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CS Lewis once said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty.” In other words, if a grown adult can’t stomach a children’s book, why should a child be expected to? I think I agree with his words.
Charlotte Mason was a pioneer in children’s education during the 19th century, and her ideas have led to one of the primary methods of homeschooling. She also coined the term “twaddle.”
Twaddle: Dumbed-down literature; absence of meaning.
Homeschooling or not, I believe children (and adults, really) should invest their time in living books, and not waste time on twaddle. And quite frankly, there’s a lot of twaddle out there in the world of children’s literature.
My children are very young, so I’m up to my elbows in early childhood literature. Here are my top 10 favorite preschool-age books, in random order, and all twaddle-free.
Madeline (and all the Madeline books)
by Ludwig Bemelmans
All the Madeline books have a great cadence of words, and the illustrations are delightful. What little girl doesn’t want to live in an old house in Paris that is covered in vines?
Best Friends for Frances (and all the Frances books)
by Russell Hoban
Frances is a lovable badger with a wild imagination, silly songs, and a bag full of tricks. In Best Friends, she learns that a sibling can be a friend, too.
by Munro Leaf
I loved this story as a kid, and my daughter loves it now. Ferdinand is a laid-back, gentle bull who’s been recruited for a Spanish bullfight.
Frog and Toad are Friends (and all the Frog and Toad books)
by Arnold Lobel
I adore this pair of amphibians. You’ll laugh along with your children at Frog and Toad’s sense of logic, and you’ll love their close-knit friendship.
George and Martha (all the stories)
by James Marshall
A hilarious duo of hippos who have more personality than common sense. Adults get a kick out of them, too.
by Robert McCloskey
A classic tale of a pair of ducks living in Boston. This story has enthralled generations of children – my daughter enjoys my original book.
by A. A. Milne
This is the classic, non-Disney version. No child should miss the delightful tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends. The language is beautiful, the illustrations, sweet.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (and all the If You Give… books)
by Laura Numeroff
My mother-in-law gave this treasury to our daughter for Christmas, and we’ve read it almost daily since. The stories are brilliant, the illustrations are hilarious, and I can honestly say I don’t tire from reading these stories.
by Judith Viorst
Both you and your kids will identify with Alexander, who’s having a day when nothing goes right. Good for kids who get frustrated when things don’t go their way.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (and all the Lyle books)
by Bernard Waber
A pet crocodile comes to stay with the Primm family. A fun story about friendship and loyalty.
It is genuinely difficult to hone this list to ten! Other good classics are Curious George, Harry the Dirty Dog, Where The Wild Things Are, Ira Sleeps Over, Caps for Sale, Blueberries for Sal, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Little House, all the books by Mercer Mayer, several Dr. Seuss classics, and the Spot stories.
I also strongly recommend the resource Honey For a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt. Now in its fourth edition, this book is a must-have for parents who want a trusted guide for quality literature. It’s chock-full of annotated lists of books for ages 0 to 14.
What are your favorite early childhood books? What are your preschooler’s favorites? I know a number of you are educational experts, avid readers, and great moms to the three-foot-and-under crowd. Please share your loves!