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Five of our favourite board books…

When it comes to reading, the younger you start the better. We’ve been reading to both children since they were babies and it’s paying off: our two little bookworms love nothing more than a story. Once you’re past the black and white fabric books, there’s plenty of choice. Here’s a rundown of our current favourites – see if you can spot the re-occurring theme throughout!


‘That’s not my…’ series from Usborne books.

panda update

Okay so I said top 5 and I guess it’s cheating to choose an entire series, but how could I possible single just one out?! They’re an obvious choice, but also a fail safe one, especially since over 20 million copies have been sold worldwide. ‘That’s not my puppy’ was published over twenty years ago and there’s a total of 51 different books in the series ranging from unicorns to planes! You could pick up any one of these books and your toddler will probably love it – Zoey’s personal favourite is ‘That’s not my baby’ because of the little mirror at the back! ‘

Why should you buy? 

thats not my puppy

This series is popular for a reason: these ‘touchy feely’ books are a great early introduction to sensory play and the vibrant colours really appeal to older babies and toddlers. Zoey started sustaining an interest in these books when she was 6 months old and they’d be suitable up to the age of 3. Whilst the repetition tends to drive parents mad, it’s actually really beneficial for babies and young toddlers. The familiarity is not only comforting but also helps young children to master new skills too.


‘Where’s Mr/Mrs…’ series from Nosy Crow

wheres mrs hen

Nosy Crow are fast becoming my favourite publishers of children’s books.  One of the main reasons is to do with design: I’m a big sucker for illustrations and to be honest, when it comes to children’s books, illustrations are kind of a big deal! We’re all in love with the cute animals on each page and the mirror at the end of each book is a nice touch. We have three of the ‘Where’s Mr/Mrs’ books by Ingela P Arrhenius because Zoey is pretty obsessed with the ‘lift the flap’ format. The flaps are made from vibrant pieces of felt which adds to the whole sensory experience.

Why should you buy?

wheres mrs deer

Whilst repetition is of course a good thing, variety is a necessity! Arrhenius still has the magic formula of repetition plus sensory element which as mentioned above, is so beneficial to toddlers. The colour palette is vibrant and the illustrations fun, which is bound to be a big hit with your little person!


Circle, Triangle, Elephant! by Kenji Oikawa & Mayuko Takeuchi


I am so in love with this book (and so is Zoey which I guess is what truly matters here!). Circle, Triangle, Elephant! is a fresh approach to the classic toddler shape book – I think Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuchi are total geniuses for coming up with a clever, funny and simple approach to learning shapes. The Phaidon publishing group are becoming my go-to for arty books that would also double as wonderful presents – I have my eye on several of their children’s books, so if anyone feels like gifting me a few, just comment below!  😉

Why should you buy?

Let’s be totally honest here, the usual toddler shape book is super dull. By mixing in total randomness like elephants, boats and hats, it becomes hilarious! Such a simple idea, but a brilliant one too. What I love the most about this book is that no words are needed, so Zoey drives the way we read the book: she points to the picture and I read. Of course, what makes it funny to young toddlers is the expression too, so prepare your best ‘straight out of drama school’ over exaggeration!


A B See by Elizabeth Doyle

ab see update

There’s no other way to describe this book other than to say its completely gorgeous! We have our fair share of A B C books and this is by far the best i’ve seen (please do comment below if you can top it!). Doyle moves away from the traditional ‘A is for alligator’ approach and has instead created a visual masterpiece. This book is part hide and seek, part sensory wonder.


Why should you buy? 

a b see inside

We’ve taken this book on holiday several times and it never gets old. In fact, it’s our number one choice when space is limited. There are so many ways in which you can use the book: from a literal ABC book to a spot and find adventure. We love the fact the pictures are raised, making for the perfect sensory experience for little hands. Even the big kid loves this book as some of the pictures are quite a challenge!


Listen to the Birds by Marion Billet

birds feature image

Another book out of the Nosy Crow publishing house (I told you they were fast becoming my favourite!) ‘Listen to the Birds’ is a sweet sound book that is just perfect for toddlers. Zoey absolutely loves interacting with this book – she can press the sound buttons easily and the birds actually sound like real birds too! As I’ve come to expect from Nosy Crow, the illustrations are beautiful in their simplicity and the colours get another big thumbs up from us!

Why should you buy? 


The common running thread among all the books I’ve mentioned is the interactivity. Again Zoey is able to take ownership of her reading experience by pressing the sound buttons herself. Engagement is so important from an early age and having a sensory element will always do the trick perfectly. When I shared this book over on Instagram, a follower mentioned that her older children now enjoy trying to identify birds by their calls, all because of this book. Don’t you just love it when you can extend the life of a board book?

Have you got any other recommendations for board books? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments section!



Want more? Try the following posts:

How we’re raising readers

Books About Babies


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How we’re raising readers

There have been a lot of articles recently on how to raise readers so I thought i’d add my two cents to the pile! Harrison loves reading right now, but it hasn’t been a straightforward journey. Reading is a subject that is close to my heart: I studied the subject of boys and reading engagement for my Masters assignment whilst training to become a teacher. Some of that insight helped me with Harrison’s own reading journey, but it’s also been trial and error both in the classroom and at home.

Start them young:


I bought Harrison his first book when he was just a few weeks old. The husband thought I was crazy: how is a baby who barely opens his eyes able to engage with a book? Anyway, I persevered and read the black and white ‘Animal Sounds’ book everyday. Eventually Harrison was able to take an active interest, helping me to turn the pages and even point to the animals. In time, he moved onto mimicking the animal sounds and naming the animals themselves. Books have a direct impact on language development. Perhaps more importantly, sharing a book is a really lovely way to spend time together.

Read daily:

dear zoo 2

This comes in many forms: read to your child, share read a book or  let them read to you. Also, show them good reading behaviours by engaging in a good book yourself. Children will quickly catch on if you don’t read, but are asking them to! Now you might simply read one book, one time through but if mine are anything to go by, you’ll find yourself repeating Dear Zoo or The Hungry Caterpillar several times over. Young children love the repetition and this also helps them to learn.

Read a bedtime story:

bedtime story


I guess this really links in with the above, but read your children a bedtime story until they no longer want one. Your kid will love this special time with you and it’s also a brilliant part of the bedtime routine. A comment from a 7 year old boy I interviewed for my MA will always stick with me:

‘My parents say i’m too old for a bedtime story. I miss that time.’ 

I honestly felt heartbroken. I found it pretty hard not to dissolve into tears right in front of him. Now i’m not actually judging his parents here: they must’ve genuinely thought he was too old – perhaps he was an excellent reader and deemed independent enough to read by himself? However, I resolved to always read a bedtime story to Harrison unless he told me not to.  Currently we are reading our way through the Michael Morpurgo back catalogue.

Share read:

captain underpants

When your kids are older, start to share books with them. By this I mean read a page / paragraph each or take on the roles of different characters. This can make reading, for emerging readers in particular, much more enjoyable. By becoming characters (through expression of voice), emphasising particular words and even stopping for punctuation, you are providing your children with the skills to read aloud. There may be days when the kids come home from school exhausted and reluctant to read so instead of pushing a reluctant reader, you can try the shared technique.

Forget about levels:


Seriously, it’s the best approach to surviving those early years. Admittedly I was a little preoccupied with Harrison’s levels when he first started school (as a year 6 teacher I was all about data for a while), but when we eventually abandoned home readers in favour of his own choice of books we all had a much more enjoyable time of it. Ironically, it was when Harrison started school that he got turned off reading. He didn’t get phonics (he still doesn’t use the strategies despite being a really fluent reader now) and absolutely HATED the levelled readers. Hardly surprising since most were published in the 1980s! That being said, please communicate any worries you have over reading with the class teacher.

Hand the power over:

book choice
In our favourite bookstore: Harry Hartogs

Let your child choose the book. Visit the library or go to the bookstore, but let them have the ultimate power. I once saw a man shout at his son and get completely furious all because he disapproved of the book choice. Now if that’s not a way to turn off a young reader, I don’t know what is! Now that’s not to say you can’t influence the choice at all. You could get them to choose between three or even check suitability by asking them to read a few lines first. If the book would currently be too mature or too difficult you could always try saying ‘That’s a good choice but lets leave it until you’re a little older’ or ‘That book looks wonderful, we’ll read it as our bedtime story.’

Join the local library:

neon leon
Neon Leon was BRAND NEW from the local library. It’s one of our favourite finds so far.

Once your kid gets the reading bug, they’ll get it full on! If you’re not careful you’ll be bankrupt within a few weeks, so sign them up to the local library. Most libraries are tragically underused, meaning you’ll also be doing your bit to save them! You will not believe the amount of brand new books we’ve picked up from the library recently. The pressure is off to a certain extent too because it doesn’t really matter if they don’t like the book either.

Make reading relevant:

Exploring Asia before a recent visit to Singapore.

Don’t ignore the  non-fiction. Going on holiday soon? Bring out the atlases and world maps. Just been on a visit to the zoo? Check out some books on mammals. Is you kid asking some random question about the weather? Try browsing through books rather than immediately reaching for google. You’ll also be teaching some great research skills! On a recent holiday to Britain, we got out all of the travel book we could get our hands on.

Find a series or genre and run with it!

bad guys
Harrison has read and re-read this series countless times.

The first book that Harrison read all by himself and LOVED? Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey. He quickly worked his way through the entire series, then the Weirdo novels by Anh Do followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Treehouse books. The common theme is that they’re all hilarious (to an 8 year old) and most importantly, still contain illustrations. Never underestimate the power of illustrations – it doesn’t mean the book is too easy but it does certainly help young readers to engage with the book.

Turn books into art projects:

This Mog mask provided hours of entertainment!

Engagement through art? Yes please! Sometimes you just need another avenue and themed weeks or projects are a great way to do this. When we focused on ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ one week, both kids (aged 18 months and 8 years) got so much out of it. Not feeling confident directing this kind of project? Try KidArtLit’s beautiful monthly boxes. or follow along on Instagram for beautiful ideas.

If all else fails, try another way:

e reader
Older readers can find e-readers more engaging

I fully believe that this should ONLY be used as a last resort, when you’ve tried all of the above and more, but if your kid is still hating on books, try an e-reader. I would only recommend this for older children because I think that ‘real’ books should be used in the early years (i’m also not a fan of reading apps on iPads).  However, full transparency here, I do have a Kobo and I absolutely love it!

Please remember that these views are entirely my own: the observations are from my own experiences as a parent and teacher and the studies I have done around boys and reading. A summary of that research will be available here soon. If you have any concerns around your child’s reading, please contact the class teacher first, especially if you suspect dyslexia might be the cause of your child’s reluctance. If you have any extra input on raising a reader, please comment below as i’d love to hear from you! 🙂