About seven years ago, as a first grade teacher, I attended a workshop featuring Dr. Jean Feldman. There were many things she shared that influenced me as a teacher, but there was one thing she said that I have thought back on many times:
“We are often so eager to give children all the things we didn’t have, that we forget to give them the things we did have.”
She was referring to the importance of Nursery Rhymes in building phonological awareness, and the tendency of many teachers and parents to neglect these classics in favor of the newest, coolest, and latest gadgets, gizmos, and doo-dads. While nursery rhymes originate as far back as the 16th or 17th century, they are still one of the most effective tools for teaching children.
Lately, I’ve thought back on this quote again, as I’ve noticed some of my boys’ favorite stories were some of my favorites as a child as well. As I pull some of our very favorite stories from the shelves and page through to the copyright, I’m often surprised to see how long some of these fantastic books have been around!
And so, in spite of the fact that there are some truly fabulous new books out, I wanted to focus today on some of the classics that every child should get the chance to enjoy!
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina was first published in 1940, but its charming patterned story will always be one of my favorites! Even though it was written before their grandpa was born, my boys love it too!
What parent doesn’t have the words to Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown forever memorized? I would love to see a counter displaying how many times this story simple story, first published in 1947, has sent children off to slumber.
All Things Seuss! While the works of Dr. Seuss have been around since the late 50s, I’m often surprised to find children who have never actually heard the stories of a persistent boy named Sam-I-Am, one mischievous cat, or the Sneetches on beaches. (Familiarity through cinema doesn’t quite count. No offense, Jim Carrey. You make a great Horton, but as with most based-on-the-book movies, you just have to read the book!)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar , written by Eric Carle and published in1969, is another book that has aged incredibly well. Despite the fact that this op-ed writer finds the text lacking in “narrative creativity” and “devoid of surprise” those who love and teach young children know that the repetition and pattern of text is instrumental in building new readers. Besides that, kids love it!
As a shout-out to the children of the 70s, I have to add The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone. It was one of my very favorites growing up! I thought it was just a trendy book, lost in the past, until one of my first grade students brought it to school on the day the children were asked to bring one favorite book. Soon after that, I bought a new copy for my own library while pregnant with my first son. Six years later it is still getting good miles around our house!
I could go on and on….but I want to hear what you have to say!
What are some of the ageless books at the top of your “favorites” list?
Top photo by Horton Group.
Louise at Tales from the Sandpit says
Harry the Dirty Dog! Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy! (I am at home so can’t check out the authors, sorry) The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson)…I could go on….Thanks for reminding us once again of the joys of children’s books.
The Carrot Seed, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, The Frances Books.
joanne Petrie says
I could not agree more. Timeless books are like Jackie O’s style – always appropriate.
In my Pre-K classroom, I always have the classics as you mentioned! Not only are the books you listed ageless; what they teach is priceless. As Early Childhood Educators, rhyming books like those by Dr. Seuss should always be on our classroom book shelves!
All great books! I have to say, I’ve never read the Gruffalo, but the summary I just looked up sounds wonderful! I’ll have to check that one out!Thanks everyone for adding to the list! Keep it coming!
Kara @SimpleKids says
The Monster at the End of this Book – I loved that one! I have my childhood copy around here somewhere …. think I need to find it 🙂
Great list, Mandi!
Diane Hunt says
“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak
a Little Golden Book classic like “The Little Red Hen” or “Baby Farm Animals”
The Little Critter Books, “Just Me & My Dad”, “Just a Mess”, etc.
A few of my favorites as a kid that are enjoyed by my children today.
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish is one of my favorites from childhood. There is apparently a whole series but I just remember the original.
Also, The Elves and the Shoemaker.
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak–I didn’t know about this book as a child but discovered it for my son and we all love it. There are other great Maurice Sendak books too–Chicken Soup, Alligators All Around, etc.
I loved a Bargain for Frances as a kid.
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward was one of my favorite Easter books.
Great list of classics, Wendy!
Rebecca B says
In my children’s literature class I found about a lot of classics! Many of these I never read as a child (doubt my parents did), but I’d like my daughter to read them.
The Story of Olaf by James McCrea
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
all books by Tomie DePaola (but especially Strega Nona, which I did read as a child)
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
The Five Chinese Brothers by Kurt Wiese
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Crictor by Tomi Ungerer
anything by Leo Lionni
From my childhood:
Frog and Toad Are Friends (and others, like Owl at Home) by Arnold Lobel
Berenstain Bears series
Little Critter and Amelia Bedelia series (like someone else mentioned)
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Morris the Moose (series) by B Wiseman
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (series) by Betty MacDonald
**Too many to remember!**
Thanks for a great list! Some of those were/are my favorites too!