Developmentally mindful books to read with young children during summer vacation

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Alphabet City, by Stephen Johnson

You can find many letters as you look around your city. This is a great book to help children keep school in mind as they get ready for summer vacation. Many children have two-way feelings about leaving their preschool and moving on to kindergarten. This book helps them remember the things they learned in preschool and also helps them realize they are ready for kindergarten.

Harriet and the Garden, by Nancy Carlson

From Nancy Carlson’s Neighborhood series of books. Harriet was playing baseball with her friends. As she tried to catch the ball, she trampled on Mrs. Hoozit’s flowers. Harriet was frightened and ran home. She was not able to eat or sleep. The next day she visited Mrs. Hoozit and told her that she trampled on the flowers. She helped her plant new flowers and fix the broken ones. This book helps children with conscience development and knowing the right thing to do. Children can get a good feeling by fixing the things they have broken and learning that many things can be fixed.

Emma’s Lamb, by Kim Lewis

Emma lives on a farm. Her dad brought in a lost baby lamb. He went back outside to search for the lamb’s mom. Emma wants to take care of the lamb herself. But when the lamb gets lost again Emma realizes that she cannot take care of the lamb all by herself. The lamb needs to be with his mother. Mom knows what is just right for her baby lamb. The book helps children realize how important all moms are to their children. Moms know the “just right way” to take care of their babies.

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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