I really struggled with this because my top 10 is really a top 20 (at least) but the 10 books below are always in my bag when I visit schools to teach in the EYFS.
When I travel around I try to carry books that the children may not have read, that’s the only reason why staples like Going on a Bear Hunt, Owl Babies, The Gruffalo, Oi Frog! and many more are not on here. They’re all my favorites too.
Monkey and Me, Emily Gravett
Monkey and Me is a very simple but effective text with beautiful illustrations. Nursery children are able to ‘read’ this story almost immediately thanks to its repeating refrain and clear picture cues. I often use this in Reception to promote writing as children can easily remember the words, changing the animals to write their own versions.
On Sudden Hill, Linda Sarah and Benji Davies
On Sudden Hill is a beautiful story about the trials and tribulations of friendship. Every EYFS class is blooming with growing friendships and sometimes these can be hard. On Sudden Hill is a thoughtful story that gives small people time to consider their feelings in regards to their own friendships. It can also be used to promote some wonderful junk modeling as the two and then three friends play and create with empty cardboard boxes. One of my all-time favourites and a joy to share.
Follow That String, Deborah Brown and Kathy Bacovitch
Follow That String is no longer in publication but you can still get hold of second-hand copies (of which I have three) and it’s well worth the purchase. This story is about a boy called Ning and a soft toy named Keppy who have an adventure when they follow some string. Follow That String provides endless opportunities, one of which is a great ‘hook’ – a piece of string in class, to follow, as far around the school as you are brave enough to facilitate and at the end of the string…read the book and you decide. There’s a mini book in a pocket; children love writing their own versions, labels and lengths, keys and locks and a ballon that goes pop! With its wonderful combination of collage and illustrations, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, Mem Fox and Julie Vivas
This book is perfect for any age, it’s in my bag for me as much as it is the class – a moving read that tells of how one little boy helps an old lady to find her memory. I have not read it yet without a lump appearing in my throat. The illustrations are drawn from the child’s perspective, as they look up at kind grown-ups with big round bellies. Best read towards the end of Reception and though children of this age won’t quite grasp its full depth, they certainly respond to the idea of memory, especially if you can share your own memory box with them.
Angry Cookie, Laura Dockrill and Maria Karipidou
Everyone has an off day and the probability of this increases when a little person is confronted with a new and unexpected face. Angry Cookie is a fun book that acknowledges the feeling of anger – it’s ok to be grumpy and helpful to work out how to deal with this emotion. I have read this story several times and witnessed its engaging effect on children who are having ‘one of those days.’ By turning the pages the reader sticks around for cookie and even though he is incredibly angry he realises the power of friendship. I explain to the children that I and their teachers will always be around to support them even when they’re feeling angry – a reminder of familiarity that is often welcome on a day that feels different. Add Michael Rosen’s poem I am angry to the mix and let it all out.
Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense, Michael Rosen and Clare Mackie
Because everyone likes a bit of nonsense! I am passionate about sharing poems with children in the EYFS and Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense engages children perfectly. I am lucky enough to have a signed copy and a picture of Michael himself signing it – who I explain is the author of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ and excited gasps follow. The bite-sized chunks of rhyming silliness are perfect for littering throughout the day and if you bring in a can of beans for the poem ‘Beans’ you have a continues provision activity too.
So Much!, Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury
So Much! is a story full of love and warmth and is written about a bustling and bubbling family celebration. There’s somehow a ‘low key’ element to the gathering that really focuses the reader’s attention on the importance of family togetherness. Each time a family member arrives the door chimes ‘ding-dong,’ which the children always enjoy and join in with – a small element of suspense as the party grows. Trish Cooke incorporates Dominican Patois into her writing diversifying the children’s exposure to language. A great read and a lovely excuse for a party or a gathering – perhaps invite the parents along?
Would You Rather, John Burningham
Would You Rather provides a great introductory activity to P4C (Philosophy for Children) a methodology that encourages children to think critically, question and come to their own conclusions. This book is a series of would you rather questions that get children gasping, squirming and eewing in disgust. After sharing the story (and explaining a few ground rules) I place a rope down the middle of the carpet and provide two ‘would you rather’ options from the story. I then ask the children to vote with their feet explaining why they made their selection. The best bit is when I ask ‘how would you feel if your Dad did a dance at school?’ and the answer is always happy – the wonderful EYFS.
How Many Legs?, Kes Gray and Jim Field
I am a fan of a cross-curricular link and have a bundle of books that help me with this. I like the simplicity of How Many Legs and the super challenge it provides at the end – to add up all the legs in the story. The illustrations are bright and fun and the rhythm catchy and quick. Every school has an animal box so in the life of supply it also makes for a simple learning through play activity too.
The Great Dog Bottom Swap, Peter Bently and Mei Matsuoka
If you dare. Great for those classes who you want to inspire to read with a bit (or a lot) of silliness. It’s great fun but worth weighing up your cohort and headteacher! A perfectly reasonable explanation as to why dogs sniff each other’s bottoms, which makes for a great (sometimes never-ending) belly laugh.
Once I have shared the books I leave them for the children to enjoy. A small book worm always travels with me and an Ikea Tolsby frame saying Miss Allen’s read of the day or week; depending on how long I’m staying. I place them in an accessible place with a cushion and invite the children to get comfy with a good read.