Concept Books: Books That Teach (Without You Losing Your Mind)

My preschool age daughter loves to be read to. And she's old enough that she'll sit and listen for extended periods of time, really getting into the story, and following increasingly complex plots. The lastest reading development in our house is that we've transitioned from listening to chapter book audiobooks in the car, to reading those same chapter book series at bedtime. Right now,  her favorites are the Magic Tree House books ("Can we read more Jack and Annie?") and the Junie B. Jones books. And then there's my son, who will be two in December.  Reading with him looks more like him oh-so-gently dropping a book in my lap ("Book! BOOK!),  flipping to his favorite page, and delightedly squealing, "horsey!"  We might then move on to a couple of other pages ("Cow!  Chicken!"), but inevitably we come back to his favorite, the horse.

Don't get me wrong, these books have their place.  They have value.  He loves them.  But I'll admit, I get tired of these same old concept books.  Fortunately, the market for concept books (books that teach a particular skill) is broad.  So once you're ready to branch out (okay, maybe I should rephrase that to, "When your child allows you to branch out"), there are plenty of choices.

  Press Here by Hervé Tullet

This book is available in boardbook format (score!) and one of our absolute favorites.  The illustrations are super simple--colored dots.  But the book is interactive in a way that induces giggles and gasps of surprise.  And then pleas for more.



Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

If you have a child who is as much of a perfectionist as my oldest, mistakes are tough. In fact, small mistakes can be enough to bring on alot of tears.  Which is why I love this book, which shows children how the simplest mistake--a torn piece of paper, a stain, a spill--can become something new and beautiful.



Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff

This is a color concept book, with slightly longer text.  Maybe not the first color concept book you introduce, but the illustrations are so beautifully vibrant, I have to include it on the list.



Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

This is the story, told with very limited text,  of a chameleon who can turn into any shape or color.  But he still cannot find a friend.  Yes, the  ending is a little predictable, but the illustrations are such fun, and teach not only colors, but patterns as well.


Green Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a master of concept books.  Green was released in 2012, and was a Caldecott Honor recipient this year.  Yes, it's a book entirely about a single color.  But you'll be thinking about green in ways you never have before.



Full disclosure: We still read alot of the Horse Book.  And there's also his other favorite, The Truck Book.  But as he grows, and is willing to explore a little more with me, we'll be coming back to some of these favorites, too, probably with a little "change is good" nudging from me.

It is, after all, my sanity that depends on it.