Books to read with young children about doing for themselves

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Horse, by Malachy Doyle

A beautiful palomino is waiting to give birth to her foal. Mother horse takes care of her baby as she grows through the year. She is a foal, a colt and then a yearling, ready to accept a rider. Children grow with mom nearby, from baby to toddler to preschooler and then ready to learn from a teacher.

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Ella Sarah wanted to wear her pink polka-dot pants, her blue striped socks and her yellow shoes. Her mother said no. Her father said no. Her big sister said no. But Ella Sarah insisted. Preschoolers are learning how to make choices. Being the boss of choosing is important.

Little Blue Truck makes a Friend, by Alice Schertle

Chicken said that someone new moved in down the road. All the farm animals jumped into the Little Blue Truck to see who he was. Everyone had a question for the newcomer. Like all preschoolers, all the farm animals had many questions. Goose wondered if he had feathers. Others worried if he was tall or was he like any of the other farm animals. Going to visit the newcomer answered their questions.

How to pick a great children’s book

The selection of books is as important as the selection of toys. Young children have incomplete information for understanding the world around them, which results in what we often refer to as “magical thinking”: explanations for things that don’t make sense to adults. Magical thinking can make it difficult to know what’s going on in a child’s mind, and may lead to unexpected reactions of fear or stress.

Here are some thoughts about selecting appropriate books:

  • Look for pictures that may be scary to a young child. Is there a fire? Do the animals have long sharp teeth? Are there depictions of things that you know are troubling to your child specifically?
    Noreen Acierno


  • Is the vocabulary suitable? Are the words scary, like yelping, snarling and hissing sounds. Are there references to violence or antisocial behavior – fighting or throwing things?
  • Is it developmentally appropriate? Books for young children should be uncluttered and simple with a clear presentation of the important concepts. The first words that children learn are nouns – the objects of everyday life.

For more insights about selecting books and reading with young children, look at our original list of 100 great children’s books.

Book links go to Amazon and generate a small donation to Hanna Perkins Center when used to make a purchase.

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