I remember meeting a family of four on the train once, the youngest must had been 5. As soon as they got on, they found a seat and immediately opened each their own book. They hardly exchanged a word with each other, and I got to observe them for a good hour.

I don’t mean to judge anyone, and I obviously want my little one to discover how rewarding books can be, but occasionally I’d like to enjoy his company too.

Children develop an association between reading and being loved from very young when their parents take the time to read to them. As child developmental theories go, this is one of the easiest to agree with, and that’s why I read to my son every chance I get.

The only problem is that the material aimed at small children is often incredibly boring. Many of them don’t even include any real written part, are just images of people in various uniforms or vehicles (oh, how much I despise vehicles). But among the dozens of books we read, we stumbled on some real gems, books that both my son and I actually enjoy reading.

So, I thought I’d compile a list of my favourites, and topping the chart is:

I’m Not Sleepy!, by Jonathan Allen

The book talks about a baby owl who insists on staying up although he clearly can’t keep his eyes open. I wonder where the author found his inspiration from…

I'm not Sleepy!

What I really enjoy about this book is reading the little owl lines with a screechy and increasingly angry voice, as he keeps repeating to everyone he’s not sleepy, and he explains his eyes closed for a minute there. My son loves it. Plus, mummy cannot quite do the silly voice as well as I do, so I scored extra point as the fun dad.

It’s a very short story, you can read it cover to cover in less than 5 minutes, which makes it ideal for bedtime routines. In the last few pages, it also gives you the chance to throw in a couple of fake yawns, which is a nice way to prime a child to sleep.

The author has written a collection of 7 books (to date) with baby owl as the main character. Of all of them, we also read “I’m not cute”, which follows pretty much the same format, but this time little owl try to convince everyone in the forest he’s a merciless killing machine (not the exact words).

Another book that became an instant favourite in our house is:

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball, Vicki Churchill

This was a book Ben brought home from pre-school. I don’t mean that he stole it. His school encourages children to bring books home so that their parents have no excuse for not reading to them. That’s genuinely a good idea, but what I find slightly more unusual is that they ask a parent to write a short review a week later when the book is returned. They mainly want to know what the child thought of the book, so to adjust their future picks. I’m all pro it.

Sometimes I Like to Curl up in a Ball

We were meant to return the book after a week, but I’m sure I’ve seen it around for much longer than that. When we started feeling uncomfortable with hanging on to it for any longer we eventually bought our own copy. This should give you an idea of how much we liked it!

The book is about a wombat and the fun games he plays with the other animals. The plot will not win any price, probably, but the beautiful illustrations might. And more importantly, the whole book rhymes from start to end, and I simply cannot believe how rare that is in children’s books these days.

It’s another short book, which makes it a good choice for bedtime too. Little one loves it, I have fun reading it, it’s a clear winner.

Choosing a final book to suggest in this article sparkles a lively discussion between my wife and me. It’s funny that grown-ups can get so invested in children’s books, but we conclude the last book had to be:

The Very Hairy Bear, by Beth Shoshan

This book is about a bear, a Very Hairy Bear to be precise, who is thinking about what to be when he grows up. I’m sure my child, age 2, doesn’t understand the concept of growing up—or wanting to become something for that matter—but he still loves that bear.

The Very Hairy Bear

The message of the book is more important. The bear’s fantasy brings him to some very far out extremes (as in becoming a polar bear for example), but by the end, he concludes that he’s great just the way he is, and learn to appreciate the friends who surround him. Or maybe it’s me reading too much into it.

As they say, books affect people differently. Which books would make your top 3 list?

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