We all know that reading to our kids on a daily basis improves their vocabulary and their readiness for school. It’s also a great way to spend dedicated time with our kids as we pause from the everyday frenzy of modern family life.

I think we parents also know that not every book is a good book. Have you ever gotten caught up in the rhythm of a story only to turn the page and find that the rhythm or rhyme is totally gone?

Or how about those stories that have absolutely no plot line? Then there are those books that make you want to throw them out the window – you know, the ones where all of the girls are pink princesses and get so excited about finding the perfect bow to go with their new dress? I could go on.

Lucky for us, there are also a lot of absolutely excellent children’s books – ones that can please both kids and the parents who read them. There is nothing more fulfilling than finding a book, or better yet an author, that brings joy to a kids’ bedtime routine and is also fun to read for us adults (who rarely get to enjoy picture books these days).

While there are of course classics that should be on every shelf (Good Night Moon, Blueberries for Sal, Fox in Sox, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar) there are also some more modern authors who work wonders with language, lessons, and rhythm. Many of our favorite books and authors have been recommended by other experienced parents with excellent taste and good rhythm.
So today I pay it forward. Here are some of the authors that you will thoroughly enjoy reading to your toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary kids (in approximately that order):

Sandra Boynton

pajama-time
I don’t know how she does it, but Sandra Boynton can turn a simple toddler board book into a work of art that is a pleasure to read (or sing). Perhaps because my mother’s maiden name is Boynton (no relation) these books have been passed around in our family for years. Barnyard Dance is a family affair in our household when we need to work out a little pre-bed energy. I love singing Personal Penguin and Snuggle Puppy, while my husband can read The Going to Bed Book over and over again without blinking and my almost two-year old has Moo Ba La La La memorized. I’m telling you, this woman is a genius (and a millionaire I’m sure).

Mo Willems

pigeon_bus_spread_lg

Who’d have thunk that Mo Willems’ simple books about stuffed bunnies, pigeons who love hot
dogs, and an elephant and pig who are best friends could be so fulfilling? When I was pregnant with my first child, a childhood friend sent a copy of Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late and we set the bar for children’s books right then and there. My son has started to read the Elephant and Piggy series and seems to truly capture the lessons of friendship that these simple and funny stories convey. I mean, when piggy throws the ball behind him and gets ultra-excited because he must have thrown it around the world, who can resist a smile?

Eric Litwin and James Dean

pete the catThis musician/author/artist team created Pete the Cat, a series that was introduced to us by a cousin who is an elementary school teacher and grew up in Atlanta. Pete shows us that even if our best shoes get dirty we don’t have to fret, we just keep on groovin’. Is there a better lesson for preschoolers? The added bonus is that most of these stories have a funky rhythm (and you can visit their website to watch the videos and learn the tunes). We’re especially fond of the VW Bus in Pete the Cat Saves Christmas and we all get into the message: “At Christmas we give, so give it your all.”

Julia Donaldson

the flying bath

My college roommate and one of my lifelong friends moved to England, which is sad for me, but lucky for my kids who were introduced early on to The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. This is one of those authors who can write an outstanding book that is just a little bit complicated with its puns and plays on words, but still completely understandable for preschoolers. Just one look at some of her titles assures you they will be good: Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, and Monkey Puzzle are excellent choices. An added bonus is the movie version of The Gruffalo, which is a beautifully-made rendition of the story that simply animates the well-written verse read by Helena Bonham Carter.

So if you’re getting a little tired of the books on your shelf or your child has grown attached to a book that drives you nuts, consider taking this list of authors with you to the library; it can also be a handy go-to list for baby shower or birthday party gifts.

Of course, this is just a segment of the great books that we have been lucky enough to run into (and I’ve just realized that they are all about animals instead of humans, so I’m sure we’re missing something here). Who are some of your “go to” authors?