When you have a kid, you wind up reading the same books over and over and over. Here are some that will help preserve your sanity.
I have a toddler. He likes books. I can’t imagine where he got it from. But part of having a child who likes books is reading the same books over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. It’s not like my kid, or most kids, are hurting for books. But, in spite of the variety, the same handful of books tend to get the call far more frequently than others.
And this, sometimes, becomes difficult as a parent. Because a lot of the books are so bad you can’t fathom reading them two times, let alone two thousand times.
Fortunately, there ARE some that are fairly entertaining to the grown-up, even after multiple readings.
My criteria for a re-readable book aren’t static, as you’ll see from the list below. But a re-readable book usually has some, if not all, of these elements: (1) Your kid loves the book… (2) A decently interesting story, preferably with a good message… (3) Quality rhymes that make it more enjoyable to read… (4) Not excessively long… (5) Good for holding the kid’s interest so you don’t feel like you’re reading the book for your own sake… (6) Some other intangible that appeals to your adult brain that keeps you engaged throughout the reading.
Here are the 11 books I’ve happily read a total of one million times in the past three-and-a-half years.
1 | Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
We’re at about month six of a mega Dr. Seuss phase in my house right now. There are some I like reading (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, The Sneetches and Other Stories, Fox in Socks, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss’s ABCs, The Cat in the Hat) and some I really don’t (If I Ran the Circus, If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Egg Super, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew). But my favorite to read is Hop on Pop.
It’s a good length, unlike a lot of Dr. Seuss books (he’s shockingly verbose). It doesn’t just devolve into a long sequence of made-up words, like a lot of Dr. Seuss books. The rhymes are catchy and my son can pick them up and recite them along with me. And, most important, the story reiterates that you should not hop on pop. I hold out hope that one day that lesson will sink in, and he’ll stop waking me up every morning at 7:00 A.M. on the dot by running into our bedroom and jumping on me.
2 | Max’s First Word by Rosemary Wells
Having a child named Max makes you realize just how many book series exist featuring a character named Max. There are tons. We’ve read them all. The best of the bunch are the classic Max and Ruby books. They’re short and simple and, unlike many on this list, don’t rhyme—but I’ll happily knock out a whole bunch of these Max books in one sitting. Max’s First Word is our favorite. It’s short but has a good punchline and really showcases the zen-like elements of Max in the best way.
3 | Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
You know some effort went into a children’s book when it has two authors. It’s like the opposite of movies. Ever seen a movie, usually something in the Meet the Spartans or Jupiter Ascending spheres of Rotten Tomatoes, and there are about 17 different screenwriters credited? That means the movie needed at least a dozen rewrites and punch-ups. With a children’s book? Apparently it means a surprisingly catchy and hypnotically rhythmic book about anthropomorphic letters of the alphabet.
4 | The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
The Pout-Pout Fish is a clever poem with an uplifting message that features wordplay even adults will like. The intricate rhymes are also good for re-readings, as they’re challenging to say quickly. Just watch out for the sequels and spin-offs to this book. We bought a few of them and they are total mailed-in cash grabs. We’re talking Hangover 3.
5 | Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Little Blue Truck and its sequel, Little Blue Truck in the City, are both easy to read and sing-songy enough to stay entertaining for both child and grown-up on repeated recitations. I went with the original over Little Blue Truck in the City because the Little Blue Truck comes off more likable. In the first book, he shows the value of teamwork and respecting people (well, trucks and I guess animals) of all sizes. In the second one, he gets a little Pollyanna-ish and judgy toward city folk while delivering his message of taking turns.
6 | The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Sandra Boynton might be the children’s author with the best hit rate overall. (Yes, I find her catalog overall better than Dr. Seuss’s. While she doesn’t have the masterpieces he does, she also doesn’t have the overly long stinkers. Again, ever read If I Ran the Circus? Yikes.) Her books are short, consumable, catchy, entertaining, and re-readable.
I picked The Going to Bed Book as the representative because it’s the first Sandra Boynton book we had so I have a longtime affinity for it. It’s a great, short book for putting a kid to sleep. And it keeps me mentally engaged because of a scene in the book where the animal characters bathe, brush their teeth… and then exercise. In that order. Then I spend the rest of the book pondering why she thinks that’s a proper bedtime routine.
7 | Five Black Cats by Patricia Hegarty
Maybe the least-known book on this list, Five Black Cats is a Halloween story that somehow made the year-long rotation in our house. I like it because it has the cadence of a beat poem, so as I read it, I pretend I’m in a San Francisco coffee house in the ’50s. (Or, at the very least, Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer.)
8 | How Big Is a Pig? by Clare Beaton and Stella Blackstone
Speaking of obscure reading styles, I like How Big Is a Pig? because it has the exact same meter as Ludacris’s How Low Can You Go. So I get to rap the book rather than read it. Word of caution: Your child’s mother will hate the twist ending of this book and more likely than not whack you on the head for buying the book.
9 | Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
This is the rare case where I like a book way more than my toddler.
Giraffes Can’t Dance is really well-written (and well-illustrated) with some quality jokes and a really, really smart message. My son never got into it, sadly, so generally when we read it, he’s going along with it reluctantly.
10 | Mr. Bump by Roger Hargreaves
I loved the Mr. Men books when I was a kid and it’s great to pass the joy along to another generation. Mr. Bump remains my favorite and sends a good message about positive thinking. I like that the message of the book isn’t to slow down so you stop bumping into things, it’s to embrace the power of bumping into things. That’s a tricky needle to thread but the book does it well.
11 | Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
An all-time classic that was around during my childhood, Caps for Sale is a great transition away from board books and into regular books. Downside: It led to a long, long phase of my son grabbing hats off my head and throwing them on the ground because the first time he did it, I quoted the book and said “You monkeys, you.” Never quote this book.