By Curran Mahowald, marketing & partner success manager
“A book lets you zoom from time or place. But don’t bother packing. You can stay in one place!”
These iconic words from Lavar Burton of Reading Rainbow have taken on new significance in a time of shelter in place and travel restrictions. But at Ready4K, we’re always challenging ourselves and others to turn whatever moments we do have into meaningful moments of learning and connection with the kids.
We asked the Ready4K team which children’s book they treasure most. The result is a list that will take you from England to the ocean to Central Park, with witches and badgers and ordinary kids to accompany you on your journey.
BONUS: We’ve also included some tips for parents straight from our curriculum. Reading these simple messages can empower parents to feel confident that they’re helping their children’s growth and development when they read together. Scroll to the bottom to download all these tips for your families.
Here are the books that captured our imaginations, then and now!
Bread and Jam for Frances
By Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
This delightful tale of a young badger learning to like more than one food group NEVER gets old. As a child it was my all-time favorite. Now, as a mother of three I still feel delight when one of my kids pulls it down from the shelf and requests a read aloud. Frances’ inner world is on full display and writer Russell Hoban so perfectly captures the voice of a young child navigating just how tricky it can be to try something new.
Frances sings about her feelings and always says what she’s thinking in her very own perfectly unique and very funny way. I love getting to be Frances when I read this book aloud to my kids and when I was a child, I spent hours pretending to be Frances long after the book was over.
Recommended by Rebecca Honig, director of content and curriculum
Rebecca has spent over a decade as a writer and curriculum developer at Sesame Street, Scholastic, Disney, PBS and many others. She has written over a dozen early readers, written and produced segments for the Emmy Award winning show The Electric Company and voiced characters on dozens of national cartoons. Over the years Rebecca has gotten the chance to work with MANY amazing children’s writers including the beloved children’s author Mo Willams (whose every book she recommends to children and grownups alike).
By Alethea Kondis, Illustrated by Bob Kolar
As a parent, I have enjoyed rediscovering all the books I loved as a child (Harold and the Purple Crayon, Bread and Jam for Frances, a million more!), but I have especially enjoyed reading new books that weren’t around when I was a kid. One such book is “Alpha Oops!” by Alethea Kondis, which reimagines the usual order of the alphabet to hilarious effect. Packed full of puns and other wordplay (also lifelong loves of mine), and with an underlying message of equity and appreciating everyone’s unique qualities, Alpha Oops! is an instant classic, from Z to A!
Recommended by Jon Witort, chief technology officer
Jon likes arranging letters into the code that runs Ready4K, which sends even better arranged letters (160 at a time) to parents all over the world.
Only a Witch Can Fly
By Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
I was skeptical when my kids received this book as a present, but quickly fell in love with this lyrical story of possibility. Written in the style of 12th-century troubadour poetry, it lulls reader and listener alike with its beautiful rise and fall (a perfect addition to the bedtime routine). The illustrations add another layer to the story, starting as a simple Halloween scene while teasing that maybe–just maybe–it is possible to soar on your broomstick. “Did you ever know you could fly so high?… Only a witch can fly.”
Recommended by Mary Westervelt, director of marketing & communications
As a mom of two elementary age kids, Mary’s favorite moments these days are family hikes, baking projects, and living room dance parties. When in the role of Serious Professional Adult, Mary loves supporting mission-driven businesses in connecting with communities of practice to achieve their impact goals. She’s been a proud member of the Ready4K team since September 2019.
Big Red Barn
By Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Felicia Bond
This book introduces one by one all of the animals on a fictional farm. It stands out to me because it was one of my younger daughter’s favorite books growing up. For a long time, whenever I asked what they wanted to read in their room full of books, this was the winner. Written from a young child’s perspective, this book gave us the opportunity to make silly animal noises together. Also, I think it helped them understand and appreciate a world of animals beyond our pet cat.
Recommended by Matthew Nelson, chief operating officer at ParentPowered
Matthew is the father of two college aged children. He and his wife live with their pet dog and cat and a brood of chickens in Stanfordville, NY. In addition to hosting their younger daughter and their pet cat, Shiitake, over winter break, Matthew is currently negotiating an apartment lease for his older daughter to adopt a cat. In guiding the operations of ParentPowered Ready4K, Matthew draws from decades of experience building and operating pioneering companies at the intersection of media, technology, education and parenting. Before ParentPowered, Matthew served as the president and COO of GreatSchools.
Mog the Forgetful Cat
By Judith Kerr
Asking an early childhood educator to pick a favorite children’s book is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child—impossible! A book that is near and dear to my heart is the first book I ever read as a child, Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr. It was one of the few books I owned as a child, a gift from my English aunt. I would ask my mother to read it to me daily and by 3 I could read the whole thing aloud to anyone who would listen. From memory of course, not because I could actually read yet!
The story is about a sweet but forgetful cat named Mog. Mog finds herself in trouble frequently for not remembering things like where her cat flap is or whether or not she has eaten dinner. Mog’s antics are hilarious and the illustrations capture her family’s irritation quite well. One day a robber comes but Mog foils the crime thanks to her forgetfulness.
My favorite part of the whole book is while the family is waiting for the police to come, they stand around drinking tea together. I love how it used to make my mother laugh almost every time we read it. “How British!” She would point out, “only the English would do that!” (she is English). In the end Mog is given an award for being a “watch-cat”. I read this book to my own children now. They find it just as funny as I did, and seem to connect to sweet Mog when they have their own forgetful moments or get sidetracked.
Recommended by Francoise Lartigue, content manager & content specialist
Francoise loves all things to do with early childhood education and literacy. Before she started developing curricula for Ready4K she worked for over a decade in the field of early childhood education. When Francoise is not writing content for Ready4K, she can usually be found outside hiking with her family. This holiday season she is looking forward to trying out some new hikes and reading lots of books with her 3 children.
And Tango Makes Three
By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
The book takes you through the true life story of Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo. Following their journey as they create a family together is very heartwarming. As a teacher, I first read this book to my class in 2008 and instantly fell in love with Roy and Silo’s determination to create their family. I quickly realized that this book helps even the youngest learners start to learn about acceptance.
Recommended by Megan Gallagher, director of partner success
Megan joined Ready4K in April 2019. She has been in the EdTech industry since leaving the classroom in 2013. Megan taught grades K-4 for 9 years in both Michigan and California. As a new resident of New York City, Megan looks forward to exploring the city this holiday season (as safely as possible) with her husband and two young children.
By Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
As a kid I read and re-read this story of a girl who is initially mocked for her nonconforming hairstyles, only to then have the entire school copy them. Aside from the colorful illustrations of one wacky hairstyle after another, I think I was drawn to this book because it encouraged me to be myself. It’s easy to go through life wishing you had someone else’s hair, clothes, grades, job…but Stephanie’s Ponytail is a great reminder (even for adults!) to embrace what makes us unique instead of trying to fit the mold of someone else’s hairstyle.
Recommended by Maya Sussman, director of product
When she’s not designing or building new Ready4K products, Maya spends her time biking around Northern California, printmaking in her living room, and experimenting with new hairstyles to postpone the need for a quarantine haircut.
The Rainbow Fish
By Marcus Pfister, Translated by J. Alison James
The first thing I noticed about this book as a kid were the illustrations, filled with rich colors and attractive glitter. As a kid, I remember loving to spot the glitter in more and more places on the page as the rainbow fish began to share his scales with others. But what really makes this book beautiful is its illustration of the joy, even the necessity, of sharing.
When the rainbow fish initially refuses to share, he realizes he has no community around him to admire the scales of which he’s so proud. And when he makes a small first step toward generosity, he feels happier than ever: “The more he gave away, the more delighted he became.” Shoutout to the little blue fish who persisted in his attempts to possess some of what makes the rainbow fish beautiful, resulting in a change of heart for our main character and a change of scenery for the community!
Recommended by Curran Mahowald, marketing & partner success manager
Curran joined ParentPowered in June and counts joining this team as one of the great silver linings of 2020. Before she was helping partners find out about and implement Ready4K, Curran has been a high school teacher in Indiana and done family engagement work at Oakland Unified School District in California. This holiday season, she is looking forward to finding new places to go on walks, finishing her first ever knitting project, and cramming to accomplish her goal of reading 12 books in 2020.
Whichever books you choose to read with your little ones or for your own nostalgia this season, we wish you many special moments of connection with your family. Happy reading!