It’s never too early to nurture your child’s love of words and storytelling. As little minds expand, books are a brilliant way to educate children about the world, introduce them to different topics and even teach them morals and valuable life lessons.
Each generation has its own classic stories. But have you ever considered selecting books that were before your child’s generation? Perhaps even some of the stories you treasured growing up?
Here are six iconic, blast from the past children’s books all parents should introduce to their little one’s bookshelf.
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
By Eric Carle
A firm favorite for over 50 years, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one most of us have read at some point. The story follows just that – a very hungry caterpillar – who eats his way through a variety of foodstuffs before morphing into a butterfly. It’s sold over 50 million copies worldwide and has won various children’s literature awards.
This book has strong visual and interactive appeal for toddlers, taking them on an exciting adventure with each page containing a hole to replicate the caterpillar eating his way through the food. It also has brilliant educational value, teaching young children to count as the caterpillar eats “one red apple, two green pears, three purple plums” how to recognise varieties of fruit and understand days of the week.
The stories’ theming also teaches little ones the science behind the life cycle of a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly. Of course, real caterpillars don’t eat all the foods featured in this book, but that didn’t stop the Royal Entomological Society from endorsing it!
2. The Tiger Who Came to Tea
By Judith Kerr
Also published around 50 years ago, The Tiger Who Came to Tea has sold more than one million copies. It’s even been adapted into a theatrical production and a TV show based on the iconic story will be airing Christmas 2019.
This cherished story follows a girl named Sophie and her mother who are enjoying tea in the kitchen when an unexpected visitor arrives – a tiger! Mother invites the tiger to join them but he ends up eating every morsel of food in the house, plus “all the water from the tap”. After finishing his feast, the tiger leaves. The next day, Sophie and her mother go to buy some more food, including a tin of tiger food, just in case the greedy tiger comes back.
With its simple yet charming illustrations, this book is aimed at children with a reading age of six and older, however little ones over the age of one can still express interest in the humorous story. It contains some great lessons on being kind to others and overcoming problems positively – when a tiger eats you out of house and home, go out and for tea in a nice café instead of being angry!
3. Not Now, Bernard
By David McKee
Loved for 35 years, David McKee’s Not Now, Bernard deals with a rather sad theme in a clever and funny way, which resonates with both children and adults.
The classic story tells the tale of a boy called Bernard who’s got a problem – there’s a monster in the back garden but his parents are just too busy to listen and carelessly reply “Not now, Bernard”. Deciding to take matters into his own hands Bernard confronts the monster, only to end up being eaten by him.
Afterwards the monster heads into the house with the intention of eating Bernard’s parents. However, their neglectful attitude results in them mistaking him for Bernard, even sending him up to Bernard’s room with a glass of milk at bedtime!
Predominantly a picture book, Not Now, Bernard features some beautiful illustrations that clearly outline the story. With one short sentence per page it’s an easy-to-read book for little ones with a reading age of four years, but younger audiences will enjoy the bright colours and repetition in the story. It also addresses some great morals about being caring towards others and listening.
4. Dear Zoo
By Rod Campbell
Simple, stylish and highly interactive, 80’s favourite Dear Zoo invites endless re-reading.
This charming story begins with a child writing to the zoo asking for a pet, who respond by sending him a variety of different animals. Little ones can enjoy lifting the flaps on each page to reveal the hidden animals until the perfect pet is finally revealed – a great way to develop fine motor skills.
Dear Zoo is also a handy educational tool for teaching toddlers about different animals from across the globe. It’s actually considered popular choice in young classrooms, so why not give your child a head start and introduce them to this treasured story early on?
5. Where the Wild Things Are
By Maurice Sendak
Only 338 words long, Where the Wild Things Are has remained a bookshelf staple for over five decades. It’s sold an estimated 19 million copies worldwide and has been adapted into a film, animated short and even an opera!
The story focuses on a boy named Max, who enjoys dressing up in his wolf costume. But after causing trouble throughout his household, Max is sent to bed without supper. It’s here when Max’s bedroom transforms into a jungle and he sails to an island inhabited by the “wild things”, who try to scare him off.
Does this threaten Max the wolf-boy? Of course not! After standing his ground, the wild things declare Max the wildest of them all. However, Max soon grows tired of their noisy antics. When he’s finally had enough, Max sends his subjects to bed without their dinner, just like his mother did to him. Max soon begins to miss his mum and understand that being in charge is difficult. He decides to leave the wild things and is greeted to his supper back in his bedroom.
The biggest lesson to take from this story is it teaches little one’s to respect their parents. They might not always agree with their decisions, but they only ever want what’s best.
6. Goodnight Moon
By Margaret Wise Brown
The oldest book on our list, Goodnight Moon dates all the way back to 1947. making it over 70 years old! Estimated to have sold 48 million copies worldwide, it’s widely recognised as a classic bedtime read.
This short but sweet story features a bunny tucked up in bed saying “goodnight” to all the familiar things in his room, one by one – “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon”.
With its limited text and beautiful illustrations, this highly acclaimed story is great for 0-3-year olds. It’s a brilliant learning tool for helping toddlers identify objects and also develop their understanding of rhyme.
Although each generation has its favourite children’s stories, there’s no reason why parents can’t explore children’s books from different eras to help their development.
Written by Jackie Cambridge, Quality Care and Education Director at Kiddi Caru Day Nurseries Group.