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Top 5 Modern Toddler Books - 2.5 Year Old Edition

I'm not a book snob. While I think that there is something beautiful about literary children's "classics" like Goodnight Moon and The Snowy Day and anything Frog and Toad, I'm just as keen on some of the new stuff that has come out. In my mind, reading is reading is reading, and whether it's a graphic novel or a chapter book or a non-fiction book about dinosaurs, as long as there are words and these are being consumed with enthusiasm and great pleasure, I think it counts.

Of course, as Little L gets older, I will want her tastes to be diverse, and I will want her to try out different genres and styles of writing to figure out what she likes and doesn't like. I will want her to challenge herself with "harder" books, or ones that don't look appealing right away. Sometimes books surprise us, despite their covers.

Growing up, I was a voracious reader. Through many Saturdays spent browsing library shelves, I discovered that I loved stories with female protagonists, which is why I've read every Little House book a million times, except Farmer Boy, which I haven't even read once. I also learned quickly that I wasn't a fan of dragon-laced fantasy books; it was torture to read Tolkien, even though I know the man was brilliant. I did, however, speed read through all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books (and I'll bet that you didn't even know that there was more than one)! My personal preference leaned toward modern day settings and books that dealt with hard issues, and I remember dreading having to dive into Homer's Odyssey and Bronte's Wuthering Heights for AP English. As it turns out, I tolerated the former, and loved the latter. I also discovered that I really enjoyed Shakespeare. Throughout my formative years, I went through a horse book phase (Black Beauty and Marguerite Henry's books), the orphaned children phase (Boxcar Children), the celebrity autobiography phase, the choose-your-own-adventure and solve-it phase (Encyclopedia Brown), the angsty pre-teen phase (every book by Judy Blume), among many others.

Point is, I wasn't always into the cultured classics and Newberry / Caldecott winners, sometimes preferring a book that was interesting, but without literary merit. This is still true today; in recent years I've enjoyed both Sense and Sensibility and the Twilight series. I want Little L to be free to form her own preferences and go through her own "phases" as she explores the very diverse landscape of children's, and adult, literature.

At a scant 2.5, she seems to already be doing so. Last year around this time, she was *obsessed* with the Munch Bunch books. This year? Not so much. However, I have found some seriously awesome books that she will read and reread many times over. Her top picks this summer have been:

1. Pete the Cat series - great for building resiliency, repetitive in form (for easy "memory" reading), colourful pictures, with a great rhythm to the simple rhymes and melodies

2. Little Pea/Hoot/Oink - simple stories that are funny and invert the "norm," are beautifully illustrated, and great for discussion or reverse psychology ;)

3. Pookie books - super simple rhyming stories that are fun to read and discuss; Boynton's little animals are very amusing and the books are silly and cute and have a good rhythm to them

4. Little Critter "I Am" series - lots of illustrations and not too much text, the Little Critter series in general is fun and engaging for young kids. This particular series is simple to read and "memorize" and I suspect will lend well to recognizing sight words due to the fairly repetitive nature of the text. Little L and I spend a lot of time talking about what is happening on each page, as she examines the illustrations in detail

5. Pigeon books - my dear friend the kindie teacher Sharon first introduced me to Mo Willem's "Elephant and Piggie" series. Little L hasn't quite gotten into them, but has really loved the "Pigeon" books by the same author. The genre is more comic book/graphic storybook since it uses speaking bubbles, but the simple illustrations are easy to replicate, the humour is quite endearing, and the storylines are simple and charming.

As a teacher, I've had formal training on literacy and on how to teach kids to read and understand. Most non-educators, however, don't have the advantage of all of that coursework. I recently came across an article that I thought was really great at pulling together some tips for pre-reading, post-reading, and during reading. I love that this author seems to be very much in tune with modern approaches and pedagogy on early literacy and learning. She favours a child-directed approach, with an emphasis on the value of play. This is consistent with a lot of what I've read and what my peers have been implementing in their classrooms. Check her out, and see if you agree!

Anyway, point is - please get your kids immersed in books that appeal to their interests. These don't have to be great literary works, nor do they need to be "advanced" books for your child's age. They just have to cultivate in your kids a love of the written word, and somehow engage their minds in more than just what appears in print (the million dollar word is "metacognition").  Help your littles think about what they're reading, what they see on the page, what it reminds them of or what questions it invokes. Get them connecting with their books, inferring what will happen, visualizing to make the story come to life, questioning "what if's" and other details from the text and the illustrations, and allowing the stories and characters to transform them and excite them and inspire them.

And happy reading!


Unknown said…
Love this article ! Very helpful :) I'm a sahm of a very active ltitle 2.5 year old boy . The only thing that makes him sit and concentrate for good 10 mins is books! We love books too. He's a late talker ( says more single words that double ) so I feel reading helps him understand language a lot better than speech only . Thanks for posting this :)
Unknown said…
Love this article ! Very helpful :) I'm a sahm of a very active ltitle 2.5 year old boy . The only thing that makes him sit and concentrate for good 10 mins is books! We love books too. He's a late talker ( says more single words that double ) so I feel reading helps him understand language a lot better than speech only . Thanks for posting this :)
Mrs. Loquacious said…
Thank you for your comment, and you're welcome! I didn't mention the Usborne Book titles that have been popular with Little L, but those are (in no particular order):

Fat Cat on a Mat (and Other Tales)
Peep Inside Night Time
The Little Book of First Experiences
First Hundred Words

She is now nearly 4, and those four books in particular continue to be a hit with her. I do sell Usborne Books (I'm an independent consultant), but those books were ones I purchased long before I started selling them, and she has enjoyed them now for nearly 2 years. :)

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