By Renee Runge
There are a lot of ways that one can define a “good” children’s series. For scholars of children’s literature, a generally solid metric of judgement is the pervasiveness of the series in children’s culture as time moves forward.
Many of the books that you yourself may have read and enjoyed when you were young are still prevalent in the minds and bookshelves of child readers today. If you ever needed a reason to save your childhood books, preserving them for your own children is a good one.
Read on to rediscover some classic and nostalgic short story collections that never go out of style with young readers.
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Little Golden Books
As Diane Muldrow, longtime editor of the Little Golden Books, put it in her memoir, “everything I need to know, I learned from a Little Golden Book”. This series is instantly recognizable by the gold foil that wraps the spine of these cardboard-backed books that fit perfectly in the hands of a child.
Little Golden Books celebrated their 75th anniversary a few years ago, and it’s not hard to see why these books remain in circulation today. They’re cute, short, and feature the work of a wide array of authors and illustrators.
The books in the Little Golden Books collection are typically standalone, so it’s easy to find at least one that will become your child’s new favorite. Some of the most popular include “The Little Red Hen”, “Scuffy the Tugboat”, and the top-selling children’s book of all time “The Poky Little Puppy”.
These are also still being produced today as original stories and from outside media such as popular children’s shows and movies, so each nostalgic short story is always caught up with the modern day.
Richard Scarry’s Busytown Series
Incidentally, Richard Scarry got his start as a writer for Little Golden Books. The fictional Busytown, which is occupied by anthropomorphic characters, became the subject of his most famous series for children and was adapted for television during the 1980s and 1990s to reach an even wider audience.
The iconic characters Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, Sergeant Murphy, and tons of others are still enjoyed by child readers and viewers today through their wholesome story lessons about anything from first words to how a town is run.
Busytown is also rather progressive for a series from its decade; in the 1980s the books were revamped so that some of the illustrated characters in roles held traditionally by males were replaced by female characters. A simple change like this goes a long way in showing young children that they can hold any kind of job they want, regardless of their gender.
The Berenstain Bears
Another popular children’s series turned television show, The Berenstain Bears have been entertaining children with their antics since 1962. Perhaps one of the most endearing aspects of the series is its heavy emphasis on the importance of family bonds, as most of the stories involve each member of the Berenstain family playing a role in the takeaway lesson of the book.
And the family is certainly what makes the Berenstain Bears feel so genuine and relevant to children of any generation – the actual Berenstains, Stan, Jan, and Mike, drew inspiration for the books from problems and situations they faced as a real, human family.
While a majority of The Berenstain Bears books are picture books, the series also has a few chapter books, so children from as young as preschool to as old as late elementary school can delight in the lessons from Papa, Mama, Brother, Sister, and in some later books, Honey.
The man you can thank for bringing us the Berenstain Bears is none other than Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss.
After the release of his book The Cat in the Hat, Geisel became an editor for Random House where he worked with the Berenstains on their story concept. Of course, Geisel is famous in his own right for his wonderful stories for beginning readers, popular for their simple vocabulary and Geisel’s zany illustrations.
Lowering childhood illiteracy rates was one of Geisel’s biggest concerns and is reflected in his works through the rhyming stanzas and simple structure of his prose.
While these stories have their niche with younger readers as picture books, people of all ages resonate with the ideas presented in Dr. Seuss stories. There’s a reason that Oh, The Places You’ll Go! ends up in the hands of so many college graduates as a gift.
The World of Eric Carle
Eric Carle’s short story collection for children is well known for its whimsical colors and shapes, all created by Carle himself through a process of dyeing tissue paper.
Many of these stories are based on animals, which of course especially appeal to younger children, and rely on repetition of short phrases that kids can easily mimic and then begin to recognize when a story is read to them many times.
His books have been reproduced in many forms, including board books with tactile features, short movies, and stuffed animals, which bring new elements of life to the stories. Carle’s nostalgic short story collections have been around for a long time. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been munching away since 1969, meaning last year was his 50th birthday!
Some other familiar stories include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and Little Cloud among many others. And Eric Carle continues to create stories to this day to brighten the lives of readers!
Whether you’re a parent looking to add some books to your young reader’s bookshelf or someone trying to get back in touch with a nostalgic short story from your childhood, these series of children’s books are worthy inclusions to your collection. Consider introducing yourself or your child to some of these staples in children’s literature today!