16 Kids’ Books That Taught Us to Be Better Parents
Sitting down and reading to our kids has saved us in so many situations: They can’t sleep? Read them a book. Their energy level is bonkers x bananas? Read them a book. They’re antsy in a restaurant? Ok, you see our parenting pattern. But while we were busy making goat noises and imagining what Amelia Bedelia sounds like, some life lessons—profound ones about what it means to be a mother—started sneaking out between the lines. Here, a roundup of books that may not tell us what to expect but raise our expectations of ourselves.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
A tale of sibling rivalry told from the perspective of an ambitious koala, it drives home the longing of every firstborn baby.
Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox
For every mom who has ever lost it at the end of a long day, let this be a reminder of how universal that moment is—and a lesson in forgiving yourself.
Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli
Total eye candy (author-illustrator Rolli is also a fine artist), this book celebrates relentless toddler negotiator Ruby without any hint of exasperation.
Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
Gregory the goat has his parents worried sick when all he wants to eat is “disgusting” food like eggs, vegetables and orange juice instead of a “normal” diet of car parts and leather boots. A welcome dash of humor for anyone parenting a picky eater.
Pouch by David Ezra Stein
This is the story of Joey, a baby kangaroo who tentatively leaves, and frequently returns to, the comfort of his marsupial mama. It’s a hopeful salve for anyone struggling with separation.
The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak
An instant antidote to any bad mood (yours or theirs), the Office writer delivers a direct hit to every child’s funny bone. But parent-readers also get served a subtle reminder about how smart and special our audience truly is.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
Full of colorful metaphors about life’s inevitable ups and downs, there’s a reason this Seussian masterpiece has become an evergreen graduation gift.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
No matter how frantic your day or how rushed your bedtime routine, this 70-year-old classic infuses every parent’s voice with just the right dose of mellow, meditative magic.
Olivia by Ian Falconer
This subtly sophisticated book stars a precocious, limit-pushing pig. We identify with her just-patient-enough pig mother—yet we root for the artsy Olivia and love her anyway, too.
Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt
A recipe for how to soothe any school-age kid returning home after a rough day in the trenches.
The Chocolate-Covered Cookie Tantrum by Deborah Blumenthal
Blumenthal nails the nuanced details about what it feels like to experience an epic tantrum, from the perspective of both the child and the parent. It’s as reassuring (the storm passes) as it is relatable (my kid's not the only one who lies down on the sidewalk!).
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
What does this cool kitty do when his brand-new white kicks get covered in everything from blueberries to mud? He takes it in stride, of course. Meet your new role model for keeping calm when life gets crazy.
When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang
Little Sophie gets ridiculed by classmates for her take on an art assignment, and you get a conversation starter about bullying and being strong enough to be yourself.
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Soothing visuals, lulling word patterns—reading this is the perfect way to reset when a nap gets interrupted…or doesn’t happen at all.
The Bearenstain Bears Get the Gimmies by Stan and Jan Bearenstain
Struggles with self-regulation, a fixation on getting new stuff NOW, freaking out upon hearing the word “no”—if you’re working on any of these issues at home, this is a must-read.