The best books to have great conversations with kids

Rebecca Rolland Author Of The Art of Talking with Children: The Simple Keys to Nurturing Kindness, Creativity, and Confidence in Kids
By Rebecca Rolland

Who am I?

As a speech pathologist, as well as a fiction writer and poet, I’ve been fascinated by language ever since I learned how to speak. Once I had kids, I was amazed to listen in on their conversations, which often surprised me in all the ways they were discovering and thinking about the world. I began researching how the adults in their lives could best help them express themselves—and how we can best understand them. Along the way, I realized that having these sorts of conversations can enhance our family lives and let us have more fun. I hope this list starts up some great conversations for you!


I wrote...

The Art of Talking with Children: The Simple Keys to Nurturing Kindness, Creativity, and Confidence in Kids

By Rebecca Rolland,

Book cover of The Art of Talking with Children: The Simple Keys to Nurturing Kindness, Creativity, and Confidence in Kids

What is my book about?

So many of us get so busy taking care of or teaching kids that we forget to focus on one of the most important aspects: how we’re talking with them. Especially if we're harried or stressed, it can feel hard to make room for the conversations that bring us closer or inspire us. We tend to focus on getting from point A to point B. But with a few small shifts, we could do more.

My book brings together stories of my life as a mom and speech pathologist with a review of the latest research to show why having meaningful conversations with kids matters—and how we can do so in ways that are fun for us all.

The books I picked & why

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The Book with No Pictures

By B.J. Novak,

Book cover of The Book with No Pictures

Why this book?

This book hilariously shows us—and our kids—how a book with no pictures can be far more fun than a picture book. Both my kids loved it, for different reasons—my son for how ridiculous it was to “make” adults read it, my daughter because she used it as a jumpstart for her own “no-picture” book. The result of reading it is that you will have a conversation with your kids, and likely a funny one. You may even talk about what makes a good book, or why books exist. No matter how old your kids are, try to leave this one on the coffee table and see what comes of it. 


Smile: A Graphic Novel

By Raina Telgemeier,

Book cover of Smile: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

This book, a graphic-novel middle-grade memoir based on Telgemeier’s life, is hilarious and awkward and sad, just like much of middle-school life. In the book, Raina has a terrible accident, needs braces and headgear, and has all the typical sibling arguments. What’s great about it is that it lets you tackle all these awkward feelings with your child by reading together…in a way that’s more comfortable than it otherwise might be if your child had to start with their feelings. Even if your child is younger, you can do this as a read-aloud…or get two copies and read together.


The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction

By Meghan Cox Gurdon,

Book cover of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction

Why this book?

This book, a nonfiction book for adults, is a kind of ode to the read-aloud. But it’s not the typical parenting book. Filled with case studies, book recommendations, and poetic language, Gurdon shows how those read-alouds are far more impactful than you might think, in bringing you closer as a family. It’s so easy to think “reading time” for school-aged kids needs to mean them reading alone or to you, but in fact, kids of all ages, and even adults, benefit from being read aloud to. With my ten-year-old daughter, we’ve had fun taking turns reading to each other or to her brother. She’s often proud of how her reading skills help put him to sleep!


The Way Things Work Now

By David Macaulay,

Book cover of The Way Things Work Now

Why this book?

If you have a child who’s interested in the inner workings of things, or who has lots of “why” questions, you need this book. It’s been updated since its prior version and now covers stuff like digital cameras, e-paper displays, and lots of other classics like robots and gears. The great part is it starts with the basics and goes up in complexity—I’ve used the simple stories with young kids and the complex diagrams to teach science topics to middle schoolers. And the visual nature of the book lends itself to kids flipping through and seizing on what catches their interest.


365 Days of Drawing: Sketch and Paint Your Way Through the Creative Year

By Lorna Scobie,

Book cover of 365 Days of Drawing: Sketch and Paint Your Way Through the Creative Year

Why this book?

Do you have a child who says, “I don’t know what to draw” or “I’m not creative?” This book is an especially helpful way to get the creative conversation started. By giving simple prompts and helping kids develop specific artistic skills like tone, pattern, and shape, this book lets you and your kids flex your creative muscles in a low-stakes way. I’ve found it helpful as a jumpstart to more open-ended drawing activities, and an easy way to get into a routine of creating, even in 5- or 10-minute chunks. Try using it for conversations about what kind of drawing you each like, or what kind of creative goals you want to set. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids, Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting PDEP, and Ish if you like this list.