Best Books of Songs and Rhymes for Children of All Ages
Time for a tune-up, musically speaking, to recharge your read-aloud battery by including books of songs and rhymes in your reading repertoire. Besides being fun and interactive, song and rhyme books have educational benefits like helping children develop phonological awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words), an important early literacy skill. Songs and rhymes encourage improved language, memory, and listening skills, as well as engage children in the joys of music, nonsense verse, and imaginative play. The books on this list will get your family singing, clapping, laughing and wanting more.
Read Aloud Songs
You Are My Sunshine, by Jimmie Davis. Adorable illustrations in this short and sweet board book version of the country song from the 1940’s. My grandson Russell’s favorite bedtime song, with multiple readings required.
Check out this video to learn a fun strategy to use with books of songs and rhymes.
If You’re Happy and You Know It! by Anna McQuinn. This joyful singalong, with charming illustrations of children from different cultures ends with the stanza, “If you’re happy and you know it say hello,” repeating “hello” in many different languages. The included audio CD adds to the musical fun and teaches children and their parents new greetings from around the world.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback. A delightful version of the cumulative children’s song with clever, eye-catching illustrations that add lots of humor to the already absurd tale. A cut-out hole in the old lady’s belly allows children to keep track of all of the animals she swallows. The story ends with a moral that will leave both parents and children with a big chuckle.
The Wheels on the Bus, by Paul O. Zelinsky. An interactive read aloud with lift the flaps and pull the tabs among other moving pieces. Children will enjoy the beautifully detailed illustrations with amusing subplots to discover, and this 25thanniversary edition includes 25 hidden 25’s on the cover to add even more engagement.
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson. Magnificent illustrations accompany this well-known spiritual and will embrace readers in messages of love and togetherness.
What a Wonderful World, by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss. Uplifting lyrics, along with sweet, colorful illustrations of children interacting with nature, convey messages about world harmony in a way that children will understand. Top pick for a feel-good read or sing aloud.
Parodies on Traditional Songs and Rhymes
Pete the Cat and the Itsy Bitsy Spider, by James Dean. A clever version of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, featuring Pete the Cat and his friends, as they help the spider climb up the spout. You and your child will want to join in the fun, cheering on the determined spider. One in a series of Pete the Cat nursery rhyme books.
Old MacDonald had a Truck, by Steve Goetz. Think Old MacDonald’s farm, with a whole variety of trucks and truck noises. The appealing illustrations add a developing plot to the story and lead to a surprise ending. Super fun twist on the traditional Old MacDonald had a Farm. Little truck fans will want to hear this story again and again.
This Little Piggie, by Tim Harrington. An imaginative spin-off on This Little Piggie Went to Market, adding adventures for the toes on the other foot. From playing drums to flying in space, these fun-loving piggies inspire new exploits for the original piggies. A great bedtime book with lots of opportunities for children to make up their own little piggie adventures.
Camp and Schoolyard Songs and Chants
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen. Popular call and response chant, beautifully illustrated, taking readers on an imaginary journey through land, water, and snow as they hunt for a bear. Children will be thoroughly engaged, chanting, singing and acting out the hunt to find the bear, then reversing the actions to return home safely.
There Was a Tree, by Rachel Isadora. An acacia tree in Africa is the setting for this version of The Green Grass Grows All Around. Beautifully collaged illustrations capture the colors and patterns the author remembers from her travels there. A fun and interactive story/song starting with a tree, then adding a nest and an egg and a bird and so forth, with picture symbols to cue young readers in the sequence of events.
The Lady with the Alligator Purse, by Nadine Bernard Wescott. Embrace the sillies with this fun take on the schoolyard song, Miss Lucy had a Baby. Humorous illustrations and a modern-day ending add laugh-out-loud details, and the catchy rhythm and rhyme will have kids wanting to hear it again and again.
Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose, by Mary Engelbreit. Whimsical illustrations, filled with rich colors and intricate patterns, add charm and delight to this collection of well-known nursery rhymes. Available as a board book and a perfect introduction to Mother Goose.
The Neighborhood Mother Goose, by Nina Crews. A joyful, modern-day celebration of Mother Goose with photographs of contemporary kids in realistic urban settings illustrating the nursery rhymes. Photographer, Nina Crews, uses digitally manipulated photos to create humorous and relatable scenes that are a refreshing change from traditional Mother Goose books.
Big Fat Hen, by Keith Baker. The familiar “One, two, buckle my shoe,” rhyme, splashed with big, colorful illustrations and lots of counting opportunities for children. The engaging artwork adds a subplot with many fat hens and hatching chicks that little readers will delight in.
Shift gears into songs and rhymes and discover interactive fun on the road ahead.
Get your reading boots on and enjoy the journey.