Our favorite kids’ books: Singable stories

We sat cross-legged in a circle on the classroom’s thin-carpeted floor. I leaned forward toward Mrs. Weineger, my kindergarten teacher, and her spot in front of us eager 5-year-olds. I could barely contain myself in the moments before she opened the book.

Instead of simply reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, she sang it. Later, she posted pictures of the colorful animals around the room, and we incorporated the song into our sing-alongs.

I think of Mrs. Weineger—her wide smile, the crinkly skin behind her large glasses, her fluffy orange hair (which, incidentally, made her look a lot like the teacher in Eric Carle’s book)—every time I sing this book to Peeper.

Our little bookworm loves it, and no surprise there: It combines two of her favorite things, books and song.

Here are a few of our other favorite singable stories. Clear your throat and make sure the windows are closed—you’ll want to sing these books over and over!

Hush Little BabyHush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long. The traditional version of this age-old song is—admit it—more than a bit materialistic. In Long’s reimagining, though, Mama shows her baby a sunset, catches a firefly and even plucks a tune on her banjo. (That beats buying a looking glass in my book.) This song has saved us in some of Peeper’s worst meltdowns, too: Softly singing this to her (even without the book) calms her down within moments.

Twinkle Twinkle Little StarTwinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Jerry Pinkney. Peeper asks us to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” by waving her open hands back and forth, and thanks to this book, now I have more verses. Even better, the illustrations here are enchanting. You can get lost among the details of a little chipmunk’s adventures as he marvels at the glowing lights in the sky.

Baby BelugaBaby Beluga, by Raffi. I learned this song decades ago when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t fully appreciate it til now. I mean, the beluga whale “curl(s) up snug in your water bed.” Some people hate on Raffi, but I will fight you on this one. The song—and the book, with its gorgeous depictions of underwater life—is a classic. I don’t mind that Peeper wants to read it on repeat.

What Does the Fox SayWhat Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis. You, along with the rest of the world, walked around with this catchy, ridiculous song stuck in your head when the video first came out. Now you can sing it for story time, too. The book provides plenty of opportunities for kids to make animal noises, which may or may not match the lyrics, but hey—we’re all about creativity in our house. The book’s wacky, slightly trippy illustrations are fun to look at, too.

Itsy Bitsy SpiderThe Itsy, Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani. Peeper loves this song in part because of the hand motions. She signs “more” again and again, so it’s a relief that I now have more verses to accompany the one about the rain washing the spider down (which would happen plenty during our Portland winters). I don’t especially love the illustrations, but they’re intricate enough that we can point out different details on the second, third and fourth times through the book. FYI: Iza Trapani has extended other nursery rhymes in similar books, if you want more.

Did I miss any? If so, please tell me!

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