*Updated January 26, 2019
I wanted to give a run down of how I go about selecting books for each of our Letter Units and provide all the book lists I regularly reference.
We are following The Peaceful Preschool, so of course I always use their book list to start with. They usually have 2-3 books for each Letter Unit.
Typically, two weeks before we start a new Letter Unit I begin reserving a number of additional books from the library that go beyond The Peaceful Preschool. These books are themed around a Letter of the Week. It may be just that the book I reserve is appropriate for that corresponding letter of the alphabet and I want a new fun book for us to read, or that I have a specific themed topic in mind that my kids might be interested in (e.g. C is for Camping).
I do not always directly connect letter unit books to activities: most are just for reading.
I initially reserve a LOT of books from the library but also immediately return a LOT!! It’s hard to really know if a book someone else recommends will be one I like or that I think will be age-appropriate for my kids until I actually have it in my hands. It’s also very rare that I will purchase a book without having seen it first from the library and read it with my kids to be sure they enjoy it.
Generally speaking, I tend to gravitate towards nature-inspired stories as well as living books. BUT, of course we do also go for a few look-and-find type books and other simple tv-character stories that might not be on anyone’s award-winning list. I have no problem with these books, but I do limit the amount of these types of books we have in the house to maybe 2-3 at a time.
So, with that in mind, here’s my list of go-to resources when I look for books.
The Peaceful Preschool
The Peaceful Preschool Book List (free download on their website)
The books from this curriculum are almost all books that have stood the test of time. They’re classics for a reason. We just finished Letter R right now and there have only been one or two books from this curriculum so far that my kids did not really enjoy.
Honey For A Child’s Heart
Honey For A Child’s Heart is a book about books! It has an annotated list of books by age and topic that is absolutely incredible. I cannot say enough about how great this book is. I went through this once and pulled out book titles that might fit in with a specific letter-of-the-week theme, but also revisit it often to look for seasonal-related books.
Simply Charlotte Mason has an awesome list of Favorite Read Alouds for Ages 3-5 — many of these books crossover with The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, which is part of why I adore that curriculum so much.
What is a “living book”? — This idea was originated by Charlotte Mason. It basically means the story has a true narrative that is engaging and alive. There’s nothing “dry” about it. And it’s not dumbed-down or gimmicky. The best way for me to tell if a picture book is a living book is whether or not we can find a way to retell the story in a fun and engaging way, either through pretending to be the characters ourselves or building small worlds with toys or figurines. The story opens up imaginative possibilities rather than limits us.
A-Z Unit Book Lists
I often reference the following lists to find books based on Letter Unit themes. For example, we took the “Make Way for Ducklings” unit from The Peaceful Preschool further by having an entire week of D is for Duck, so I found some other books to read on this topic by reviewing the following lists:
Reviewing these book lists in advance of a Letter Unit also helps me get an idea of what themes I might explore with my kids in upcoming weeks.
You can see all the books I use by Letter Unit by viewing each Letter Unit page individually.
Note that sometimes I get nature books that are *older* that where my kids are at but keep them for the pictures & general learning (these tend to be more science-driven than story-driven), and I also keep some that may skew *younger* than preschool because I have a 2 year old who still enjoys some board books.
These are a few of my personal favorite whole-alphabet books:
Read Aloud Revival
Most of you are probably aware of these amazing book lists, but if not, here’s Read Aloud Revival‘s free book lists month-by-month. Sometimes I reference this to find books that might fit within our Letter-a-Week theme (and not just stick to whatever Month the book is in).
Sarah Mackenzie also recently published The Read Aloud Family, which is a wonderful read (even if you already consider yourself a read-aloud family), and includes a thoughtfully curated book list for different age groups at the end. This is worth owning!
50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers — this is a great list for those of you delving in to chapter book territory for the first time.
The Read Aloud Family also has a great selection of chapter books for littles.
Our favorite chapter books right now are Winnie the Pooh, The Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, and Beatrix Potter.
Fairytales By Age (this list comes from Beyond the Rainbow Bridge — an excellent and inspiring Waldorf education read!)
We absolutely love classic tales. Most of our favorites are the Paul Galdone versions.
Cynthia Rylant also has some great retellings of some classic Disney fairytales.
Another great option: Heather Forest Sing Me A Story
Eventually I would like to have a treasury of Grimm’s fairytales when my children are older, but not enough of those are age-appropriate at this point.
Nature Inspired Stories
This page has my LONG list of favorite nature-inspired books for children.
I’ve put together book lists for each of the following themes:
- Nature Anatomy
- Insects, Spiders, Worms
- Pond Life
- Food From the Wild
- Woodland Fantasy
- The Spirit of Adventuring
- Celebrating the Four Seasons
- Animals in Winter
I incorporated a poetry tea time in to our days awhile ago, and while we have rotated a few poetry books on and off from the library, the following are the ones that we own and regularly turn to:
Reference Style Books
I generally don’t like have too many reference-style books around because I prefer to just read stories. That said, there’s just a few books that I have really enjoyed owning to regularly explore together as we encounter a variety of topics. Occasionally my son will explore these on his own, but mostly it comes by way of my initiation.
The Latest Greatest Picture Books EVER
Like many of you, I do enjoy the newest publications out there, mainly because there are so many great books today that feature stories that broaden cultural horizons, help recognize privilege & grow empathy towards marginalized communities. Books like the following are ones that immediately come to mind:
To find recent publications I usually just pay attention on Instagram or literally Google “Best Picture Books of 2018” or something equivalent.
That’s Not Too Many Books, Right?!
I will say that my 4 year old LOVES books. He will get excited about any book I bring home. Every book we’ve read from The Peaceful Preschool he wants to re-read 3 times before doing any activities. And then he’ll want to read 3 more books when we’re done. My 2 year old is not the same. She may change her tune, but I suspect when I do The Peaceful Preschool with her, I will probably not get so many books at a time and rather focus on getting her to read enjoy the main 2-3 books from the curriculum.
My hope is that this blog post is a helpful resource to you, and know that I do not intend to overwhelm you or make you feel that you HAVE to get a ton of books at a time! Go with what works for you.