Spring break season is upon us. Whether your family is planning to travel or chill at home this year, the kids are bound to have some downtime—and there’s no better way to spend it than with a great book. For help finding fresh reads, we turned to early-education reading specialist and heymama member Rina Collins, founder of New York City’s Book Nook Enrichment. (That’s Rina above, reading with her son.) Here, she shares nine standout selections that kids in her literacy studio reach for again and again.
Best books for kids under 3
Press Here, by Herve Tullet
Press Here is an imaginative and silly book that encourages budding readers to engage with the book in an active way. By prompting kids to interact with each page, Press Here invites children on a journey through imagination, words and colors. This wonderful book helps build the foundation for a love of reading and creative thinking.
Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Young children love books that entwine the real and unreal to create worlds beyond their own, and Extra Yarn is a perfect example. It tells the story of a young girl who discovers magic and transforms her cold, dreary community into something bright and joyous. This book reminds readers that sometimes we have only to open our hearts and look a little more closely to see something we believe in.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be, by Emily Winfield Martin
The Wonderful Things You Will Be is a lovely, melodic story that is soothing in both text and illustrations. Weaving together the present and future, it evokes the big, beautiful adventures little ones can look forward to throughout their lives. It’s earned a reputation as an instant family favorite—not to mention a perfect gift for friends with kids.
Best books for kids ages 3 to 5
The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
“Just make a mark and see where it takes you,” Vashti’s teacher says, inspiring the young student to try even when she feels completely discouraged. It’s a powerful message all children should hear, and one of many reasons this book is so beloved. With help from playful, singular illustrations, this book celebrates the significant impact of small gestures.
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom
Taking chances is a vital part of growing up. This book—the third in a series—delves into the power of saying yes to new experiences even when the unfamiliar feels a little scary. (Not a bad lesson for adults, either.) The first two books in the series, What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem?, are just as inspiring.
Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers
In best-sellers such as How to Catch a Star and Stuck, Oliver Jeffers tackled the silly and fanciful, the absurd and surreal. In this latest volume, he is at his most personal. Written for his own son, Here We Are is a guide to living on Earth, celebrating all that makes this planet so special. It’s poignant, intimate, tender and awe-inspiring.
Best books for kids ages 5 to 8
A Different Pond, by Bao Phi and Thi Bui
There’s much beneath the surface in A Different Pond. It tells the seemingly simple story of a father-son duo on an early-morning fishing trip in Minneapolis. But it ends up tackling deeper issues, such as the father’s experience as a Vietnamese refugee, the sense of duty that drives us, and the homes that shape us. A perfect discussion book for thoughtful readers.
Malala’s Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoet
Yousafzai, the young Pakistani human-rights activist who gained global attention after surviving an assassination attempt in 2012, encourages young readers to dream big and imagine great lives for themselves. Malala’s character in the book may not find the magic pencil she yearns for, but she resolves to redraw her world as a better place.
Love, by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long
This gem was just published in January and seems destined to become a classic. It captures with gorgeous poetic clarity the truth that love is everywhere, in various forms—even in our toughest moments. For example, love is helping someone in need. Love is fresh air on a beautiful day. Love is having Mom or Dad comfort you when you wake up from a scary dream. Love is everywhere, especially in these pages.
What were some of your favorite books as a child? Do you read them with your family today? Share your story in the comments below.