Finding the holy grail of stories that feature good principles, prose and pictures for preschoolers isn’t easy. I’ve spent time trawling the library and internet, so you don’t have to.
I’m an English literature major. About the only thing my degree qualified me for was reading aloud to children. Fortunately, I love this. I may suck at certain aspects of parenting, but this is an area where I really excel.
Or at least I thought I did, until one day while reading one of our favorites Hairy MacLary’s Bone. This rhyming tale of a scrappy terrier who successfully shakes off six of his canine pals in order to consume his tasty bone from the butcher on his own – prompts the following question “Mama, why not share his bone?” I was stumped. The kid was right. The rest of his waking hours, I am obsessed with getting him to share toys with others. I started trying to explain that dogs don’t share, but then thought of all the other anthropomorphic animal tales and lost my logic. I moved on.
We picked up Bumblebee Boy and started reading. First page – kid waving stick/sword at pirate. To which my toddler says ‘Bum bum bum. (super hero refrain) I get my stick and I hit’. Um OK, not good. When we’re not trying to encourage sharing, we’re actively trying to prevent hitting – the dog, me and other kids.
So what to do? There are so many classic tales – Peter Pan, Narnia, Grimm Fairy Tales where bad things happen to good people and it’s worth discussing as preparation for life’s inevitable ups and downs. Except right now he’s 2.5 and I’m too tired for this kind of philosophical discussion. I need some good stories that are first and foremost well written, so I won’t mind reading them over and over again. With tales that help my son make sense of the world around him and reinforce the kind of stuff I am trying to teach him right now, like sharing, playing with younger children, dealing with change, and overcoming fears.
So here’s what we’ve found and enjoyed. Please share your favorites in the comments, too.
- Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. Rhyming tale of a friendly little blue truck who takes the time to make friends along the way, who then come to his rescue when he needs it. Value: Helping Others
- Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. A witch and her cat make room for three helpful friends on the broom, and they repay her kindness by rescuing her from a Dragon. Value: Helping Others
- The MINE-O-SAUR by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Little Dinosaur who starts the story always yelling “Mine, Mine, Mine” but finally learns to share. Value: Sharing
- The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share by Mike Reiss. Edward won’t share with his sister until one day he gets trapped and needs help. Written by a former Simpsons writer. Value: Sharing
- How do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? Part of a series of books that tackle pre-school challenges through fun rhymes and dinosaurs. Value: Sharing
- Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Doctor Seuss. So many good stories from Dr Seuss –e.g. The Lorax but here’s one about gratitude for what you have. Value: Gratitude
- Hey Little Ant by Phillip M Hoose. A little ant speaks to a boy who was about to step on him and changes his perspective. Value: Kindness to All
- Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed. Edwurd tells big whoppers with hilarious consequences. Value: Honesty
- You Get What You Get by Julie Glassmann. Squirrel throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants but soon learns. Value: Dealing with Disappointment
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. Giraffe doesn’t excel at a dance concert until he finds the right song. Value: Self-Esteem & Finding Your Unique Purpose
- Lacey Walker – Non-Stop Talker by Christianne C Jones. Lacey Walker talks all day but when she loses her voice she learns to listen. Value: Listening
- Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. A Panda teaches Japanese Zen Philosophy to preschoolers. Caldecott Honor Prize winning book. First in a whole series on a range of values. Values: Compassion, Friendship & Good Morals
- Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty. Girls can do anything (important my son knows this from a young age) but only if they keep trying and don’t give up. Also see Iggy Peck Architect. Values: Perseverance
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. Chester the Raccoon is afraid to start school. Value: Courage & Confidence
- I Will Never Not Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. Lola, a picky eater gets tricked into being more adventurous by brother Charlie. Value (is nutrition a value? Maybe not, but still an important goal): Eating your Veggies