Got Grandkids? Invest in the Three Best Read-Aloud Treasuries

 

More than ever, our youngest Americans need exposure to our shared literary and linguistic heritage—they need books more than screens, and they need caring adults to read to them. For instance, while you and I may take nursery rhymes for granted, today we need to proactively introduce our children to historical ditties such as “Humpty Dumpty” and “Old King Cole.” Oral poetry and narrative further benefit our kids by helping them develop an awareness of the sounds of language, as well as broaden their vocabulary and knowledge of the world. All of this input primes them for strong reading comprehension during their school years, and nudges them toward a life enriched with reading. Besides, sitting down with a small child and a good picture book is one of life’s satisfying experiences. 

I like the idea of read-aloud collections—one investment can yield a small library of good stories. These “treasuries” vary in quality, however, so it’s important to know what you’re buying. Some story collections appear to be in-house publisher projects, either placeholders for rag-tag sets of stories that didn’t fit elsewhere, or collected classic tales graced with poor quality illustrations. Also less valuable would be a thick assemblage of read-alouds based on popular animated movies. Although a set of randomly chosen tales can be enjoyable to small children, what you may prefer to sink money into is a volume of classic stories or poems, a curated work with beautiful full-color pictures on each page. With that in mind, below are my top three recommendations for read-aloud treasuries to have around the house in case the grandkids come over. 

#1: The Twentieth Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud– This is what I would go with if I could only pick one. Not only does it offer the original artwork for each story, but it includes many choices, and for a range of ages. Provided for your reading pleasure are classics such as Madeleine, Curious George, and Goodnight Moon. There’s a rhyming story featuring Berenstain Bears, and books that toddlers will love. This treasury will serve you and your descendants well for many years. 

#2: Childcraft’s Poems and Rhymes (1976 to early eighties versions)- My mom read this to us when we were small. It is crammed with high quality pieces and crisp, vivid artwork. Shared poems not only give children a refined ear for the sounds of language (for example, rhymes can help little listeners start to distinguish the sounds within words, an important pre-reading step), but also steep them in rich language and introduce them to a heritage of writers and well-crafted works. Besides, as kids, we loved to leaf through the pages ourselves, staring fascinated at the realistic candies in the sugar-plum tree, at the creepy green goblin in the marshes, or at the elephant who got his trunk entangled in the “Telefunk” and wishing Mom were there to read that one again. It is very important that you purchase the earlier editions of this, as the cover of later versions features grotesque art that no one in his right mind would imagine was attractive and soothing for youngsters. 

#3: Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Book Classics: A Child’s First Collection– This volume offers twelve stories, most of which deserve to be called contemporary classics.  All illustrations featured are the original artwork. With this twelve-in-one work, your progeny will get to know indispensable new favorites such as Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crictor, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Pete’s a Pizza, Caps for Sale, and more. Invest in this collection, and you won’t ever again have to hunt around for a bedtime story for your three to seven-year-old. This is not a book that will slip easily into your carry-on, however. It must weigh about ten pounds. Also, one of the selections, William’s Doll, seems to be gentle 70’s social propaganda about gender roles. But most of the stories here are gold. 

What read-aloud collections did you enjoy as a child? Are there any you especially recommend? 

Published in Literature
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  1. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    • #1
  2. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    kedavis (View Comment):

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    Oh, for sure. I recommend that one in a post on the foundational books every child should have. These are in a different category from picture book collections to read aloud to young children. 

    However, publishers have come out with gorgeously illustrated Little House read-aloud books for small children (about three to five years old). These include simple text that will hold a preschooler’s attention, and even a “treasury” volume so you can have all of them in one place. Think of these as an alluring introduction to the Laura books.  

    • #2
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    Oh, for sure. I recommend that one in a post on the foundational books every child should have. These are in a different category from picture book collections to read aloud to young children.

    However, publishers have come out with gorgeously illustrated Little House read-aloud books for small children (about three to five years old). These include simple text that will hold a preschooler’s attention, and even a “treasury” volume so you can have all of them in one place. Think of these as an alluring introduction to the Laura books.

    The illustrations are a plus, but I remember having Little House etc read to me as a kid.

    • #3
  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    kedavis (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    Oh, for sure. I recommend that one in a post on the foundational books every child should have. These are in a different category from picture book collections to read aloud to young children.

    However, publishers have come out with gorgeously illustrated Little House read-aloud books for small children (about three to five years old). These include simple text that will hold a preschooler’s attention, and even a “treasury” volume so you can have all of them in one place. Think of these as an alluring introduction to the Laura books.

    The illustrations are a plus, but I remember having Little House etc read to me as a kid.

    And the illustrations in the preschool books are full-color pictures based on Garth Williams’ work from the original series.

    • #4
  5. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    Oh, for sure. I recommend that one in a post on the foundational books every child should have. These are in a different category from picture book collections to read aloud to young children.

    However, publishers have come out with gorgeously illustrated Little House read-aloud books for small children (about three to five years old). These include simple text that will hold a preschooler’s attention, and even a “treasury” volume so you can have all of them in one place. Think of these as an alluring introduction to the Laura books.

    The illustrations are a plus, but I remember having Little House etc read to me as a kid.

    And the illustrations in the preschool books are full-color pictures based on Garth Williams’ work from the original series.

    Again, a plus.  But “Little House” was read to me and other elementary school students in a classroom – maybe 3rd grade?  not sure now – and the illustrations were not put up on a screen or something.  There was just the reading aloud.  But it was still a fine thing that I remember almost 60 years later.

    • #5
  6. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    kedavis (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    How about the Little House On The Prairie series?

    Oh, for sure. I recommend that one in a post on the foundational books every child should have. These are in a different category from picture book collections to read aloud to young children.

    However, publishers have come out with gorgeously illustrated Little House read-aloud books for small children (about three to five years old). These include simple text that will hold a preschooler’s attention, and even a “treasury” volume so you can have all of them in one place. Think of these as an alluring introduction to the Laura books.

    The illustrations are a plus, but I remember having Little House etc read to me as a kid.

    And the illustrations in the preschool books are full-color pictures based on Garth Williams’ work from the original series.

    Again, a plus. But “Little House” was read to me and other elementary school students in a classroom – maybe 3rd grade? not sure now – and the illustrations were not put up on a screen or something. There was just the reading aloud. But it was still a fine thing that I remember almost 60 years later.

    Yes, when I went back to read the originals to my children, I was pleasantly aware of how well-written and engaging they are. This series is a true literary, culture, and historical treasure. 

    • #6
  7. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Reading aloud to the young ones has been a constant in my family, from my own childhood in the dark ages to today, when I now read aloud to my grandson (age 13) each week. I was concerned that, with the hostility to boys and their inherent masculinity so prevalent in the public schools, I wanted to find a way to ensure he had exposure to those traditional adventure tales that have long captured boys’ imaginations.

    For kids 10-15, there is an excellent series of classics edited for age-appropriate language and a simplified story to maintain interest, called Classic Starts. In the past year we have read Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and The Odyssey in these editions. Now, we are halfway through The Red Badge of Courage, in the Dover edition. Great break from screen time that allows him to see the action in his mind’s eye.

    • #7
  8. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    When we visit our grandsons, we love reading to (and with) them. Their parents do limit their screen time, and they are involved in lots of sports and activities, so we have a good feeling about their future. Here’s Grandma:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    When our son was young, we read to him all the time. During his first month of kindergarten, the teacher asked “Do you know your son can read?” Well, yeah.

    I was taught to read before I entered 1st grade (no kindergarten back in the dark ages), and after a month I was put in second grade. Probably a mistake, because I was always a year younger than my classmates and never quite made up that social gap. We made sure our son wasn’t promoted.

    Fritz 

    For kids 10-15, there is an excellent series of classics edited for age-appropriate language and a simplified story to maintain interest, called Classic Starts

    I remember Classics Illustrated comic books.

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    I remember Classics Illustrated comic books.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Reminded:

     

    • #10
  11. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Fritz (View Comment):
    I now read aloud to my grandson (age 13) each week.

    Good going, and your grandson is blessed to have that. 

    • #11
  12. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    Probably a mistake, because I was always a year younger than my classmates and never quite made up that social gap. We made sure our son wasn’t promoted.

    That age gap makes quite a difference in a kids’ ability to flourish alongside classmates. 

    Precious picture!  

    • #12
  13. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    National Review’s Treasury of Classic Children’s Literature and Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories, both still in print and available from amazon.  The first is a selection of stories chosen by William F. Buckley from St. Nicholas Magazine, the second is a wonderful introduction to the work of Thornton Burgess.  If you had to choose only one, I would say choose Thornton Burgess.  Our son was not a reader until the end of first grade, but the first stories he read by himself were from the Thornton Burgess book.

    Reading aloud does not have to stop when children get older.  I would work with reluctant high school students and we would take turns reading aloud essays or fiction page-by-page.  Kids can pick up a lot when they can hear the cadence of literature without the fear that they will run into too many words they don’t know or concepts they don’t understand.

     

    • #13
  14. Thaddeus Wert Coolidge
    Thaddeus Wert
    @TWert

    Walter Brooks’ Freddy the Pig series are wonderful books for children. They are very funny, while at the same time teaching timeless truths.

    • #14
  15. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I remember Goodnight Moon from when I was really young.   A few others like that.

    My dad read some classic SF/F to me when I was – I think that was my first experience with Tolkien.

    I was an early reader, and quite voracious.   My favorite books were the Eyewitness Books, from DK press.   Beautifully illustrated science / history books – they are 80% pictures.  The books actually can be read again as kids improve their reading abilities.

    • #15
  16. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    I loved the Sugar Creek Gang books. Also the Hardy Boys detective stories.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Percival (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):
    I remember Classics Illustrated comic books.

    I remember reading these as a child.  Wasn’t crazy about them.  I was a Superman, Batman, Action Comics kinda guy . . .

    • #17
  18. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I has an illustrated book of nursery rhymes.

    After we adopted our girls, I would read aloud with them every night.  It was almost always Goodnight, Moon.  After reading every page, I’d ask them where the mouse was, and they’d point . . .

     

    • #18
  19. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    I was taught to read before I entered 1st grade (no kindergarten back in the dark ages), and after a month I was put in second grade. Probably a mistake, because I was always a year younger than my classmates and never quite made up that social gap. We made sure our son wasn’t promoted.

    That exact thing happened to me, too.  I never made up that gap, either. The year everybody but me got drivers’ licenses was particularly painful.

    • #19
  20. QuietPI Member
    QuietPI
    @Quietpi

    My Book House, by Olive Beaupres Miller.  12 – volume set, maybe plus parents’ guide.  I don’t remember anything about the parents’ guide, so don’t know its value.  

    These books start where this thread is focused, and takes a child far beyond being read to.  My parents got the full set probably before I started kindergarten, so in the very early ’50’s.  The set is now in our daughter’s hands.  Or rather our grandchildren’s hands.  Doing some research now, it looks like there might be some “updated” versions.  They just can’t stop trying to gild a lily, can they?

    I see complete sets can be found by searching online.  

    • #20
  21. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    QuietPI (View Comment):

    My Book House, by Olive Beaupres Miller. 12 – volume set, maybe plus parents’ guide. I don’t remember anything about the parents’ guide, so don’t know its value.

    These books start where this thread is focused, and takes a child far beyond being read to. My parents got the full set probably before I started kindergarten, so in the very early ’50’s. The set is now in our daughter’s hands. Or rather our grandchildren’s hands. Doing some research now, it looks like there might be some “updated” versions. They just can’t stop trying to gild a lily, can they?

    I see complete sets can be found by searching online.

    Oh, sounds interesting!  I will take a look. 

    The Childcraft series had a couple of read-aloud volumes, but were mostly informative books illustrated with engaging photos. My siblings and I would page through these, and as I got older, I would read the text. I still remember some of what I learned from these. I doubt the publishers even realized how much enrichment one family would get from these, in a place with no TV. 

    • #21
  22. danys Thatcher
    danys
    @danys

    Among my favorite children’s books is Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Growing up in Los Angeles my experience of snow was seeing on Mt Baldy on a clear winter day. Poor Peter and his melted snowball.  I really wanted to make a snow angel.

    I finally made one visiting my in-laws in the UP. I had fun despite my snowy, damp backside.

    • #22
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