Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing

Parental polls are in agreement that the best books for 4 year olds are entertaining, educational, and relatable – kids want to feel that they’re being understood with whatever is happening in their lives. Natasha Wing understands the need for children to feel understood; a fact that is proven in her tale entitled “The Night Before Kindergarten.” The beginning is engaging with the following opening lines…

“Twas’ the night before Kindergarten,
And as they prepared,
kids were excited,
And a little bit scared.”

The nights leading up to the first day of school are stressful – particularly when it’s a child’s first time being away from their parents in an educational environment. Not all kids go to preschool! With the first few lines in Wing’s story, parents will be able to see how this tale could help their child cope with the first day of Kindergarten. And children will be immediately drawn into the process of what to expect from the perspective of an eager (but nervous) little girl as she makes the same preparations. From packing school supplies to kissing Mom and Dad goodbye, all the bases of the first day of Kindergarten are covered in this amusing rhyme.

The book is soothing for parents and kids, offering them both a glimmer of hope in a day that’s sure to be nerve-wracking and stressful. This tale also offers a life lesson, discussing change and the importance of transition. Kids (and adults) will experience the same feelings of nervousness throughout their lifetime – whether it begins in Kindergarten or Preschool. However, this tale teaches that all of those moments will have hopeful outcomes that lead to happiness and comfort. Wing tries to instill the fact that “nothing is as bad as it seems” when life boils down to new situations and the unknown of first-time experiences.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

The top 10 books for 6 year olds in 2012 have taken a leader. From the brilliant mind of Peter H. Reynolds comes “The  Dot.” – An account from the perspective of Vashti; an art class student who “just can’t draw!” But Vashti’s teacher sees an inner artist in all of his students. This book opens up with relatable frustration – as every child (and adult, for that matter) has felt like they couldn’t do something. However, it proves that with gentle encouragement and a nudge in the right direction, we can be and do anything we set our minds to.

What happens when the teacher says “You can” to Vashti?

It all starts with one dot of color on a piece of paper and ends with millions of dots on hundreds of pieces of paper – all different colors and shapes befitting a child’s imagination. She gets compliments on her original artsy dot, and what she thought was unremarkable becomes extraordinary. Vashti’s self-confidence is soaring towards the end of this book! The dots in this tale can represent the many “dots” or obstacles that a child could be going through – such as dealing with the first day of school, overcoming a learning disability, or something as simple as taking interest in a new hobby.

Why is this book important to a child’s mental growth?

When faced with a difficult dilemma or an obstacle, parents and teachers want their children to meet with the problem head-on; they want them to believe they can overcome those obstacles. When Vashti says, “I can’t,” her teacher assures her, “You can!” It’s a moral message that will stick with children throughout their entire lives, well into adulthood – where they will eventually pass the same beliefs and life lessons down to their kids. This book is something that can be cherished through generations!

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

When writing some of the best books for 5 year old kids, Tad Hills has a knack! His recent release “Rocket Writes a Story” is the sequel to his first “How Rocket Learned to Read” – all following an interesting and imaginative pup with adoration for all things literary. For parents who homeschool or teachers in a public classroom, Hills has developed plots that are timeless in a child’s reading world. Instead of encouraging children to write whatever they can think of, Rocket (the main pup in both tales) shows kids how imagination and perseverance will help them create wonderful achievements.

Why is this book so inspiring?

Adults might find it perplexing how an animated dog can teach children to put their best foot forward when it comes to reading and writing. However, those adults probably lack the imagination of aforementioned children. Kids can be inspired by anything! What better way to set a child’s ambition in motion than with one of the cutest animals in existence? A puppy! Rocket is relatable and that’s what makes this tale so inspiring.

The overall concept of this book is that Rocket is having troubles writing a story. He’s drawing a blank, dealing with writer’s block, and just can’t seem to find the words or ideas that he needs. With the help of a yellow bird, Rocket realizes he can write about anything – all the things around him become his muse and he begins to jot down descriptions and details about everything he sees.

Before long, Rocket’s written an amazing story with the help of his feathered friend, and all it took was imagination and belief that he could do it. From children to adults, we’ve all experienced the same “blocked” feeling that Rocket appears to be going through in Hills’ tale. This makes an awe-inspiring, motivating story that is fit for all ages.

My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook

Julia Cook has done it again with yet another tale to add to the list of top 10 books for 5 year olds. It’s entitled “My Mouth is a Volcano!” – A story that revolves around interruption and how adults can teach their children to deal with feeling the need to interrupt. Illustrated in beautiful detail, this book features a cover photo of a little boy – his mouth open wide to spew forth a magma-like outpouring of words. While Cook’s illustrated covers are known to shock and awe, the interior tale is even more surprising.

Is this book appropriate for my child?

Does your offspring have a problem with interrupting when someone else is speaking? Is he perplexed as to why he should wait his turn when talking? Does she often blurt out exactly what is on her mind, despite the conversation others might be having? If those answers would be a resounding “YES!” then this book would likely help your child. The premise of the story focuses on Louis; a little boy who gets ridiculously excited about everything he has to say – which is a lot! He describes his words as living things that wiggle and jiggle against his teeth until he simply must push them out – every word tumbles out on the tip of his tongue during the most inopportune times. He describes it as an ERUPTION, where his teachers and other adults describe it as interrupting.

Louis works hard throughout the 32 pages to gain control of his volcanic mouth. Towards the end of the book, he finally develops an effective technique that allows him to speak his mind without being rude when others are talking too. It’s a creative and beautifully illustrated book, rife with the lessons that children will utilize for the rest of their lives.

For more great picks in books for 5 year olds, visit:


Ish - By Peter Reynolds

Has your child ever come home crying after a bad day at school? Was it because a peer told them their work wasn’t good enough? Or made some other rude comment that hurt your kid’s feelings? It happens – and as parents, it’s difficult to feel like there’s nothing we can do to soothe the aches of a bad day or a mean school-yard bully. Author Peter Reynolds understood this feeling, which is where his tale of “Ish” comes from. One of the best books for 6 year olds 2012, this story is one of triumph in the face of cruel comments.

What happens in this book?

Ramon is an artistic and creative little boy who draws on everything – all the time. It’s his favorite subject in school and the highlight of every single day. However, his older brother (Leon) is jealous of Ramon’s carefree sketching and laid-back attitude, choosing to make a hurtful comment and laugh at his drawing. This completely crushes Ramon’s spirit; his brother is someone he looks up to – someone whose opinion he values.

The tale goes on to relay how upset Ramon is over what his brother has said and how he reacted. He’s down in the dumps, losing all comfort and confidence in his beautiful artwork. Just as he’s at the brink of giving up drawing forever, his sister comes to the rescue with a shoebox full of some of her favorite art that he’s drawn in his short lifetime. This helps Ramon understand that he’s special and his brother was just being a big bully – something he forgives him for and apologies set everything right towards the end.

Children will be able to relate to “Ish” because it teaches them how to trust their hearts. It shows them how to differentiate between loving criticism and praise, or plain meanness. There’s a little Ramon in every classroom and home; therefore, parents and teachers will have no problem conveying this sweet, endearing self-confidence booster to all their doubting kids. Even the ‘Leons’ of the group will learn something.

Looking for great books for kids in approximately this age range?  Here is where to find the best books for 6 year olds this year:


A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue - By Julia Cook

Julia Cook is a devoted children’s author who knows what it takes to make it onto the list of the top ten books for 4 year olds. She demonstrated this ability with her 2005 release, “A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue.” At first glance, the illustration on the cover looks a little intimidating – maybe even scary or excessively silly to the average post-toddler. Albeit, the real surprise is on the interior, as Cook weaves a wondrous tale about Josh and his affinity for tattling on his classmates, his brother, and even his dog!

What makes this book a good teaching guide?

In this story, Josh doesn’t have any friends because he tattles on them all. He loves telling any adult who will listen about the supposed awful things the other children (and his pets) do. After a long night of tattling, he finds his tongue has grown to several times its normal size. It’s also turned yellow with big purple pole-dots! From there, Josh has to relearn the “tattle rules” to set his tongue back the way it was.

The whole concept of this book is clever and creative. In terms children can understand, the story makes a comparison between tattling and telling. Adults will have an easier time teaching kids that tattling is unnecessary, while telling when someone is hurt or bullied is a good thing to do. It gives clear examples of what is considered important to tell and what is considered tattling; a feat that most parents or teachers have a hard time with.

This book is especially relevant in classroom settings where children might be subjected to bullies or hurtful comments. Teachers can use the tattling story to enhance their learning environment, encouraging friendship and trust within their classroom. This interactive approach could lead to a decrease in name-calling while bringing kids closer together.

To find other great books for 4 year olds this year, visit: