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Books to read to a (nearly) 4 yr old

(34 Posts)
Kmg Sun 29-Apr-01 13:03:04

We have just started reading 'real' books to our 4 year-old. i.e. longer books with text, no pictures, where he gets a chapter or two each evening, and has to wait for the next instalment to hear the conclusion.

We are really struggling to find appropriate material. Any suggestions?

We started with Roald Dahl: Fantastic Mr Fox, which was great (though caused a brief fixation with guns ..). But good length, good level of language, and not too scary. My son is quite sensitive, and is already rather worried at any mention of death. He finds Disney films terrifying, so many children's classics or fairytales, or the other Roald Dahl books are completely out. We have read him the Enid Blyton Faraway Tree stories, which were also excellent, though required a fair degree of parental editorial control to amend some of the sexist language/attitudes. I would prefer something more contemporary. Many books written for 7-9s to read to themselves are completely inappropriate for him at this stage.

I have ordered the Dick King-Smith 'Sophie' books from the library, on a recommendation from a friend. But many of the other King-Smith books are 'animal tales', which generally he doesn't get on with.

I would love to hear what has worked for you..?

Janh Sun 29-Apr-01 17:27:57

kmg, try "the hodgeheg" - i think that's what it's called - by dick king-smith. he gets a "head on the bang" crossing the road (i think his dad gets squashed first, you may have to edit that bit) and there is lots of lovely back-to-front talk which caused shrieks for us.
dick king-smith's animal stories have a lot of talk in - they're not proper animals really.
my naughty little sister stories are nice and have some boys in too!
i'll try to think of some more...

Cam Mon 30-Apr-01 11:08:13

Dear kmg
We have been doing the same thing with our 4 year old for some time now - the classics like Alice in Wonderland and the original Pooh books are perfect.

Rhiannon Mon 30-Apr-01 11:35:42

I'd recommend anything by Shirley Hughes, all the Alfie stories, Dogger, Wheels they're all wonderful.

Debsb Mon 30-Apr-01 15:20:17

Have just read 'I wish my brother was a dog' to my 2. It's hilarious, & altho I've got 2 girls, they could both empathise (esp since one is dog mad). Would be very useful for older child with baby in the family.

Mel Mon 30-Apr-01 17:48:00

Try books in the Red Fox and Corgi Pups ranges. Quite a wide choice of material. Also Banana books have a wide range of stories.

Rhiannon Mon 30-Apr-01 20:00:56

Oops, just read the bit about no pictures. Why no pictures? Illustrations are wonderful and no pictures come much later when they understand what more unusual words are.

What if a book mentions a word that your son doesn't know, he won't be able to visualise it if he can't see it for instance (hypothetically) what a toucan looks like for instance. Or a steam ship or anything we don't see everyday.

Don't make him grow up too soon, my 6 year old can read but still likes to have short stories read to him (with pictures) and can you believe finds Sooty hysterical! My Dad is reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to him too at the moment.

Kathmary Tue 01-May-01 11:03:27

I really like Barefoot books (, how about Mumsnet doing a discount deal with them? They are beautiful books, a pleasure to look at and read, and are - well, alright then, a bit right on - they feature many international stories about different cultures, they do lovely different themed collections as well as simpler but equally beautiful books for younger kids. There's a Pirate collection that your son might like - my kids love the stories. I'd really recommend looking at them. Because they are gorgeous to look at and hold, they reinforce the idea of the World of Wonder that books bring, not just as kids but sustaining us through life too.

Debsb Tue 01-May-01 12:32:09

you might like to check out They list the 'classic' books for children of different age ranges. Out of the ones listed that my children already have, they do rank among the favourite, so I am going to give some of the others a try.

Suew Tue 01-May-01 13:55:12

We read 'Spook' to our daughter this time last year when she was 3.4. It was about a witch that has a dog instead of a cat. She seemed to enjoy it at the time and the aim was to read one chapter per night although she would often fall asleep sooner.

I asked her today if she would prefer stories with or without pictures at bedtime and she said 'With' so we'll be sticking to the picture books for the moment. Oh well, I'm sure the time will come.

Kmg Tue 01-May-01 17:22:35

Thank you all for your suggestions. I will be following these up.

Debsb - who is the author of the book you recommend?

Rhiannon - we felt he was ready for books without illustrations - OK some have a few b/w illustrations - every fourth page or so. Generally picture books are very short, so you don't get the tension and excitement from thinking and discussing what happens next. He loves this aspect of bedtime story reading. Also, I think it is a good skill to develop to really listen to the story and the words, and visualise what is going on. He often will interrupt and ask questions if he doesn't understand, and always, even in conversation, will ask for a definition of an unfamiliar word. His concentration spans are very good. All in all he is quiet bright, and is obviously revelling from this new style of books. He dictates stories based on the plots and characters of books, and he plays make believe and role play about them. He will listen attentively for half and hour, and takes it all in, and remembers far more than I do!

He still has old favourite picture books, and we read these too during the day - often together with his younger brother. But he is definitely ready for something more.

Debsb Wed 02-May-01 15:17:55

Kmg - can't remember offhand but will check up and let you know. It may take a few days tho, as it is currently on loan & her kids don't want to give it back (I can see another purchase coming on). We only bought it at 1/2 term so it should be fairly easy to get hold of.
It is a picture book though, so may not be quite what you were looking for. I find I use a mixture of the 2 with mine.

Kate71 Wed 02-May-01 18:42:57

It has to be 'The Tiger that came to tea'. My poor Dad had to read it every night to my siser for ages. He's very glad it is now on tape and so won't have to read it to my daughter.

Rozzy Wed 02-May-01 19:17:55

Message withdrawn

Candy Wed 02-May-01 19:56:48

My 6 year old, who reads very well, still loves her four year old sister's picture books. She often discusses the pics with her sister and makes up whole new sections of narrative from them.
If he likes the Alfie books, try some of Shirley Hughes' longer ones, such as "Dogger" or "Moving Molly". Jaqueline Wilson does fun books for younger readers, eg: "Mark Spark In The Dark". We still love the Large family books (Jill Murphy) and she's now progressed onto her "Worst Witch" series. The Brambley Hedge books are nice and have a stubborn adventurous little mouse as their hero. And you can't beat Dr Seuss - I've used him with secondary school pupils!
Also, have you tried poetry - Colin McNoughton does silly verse, as does Michael rosen. Roger McGough and Brian Patten also have some poems suitable for younger children.

Star Sun 06-May-01 18:18:29

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Debsb Tue 08-May-01 11:06:20

KMG - 'I wish my brother was a dog' was writtenby Carol Diggory Shields, sorry it took so loong.

Janh Thu 10-May-01 20:49:33

kmg - candy mentuioned poetry books - there are loads of anthologies aimed at kids but have you looked at allan ahlberg? please mrs butler etc? they are BRILLIANT!
and the allan/janet ahlberg books about various families with various trades eg mrs jolly's joke shop? they are picture books but v entertaining.

and all the shirley hughes picture books already mentioned eg alfie, dogger, moving molly. she was on desert island discs the other week (shirley hughes, not molly) - what a nice woman she is!

Sylvev Sat 02-Jun-01 21:28:24

John Burningham i.e. 'Mr. Gumpys' outing' and other stories. Also Dr. Seuss books. My son loved the silly rhymes. Thomas the Tank engine stories were his favourites though. Happy reading!

helenmc Mon 31-Dec-01 12:54:51

I go down the local library and look in the younger readers/starters sectios to find the tattiest/scruffiest books - why because they have been taken out so many times I reckon they have kiddy appeal!

star Thu 18-Apr-02 16:35:30

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janh Thu 18-Apr-02 19:08:35

star, sorry but I'd say don't.
If the child wants to read then encouraging it is fine but if not, it isn't a problem and a non-reading child in some ways sees the world in a much richer way.
None of mine could read before starting school but all were reading well above their chronological ages by the end of the infants (eg 10.5 at 7.2).
Read TO her as much as she'll let you but if you try to push her she will probably resist.
Don't forget that in many European countries they don't even start school until they're 6...

star Thu 18-Apr-02 20:08:13

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Rhiannon Thu 18-Apr-02 20:10:15

Hi Star, my son reads well above his age but only started to read novels on his own just after Xmas (he was 7 in March). She'll know when she's ready, we've always loved anything by Shirley Hughes, Dogger, Angel Mae, Alfie Stories etc. R

IDismyname Thu 18-Apr-02 22:21:16

The one thing that got my son (nearly 4) interested in letters was the "Letterland" series of books. It seemed to spark off something in his imagination, and he can now recognise lots of letters.

He's a long way off reading per se, but the enthusiasm's there!

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