lap reading, reading to two kids on my lap

Reading to Two Kids on My Lap and GIVEAWAY

Please welcome my guest poster, Kristin Briley, a teacher and wife of children’s book author Randy Briley. She is posting today on how to read aloud to two kids of different ages with different interests and keep them happy!

Did you ever have that reading challenge? What books worked for you? Please share!


Bridging the Gap: Reading to Two Kids on My Lap

As a bibliophile myself, an English teacher of many years who knows the importance of reading, and a mom who loves quiet moments I can share with my children, books rank high on my “very good things” list. I love reading with my kids, but the challenge lies in finding books that appeal to and hold the attention of both of my sweeties at once. I have a two and a half year old daughter who loves animals and a five year old son who loves all things construction.

It was easy to read books with my son when he was a toddler. As he’s grown older, it’s become harder to draw him in and he has outgrown many of the books that my daughter still loves. He does enjoy reading IF I can drag his attention away from Legos, Netflix, vehicles, and building things out of jump ropes, boxes, carbingers, and duct tape.

My daughter loves to read but some of the longer stories my son is ready for don’t hold her attention quite yet. As I try to bridge the age and interest gaps, I find myself turning to a small assortment of books that I can rely on to interest BOTH of my kids…books that they both love hearing and looking at over and over again.

Here are the top ten books that I know will engage both my daughter and son and evoke their laughter as we build their love of reading.

1. A Day at a Zoo by Sarah Harrison OR A Year at a Construction Site by Nicholas Harris
There are several in this series by Millbrook Press, but these two are my kids’ favorites. The scene in the books stays the same, but each page shows the scene at a different time of day, different month of the year, etc. My daughter loves finding the different animals and my son helps to find the suggested images. They both laugh at the little mishaps that close inspection reveals (cement being poured on a worker) and we can spend a long time poring over all the details in the illustrations.

2. Big Pigs and Sock Dances by Randy Briley
Okay, shameless plug warning: this is one of the books my husband has written and illustrated. My kids know it’s his book but are too young to feign interest: they genuinely love the rhyming cadence of the text and they find the whimsical illustrations hilarious! Each page depicts unique likes and dislikes that are sure to bring smiles from children and adults alike. My little ones keep requesting that I read it to them (“again, Mommy, again!”) and I love hearing their belly laughs every single time. It’s also a great conversation starter about their own preferences and dislikes. Giving kids a voice and letting them express themselves is so empowering.

3. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
This book gets the “staying power award” in our home. It has been a favorite for years…we have the hardback version but it has been so well loved that it’s required some serious packing tape surgery to remain in one piece. We love many Richard Scarry books, but this is my kids’ favorite. First, they love finding Goldbug on every page (think Where’s Waldo). Sometimes we read all of the text but when my daughter was younger and couldn’t make it all the way through, we had fun just opening it up and discussing random pages. Both kids enjoy looking at all the funny vehicles and animals (monkeys driving a banana-shaped car, a bunny in a carrot car) and giggle at the crazy mishaps (Dingo Dog driving over parking meters, watermelons falling out of a truck all over the road).

4. Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail by James Horvath
This one is fairly new to our bookshelf, but has quickly become a favorite. It marries my daughter’s love of dogs with my son’s love of construction beautifully. The rhymes flow well and the illustrations are fun. They both know the names of all the dogs and enjoy pretending they are the characters after reading time is over.

5. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
Of the books in this series, my audience voted this one as the best. They enjoy seeing the progression of Harry’s dirty state as the story progresses and are so happy for him when he finally returns to the arms of his family after an exciting but tiring day of dogventures.

6. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Somehow the idea of huge dinosaurs in regular-looking children’s bedrooms is amusing. My kids delight at the dinosaurs’ exaggerated bedtime antics and like learning the names of each type of dinosaur, too.

7. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie OR If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff
Again, there are several books in this series that my kids enjoy, but they request these two the most often. The animal illustrations are cute and the stories hold their attention with their wacky lists of events (these books are great for introducing the concept of cause and effect).

8. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Yes, there is a distinct theme to our reading list, and this book exemplifies it well: books with both animals and vehicles. This text is really fun to read aloud with all the animal sounds and beeps but also invites discussion about themes such as friendship, teamwork, and how to treat others.

9. The Goodnight Train by June Sobel
From a mischievous skunk with a water hose to critters eating cookies in trees, the illustrations in this book are sure to delight. What child wouldn’t want to ride this all-in-one goodnight train, complete with its own bathtub, huge supply of cookies, comfy beds with stuffies, and pig porter? The story is a fun nighttime frolic with the arrival to dreamland as its finale.

10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This beloved children’s classic is always enjoyed by my kids. They love watching the caterpillar’s journey from egg to butterfly. Their favorite part is counting along with me as the caterpillar consumes more and more food. I like the subtle lesson about what happens when one eats too much junk food (bellyache!), but I think the best takeaway is the beautiful journey we are all on as we keep learning and evolving into our best selves.

Hopefully my list will give parents, teachers, and gift givers a few ideas of books that appeal to a wide age and interest range and provide rich discussion, hearty laughter, a love of reading, and a lot of snuggle time! All of these books are available on Amazon.

As a new independent author and illustrator, my husband would appreciate your support! Check out Big Pigs and Sock Dances and his other books, Mr. Underneath (fantasy novel for ages 8 – 14 or adults who enjoy fantasy), Sketchboy (a collection of whimsical doodles), and his Christmas picture book, Big Pig and the Lost Elf here.


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lap reading, reading to two kids on my lap

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I found reading to my two children who are 4 years apart was a challenge, too. If I picked books about a subject that appealed to both of them — or read at the table during meals — I was fairly successful. Great post and these are excellent book suggestion!
    Erica recently posted…Top Indoor Activities for Kids of 2013My Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      What a great idea to read at the table during meals!! I remember pulling my hair out trying to get my kids situated at around bedtime and each of my 3 kids wanting me to read to him or her. A pile of picture books was the only thing that worked for me, even though it meant thrice weekly trips to the library. But later on — years later — my oldest now in 8th grade mentioned that she loved those piles and piles of picture books that we read that one summer. And she stil likes picture books!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Bilingual Diversity Picture Book of the Day GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  2. Misty

    I have four little ones that are all very different & interested in different books. We love bible stories…especially Jesus storybook bible. We love many of the caldecott classics; however, a favorite picture book of ours would have to be Frog in the Bog. It was given to us as a gift & all of the kids love it.

  3. NTE

    Great suggestions ~ I always recommend the ones that make everybody laugh (Monster at the End of This Book is our personal favorite) because it always ropes everybody in. ๐Ÿ™‚
    NTE recently posted…This year’s word*My Profile

  4. Wendy

    I have 3 whose interests are all over the map! The “Give a…” series is spot on! All 3 did sit w/me whilie reading E.B. White’s, Charlotte’s Web, at the beach 2 summers ago. (There is just something about that pig!) Thanks for the other wonderful suggestions! We will try them out begining this weekend!
    Wendy recently posted…Happy New Year!My Profile

  5. Valerie

    My kids loved the Llama Llama books…. especially Llama Llama Mad at Mama.

  6. Ooh some of these are new to me! I adore Herve Tullet’s “Press Here” for reading with a small child on my lap.
    maryanne recently posted…The Very Best Kids Activities Posts of 2013My Profile

  7. I like Richard Scary’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go because it has so many pictures for young children and so many possible extensions for discussion with older children.

  8. Krystal

    I love seeing lists like this, it gives me an idea of new books that might hold my 2.5 and almost 5 year old girls attention. They love the Monster at the end of this Book. It was my husbands favorite book as a child so it’s exciting that my girls love it so much. My brother got my oldest daughter this book, which was a really good size for little kids, and it came with an interactive dvd which they love as well. That Lovable, Furry Old Grover keeps their attention from start to finish…several times a day even =)

    • Hi Krystal,
      I’m so glad this list is helpful to you! It is a trick to keep two kids entertained with one book when they are different ages and have different interests! Isn’t it wonderful when a book you loved as a kid also becomes a favorite of your childs? I had that experience with the Frances picture books though my husband thinks they are boring. I’m sooo happy my kids like them too!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Bilingual Diversity Picture Book of the Day GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  9. Sarah

    I love Where the Wild Things Are! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. we adore the ‘if you give a mouse a cookie’ series but also love anything by Mercer Mayer. And with our oldest in first grade, we are having him practice reading any and all of our board books to his 3 younger brothers to help him break through his reading challenges but we need more books! Love the giveaway!!!

  11. Kristin Briley

    I am so enjoying reading all of the comments and am excited to discover some new book titles to try with our kids! Thanks, everyone. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Also, to anyone who entered the GIVEAWAY the first day, Rafflecopter listed Randy Briley’s Facebook page incorrectly: his page is Raven Mad Studios (not Black Raven Studios), so you may wish to like the correct page if you are interested in more of his books/art/projects in the future…he has ideas for so many! Thanks, Mia, for fixing this!

  12. Heidi Bahlmann

    Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz or Chuckling Ducklings by Aaron Zenz

  13. Nevey Berry

    I have no children yet, I’m on engaged to be married but can’t wait to be a mother and read to my children. I think that I’ll for them since they start growing inside my womb because passion for books must start at this very point and grow with the children as they grow older.

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