If there is one thing you do with your child and nothing else, make it reading!
Reading is crucial for child development on so many levels. At it’s most basic level it provides a quiet time for parent and child to share together and will encourage your child to focus and listen. However reading regularly and widely with your child aids comprehension, extends vocabulary, supports speech and language development and engages your child’s imagination. There is no limit to how many books you can share with your child in a day and it is certainly shouldn’t be limited to just a bed-time activity. Not every book will spark your child’s interest so join your local library and experiment with lots of different texts, try to figure out what books capture your little ones attention. Some children are less interested in fiction and more engaged by information books especially if they have a particular interest like animals, vehicles, dinosaurs or space. Many children love to read one particular book over and over again (for my two children it was ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’ by the wonderful Judith Kerr). This desire to repeat a text is very normal and important in laying connections between words and pictures and building on a child’s knowledge of a text so do keep repeat reads if that is what your child wants. If the text is too complex for your little one then leave it out and use your own words to retell events in the story or comment on the pictures.
Here are a few of my favourite picture books for 2-4 year olds
- Anything by Julia Donaldson who is a genius at creating wonderful stories with repeated refrains and rhyming text. See particularly, ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’, ‘Stickman’, ‘Zog’,’The Snail and the Whale’ and ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’. For smaller children (18 months to 3 years) the lift the flap books ‘Postman Bear’, ‘Rabbits nap’ and ‘Fox’s Socks’ are a perfect introductions into Donaldson’s work.
- Anything by Judith Kerr who illustrates all her books and weaves her only particular magic into each story. I have yet to come across a child who is not fascinated by the story of the tiger from ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ who ate up all the food and drank all the drink so that Sophie could not have her bath or supper! Also highly recommend the ‘Mog’ series; a wonderful selection stories of varying complexity about a rather grumpy cat.
- ‘Pip and Posy’ series by Axel Scheffler- these are particularly good for 2- 3 year olds who delight in the relatable stories following the two friends.
- ‘Paddington’ by Michael Bond- the language is a little complex for little ones but from 4 year olds plus these wonderfully humorous stories are perfect for extending vocabulary and comprehension.
- The Storm Whale by Benji Davies- a beautifully illustrated story about a lonely little boy who befriends a baby whale. A perfect book to initiate discussions on feelings and relationships.
- Anything by Jill Murphy but specifically her baby bear series ‘Peace at Last’ and ‘Whatever Next’ and the brilliant Mr and Mrs Large books; ‘ 5 Minutes Peace’, ‘All In One Piece’ and ‘Mr Large in Charge’. All these books perfectly record the reality of family life and will make parents and children giggle in recognition.
- Richard Scarry books; What Do People Do All Day’ and ‘Best Word Book Ever’. These funny and brilliantly illustrated books are a particular hit with boys and are a wonderful way of extending children’s vocabulary. My children must have read the 6 pages detailing ‘how to build a road’ over a hundred times.
- ‘Owl Babies’ by Martin Wadell- a classic story perfect for a child going through a mummy phase!
- ‘Handa’s Surprise’- Eileen Browne. Another classic story and a favourite in schools and nurseries. The story of Handa’s journey to a nearby village provides opportunities to recognise fruit, animals and to discuss different parts of the world and what they look like.
- ‘The Night Gardener’ by The Fan Brothers. This is another one for the 4 year olds and a relatively new book given to my eldest son by a friend. Beautifully bound and illustrated this mysterious and magical story is open to interpretation and will intrigue children and invites discussion.