Reading Aloud: Four Books to Enjoy with Your Preschool Kids

I have a love/hate relationship with reading books to the kids.

I much prefer reading than sitting around watching TV with them. And this isn't because I'm a super-intellect who abhors the TV. It's because I've seen the aftermath of my children watching ten minutes of television together: candy wrappers, cereal bowls, half-eaten granola bars, and puddles of spilled liquids.

However, I'm not always in the mood to read aloud at the end of the day. I like to do it in the mornings. So at night I need a really great book to keep my attention.

For the preschool set, I enjoy picture books that have some great rhymes. These are some of my favorites. (Shrek doesn't rhyme, but I included it because we like it so much.)

1. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

Can I admit that I'm not a huge Dr. Seuss fan? I'm just not that into him. This book, however, is a mouthful of nonsense and manages to keep a reader from wanting to snooze into a pillow. Kids  enjoy the playful cadence and pictures, too.

This one,
I think,
is called
a Yink.
He likes to wink,
he likes to drink.

I like to imagine Seuss writing some of his books and marveling at how ridiculous only to publish them and have them be smashing successes!

2. A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman

Every time I read this book I'm reminded of how clever it is. It's not a practical list of who lives where; it transcends the average and dabbles in some housing philosophy. 

And if you get started in thinking
I think you will find it is true
That the more that you think about houses for things,
The more things are houses to you.
Perhaps I have started farfetching...
Perhaps I am stretching some things...
But once you get started in thinking,
You think and you think and you think

This simple little shift in the narrative separates it from your average children's book. Very rhythmic language that draws you through the book and beautifully intricate illustrations to boot. Highly recommended.

3. Shrek by William Steig

I have a huge spot in my heart for Mr. Steig. He's wonderfully playful and imaginative. From Abel's Island to Dr. De Soto to The Amazing Bone, his stories and illustrations are heart-warming and hilarious.

Most people don't realize that Shrek did not originate from the canon of DreamWorks. He is truly Steig's brilliant creation and this quick little ditty is a delight.

His mother was ugly and his father was ugly. But Shrek was uglier than the two of them put together. By the time he toddled, Shrek could spit flame a full ninety-nine yards and vent smoke from either ear.
One day Shrek's parents hissed things over and decided it was about time their little darling was out in the world doing his share of damage. So they kicked him goodbye and Shrek left the black hole in which he'd been hatched.

And if you'd like to increase your enjoyment, purchase the audiobook version. Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep narrate four Steig stories and do a marvelous job.

4. Smokey by Bill Peet

Last but not least is this old treasure. I purchased a beat-up copy at a local book sale for a couple of dollars. It was already quite loved, and our kids loved it out of existence. The pages were tissue-thin by the time I finally parted with the story.   

Old Smokey for many long years had worked hard
Switching the freight cars around in the yard.
He wheezed and he huffed and he puffed and he chugged,
No matter how tired he pulled and he tugged.

And so we are introduced to Smokey. He's a charming little train past his prime who decides to escape the peril of the junkyard.

I'm a fan of children's books whose main intention is to tell a great story — not to instruct my children on the merits of safety, good manners, or hand washing. Smokey's redemption story naturally transmits the virtues of hard work and growing old without being preachy.