PICTURE BOOKS THAT SING - Reading, Singing, Rhythm, and Rhyme!

Putting together these book lists has been quite a journey. I started off planning to only list books in print. But almost immediately I realized that would be impossible. The average book store shelf life of a book is six months! But with the Internet, and especially Amazon and Ebay it’s possible to locate so many of these wonderful out-of-print books that I didn’t want to leave them off the list. You can also find many of them at your local library. And publishers seem to be re-printing many old favorites, so the truth is - you never know! As you look through these lists, first see if they are available at your local library.

If you can't find it there (or you want to keep it or buy it as a gift) print out the list and take it to your local book store. They can tell you if a book is available through them. If not, do a search on Amazon.com. If you can’t find the book you are looking for there (or if it has a ridiculously high price), don’t give up! Inventory comes and goes, and by being persistent I have more than once found copies of books that for months had been unavailable- even at the original price!

In the end, I decided to let you, the reader, see what is or may be available, and give you the best tips on locating those titles. To help you concentrate on an area that attracts you. I've divided them into four groups. Click on any button below to see the books in that category

Trying to locate a particular book?

WorldCat.com is a great website that let's you find books in libraries that are near to where you live.

If you want to purchase an out-of-print book, try one of these websites:
     AmazonAbeBooksPowels Used Books, or Bookfinder .

Books based on songs or using repeating rhythmic phrases can work magic on a restless group of children, and they are especially good for building language and early literacy skills. There are many advantages to reading these types of books to your child:

  1. When books are based on songs children already know, like The Wheels on the Bus, or The Itsy Bitsy Spider, they are immediately interactive as children will naturally sing along. These books offer the youngest children a way to participate in language.

  2. Illustrations vary widely and often taking the song in a whole new direction. Example: In The Bear Went Over the Mountain, by Iza Trapani, there are new verses for each of the five senses. So this traditional song becomes a wonderful exploration of what the bear could not only see, but hear, smell, taste, and touch!

  3. Songs have words we don’t use every day, and so are a great way to expand vocabulary. Even books that stick to the traditional lyrics are packed with “rare” words (like water spout, curds and whey).

  4. Melodies break words into syllables, helping children build phonemic awareness.

  5. Songs tend to have rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, keys to building memory, and making language “stick” in the brain.

  6. If you don’t remember the melodies to these traditional songs, don’t worry! I have added or will be adding traditional versions in the songs library, so you can listen to and download the song. Adding it to your music device and playing it in the car or house reinforces the book. It’s a great way to make this literacy portable!

  7. These books often have the melody and additional activities in the back of the book, so be sure to look and point out the printed music to your children.

What You Should Know About “Books That Sing”

  • The public library is your best resource! Many wonderful books are out of print, and the library is your access to those. If you find a book you really love that’s out of print, you can often find it on Amazon.com and Powell.com (a favorite and well-known independent bookseller in Portland, Oregon.).

  • If your library is part of a system, don’t be discouraged if you can’t find what you want at your branch. In fact I like to order books online and have them sent to my branch. Most if not all pubic libraries offer this service and it’s a great way to go “shopping.” You can also read descriptions, reviews, and age recommendations all of which it very helpful You can do this from home in your pajamas after the kids have gone to bed! Use the list provided on this website as a guide.

  • These books are not located in one place! This is true whether it’s a book store or a library. Individual libraries, even in the same library system, often shelve them differently. Sometimes they are found in the E782 section, but more often in the picture book section under the author’s last name. And that is of little help if you’re just trying to browse the collection and especially if you have small children in tow! I suggest you ask a children’s librarian or bookseller to recommend some of his or her favorites. There are several illustrators or musicians who have published numerous books, and that’s a great place to start since they will be shelved together.

    Here are some well-known authors/illustrators of “books that sing.” They are a great place to begin!

    Iza Trapini
    John M. Langsdaff
    Nadine Westcott
    Mary Ann Hoberman

    These books vary widely in their appeal, both artistically and with different ages. So check out as many as you can find and see what you and your child like. They are not all created equal! See tips to the right.


TIPS for Choosing and Using Picture “Books That Sing”

  • Large clear text,
    so children will see how the words are connected to the illustrations. Sometimes the text is so small it’s hard to read, or it’s black and placed on a dark background, also making it hard to read.

  • Page breaks
     that allow you to sing the song without unnatural interruptions in the melody. For instance, you wouldn't’ want a book that had the words “Old MacDonald had a…….(page turn)……..farm.” The whole point is to have the book, its illustrations, and the song flow together.

  • Consider your listener!
     If reading to a single child on your lap, detailed illustrations can be a wonderful way to develop narrative skills, but be prepared to stop the singing at any time! If you are sharing the book with a group of children, you will want clear simple illustrations that can be seen from a distance, and without too many distractions.
    Practice reading and singing the book first and have fun with your voice! For example, Over in the Meadow has different animals. Singing each verse with a different voice makes it more fun and entertaining.

  • Don’t forget to show the children the sheet music
    which is often in the front or back of the book. They love seeing what the song “looks” like. There are often additional activities and information for you at the end of the book, so take the time to look for that as well.

  • If you find a book your child LOVES, I urge you to buy it.
    If it’s a recent publication you may be able to buy it new. But books have limited lives, so don’t wait! If it’s out of print you can often find it on Amazon. Keeping a collection of your child’s favorite childhood books is a wonderful gift to be able to give them later in life.

  • If you are a grandparent
     and your grandchildren live far away, it’s fun to record you reading and singing the book, putting it on a CD, and sending it along with the book. A great way to stay connected!