Your Friday Five

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Your Friday Five

Cumulative Tales for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Cumulative tales are stories in which the narrative builds through repetition, with each new event or element adding to all the previous ones. Lots of childhood songs use this format, including "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," "And the Green Grass Grows All Around," and "Juanito Cuando Baila." 

Not only are cumulative tales catchy and comforting, they are also an excellent tool for building early literacy skills with toddlers and preschoolers. The frequent repetition helps build and strengthen brain connections, including vocabulary knowledge. Because these stories lend themselves to prediction and memorization, they naturally allow little ones to practice their budding narrative and storytelling skills. And, as children hear the repeated phrases again and again, they'll begin to join in, making the reading experience exciting and interactive. 

Here are five fun cumulative tales I suggest for the 2- to 5-year-old set:

There Was a Tree by Rachel Isadora

With bold illustrations rendered in cut paper and oil paints, Isadora sets the classic song "The Green Grass Grew All Around" on the African plains, depicting people, wild animals, and plantlife. Read or sing the text -- sheet music is included in the back!

Move Over Rover by Karen Beaumont

On a rainy day, Rover's doghouse gets super crowded as all kinds of animals seek shelter one by one. Humor, rhyme, and rhythm make for a great read-aloud.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

Beautifully illustrated by Don Wood, this classic picture book tells the silly tale of a quiet house and the assortment of creatures within that pile up atop a slumbering granny.

This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer

Told with the same structure as "This is the House that Jack Built," this book is a great introduction to how plants grow, with bright, appealing pictures that clearly illustrate the text.

The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming

New, small gifts given one at a time over ten days add up to a very special winter creation. There is plenty to talk about with toddlers and preschoolers while sharing this book including numbers, colors, and animals. If you want to add a melody, the text can be sung to "The Twelve Days of Christmas."