Dad Reads – Awesome Interactive Books For Tricky Topics

Keeping a 2-year old’s attention is no easy task. My wife and I hit the jackpot with a boy who loves to read, but it probably didn’t hurt that ever since he was a bright blur on an ultrasound, we’ve been reading to him.

When he’s running riot through the house, the sure-fire thing to calm him down and restore order is a good book. Sometimes, Ryland will pick out his own books – sometimes his stuffed animals will pick. In either case, we’ll snuggle up on the couch or floor and read (and re-read) his story of choice.

Among his favorites are the more “interactive” books. While I’ve made a list of my favorite general interactive books at the end of this post, it’s worth noting that with a little planning, you can make almost any book on any topic interactive on your own. Taking the time to make your reading sessions interactive can go a long way to create sticky ideas.

Learning Colors
Is your kiddo working on learning colors? Pete The Cat’s I Love My White Shoes by James Dean is a primer on simple colors, as is Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson, and Little Green Peas by Keith Baker. Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Seeger is well executed. You can make any of these interactive by having Junior shout out the name of the color on the page and point to other things in the room that are that color.

Ryland’s current favorite storytime game is to intentionally mess up color names or numbers. Repetition is critical when it comes to getting something to stick, so 1-2-3 Peas by Keith Baker is one you can read over and over again – there’s always something new to find. Bear Counts by Karma Wilson is splendid as well. You don’t have to have a “counting book” to teach numbers though, you can turn almost any book into a counting book.

Learning to identify how others feel is a powerful skill to prevent bullying and rude behavior. When we need to work on this skill, my wife and I will usually ask Ryland how a character in the book is feeling. Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border highlights loneliness and isolation while seeking a friend (and all the characters are food, so it’s a light lesson). Tackling tough issues (like lost toys or feeling unwanted, scared, or bored): Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman and Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin is good for mild anger and Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry is a toddler’s teamwork manual.

Cause and Effect
It seems like a silly thing to learn from a book, but cause-and-effect is a complicated subject for any child to grasp, especially if they’re headstrong! If you find yourself getting frustrated by a kiddo who constantly does the thing you’ve told them not to do, you’d be surprised how much a book can do. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Puddle by Hyewon Yum, right along with any of the If You Give a Something a Something books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. I’m not exactly unbiased about this next pick, but my book Mess Hunter can help you redirect destructive behavior into helpful behavior through activities like journaling. Turning fun bad habits into work is an excellent way to eliminate bad habits.

I’m a big fan of Julie Fogliano‘s writing. Both If You Want to See a Whale and And Then It’s Spring are stream-of-consciousness poetical masterpieces. When picking books to encourage patience, slow, deliberate, short prose is the way to go. My go-to question for teaching patience is, “What happens next?” It can slow down the story, but creates an opportunity for creative thinking.

Reading Is Fun!
Reading shouldn’t become a chore. Long picture books can cause boredom, and eventually frustration at reading time – so I always try to pick a few short books or books that I know will get a good response at bedtime. Even though we sometimes get Ryland riled up with a particular story, it’s better to have an energetic toddler in a good mood than a tired, frustrated puddle of kid at bedtime.

Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka is probably my favorite children’s book to date – you can channel your inner rocker while being totally silly with your kid.

Touch The Brightest Star by Christie Matheson will keep your kiddo swiping, tapping, patting, and makes for a great bedtime book.

Don’t Push The Button by Bill Cotter is more of a silly daytime book. The actions are a lot more energetic than Matheson’s book.

Who’s Hungry? by Dean Hacohen has the “hidden/changing scene” flap meme down. Well worth a trip to the Library to pick it up.

Bottom line: no matter what you’re reading with your kids, as long as you’re reading with your kids, you’re doing good!


PS – If you have a 4-year-old, make sure to bring them to the Dancing in the Street event at Old Town Library, 2 PM – it’s for 4-year-olds and their families and get they get a free book to take home!