This is a crucial time for reading aloud! For this age group, listening vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. The children are now ready for more complicated themes of friendship, generosity, honesty and trust.
Now is the time to introduce them to traditional characters like the trickster, Anansi. Children are interested in the world around them, so multicultural stories are a natural fit. At this age children have a great sense of humor and will enjoy the absurdity of a dog who can’t bark or a police officer who is jealous and angry at his dog for stealing the limelight. As with the younger children, repetition and rhyme are still relished.
Recommended Picture Books:
The Bossy Gallito / El Gallito De Bodas: A Traditional Cuban Folktale, (1994), Gonzalez, Lucia, M. A retelling of a traditional Cuban folktale presented in English and Spanish. Follows the adventure of a pushy rooster who learns a lesson.
Big Red Lollipop, (2010), Khan, R. A sibling rivalry story featuring Pakistani sisters in a story that highlights a clash of cultural customs, but expresses universal themes.
Ben’s Trumpet, (1979), Isadora, R. About a boy growing up in the 1920’s who aspires to be a jazz musician. Stunning and evocative black and white illustrations.
A Chair for My Mother, (1982), Williams, Vera B. After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy.
Grandfather’s Journey, (1993), Say, A. A tale of one man’s love for two countries and his desire to be in both places. Deeply personal, yet expresses universal emotions of the immigrant’s experience.
Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock, (1988), Kimmel, E. Anansi learns a valuable lesson when the animals he had tricked turn the tables on him. Repetitive and predictable, a perfect choice!
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale, (1975), Aardema, V. A moral tale of jungle justice imposed on a foolish
Too Many Tamales (1992), Soto, G. Maria loses Mama’s diamond ring in the tamale dough then has to find it. A warm and humorous story with richly colored paintings.
Frog and Toad are Friends, (1970) Lobel, A. True friendship is depicted through free-spirited Frog and a somewhat grumpy and impatient Toad. Funny, poignant, and silly. A classic!
Go, Dog, Go!, (1961), Eastman, P.D. This classic, early reader book features dogs of all colors doing all sorts of things. A perfect choice for emergent readers!
Curious George, (1941), Rey, H.A. The adventures of a loveable monkey who behaves like a mischievous boy. First of the series.
Bark, George, Feiffer, F. A mother dog tries to get to the bottom of why her puppy can make every sound but a bark.
Caps for Sale, (1938), Slobodkina, E. A humorous story about a group of monkeys who steal a peddler’s caps. An old favorite and great fun!
Officer Buckle and Gloria, (1995), Rathman, P. Officer Buckle is a safety officer whose dog, Gloria, steals the show.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, (1972), Everyone will empathize with Alexander when he recalls his truly catastrophic day.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, (2003), Williams, M. A pigeon pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through this book. Children love being able to answer back.
Madeline, (1939), Bemelmans, L. Madeline, the smallest of the twelve girls in a Parisian school, has many adventures, not the least of which is a trip to the hospital to have her appendix out.
Millions of Cats, (1928), Gag, A. An old man and woman search for their cat- a rhythmic picture-tale of rich humor and a favorite of several generations.
Harold and the Purple Crayon, (1955), Johnson, C. A spunky, imaginative boy draws himself in and out of adventures.
Whistle for Willie, (1964), Keats, E.J. Peter wanders through his city neighborhood to whistle for his dog. Vivid collage illustrations.
The Carrot Seed, (1973). Krauss, R. A small, determined boy plants a seed and nurtures it to maturity despite the discouragement he receives.
Make Way for Ducklings, (1941), McCloskey, R. In search for a quiet place to raise their family, Mother and Father Duck encounter turtles, bicycles, and traffic in Boston’s famous public garden.
The Lion and the Mouse, (2009), Pinkney, J. A stunning, wordless version of the classic fable.
Strega Nona, (1975), dePaola, T. Strega Nona — “Grandma Witch” — is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical everfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.
Swimmy, (1963), Lionni, L. Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger. With its graceful text and stunning artwork, this Caldecott Honor Book deserves a place on every child’s shelf.
Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, (1996), Henkes, K. Lilly loves everything about school, especially her cool teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Lilly brings her purple plastic purse and its treasures to school and can’t wait until sharing time, Mr. Slinger confiscates her prized possessions. Lilly’s fury leads to revenge and then to remorse and she sets out to make amends.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, (1989), Scieszka, J. In this hysterical and clever fracture fairy tale picture book that twists point of view and perspective, young readers will finally hear the other side of the story of “The Three Little Pigs.”
Where the Wild Things Are, (1963), Sendak, M. Let the wild rumpus with Max and all the wild things start! Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year, Where the Wild Things Are became an iconic book that has inspired a movie, an opera, and the imagination of generations. It continues to be one of the best loved books of all time the world over, by the one and only Maurice Sendak.
The Little House, (1942), Burton, Virginia Lee. Winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1943, a poignant story of a cute country cottage that becomes engulfed by the city that grows up around it. The house has an expressive face of windows and doors, and even the feelings of a person, so she’s sad when she’s surrounded by the dirty, noisy city’s hustle and bustle: “She missed the field of daisies / and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight.” Fortunately, there’s a happy ending, as the house is taken back to the country where she belongs. A classic!
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story From China, (1989), Young, E. “Not for the faint-hearted, Lon Po Po (Grandmother Wolf), is a Newbury Award winning tale of a menacing danger and courage….(Young’s) command of page composition and his sensitive use of color give the book a visual force that matches the strength of the story and stands as one of the illustrator’s best efforts.” —Booklist “Absolutely splendid.” — Kirkuse Reviews. “An extraordinary and powerful book.” — Publisher’s Weekly
Miss Nelson is Missing!, (1977), Allard, H. The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzing through the air. They were the worst-behaved class in the whole school. So begins this quirky classic, first published in 1977 and still relevant today as a lighthearted reminder to show our appreciation to those we value. The students don’t proffer a shred of respect for their good-natured teacher Miss Nelson, but when the witchy substitute Miss Viola Swamp appears on the scene, they start to regret their own wicked ways. James Marshall’s scritchy, cartoonish full-color ink and wash illustrations are hilarious. A back-to-school perennial!
Olivia, (2000), Falconer, I. As the first page states…”This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things.” And she is. Good at wearing people out, scaring her brother, combing her ears, getting dressed, building sand castles, painting…everything but napping. She’s a precocious, feisty, imaginative, wonderful little pig. Ian Falconer has captured the essence of a pre-schooler in his first children’s book. His short, simple text is complimented by his expressive black and white illustrations, with just a touch of bright red to highlight the right parts. This is a book your youngsters will want to read again and again, as they see a bit of themselves in Olivia. A must for all home libraries, Olivia is sure to become a classic.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, (1969), Steig, W. Sylvester can’t believe his luck when he finds a magic pebble that can make wishes come true. But when a lion jumps out at him on his way home, Sylvester is shocked into making a wish that has unexpected consequences. After overcoming a series of obstacles, Sylvester is eventually reunited with his loving family. Illustrated with William Steig’s glowing pictures, this winner of the Caldecott Medal is beloved by children everywhere.
Tar Beach, (1991), Ringgold, F. “Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the ‘tar beach’ of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one’s world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book.”–(starred) Horn Book.