Where We Left Off
In part one of this series, I discussed some important feautures to look for when choosing high-quality picture books during certain periods of an infant, toddler and preschooler's development. Today, I'd like to continue with Interactive Books, Repetition Reading, the Great Leap in Imagination for Preschoolers, and how books can encourage and help with difficult emotions, empathy, connections to nature and more. We will round out today's post with the development of the sense of humor in preschoolers and how high-quality picture books can even encourage this along, as well.
Interactive Books are Engaging for Children
Who doesn’t remember those lift-a-flap books? Children adore them. When my children were young I hesitated buying them because they’d rip so easily. Today, thankfully, they are a bit more sturdy. These types of books are called interactive books and are part of a category called concept books. Included in this category are books about opposites, similarities, the alphabet, shapes or numbers, but the interactive books generally require a bit more effort. They include die-cut books, see-through books, peek-through-hole books, layer books, finger puppet books and lever and slide books. Don’t forget action oriented books too. Toddlers love to participate in noises and actions as part of the story.
In fact, learning about animal names and their noises is an important step in their language development and one you should whole-heartedly encourage by joining in! As children grow older, interactive books can help children form predictions, make connections, practice sequencing, play with cause and effect, experience textures, play with sounds.... One of the fun parts I enjoyed around this age with my children was connecting the books to real life anytime we could--hatching caterpillar eggs, watching their life cycle, then releasing the butterflies into the garden after reading an interactive book on butterflies is just one easy example.
Some High-Quality Interactive Picture Books
First The Egg is a beautifully illustrated, award winning interactive book full of die cuts that present change from seed to flower, tadpole to frog and caterpillar to butterfly and is a fun, engaging book for toddlers.
First the Egg written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Roaring Brook Press, 2007, ages 2-6 years
Here are two beautiful, newer interactive books by Aaron Becker. He uses translucent colors, die cuts, layering, inserts and more as part of the interaction. The translucent pieces layer on top of other colors from pages underneath, forming different colors with each turn of the page. And when held up to the light, some of the pages are just magical. Even though one of these is a board book format, they are both more appropriate for preschoolers 4 years and up.
You Are Light by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Studio, 2019, ages 4-8 years
My Favorite Color by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Studio, 2020, ages 4-8 years
Peek-A-Boo! was actually written for infants and toddlers up to two years, but has maintained a wider-aged audience over time. It was first published in 1981 and created by Janet and Allan Ahlberg in the United Kingdom as the book Peepo. Once it made its way to America, it was renamed Peek-A-Boo for American audiences.
Toddlers love this book, and it’s lasted so long as a favorite by parents too because of the historical nostalgia and the charmingly pretty artwork. My preschooler loved learning about the older wood burning stoves and irons heated in the fireplace and just examining all the objects in the artwork of this cluttered, yet very normal home full of laundry, toys, family and pets. What makes this book interactive, though, for little ones is that it “follows a baby through the day in a style full of wit, charm and ingenuity.
A series of holes peeping through to the next page leads the child on to the next stage in the day, giving a hint of what is to come.”* Toddlers can’t help but look through the hole to the next page and make their predictions of what’s to happen! This book also integrates rhyme and conversational text with the brilliant artwork for even more benefits.
Peek-A-Boo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, *Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997 (1981), ages 0-3 years.
This Lift-the-Flap book, What’s Hiding in There? by Daniela Drescher, is illustrated in Drescher’s characteristic, vibrantly beautiful painting style. You’ll be surprised, and your preschooler delighted, when you see what’s hiding behind these flaps! This lovely book is a difficult book to get in the United States, and when it is in stock, it sells out quickly. We keep a close eye on this favorite at Alder and Alouette. Once it's back in stock, though, it's guaranteed to sell out, so if you see this book anywhere, grab it while you can!
What’s Hiding in There? A Lift-the-Flap Book by Daniela Drescher, Floris Books, 2007, ages 3-6 years (reprint and reissue due sometime in 2022)
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a ‘seek and find’ game nearly every preschooler knows, but with a twist. As you read the story aloud to them, it gives a clue about a nursery rhyme or fairytale character who is hidden within the charming illustrations. Children get to seek out Tom Thumb, Old Mother Hubbard, the Three Bears, Cinderella, Mary and her little lambs, Jack and Jill and more. The text is fun and the artwork is lovely.
My five-year-old granddaughter was quick to point out something she thought was hilarious in this book: once the Three Bears were introduced, they kept showing up in inappropriate places. She thought it was even more funny, however, that Baby Bear “just can’t stop falling over,” which was quite true. And, yes, a wee bit funny. With her preschool humor, she had the biggest laugh over this slapstick humor, while I, on the other hand, was enthralled with her genuine amusement and infectious laughter.
Each Peach Pear Plum, written and illustrated by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Viking Books for Young Readers, 2004 (1979), ages 3-5 years
What To Do With A Box, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban, Creative Editions Publishing, 2018, Ages 3-6 yearsWhat to Do With a Box is a fun book for children as it gives them inspiration for their own box and using their imagination. Not only is it beautifully illustrated, it gets children excited and they can’t wait to jump up and make their own creations. So, while not technically an interactive book as you read, it does engage them in activity afterwards (make sure you have a box ready to go!)
You Want to Read it Again? Okay, I Love That One Too.
You also want books that are readable over and over, so look for books with stories that follow a more exciting format, which every middle schooler knows: an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action and a resolution. Yep. Even picture books need this to have a chance at being memorable.
Artwork from the book Any Room for Me? (or The Wood Cutter’s Mitten in the United Kingdom), Floris Books, 2020 (1990), ages 3-6 years
Goodnight Sandman written and illustrated by Daniela Drescher, Floris Books, 2018, ages 3-6 years
The Night Walk by Marie Dorleans, Floris Books, 2021, ages 3-7 years
Return by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press, 2016, 4-8 years
Imagination: The Great Leap in Childhood From 3 to 5 Years
Books to Encourage Imagination and Pretend Play
The Flowers’ Festival written and illustrated by Elsa Beskow, Floris Books, 2010, (1914), ages 4-6 years
The Antlered Ship written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Terry and Eric Fan, Beach Lane Books, 2017, 4-8 years
The Land of Long Ago written and illustrated by Elsa Beskow, Floris Books, 2010 (1923), ages 3-6 years
The Fairy Song, written by Janis MacKay and illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane, Kelpies, 2021, ages 3-6 years
The Sand Elephant by Rinna Hermann and Sanne Dufft, Floris Books, 2020, ages 3-6 years
Berry Magic, written by Terri Sloat and illustrated by Betty Huffmon, Alaska Northwest Books, 2015, ages 4-8 years
Margaret’s Unicorn by Briony May Smith, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, ages 4 to 8 years
Instilling Appropriate Behavior, Emotions, Values and Attitudes
My Nana’s Garden written by Dawn Casey and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, Templar Books, 2021, ages 4-7 years
Story Boat written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh, Tundra Books, 2020, ages 3-7 years
Choose books that represent a wide variety of cultures to teach them how beautifully diverse our world’s communities are, and choose books about great discoveries and about standing up for the right things, even when it’s hard to do so.
Inspirational People, Cultures, Great Discoveries & Real World Issues
We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, Roaring Brook Press, 2020, ages 4-8 years
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with SK Ali and illustrated by Hatem Aly, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019, ages 4-8 years
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver written by Gene Barretta and illustrated by Frank Morrison, Katherine Tegen Books, 2020, ages 4-8 years
The Boy Who Grew A Forest, The True Story of Jadav Payeng, written by Sophia Gholz illustrated by Kayla Harren, Sleeping Bear Press, 2019, ages 4-8 years
Don't Forget the Natural World
We love animal books and seasons books in childhood! Choose books about nature and the organisms that we should all be concerned about in addition to farm animals and adorable autumn squirrels and fall foliage. As well as including nature stories that include fantastic, magical creatures for the imagination, include nature stories about real events. Counting Birds is one such event that grew from one person's perseverance. Honeybee teaches us the importance of bees to our own survival and Migration introduces a diversity of migrating animals across the planet and what happens when their path is blocked by humans and not blocked by humans. These books not only encourage empathy, but also show human-nature connections, science-in-action, diversity of life, expanded world view, and cause and effect. They also have beautiful artwork and age-appropriate everyday language.
Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Saved Our Feathered Friends, written by Heidi Stemple and illustrated by Clover Robin, Seagrass Press, 2018, ages 3-7 years
Honeybee, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rothman, Neal Porter Books, 2020, ages 5-10 years
Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys, written by Mike Unwin and illustrated by Jenni Desmond, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019, ages 6-10 years
Don't Forget Their Funny Side
While toddlers delight in books like Peek-A-Boo, preschoolers, on the other hand, have a unique sense of humor. Don't forget to add a little silliness to your picture book collection for this special age. Then prepare to enjoy their laughs and watch their amazement and intense observations of the amusing illustrations. You'll be glad you did and have some great memories, along with all the other fabulous moments you shared with your child. Books are great. They do have a way of making things better.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, Candlewick Press, 2016, Ages 4-8 years
The Fog written by Kyo Maclean and illustrated by Kenard Pak, Tundra Books, 2017, ages 4-8 years
Animals Brag About Their Bottoms by Maki Saito, Greystone Kids, 2020, ages 3-6 years
The Dog Walk by Sven Nordqvist, Floris Books, 2021, ages 3-7 years
Picture books can be found for all ages and there are a lot of high-quality ones out there, but there are also a lot of not so great ones. One way the picture book trend has continued into upper elementary and middle school is the graphic novel style. But that's a ways down the road. What about that storytelling component I mentioned a few times in passing? Aren't we storytelling when we read to our children? Why do chapter books for young children begin to use less and less illustrations? I thought high-quality art was a thing with great books? I hope you can join me for part three when I discuss the next important part we can play in our child's brain development with stories and chapter books. If you’d like to be notified when that page posts, sign up for our newsletter on the homepage!
Written by Laura Lowe
Laura is a professional educator with degrees in Environmental Science, as well as Education, with decades of experience working with children and the environment. She’s also an avid crafter, bibliophile, novice hobby farmer, mom to three daughters and six grandchildren under the age of seven. She enjoys every second she can spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren.
More about Laura and Alder and Alouette, here.