SHARED By: Katherine Grier, Librarian at York Avenue Preschool

Summertime…and the reading is breezy!

Adults often look forward to summer as a time to escape in a few good books. Summer reading can be an exciting experience for children also. It can be a time for them to discover new titles and genres and to become interested in books on their own terms—whether they are books that tell silly stories, follow a specific theme, inspire conversation, or ignite curiosity and creativity. Plus, reading with your child is a great activity you can do just about anywhere. 

One excellent way to encourage young ones to look at books over the summer is through participation in a summer reading program. Such programs usually promise some type of reward at the end, as well as include fun activities. Two popular summer reading programs worth checking out here in New York City are Barnes and Noble’s Summer Reading Program and the New York Public Library’s Summer Reading Program.

Below are a few of my favorite interactive books to help you jumpstart a solid gold summer of reading with your child. I have a hunch that they’ll become cherished additions to your bookshelf the whole year round.

We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
This is the very first book in Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie series, but it is unfortunately often overlooked by newer fans of the popular series. In it, Elephant and Piggie realize that someone is looking at them. At first they worry that it is a monster, but then understand that it is the reader of the book in which they are characters. Safe with this knowledge, they soon discover that they have the power to control what their reader says depending on what words appear in the word bubbles on each page. This leads to their making the reader say funny words like “Banana,” which sends them both into fits of laughter! The illustration on page 20 of Gerald with his glasses falling off because he laughing so hard is priceless and is sure to have you and your children belly-laughing if you weren’t already. Twenty or so hilarious pages later, amidst their delight, Gerald and Piggie realize that the book is about to end and they must quickly figure out a way to get the reader to keep reading. They have been successful in this endeavor with our family, because we re-read We Are in a Book again and again and again. You should too.

You’re Finally Here by Melanie Watt
Like the Elephant & Piggie books, the main character in You’re Finally Here (a lively bunny with bushy eyebrows and very big eyes) talks…. and talks…… directly to his readers. He is SO excited to have an audience that he does flips, plays music, bakes a cake, waves banners and shouts “Hooray!” to celebrate.

YoureFinallyHere_insideIn the midst of his celebration, bunny remembers he also is frustrated with the reader for taking so long to show up, and this is where the fun in the story really begins.  With witty text and pictures, the bunny expresses his feelings about being kept waiting. First he innocently asks, “but where were you?” Then he explains that he has been waiting for a long time (“long enough to find a needle in a haystack”). And bunny hates to wait. Waiting is really boring, unfair (“as unfair as having to eat brussel sprouts”), annoying (“as annoying as having a song stuck in your head”), and rude (“as rude as sticking gum under the sofa”).   It’s okay though; he’s just really glad you finally made it and now all he wants is for you to “STAY.”  He even writes up a contract so he can “spend every second of the day with you” and “never have to wait for you again.”   Then, just when you are getting ready to agree, bunny gets two phone calls which cause him to forget all about you. He even stays on the phone as you turn the last page. But he still manages to get in the last word before the book is shut for good! This is an exceptionally fun read aloud. Kids will surely respond to the bunny’s gusto, and don’t be surprised if they copy him a little the next time they have to wait for your or another person’s attention.

Otto the Book Bear by Kate Cleminson
This charming book is interactive in a different way than the other books shared here.  Instead of an interaction between reader and character, it is about a bear named Otto who lives in a book and comes to life when no one is around to read it. One day when Otto is outside of his book exploring, his book disappears.  With his book gone, he must find a new home. After searching in many different real life scenarios, Otto finally finds a library where he meets other book characters like himself and finds his new home. This is a great book to read with children because you can have them find the bear within the illustrations or guess where the bear will end up. After a couple of readings, you may even find yourself watching your child’s bookshelves in hopes of spotting a come-to-life book character or two. The illustrations are big, full and very clear and the sweet expressions on the bear go right along with his emotions.

Open Very Carefully – A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley
I love this book. It is very interactive and clever, with elements of Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, as well as Herve Tullet’s award winning book Press Here. It begins as a bedtime telling of The Ugly Ducklingby a very cute little duck. Just as the story is getting started, a crocodile that is lost, hungry and very cranky marches into the storybook and starts wreaking havoc. First he eats all the O’s and S’s, then moves on to whole words and sentences. The little duck exclaims “We can’t have a book without words! What will we read…if there aren’t any sentences? We’ve got to make him stop…”

Open This Very Carefully

On the next pages, the duck suggests ways for the reader to do that including rocking the book so the crocodile will fall asleep, and shaking it so he will just fall out altogether. (Bonus tip: In addition to this physical interaction, you can also have your child try to guess what the missing text might have said for some cerebral interaction, as well). The duck also tries a few pretty creative things with a crayon on her own to make the croc stop! In the end, the crocodile escapes through the back of the book suggesting that there may be more crocodile-in-a-book adventures in the future. I for one look forward to them and think your kids will, too.

Open This Little Book By Jesse Klausmeir
This book is quite unique. Be forewarned that there is not a lot of plot or complex text here. But as a concept children’s picture book, it is amazing. The reader is integral to the story, as are the physical pages. When you open the book, you find a series of nesting books inside, each smaller and a different color than the one before. The stories in the books also play off one another. You open a little red book and read about Ladybug who opens a little green book and reads about Frog who opens another and another book about increasingly larger creatures, until Bear opens a little blue book about a Giant. Uh-oh! The Giant can’t open her book because her hands are too big! No worries, the other animals step in to help and one by one the books come to a close again. The illustrations in this book are done by Suzy Lee who is the author of one of my favorite wordless picture books, Wave. Her illustrations here are wonderful and offer new looks on every page. The final page is truly awesome, and the whole book is so much fun, you and your children will probably be inspired to make your own book within a book after reading it.