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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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.