I love reading to my children, it’s one of the few interactions that I’m willing to engage in. I’ll tolerate puzzles and board games, get reasonably engaged with playdoh, craft, football, tennis or trampolining. I’ll actively avoid hide and seek or ‘play with me, mummy’ and I dread the words, ‘can you make up a game, please…’
But reading, how could I not love that?
Except there is definitely a hierarchy of books. I’m not good with voices so, whilst my son loves books like, Squash and a Squeeze, I find it terribly repetitive. I can do voices in Peppa Pig books because I mimic the TV show, but there is such a thing as too much Peppa. At bedtime I can’t read anything on a dark blue background because I can’t see the words, which rules out many pirate and Mike the Knight books, and I hate TV-based books without a story (yes, you, Mr Bloom’s Nursery and Baby Jake).
I also have a pet hate for badly rhymed books, where words are forced against their natural rhythm (I used to know the technical term for that, but it’s buried under fifty-seven readings of Dear Zoo.)
So, when I come across a book that’s an absolute delight to read out loud, I rejoice. I also tend to make sure it’s near the top of the pile. Books that have clever integral rhyming (if that’s the right term – again I can’t quite remember: when the rhymes are also within the lines, not just at the end), books with poetic alliteration or just brilliant tactile words like squelch or tingly.
These are my top ten great-to-read-out-loud books, in no particular order. I’m sure there are more – we have over three hundred books for under fives in our house, not to mention the hundreds that come home from school, preschool and the library every week. But these stand out.
Billy and the Bargleboggle by Lindsay Camp, Peter Utton
(About the new baby) “Billy couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about it. He thought it was a funny colour and its skin didn’t seem to fit properly. And Dad said it wasn’t big enough to ride on Billy’s skateboard.”
Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell, Helen Oxenbury
“They lifted his bed and he started to shout, and they banged and they bounced the old farmer about and about and about, right out of the bed… and he fled with the cow and the sheep and the hens mooing and baaing and clucking around him.”
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, by Giles Andreae, Russell Ayto
“I’m going to cut you up into little pirate sausages. Then I’m going to put you on the barbecue and EAT YOU UP with much too much tomato ketchup!”
The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm, by Paul Bright, Jane Chapman
“How the thunder crashed! It boomed and crackled so the house shuddered and the windows rattled. It grumbled and rumbled and echoed and faded, only to boom and crash again.”
Snail and the Whale, by Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
“And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land, The waves and the caves and the golden sand, She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all, And she said to the whale, ‘I feel so small’.”
The Bear with Sticky Paws, by Clara Vulliamy
“There’s a girl called Pearl and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door.”
Grandad, Rachel Elliot, Katie Pamment
“Grandad’s old bike rattles when it goes down the hill to the beach. Our teeth rattle too! ‘My poor old bones!’ Says Grandad.” (This book reminds me so much of my own dad.)
Smelly Bill, by Daniel Postgate
“Bill the dog loved smelly things, Like muddy ponds and rubbish bins. Disgusting stuff he’d stick his snout in, Sniff and snort and roll about in.”
William and The Night Train, Mij Kelly, Alison Jay
“In the carriages people sit nodding in rows. They slumber and doze. They’re not wearing pyjamas; they’re still in their clothes! ‘Everyone sleeps on the night-train,’ explains the writer. But William’s too busy squishing his nose. He’s too busy standing on tippity toes. He’s too wide awake. All he knows is that he can’t wait for the train to go. ‘When will we get to Tomorrow?'”
Arthur’s Tractor, by Pippa Goodhart, Colin Paine
“That must be the sprocket spring sprigget needing a twist and an oil.”
(Lovely article about Arthur’s Tractor by the author here.)