Dear Zoo is a wonderfully interactive board book that allows children to lift the flaps, make the relevant animal noises and join in with the repetitive text. It is ingeniously simple, stylish, funny and has stood the test of time, not least because the story ends on a positive note. Focusing on animals means that children can identify with the subject matter, especially if they have visited a zoo or are familiar with the animals included. This children’s book is also a winner because it instigates chats between adults and children about zoos and animals. Taking the animals in the book as a starting point, as children get older they can discuss the other tall, naughty or scary animals in zoos and the wild. Parents can encourage children to connect and compare these different animals.
The author of Dear Zoo is Rod Campbell, a Scottish writer and illustrator who has been involved with children’s publishing since the early Eighties. He is most well-known for Dear Zoo, but has written more than 20 children’s books in total. The idea for Dear Zoo came to Rod when he saw a lift-the-flap book (not overly common 35 years ago) and realised the role these kinds of books can play to help children learning to read. Of course, in addition to that children will always enjoy lifting flaps irrespective of whether they know what lurks beneath or not.
Repetitive and interactive books, such as Dear Zoo, have great benefits for all small children and parents should never be afraid of telling their youngsters the same story over and over again. Listening to repetitive stories helps little ones understand and remember the words they hear. The rhythm of the language also helps children become more aware of the sounds they hear in words. Plus, the more they hear the story, the more they enjoy it.
However, while your child might be happy to hear a story 100+ times, as a parent you might be in need of some variety by the 101st reading. We have put together a list of some more children’s books that will keep pre-schoolers (and their parents) happy.
Continuing the winning animals and lift-the-flaps theme, children can peep under leaves and behind doors to discover the zoo’s residents in this gorgeous book. Beautifully illustrated, each page takes you around the zoo meeting all kinds of animals – from butterflies to parrots to gorillas.
“For little fingers, the Peep Inside series illustrated by Simona Dimitri is stunning.” – Rhino Reads
This is a classic picture book from the best-selling Ahlbergs. First published in 1978, the book encourages readers to spy a series of popular (and out of context) fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. Cinderella, Jack and Jill, and Robin Hood all make an appearance and each page is filled with plenty of detail and a touch of humour. This combination means children want to read it again and again.
“This familiar rhyme has been given the brilliant Ahlberg treatment to which no young child can fail to respond. It’s a book which will be read over and over again… just perfect!” – Child Education
Sophie la Girafe is a popular toy for teething babies and she is also the star of this book, playing a game of hide and seek with Lazare the Cat. This pop-up, lift-the-flap board book will have your toddlers giggling and gasping with delight as Sophie and her friends pop out from their hiding places. With its bright and beautiful images, this book is as playful as it is educational.
“Featuring simple text that encourages parent-child interaction, baby-appropriate touch-and-feel elements, and large appealing flaps for little hands to flip, this volume is a great opportunity to introduce babies to books, and to develop imagination, thinking, and memory skills.” – Goodreads
With this children’s book we head to the farm to play a spot of peekaboo. As well as the pop-ups, Pop-Up Peekaboo! Farm also features touch and feel elements for youngsters to explore. It is filled with big bold images and is built to withstand even the most enthusiastic of toddlers.
“Perfect for reading aloud and encouraging early word recognition, your baby will love the new pop-outs in this award-winning series.” – Bizzie Baby
This board book includes essential first words alongside pictures to look at and talk about. The bright colours and simple images make the book easy to understand for even the youngest of readers. It holds children’s attention for longer than you’d imagine and will help your child make their first step onto the language learning ladder.
“Beautiful colour photographs. Simple design in a sturdy format.” – Goodreads
The cover claims this is the best tractor book ever – and that claim might just be right! If your little one adores things that go, they will love following the tractor around the farm as it is put to work from dawn till dusk. Little fingers can lift the flaps to activate a range of farmyard sounds and join in as much as they please.
“With bright, clear pictures of your child’s favourite farm machine and strong educational content so pre-schoolers can play as they learn, Chug, Chug Tractor is a first of its kind – a preschool book like never seen before.” – Love Reading 4 Kids
What young child doesn’t love making animal sounds at any given opportunity? This book encourages youngsters to find the animal on each page and make the relevant noise as they do so. With its big flaps and simple story, this book is suitable for babies of nine months upwards.
“Light humour has a tangible presence in Braun’s digital images as cats, rabbits, sheep, and other animals stare expectantly at the flaps, as if anxiously waiting for readers to lift them.” – Publishers Weekly
Spot, the best-selling puppy, was created in 1980 and in this lift-the-flap book he is feeling as adventurous as ever. In this tale we find him visiting his dad at work on the farm, however it’s not long before Spot becomes distracted by the baby animals. Spot doesn’t appear to be having much luck to begin with, but he gets there in the end.
“Spot is one of the essential experiences of childhood.” – Parents Magazine
“Young readers will welcome this […] Spot book and hope his curiosity doesn’t wane.” – Publishers Weekly
Most parents with small children will be familiar with In the Night Garden. In this book version of the popular television series, Igglepiggle has fallen asleep in Upsy Daisy’s much-loved bed. The question is, can she wake him? As you would expect, there are a few familiar faces to help Upsy-Daisy reclaim her bed.
“The perfect bedtime treat for sharing with little Night Garden fans.” – BBC
This touchy-feely book allows little fingers to feel the luxuriously soft fabrics and textures on each page and helps children develop sensory awareness. The book starts with a cute fluffy duckling and ends with an equally cute furry kitten – who can resist?!
“There are a lot of board books for babies out there that aren’t much more than simple pictures of animals or objects along with very brief descriptions, often nothing more than the name of whatever is pictured. Quack! Quack! is my favourite out of the many books I’ve seen of this type.” – Batteries Not Required
In this touch and feel book, toddlers have the chance to meet eight wise owls as they search for ‘their’ owl. From tufty tummies to rough tails and fuzzy wings, there are owls of all shapes and sizes to discover, each with their own unique and distinctive characteristic.
“A valuable and enjoyable learning tool.” – Junior Parenting Magazine
“Touchy-feely books are a great way to encourage lots of interaction between parent and child, and this range from Usborne Publishing does it best.” – The Sun
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
This nursery rhyme board book includes a cow finger puppet that features throughout the story. The finger puppet is the perfect size for toddlers’ hands and the book as a whole encourages interactive play, hand-eye co-ordination and language skills.
“The Old MacDonald Had A Farm board book helps children use their imagination, use vocabulary to communicate animal sounds, and listen to rhymes.” – Right Start
This pop-up jungle book asks children to guess who the long neck, the green tail, and the small round eye belongs to. Readers can spot which animals are hiding in the jungle and look out for the rather fierce-looking surprise at the end.
“Fans of Campbell’s other books will find similar simple shapes and saucy colours, and his characteristic knack for building in child appeal.” – Publishers Weekly
With texture and lift-up flaps on every page, this book introduces young children to the characters and animals of the Apple Tree Farm series. As well as the two children Poppy and Sam, readers go in search of animals including Curly and Woolly too.
My First London Bus
This hard-wearing board book takes readers on a tour of London landmarks. The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Natural History Museum and St Paul’s Cathedral are all featured and it’s a great book to read before or after a trip to the capital. The wheels on the front cover spin round and there’s extra detail to spot on each page, too.
“Young children just love things that go, and here is a book they will spend hours pushing along the floor as well as reading!” – The Guardian
Colours ABC Numbers
This book introduces youngsters to first learning concepts such as familiar items, the alphabet, opposites, time and shapes. Parents can shift the focus depending on the age of the child. The book’s colourful photos of children, animals and objects help to make learning fun.
“First 100 Words is a great book to build your child’s vocabulary and a perfect addition to any first learning bookshelf!” – Toppsta
This book shows just how much the park has to offer – you can see the squirrels, play on the see-saw and see the fish. There’s a lot of ways for children to get involved with each page featuring things to push, pull, slide or turn. This book is great for busy toddlers who like to play (so pretty much all toddlers, then!)
“Perfect for toddlers who like to play with their books!” – The Guardian
For more children’s books for pre-schoolers, take a look at our website.
If you’ve found a picture book that is perfect for fans of Dear Zoo then please share your recommendations with us in the comments box below.