Now that Miss Olivia has entered my life, I have a great reason to keep expanding my book bag! Anyone who follows my blog knows that as an educator, picture books are one of my biggest passions. The storybooks that I love best incite curiosity, emotion, and wonder in my students; they are full of engaging illustrations, important lessons, and have the power to help the reader explore the limits of their imagination.
Teaching kindergarten has allowed me the opportunity to experience childhood all over again through my students: I squealed with amazement at the sight of a blade of grass poking through the snow in spring; I felt the disappointment of realizing that there was no mermaid exhibit at the aquarium; I experienced the sting of betrayal when your best friend chooses somebody else to be their partner; and I went on magical adventures with my students every day during story time.
I’m not going to fill this post with developmental and psychological research about why reading with young children – right from the day they are born – is so important (by the way: it’s really, really important!). Instead, I’m going to encourage you to enjoy your children, and experience childhood once again, by reading storybooks together. And of course, I’m going to help you get started by sharing some of the must-have books that fill Olivia’s book bag.
I have decided to avoid the most obvious book choices, and give you a selection of more unique teacher-tested, mother-approved picture books. Remember, my book bag is reserved for books that I think are particularly special, so if a book has made it into Olivia’s book bag you know it must be wonderful! Please feel free to add some of your favourite books in the comment section below, and let me know if you would like regular updates on what I am adding to Olivia’s book bag!
“Rosie Revere, Engineer,” by Andrea Beaty. Rosie is a dreamer, a problem solver, an inventor, and she learns the importance of perseverance in this book. The soft watercolour illustrations gently bring each page to life, and the rhymes help little readers develop their literacy skills. I adore that the main character’s name, Rosie, is a throwback to Rosie the Riveter and her empowering slogan, “We can do it!”
“Waiting,” by Kevin Henkes. Adult life is full of waiting, and for a young child, waiting can be a challenging part of growing up. In this book, five toys sit on a windowsill, each of them waiting for something. As the story of friendship, emotions, and surprise unfolds, children can connect with the sentient toys, and parents are provided with the opportunity to discuss big topics with their little ones.
“Doug Unplugged,” by Dan Yaccarino. Doug, a young robot, gets plugged in every day to download knowledge and information. One day he unplugs himself and ventures out to experience the world firsthand. In our technology-driven society, I love that this book helps remind young children (and their parents) that exciting adventures are waiting right outside of their front door – they just need to unplug!
“Stuck,” by Oliver Jeffers. A selfish choice from me considering I love just about everything from Oliver Jeffers, but I think “Stuck” deserves particular mention. It is sure to have both children and adults in stitches from laughter as they read about Floyd throwing just about everything he can think of up into a tree, all in the attempt to rescue his kite. I also love the underlying lesson: perhaps throwing more things at a problem isn’t the most successful course of action, because eventually it all comes crashing down…
“Pool,” by Jihyeon Lee. Two shy children meet at a chaotic pool and dive below the surface, only to discover a secret underwater world. The illustrations are the standout superstar in this book, and the lack of text gives children the opportunity to create their own story. The wild and wonderful nature of a child’s imagination is something to be treasured and celebrated, and I think that this book does just that.
“Lifetimes,” by David L. Rice. I have read this book so many times that the pages are currently being held together by staples and tape. This book chronicles the lifetime of various living plants and animals on Earth – from the one-day long lifecycle of a mayfly, to the 2000-year lifetime of a giant sequoia. The end of each page contains a short life lesson that each plant or animal can teach us, and there are ideas for making additional connections on each page as well. I love that such a wide range of living creatures is represented in this book, and that it helps teach young children to appreciate the connections between all living things on Earth.