Yukon Jack’s 12 Timeless Kids’ Books to Read Together

This post was originally published on Sept. 5, 2017 and updated for 2019.

Yukon Jack is a radio host on 100.3 FM The Bear. He’s also the father of two boys and host of Daddy Boot Camp at the Edmonton Public Library.

It's never too early to start reading to your kids. A book called Bear Snores Onopens a new window first clued me into that. Long before my son Mac knew what the book was about, he was enjoying it. That’s why I’ve made a habit of reading to, and with, my sons Mac and Jones since they were babies.

They’re now six and a half and four and a half years old and of all the books we’ve read, the 12 on this list really stand the test of time. Some are great for learning and others are just silly fun. Some we read for the story and others we just look at the pictures. The one thing they all have in common? They're all best enjoyed together.

1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dayopens a new window by Judith Viorst

Hands-down, without a doubt my favourite book—not just children's book—of all time.

My grade two librarian, Mr. McGregor, first read this to me and it's been my staple to read to kids at READ IN Weekopens a new window for the past 20 years.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD and downloadable audiobook.

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillaropens a new window by Eric Carle

My friend, Sandra Woitas, put me on to the works of Eric Carle.

Sometimes it's the artwork in children's lit that makes the difference. Carle's books could hang in a museum.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is available as a book, eBook and downloadable audiobook.

3. A Promise is a Promiseopens a new window by Robert Munsch

We’ve been big fans of Robert Munsch since pretty much day one. When the boys were younger, we even listened to his books on CD (“car stories” according to my son Mac) when driving.

Top picks include Boo, A Promise is a Promise and More Pies.

A Promise is a Promise is available as a book and eBook.

4. The Story of Ferdinandopens a new window by Munro Leaf

This one is about a bull that would rather smell flowers than fight. It's another one that resonated with me as a child.

"I'm free to make my own decisions and always stop and smell the flowers." Sound life advice if I ever heard any.

The Story of Ferdinand is available as a book, eBook, audiobook CD and downloadable audiobook.

5. I Love You, Stinky Faceopens a new window by Lisa McCourt

This is one of the first books I read to my son, Mac.

It’s a beautiful, reassuring book about a mother's unwavering love for her son, no matter what...even if he were a one-eyed monster or a great big skunk.

I Love You, Stinky Face is available as a book.

6. Where's Waldo? by Martin Handford

Search books are also a fun alternative to classic stories. While you may think they have a pretty short shelf life at first, search books can be easily reinvented with a game of "I spy...".

There's more than just Waldo to look for.

Where's Waldo is available as a series of books.

7. Guess How Much I Love Youopens a new window by Sam McBratney

This is another one of the first books I read to my son. In it, Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare try to one up each other about who loves the other more.

As parents, we know there's no love greater than that of a parent to a child. Big Nutbrown Hare gets his point across in the end.

Guess How Much I Love You is available as a book and as a series of books, DVDs and streaming videos.

8. Darth Vader and Sonopens a new window by Jeffrey Brown

This one sticks out because it was given as a gift from a friend with a note written inside. I think all books given as a gift should have a note from the giver.

It's a simple, comic-per-page book about Darth Vader and a young Luke Skywalker. It's wonderfully awkward and a must-read for any Star Wars nerd trying to educate their young Jedi on the classics.

Darth Vader and Son is available as a book and eBook.

9. The Gruffaloopens a new window by Julia Donaldson

When it comes to narrative stories, any books written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler are a keeper. We started with The Gruffalo and moved onto the rest.

The Gruffalo is available as a book and audiobook CD.

10. Moo, Baa, La La La!opens a new window by Sandra Boynton

Moo, Baa, La La La! is a great poem that is lots of fun to follow along and sing along to. It's a great book that your little one can get involved with.

We're big fans of Sandra Boynton in my house.

Moo, Baa, La La La! is available as a book.

11. Llama, Llama, Red Pajamaopens a new window by Anna Dewdney

This is a fun one for dad to show off his reading-out-loud skills. It’s a tongue twisting challenge about a young, lonely llama who misses his mamma. You can see where it goes from there.

It always gets a laugh.

Llama, Llama, Red Pajama is available as a book and eBook.

12. To Market, To Marketopens a new window by Anne Miranda

This book is another special one that was given as a gift and, because the gift-giver looks like the main character in the book, I will never forget where it came from.

It’s a clever poem about a woman's kitchen and her creative solutions. Kids like it because the lady has a duck on her head. Sometimes it's the little things.

To Market, To Market is available as a book and eBook.

Daddy Boot Camp combines fun and learning

Research shows that it’s important for dads to engage with their kids, particularly as it relates to literacy activities. The potential benefits are huge: increased ability and interest in reading amongst children, increased attentiveness in the classroom, better developed problem-solving skills and greater resilience to stressful situations.

That’s why Yukon Jack and library staff host Daddy Boot Camp, an Edmonton Public Library class that gives dads and male caregivers a chance to bond and get seriously silly with their kids, all while supporting literacy development. It’s a win-win for everyone!

“Daddy Boot Camp has shown me what an incredible place the Edmonton Public Library is for dads and their kids to spend time together,” Yukon Jack explains. “The wealth of resources makes it impossible not to find something they’re both interested in, can learn about together and connect over.”

Every Saturday this November, visit EPL to hear stories, play games, learn music and have a blast with your children. There’s a fun theme every week!

Daddy Boot Camp Details:

Saturdays at 11 a.m. in November at Whitemud Crossing Branch, check out the various topics Yukon Jack and staff will cover:

  • November 9: Music
  • November 16: Technology
  • November 23: Superheroes
  • November 30: Puppetry

While Daddy Boot Camp is targeted to kids six to 12 and their male caregivers, everyone is welcome to attend.

For younger kids, check out our classes for preschoolers, as well as Sing, Sign, Laugh and Learn for children three years old and younger.

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