The Nanny Reads: Reading aloud is important. Reading the right kind of book makes it easier.

One of the things I have been thinking of doing for months now is adding a tab on the top of this site called, "Nanny Reviews,"  which would mostly include reviews of children's picture books.

Despite all that is awesome and modern in electronic books and electronic book readers in this century, there is nothing better in story telling then the old fashioned hard copy picture book.  It's one of my fears that as walk-in book stores close, and e-books become cheaper and more accessible, that families will loose the interactive tactile experience and page turning wonder of reading books together.

read a loud

I have posted before HERE on reading out loud to children and others we love. Everyone should and can read out loud. We should begin reading to children when they are still babies, and continue even after when they can read on their own.  We should read out loud to our spouses.  We should read out loud to our grandparents, and have our kids read out loud to us and others.

1. Reading out loud increases vocabulary familiarity in both the reader and the listener.

2. Reading out loud is a bonding experience for both the reader and the listener.

3. Reading out loud builds communication skills.

4. Listening to books teaches children to use their brains in imaginative ways.

5. Listening to books teaches children to listen for details, keeps them from tuning out, helps them focus, and
    enhances later skills related to listening.

Mother and daughter reading, Mary Cassatt

I am especially fond of picture books because they contain so many different kinds of artistic expression available to everybody, young and old.  There is no limit to the types and forms of picture making in children's books.  From classic museum style painting, to pen and ink drawings, illustrators use hundreds of different mediums to help shape and contribute to the author's story.

Unfortunately not every book is best suited for reading out loud or at bedtime.

No. Words on paper with pictures does not automatically equal an enjoyable reading experience.  The best read out loud books are not joke books. That is, they have an actual plot and progression and are above an easy-reader level.  I enjoy Mo Willem's books.  But they are not the type of tales that create new tapestries in the imagination or introduce new creative concepts and complex words.  They are funny and relatable, but don't require much of an attention span.

Anita Silvey writes a fantastic essay HERE  about children's picture books in the School Library Journal. She talks about how the publishing industry  in recent years has basically shot itself in the foot by focusing on shorter, simpler, less word heavy books for children.  Many of these new books, though entertaining, are like junk food. Great for a quick sweet taste, low on cognitive nutrition, and not entertaining enough to become classics that adults buy for their children and their grandchildren.

The best read out loud books have a pace and rhythm that the reader falls into easily.  It isn't forced.  The reader doesn't have to search for it.  The narrative is fun for both the reader and the listener.  A good book has a plot and characters and isn't afraid of complex sentences and words. In fact, a really fun read out loud book makes up completely new words, plays with sounds and delights the senses.

It's a book the reader doesn't mind reading over and over. It is a book a person never forgets, and wants to revisit and share.

Picture books are an important, vital part of childhood.  Every child should be read to.  (The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me.) 

Under my new tab I will review children's books that I pick up from the library or see in the bookstore with this criteria in mind. Often I will post the reviews here in the regular feed and share with you. Since no one has hired me I get to be brutally honest and use as many adverbs and adjectives to describe the book as I my little heart desires.

I will be reading with a few questions in mind.  Is this  book junk food?  Or is it a classic that should be saved and shared with every child I meet.  As a Nanny, will I recommend this book to parents?  Would I buy this book as a gift because I think it contributes to the mind of a child as well as entertains?  Is this book enjoyable to read out loud? Does the book have a natural flow that makes it easy for anyone, even the most self-conscious reader, to read out loud? Would my own children enjoy this book?

Maybe we can start a movement and encourage publishers to return to the days of creating stories with fantastic art, beloved characters and imaginative, moving plots instead of just joke books and glorified comic books.  (Not that these books aren't fun or have no value, I have a couple I want to share too, but -well I think I made my over all point.)

What are your favorite books from childhood?  What books do you think every child should hear?  Do you have someone to read out loud to?

Mother and child reading, Mary Cassatt

Some books I've read on Goodreads



  1. Agree with you 100%. These days publishers hop on the band wagon and push whatever sells best and is most popular with children at that moment, not necessarily the well-written, carefully illustrated and most valuable and rewarding selections. While I do endeavor to make learning a fun educational experience, my books are not watered down or pop culture. They are meant to educate and elevate.

  2. Favorites from my childhood:
    Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever
    "I can't" said the Ant by Polly Cameron.
    A recent treasure I love: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas -very clever, and the ending is wonderful.


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