh, creak, tap or pitter-pat into one!  

Creak! Said the Bed by Phyllis Root
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide! by Candace Fleming
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound
Utterly Otterly Day by Mary Casanova 
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 

Musical Books
Music and singing are great for kids, in many of the same ways that reading is - singing promotes literacy by increasing vocabulary, teaching structural elements such as repetition and rhythm, predictability and cause and effect. Books incorporating singing and music into them pull a sort of double duty, allowing readers to have fun and play while picking up tools that will make them even more successful readers.

The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka-Dot Pants by Eric Litwin
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Maisy's Band by Lucy Cousins
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! by Wynton Marsalis
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 
Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp) by Allan Sherman, Lou Busch*
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound 

In addition to the list of books above, you can find some great tips for reading to children here and here. My favorite tip is one that I picked up as a summer school camp counselor, even though it seems counter-intuitive: kids don't have to sit still to be engaging with a story. Let them play with other toys while you read, let them wiggle. You might be surprised how much of the story they've actually picked up, even when it seems that they are a million miles away. And most importantly, don't give up!

I'd love to hear in the comments if you have suggestions for other books to help reluctant pre-readers! Happy Reading! 

*This one probably works best if you have nostalgic memories of hearing the song throughout your childhood, or at least have heard the song! 

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6 comments:

  1. What a great list! Thank you for including The Pout-Pout Fish.

    Best Fishes,
    Debbie Diesen

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    1. Thank you! It is definitely a favorite in our house!

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  2. So many great titles! I lead story time at a library and there are some I need to try out on the little guys. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you! I'd be curious to hear if any of them are especially loved!

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  3. Great list! I have a few to add to my reading list now! As far as reading tips with toddlers that are reluctant or too busy to bother with books, I would suggest that books are a visible part of the household. All members of the family should be seen reading, and colorful engaging books should be within reach of the toddlers. Reading aloud prepares them for school and life.

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    1. Great point, Noelle! Books in general are such eye candy, but especially picture books! A fantastic way to display books in view for toddlers is with picture ledges like these:

      http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40291766/

      Hmm...maybe book organization/styling should be another post!

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