A Lifetime of Reading

Favorite Books Make Indelible Memories

There is no better habit you can instill in your kids and the kids in your life than reading. It's a source of information, entertainment, a window on new worlds, and most importantly, it helps develop critical thinking and imagination.

Yet reading isn't just a skill to be mastered for schoolwork. It's a pleasure that creates memories that will last a whole life long. What makes reading different from TV, movies, videos or video games is the imagination of the reader who has to "see" the story unfold in the mind's eye. The characters that come alive through stories and novels in this way become friends that can last a lifetime, partly due to the skill of the writer but also because of the imagination of the reader.

We hear all the time from parents and caregivers who ask us what they can do to get their children to read more. Well, certainly you can provide books, organize trips to the library and talk about books. But the best thing you can do - and we see this time and time again - is to model reading as a habit of your own.

You can also read as a family. Every year my family read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" aloud to one another. There were years when it was heavy sledding for the younger ones, and favorite parts of the story we fought over getting to read, but it became an treasured holiday tradition - one we still remember today. And not surprisingly one that we've passed on to the children in the next generation.

And I'm not alone. All of the editors at Time to Play love to read, and the books we read as children and young adults have stayed with us - and our kids for years. Here are our picks, all still in print today, and some of our comments about why we find these books so memorable:

  • iconGreen Eggs and Ham
    By: Dr. Seuss
    Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • iconThis is the favorite of editor Chris Adams and editor-in-chief Jim Silver. The story of Sam I Am on his journey to foist green eggs and ham on someone who doesn't like them tickles the funny bone and just gets sillier and sillier. In addition to the fun, the classic lesson is: don't reject something till you've tried it. You never know, you might like green eggs and ham!

    Adams says: "I can now look back and analyze why it could have been my favorite book as a kid, but back then there was just something about it that tickled my funny bone, while drawing me into the story. What a story...so simple, using only 50 different words, yet complex in the way that the story's plot builds upon itself. The book teaches stories can unfold slowly and build up like a snowball rolling down a hill. It also is a great example of meaning and enjoyment derived from how words sound when strung together in certain ways, much like the lyrics of a great songwriter. And, most of all, the book shows that you do not need to put joking aside to make a great point."


  • iconMr. Brown Can Moo
    By: Dr. Seuss
    Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • iconThis is a great early reader story that takes kids through a silly romp with Mr. Brown as he learns to make all kinds of sounds, like thunder going Boom-Boom-Boom a cork popping and much more.

    Elizabeth Werner picked this one. It was one she grew up with, and today, she shares it with her kids. "I love getting kids actively involved in reading. I love hearing them yell out the animal sounds. And my parents read me this book every time it stormed so I wouldn't be scared of the lightning." Werner says that the great memories the book created for her are important to share with her children as well.


  • iconiconBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
    By: Bill Martin, Jr., Illustrations by Eric Carle
    Publisher: Henry Holt and Companyicon
  • This picture book classic is more than 40 years old. It's great to read with kids as young as 14 months old and helps them develop powers of observation and understanding how visual cues and language work together - a fundamental building block of reading and communicating.

    Shannon Eis says, "It's the first book my daughter Rowe ever read to her brother, and now she reads it to him every night."


  • iconiconAngelina Ballerina
    By: Katherine Holabird, Illustrations by Helen Craig
    Publisher: Penguin Groupicon
  • For more than 20 years, the story of a mouse who wants to dance more than anything has delighted little girls who dream of dancing themselves. The story is all about having big dreams and making them come true, and the classic illustrations have delighted kids with their beauty and magic.

    Editor Laurie Hahn says, "I loved it because she was a dancer...just like me!"


  • Caps for Sale
    By: Esphyr Slobodinka (also illustrations)
  • This book has been in print for more than 50 years - a true classic. The story of a hat peddler and his adventures with some mischievous monkeys he constantly tries to outwit is hilarious and perfectly designed for young readers.

    Elizabeth Werner says, "It's such a fun story. My kids and I love how the man thinks the monkeys are mocking him when they are really just imitating him. We also all love the repetition!"


  • If I Were a Tree
    By: Dar Hosta
    Publisher: Brown Dog Books

    This gentle, beautifully illustrated book is a celebration of trees in various seasons. It's a great introduction to poetry for kids, and helps kids connect to the world around them.

    Shannon Eis says, "It's a great book that gets kids thinking about being a part of nature....and what type of tree they would want to be."


  • Cinderella - Many different versions of this classic story
    Among the best known is Walt Disney's Cinderella
    By: Jane Werner Watson, Illustrations by Retta Scott Worcester
    Publisher: Little Golden Books, Random House Children's Books

    This classic story has appeared in many different forms over the years. Kids love it because it really is about overcoming obstacles and there's lots of magic and dreams come true.

    Editorial director Nancy Lombardi says, "I got an over-sized storybook of Cinderella for my fourth birthday. I loved the story, and it had great illustrations inside the book too so I could 'read' it."


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    Amelia Bedelia Helps Out
    By: Peggy Parish, Illustrations by Lyn Sweat
    Publisher: HarperCollins Childrens Books

    Amelia Bedelia is very literal-minded, and when she brings her niece to work with her cleaning a house, her literal interpretations of directions can get her into trouble. Peggy Parish wrote more than three dozen books, and was passionate about getting children to read. Reading this, it's easy to see why so many loved this character so much.

    Editor Jeff McKinney says, "I've always loved slapstick comedy and Amelia Bedelia is like a children's book version of Lucy Ricardo. She's clueless and always getting into trouble but she means well and everything works out for her in the end."


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    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    By: Roald Dahl, Illustrations by Quentin Blake
    Publisher: Penguin Group

    The story has been made famous by two great movies, but this tale really comes alive when it's read - or read aloud. It's a cautionary tale about bad behavior, but it' also a magical romp through a crazy world and the interspersed poems by the Oompa Loompas are marvels of rhyme and wit.

    Chris Byrne says, "I read this book in an afternoon, and then made my brothers read it. We loved the dark humor of it, and the verses, which we can still repeat to each other to this day."


  • Oliver Twist
    By: Charles Dickens
    Publisher: Various editions in print

    First published in 1838, this was one of the first novels that had a child as the hero. It's a great story of rags to riches, of course, and most kids won't get the social commentary about the Victorian era, but the language is great, and Dickens' descriptions are so vivid, it's like watching a movie.

    Chris Byrne says, "This was one that my parents read to me as a bedtime story. I remember the action and adventure, and the real sense of tension that Dickens created. Some of the later scenes may be too violent for younger kids, but this is a novel that really helped shape my love of reading because the story and the characters came so alive in my imagination."


Of course, there are countless other books to choose from. Here are some other new and classic titles that you might want to expose your kids to:

  • icon


    By: Stephanie Meyer
    Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

    This super-popular series about vampires is now a major motion picture. Kids love the characters and the stories, and they virtually inhale these books.



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    Where the Wild Things Are
    By: Maurice Sendak  (also illustrations)
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

    One of the classic picture books of all time. It can be a little scary for the youngest ones, but older kids love mastering their fears as they go on this magical journey.



  • iconThe A to Z Mysteries
    By: Ron Roy, Illustrations by John Steven Gurney
    Publisher: Random House Childrens Books

    A great series of chapter books for young readers. There are 26 adventures in all, and kids will love getting to know the characters. Plus, the mysteries have just the right complexity so kids will enjoy trying to figure them out ahead of the three young sleuths.



  • iconHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    By: J.K. Rowling, Illustrations by Mary GrandPre
    Publisher: Scholastic

    The first of the series that launched millions of readers on an unforgettable journey with one of the new classic characters of children's literature.



  • iconThe Very Hungry Caterpillar
    By: Eric Carle (Illustrations also)
    Publisher: Penguin Young Readers

    A wonderful story about a caterpillar on its journey to becoming a butterfly. A wonderful and heartfelt tale about growing up.



  • iconFancy Nancy
    By: Jane O'Connor, Illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

    Too much is never quite enough for Nancy in this marvelous tale of an individual finding - and learning to express - herself. And being accepted and even celebrated for who she is.



  • iconGoodnight Moon
    By: Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrations by Clement Hurd
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

    Surrounded by familiar objects, this classic children's tale sends kids to sleep with a comforting message - and helps children as they discover an emerging sense of themselves in the world.



  • iconOne Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
    By: Dr. Seuss
    Publisher: Random House Children's Books

    It may be delightful nonsense, but it also helps children learn, remember and rhyme.  Our favorite was "This one has a little car." The image of a fish driving amuses children who begin to know reality from fantasy.



  • iconPat the Bunny
    By: Edith Kunhardt Davies
    Publisher: Random House Childrens Books

    This classic from 1940 has been a staple part of children's lives. Children, see, hear and do. It's not just engaging fun, it's early learning that's simple and effective.




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