“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is best of all.” – Jaqcueline Kennedy Onassis

My mom likes to take credit for her children’s writing and verbal abilities. She tells this story about the day I was born:

“I didn’t bring anything to read to you, so as soon as I could hold you I read you the LA Times. From that day on I read to you every day until you were old enough to read to me.”

And she did this with each of my siblings too, and indeed she raised three readers, three book lovers and three kids who grew up to be gifted wordsmiths in one way or another.

Needless to say, my own home has never been without hundreds of books (people hate helping me move), and I knew reading aloud as a family was going to be an essential piece of my parenting strategy. Aside from just being awesome, reading aloud to your children for only 20 minutes a day has a tremendous impact on their literacy, listening skills and vocabulary. Happily, Daddy Howe, who at face value may seem like more of a numbers and tech guy, is also a book lover and was on board with this. Hailey has had abundant exposure to the written word from day one, and all three of us look forward to reading time every day. Over the last four years our reading material has solely included children’s books geared to the 6 and under crowd, but that doesn’t mean the books are simplistic, uninspired or boring to the grown-up readers. In fact, Hailey, Josh and I all have our favorites among Hailey’s growing library. Below are our top picks:

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Kiddo’s Picks:

Piggie and Elephant Series: All of Mo Willems’ books are amazing, but we look forward to reading about Piggie and Elephant’s adventures most. Sweet, fun and with easy to memorize dialogue, these books are great for helping the little ones feel like they can participate in the reading.

Goodnight, Gorilla: Beautiful illustrations and very few words make this a story you can reinvent every time you read it. This is also a story that can easily transition with your child as they mature.

Pete the Cat: A delightfully cool cat who sings catchy songs that will stick with you the next day. All of the books have a great message too.

Pout Pout Fish: Beautifully poetic with a refrain that your kids will memorize and repeat every time you read it. The book also contains many advanced vocabulary words in a fun way. I loved hearing Hailey use the word “aghast” in a sentence after being exposed to it in this book a few times.

Daddy’s Picks:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See?: Great for the younger kids, but my 4-year-old still enjoys it from time to time too. Kids are exposed to colors, animals and silly voices if you’re an adventurous reader, and they get to participate by sliding open a window on each page. Polar Bear, Polar Bear and Panda Bear, Panda Bear are also worthwhile.

Dragons Love Tacos and Secret Pizza Party: These two books are the most enjoyable for the grown-ups of our picks. Funny and silly…who doesn’t want to read about dragons who love tacos but hate spicy salsa, or raccoons who would do just about anything for a slice of delicious pizza? We can all relate to that!

In My Heart: We bought this book when Hailey was having some big 3-year-old emotions and having a hard time expressing them. I recommend this book for all parents to help their kids put names to their feelings. It’s also a gorgeous book to read.

Mommy’s Picks:

Room on the Broom: I love a good witch story, and this witch is a nice witch who just wants to share her broom with her animal friends. The rhyming makes it a delightful read and the story is engaging. The witch’s run-in with a dragon might make this a little scary for the very young. Practice your witchy voice for this one.

I Like Myself: A wonderful book for anyone with daughters. Beautifully illustrated and written, and the message about loving yourself for who you are, even if you’re different, is something every child should hear.

Today I Feel Silly: Another book about feelings, this one is written by Jamie Lee Curtis. She does a really nice job of capturing all the emotions kids experience on any given day. My daughter seemed to have an “everybody feels this way!” revelation the first time we read this book.

If like me, literacy is a cause close to your heart, firstbook.org is fantastic organization that provides new books to children in need.

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