Children's Book Recommendations

Children’s Book Week 2019 – 100th Anniversary

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Children’s Book Week starts today and it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year to celebrate with my kiddos. I’ve always had a fascination with children’s literature – everything from babies’ board books to young adult novels, I’m hooked!

(here are some of our family’s faves)

I started celebrating this week with my children several years ago because I think it’s important for my kids to see that I, too, get excited about reading, and especially about reading to them. Not only is it beneficial for all the obvious reasons (building vocabulary, imagination, and critical-thinking skills), but it usually means, if I’m reading, they’re all quiet(ish) and that’s awesome. Children’s Book Week, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, WOOT WOOT, is put on by a charity called Every Child a Reader whose goal is kind of self-explanatory. Get the right books in kids’ hands and they’ll become lifelong readers. Each year, they develop a new theme and poster for the week-long celebration and this year, this is it…

I think it’s pretty fantastic. You can check out more about the charity and the resources it has to offer at their website.

To celebrate the week at home, I usually choose a picture book a day to focus on (from our own home library). Sometimes I go with my own theme… for example, a couple years ago, I chose books that all had something to do with food and then I made a dish (or meal) that associated with the book. (We ate blueberries muffins while reading Blueberries for Sal. We had Bread and Jam [with] Francis for breakfast one morning. And we tried our own spell like Strega Nona over some pasta during dinner one night.)

But this year, I’ve chosen six books that each have a moral or lesson that I think is important for my children to hear (some are lighter than others). I’ll read one each day and {hopefully} have an intelligent conversation about it. Here’s what I picked for the week…

Before I Was Me

This darling book just came out a couple of months ago and illustrates an adorable conversation between a little baby about to be born and His Creator. The baby asks God, “Who will I become?” and God assures the little one that He has chosen [him/her] to be a very important person. The baby then goes on to guess, choosing from so many very important jobs (doctors, teachers, parents, just to name a few). But parents can only become parents if they have a child, so a child must be a very important job. God explains to the baby that the child’s job is not what they do but who they are {read: made in God’s image…}… LOVE! So the baby is overjoyed to begin a new life and the greatest job.

A Tale of Two Beasts

This is a quick re-telling of the same story – just from two different sides. A little girl wanders along in the woods and finds a strange little beast stuck whining in a tree. She saves him, dresses him, and feeds him, but sadly he escapes. Thankfully, he visits her one last time. Or….. is it that a little wild animal was happily minding his own business when a selfish little girl stole him, attacked him, and force-fed him, until he escaped? That is, until he returned to retrieve an article of clothing? It’s a humorous little reminder that there are two sides to every story and although we may THINK we’re in the right and know what’s best, it’s always good to try to imagine another’s point of view.

Poor Mrs. Peters’ children are ALL picky eaters. We’re introduced to each child as he or she is born and how the cooking and feeding schedule is upturned. Written in rhyme, you can’t help but smile at the “silly bunch of eaters” of the family of “precious little Peters”. Now a mother of seven persnickety eaters, selfless Mrs. Peters goes up to bed, no doubt exhausted, on the eve of her birthday, not knowing her children are planning to make her breakfast in bed. They’re up all night, each trying to make their own favorite meal for her, but since they’re not accustomed to cooking, it naturally becomes a kitchen disaster. They shove their mess inside the warm oven for hiding, and you’ll have to read it to find out what kind of delightful surprise Mrs. Peters receives for her birthday the next morning! 
I like to remind my children this is a fictional story and picky eating of this sort just doesn’t exist (right?, wink wink) and that balanced diets and helping hands in the kitchen make for happier families. Also, siblings should always work together to help their no-doubt mamas. 
This sweet story reminds me a little of The Velveteen Rabbit. A little stuffed bunny lives in a barrel at a toy store, never getting chosen, and it knows why. It has a mark on its fur – a little mark of imperfection. But a little girl named Caroline comes in and specifically chooses that bunny and gives it a name. As any newly adored childhood toy, Caroline does everything with Audrey Bunny, even taking her to school to introduce her to her classmates for Show and Tell. The bunny is overwhelmed with fear and shame wondering how it’s going to cover its mark. But then Audrey Bunny hears Caroline explain how much she loves her bunny and how the spot makes her beautiful to her. It turns out it wasn’t a secret that had to be kept. It was the reason she had been chosen in the first place. There’s no need to hide what makes you different. {Cue warm fuzzy feelings of acceptance and belonging.}
I love that this book has a Parent Connection page in the back with some questions to reflect on, a Bible passage to read, and even some activities to do together with your child(ren). 
Don’t let this pink cover fool you…. it was my son’s favorite book in preschool. That was probably because his love language is Physical Touch. This is a darling book about a little boy who absolutely loves giving hugs. As a fellow “hugger”, I can relate with his thought process: a hug can pretty much solve anything. But even a Hug Machine can get worn out and might even need something to recharge his battery… a hug will probably do the trick. 
We remind our kiddos that although hugs can be very helpful for healing, they need to know the comfort level of their friends as well, and never force a hug. I’m not sure how many more child-initiated hugs I’m going to get from my pre-teen son, so I’m going to soak up each one like a machine and store it for days… 
I love the simplicity of this book. It shows the ripple effect of one simple kind gesture. Because Amelia smiled, someone else smiled and decided to do something kind for someone. That person reached out and shared something else and so on. The illustrations are large and bright. I love how the kids get to see how easy and contagious it is to not only be kind but to quite possibly change someone’s attitude for the day. We never know who we may have impacted from just one little gesture, so I like to ask them, “Who knows? Because you ___, someone else may have____” and then just smile and wink. 
While we’re on the subject of reading aloud to children, may I suggest a book my Mops Book Club just finished? The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids. It’s about the importance and power of reading aloud to your children (even as they continue to grow older). Many of us read to our babies and our littles and know the benefits to their brain development and how it affects their vocabulary and imagination but we shouldn’t stop just because they can read on their own (or we think schedules get too busy to fit it in). Not only does the Christian author, and founder of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast, explain how important and influential reading aloud can be, she walks you through how easy it can be too, and gives you a whole slew of suggestions for every age group. So if this post is inspiring you to grab some more picture books, check out the back of her book for some more GREAT read-aloud suggestions. 
Happy reading!! 
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

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