Read aloud these books with your children and introduce them to the joys of storytelling.
Top picks from Arundhati Venkatesh, author of Bookasura and the Petu Pumpkin series for children
Step 1: Pick a book. Step 2: Get hold of a child. Step 3: Read. Point at the pictures. Do the silly voices and sound effects. If you’re shy, try B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures! Now that you’re hooked, here are a few more books that are great fun when read aloud:
Again! by Emily Gravett
Do you have a little dragon at home that asks for a book to be read again and again at bedtime? Even when you are exhausted and nodding off? Yes? Then this is a story your little dragon, and you, will relate to. The story starts right from the cover and there’s much gorgeousness on every spread. Cedric, the little dragon, is ready for bed with a book. The book within the book is wonderful too –- with rhyme that bounces merrily along, it is a story about a dragon just like Cedric, of princesses and trolls, towers and bridges, pies and crumbles. On each subsequent telling, Big Dragon’s story gets shorter and more subdued. Little Dragon gets redder and more furious. Big Dragon finally dozes off, and what are we left with? A hole burnt through the book! A book that you’ll be asked to read again and again.
Up Down by Vinayak Varma
Books written and illustrated by the same person have a special appeal. There are very few of these among children’s books published in India. Up Down is one of them. When I chanced upon this unassuming little book years ago, I fell in love with it instantly. Little Appu wants to play on the seesaw. But who will sit on the other side? A grasshopper? Or a mouse? Or…? The sounds the animals let out when they go up in the air are fun for both little listeners and big read-aloud-ers. The illustrations depict motion beautifully and add a zing to the catchy refrain.
Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton
Crisp text, repetition, dramatic page turns, delightful illustrations and the silliness quotient make this book perfect for a read-aloud. Practise your conspiratorial tone before you start on this one.
Top picks from Deepa Agarwal, author, poet and translator, with over 50 books to her credit
The Rumour by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Kanyika Kini
This is a hilarious tale narrated in Anushka Ravishankar’s inimitable comic style. My granddaughter’s favourite read aloud when she was younger, it is interspersed with delightful rhymes which a child can repeat with you, Kanyika Kini’s lively illustrations complement the zany humour perfectly.
A Giraffe and a Half, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein’s works are universally loved. What appealed most in A Giraffe and a Half was not just the whacky tone of the book but also the irresistible rhythm of the rhymes. Few children will forget the experience of listening to this all-time favourite.
Pranav’s Picture by Nandini Nayar, illustrated by Vishwajyoti Ghosh
This is a book that mirrors a child’s imagination so accurately that kids spontaneously connect and identify with it. The illustrations are wonderfully evocative, making it the perfect choice to read aloud to a child. Nandini’s other picture books too reflect this quality.
Top picks from Ritu Vaishnav, author of Pink and Blue
The very first books I loved reading aloud to my baby in his first year:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This classic was our very first favourite, so much so that it became the theme for our first birthday cake and ‘cater’ (short for caterpillar) and ‘cocoon’ were among my baby’s first words. We followed it up with The Little Cloud and The Very Busy Spider by the same author and loved them as well. The latter was a great excuse to have some fun making animal sounds.
The Eye Book by Dr Seuss
I’d say this is the perfect first Dr Seuss. It’s among the shortest of the lot. The way the text rolls off the tongue and the humour in both text and pictures make Dr Seuss great fun to read out loud.
A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton
A little owl falls off his nest and can’t find his mum. A squirrel tries to help him but keeps taking him to the wrong mummy animal. It’s funny and a lot like Julia Donaldson’s monkey puzzle, only shorter and therefore perhaps better suited for a younger kid.
Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek
An author illustrator whose work I always enjoy. This book has lots of garden creatures and peep-through holes and a pop-up butterfly in the end that never failed to amuse the little one despite the million times we read the book.
The Spot series with its fun lift-the-flap format was a great hit as well. Anything by Julia Donaldson is an absolute joy to read, again for the way the text rolls off the tongue. My number one favourite is The Snail and the Whale, especially since we are a family that loves, maybe lives, to travel! Anything by Mo Willems is guaranteed to make you laugh. Elephant and Piggie books have been read a million times each and we still can’t get through them without some crazy laughing!
Top picks from Joeanna Rebello Fernandes, author of Treasure at the Train Station: An Adventure in Mumbai
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
I slipped down the original rabbit hole rather late in the day – that is to say, years after I’d been fed a grossly watered down, ‘mock-turtle’ version of Lewis Carroll’s brilliant fantasy. You think you know the story, but it is only after you’ve read it as it was written that the freefall of madcap verse and potty puns takes your breath away (from laughing so hard).
Here’s a sampler:
(When Alice Meets the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle and they compare notes on their education)
“I only took the regular course” (Said the Mock Turtle)
What was that?” inquired Alice.
“Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with….and then the different branches of Arithmetic – Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”
(What else had you to learn? Alice asks)
“Well, there was Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaograhy: then Drawling – the Drawling-Master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: he taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.”
My advice is, don’t read the ersatz version of this story to your children (or they may feel they know it already and never come around to this), but wait until they’re old enough to appreciate the word-play in the original and read that instead – you’ll all split your sides.
Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Dahl’s uproarious rhymes and poems show us what fun can be had with the English language. I love his wicked humour, as I’m sure all children do…“I ran for home. I shouted “Mum!” “Behold the prickles in my bum!” My kids were so tickled by these lines, they put them to music.
These performance pieces invite you to stand up, stomp about, get up on a chair and throw your voice around. You and your children can take turns reading, so everyone gets a chance to be part of the show. What’s more, fun rhymes make way for limericks, sonnets and other verse, and set the stage for poetry, which we have come to unfortunately neglect.
Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and Other Stories by Upendrakishore Roychoudhuri (Translation from the Bengali by Swagata Deb)
The escapades of the cacophonous singer and drummer in the title story, who come by some ghostly luck and magic, are sure to entertain all children, but they can be made especially onomatopoeic for younger children by getting them to animate the sounds they’ll encounter along the way: Goopy’s one-track song, Bagha’s calamitous drumming, the grumbling of the villagers, the sounds of the forest at night… These stories (by Satyajit Ray’s grandfather) are also a way to introduce children to the broader canon of writing in Indian languages, made more magical by reading to them in the mother-tongue where possible.
Top picks from Bhakti Mathur, author of the Amma, Tell Me About and Amma Take Me To series
My kids are nine and 11 and I still read aloud to them. It’s undoubtedly the best part of my day.
The books I loved, loved reading to them when they were five years old were:
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
Touching story about Leo who took his own time to learn like so many of us do.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
I would be in tears every time by the end of this book. A journey of a mother as she watches her little baby grow to be a young man.
Are You My Mother by PD Eastman
Written in rhyme a sensitive story about a baby bird looking for his mother.
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