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Little Books for Big Hearts - Early Literacy Roundup

Drawing of a heart

I’ll be brutally honest from the get-go: Valentine’s Day is my least favorite holiday (next to International Dress Up In A Chicken Suit and sing like Frankie Valli Day of course). I know that’s a curmudgeonly way to begin a booklist all about love, but there it is for the world to see. I rag on Valentine’s Day for all the typical reasons: it’s too scripted; I’m not paying $6.99 for a card; I don’t need a holiday to be loving toward my family and fellow (wo)man; I don’t enjoy sitting awkwardly close to strangers at restaurants; I really do not need yet another holiday that seems to orbit around the consumption of sugary confections, etc.

While I don’t love the day, I do actually enjoy the fact that it is widely celebrated. Why? Because I’m forgetful. And busy. I need a reminder every once in awhile to do special things for those who are dearest to me lest I become even more curmudgeonly. Rest assured, dear reader, I will rail against norms and refuse to do such things on February 14th. Thankfully, all the other people being tenderhearted and sentimental helps me to make a mental note to be tenderhearted on some day other than February 14th.

Kidding aside, my incredible 7 year-old likes Valentine’s Day very much, thank you. And unbelievably he loves it even though he doesn’t get candy! He reminds me why the day is important each year by leaving me some sort of surprise note lying around the house inscribed with I♥U or some other nicety. The beautiful thing is that he means it! He’s not doing it because Hallmark told him he should. He’s doing it because he’s forgetful too and sometimes he needs a little reminder to do special things for those whom he cherishes. My little son is big on heart and he inspires me to be likewise.

I’ll bet you will find that the little ones in your life are big on heart too. If you’re like me and don’t care for the typical Valentine’s Day celebrations, take a minute to share one (or more!) of these books with the special little one in your life and see if you don’t enjoy Valentine’s Day just the teensiest bit more this year.

Until next time, keep reading together!

Books for grown-ups to read aloud to kiddos:


Love is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark

Love is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark is one of my favorite new books. I’m not a huge dog person outside of our amazing Children Reading to Dogs volunteers and their therapy pets, but I immediately fell in love with Plum, the hyper-happy (and more than slightly neurotic) protagonist. Plum causes great mischief in this book but in the end (spoiler alert) she is still loved by all.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

No one escapes The Hug Machine by Scott Campbell! The beautiful modern watercolors and lively text in this book make it an absolute winner. Hopefully by the end you’ll be inspired to start a hug checklist of your own.

Your Alien by Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer has written too many great picture books to count, but Your Alien (illustrated by Goro Fujita) has to rank among the tops. Its style is charmingly similar to Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the story is totally endearing. Throw in genuine characters and heartfelt emotion and you have the makings of a picture book classic. At the finish you too will be hoping for something wonderful to land right outside your bedroom window.

Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid

Poor Pearl. Every time she tries to give a hug she causes fright, fear, and/or injury. For a natural-born hugger, this makes life tough. Pearl will have to come up with some clever ways to deliver hugs to all those she loves the most. Find out what ingenious tricks Pearl comes up with in Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid.

I Love You Too by Ziggy Marley

It’s not often that I will suggest a picture book written by a “famous” non-children’s book author. Ziggy Marley’s books are an exception. The creator of the Arthur theme song brings you simple, easy-to-sing-along-with text paired with beautiful smudgy illustrations by Ag Jatkowska. An absolutely perfect read-together book.

Plant a Kiss by Amy Kraus Rosenthal

This book is beautiful in every way, including its fixation on kindness, sharing, as well as its many glittery pages. Follow whimsical Little Miss as she plants a kiss, waters, repeats, and waits. And waits. Will her kiss bloom? Find out in Plant a Kiss by Amy Kraus Rosenthal (illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds).

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

I hesitate to include such a well known title here, but I just can’t leave Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (illustrated by Anita Jeram) off this list. It’s too wonderful. It’s one of the sweetest, simplest love books I’ve ever encountered and it’s caused all of my family members to engage in countless bouts of tenderhearted one-upmanship. I hope you’ll love this one as much as I do if you’ve never had the joy of sharing it with a young reader.

Books for kiddos to read aloud to grown-ups or on their own:


A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Minarik

One of my all-time favorite books, A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Minarik (illustrated by Maurice Sendak) is one part Guess How Much I Love You and one part Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s a silly jaunt through the forest featuring many forgetful friends along the way. Readers who hang on to the end will definitely say, “Aww.” Level 3.

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Green by Keith Baker

Keith Baker’s Meet Mr. and Mrs. Green is a super-silly, super fun look into the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Green, two of the quirkiest gators in the bayou. Their love supersedes all of their eccentricities and their heartfelt kindness toward one another despite them will make readers of all ages smile. Level 2.

Love is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske

What do you get when you cross a lonely red balloon and a spry yellow kite? You get Love is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske! This endearing little love story is cram-packed with high-flying adventure and will leave readers young and old delighted. Level 2.



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