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Picture Books with Rare Words

Rare Words Are Key for Child’s Success in Reading

What are rare words, where can you find them, and why do they matter?

Rare words are those beyond the 10,000 words known as our Common Lexicon used in most daily conversation with each other.

You can find a great many rare words in children’s books. Children’s books have 30 rare words per thousand, while conversations between an adult and 3-year-old child typically include 9 rare words per thousand (JimTrelease: The Read-Aloud Handbook.) 

Quality children’s picture books are filled with rare words. Consider Byron Barton’s I Want to Be an Astronaut, a picture book for toddlers and preschoolers. It includes words like shuttle, mission, and gravity. These are words you might not use in everyday conversation with your young child. When you read this book aloud, you introduce him to these words, and they become part of his growing vocabulary.

Why is this important? Studies show that a child’s vocabulary upon entering school is the number one indicator of whether he will be a good reader. Trelease reminds us that by the time a child is 5-years-old, he will know 90% of the words he will use for the rest of his life. The eventual strength of your child’s vocabulary depends on how many of these rare words he knows. And the child who has heard thousands of picture books before he reaches school will have a larger vocabulary than the child that experiences very few books during his early years. 

There are thousands of vocabulary-rich books for young children. Check out the below sampling, but know it is the tip of an enormous iceberg. Visit the library often, attend storytime, and let us help your child develop a rich vocabulary through picture books.


Amazon Says: From picture-book master Byron Barton, this is the perfect story for young readers who love outer space and want to know more about how NASA astronauts do their job.Up into th more...
Amazon Says: From picture-book master Byron Barton, this is the perfect story for young readers who love outer space and want to know more about how NASA astronauts do their job.Up into the sky goes the space shuttle! Once in orbit, the astronauts get a taste of ready-to-eat food, experience zero gravity, go for space walks, and even fix a satellite. It's fun to fly aboard the shuttle...and then come back to earth.Supports the Common Core State Standards. less...
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Amazon Says:  A New York Times and million copy bestseller, the classic handbook on reading aloud to children—revised and updated Recommended by “Dear Abby”, The New more...
Amazon Says:  A New York Times and million copy bestseller, the classic handbook on reading aloud to children—revised and updated Recommended by “Dear Abby”, The New York Times and The Washington Post, for three decades, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease's beloved classic to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. Now this new edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook imparts the benefits, rewards, and importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research, The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies—and the reasoning behind them—for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers. less...
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Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Amazon Says: The bay owls came out of their house, and they sat on the tree and waited. A big branch for Sarah, a small branch for Percy, and an old piece of ivy for Bill. When three baby more...
Amazon Says: The bay owls came out of their house, and they sat on the tree and waited. A big branch for Sarah, a small branch for Percy, and an old piece of ivy for Bill. When three baby owls awake one night to find their mother gone, they can't help but wonder where she is. Stunning illustrations from unique and striking perspectives capture the owls as they worry about their mother: What is she doing? When will she be back? What scary things move all around them? Not surprisingly, a joyous flapping and dancing and bouncing greets her return, lending a celebratory tone to the ending of this comforting tale. Never has the plight of young ones who miss their mother been so simply told or so beautifully rendered. less...
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Bruno Munari's Zoo by Bruno Munari
Amazon Says: Bruno Munari was an internationally acclaimed artist, designer, and children's book creator. Acontemporary of Leo Leonni, his books have been hailed as "among the most origina more...
Amazon Says: Bruno Munari was an internationally acclaimed artist, designer, and children's book creator. Acontemporary of Leo Leonni, his books have been hailed as "among the most original, inventive and beautiful ever created." Zoo is among his most graphically stunning works. Meet the kangaroo, who is all legs but doesn't know it, the zebra in his striped pajamas, and the humpy camel, who has a seat for you. Young readers will enjoy Munari's bright, bold illustrations; older readers will appreciate hiswry humor. From children to collectors, Bruno Munari's Zoo is certain to enchant a whole new generation. "Graphic designer Bruno Munari is one of the most inventive picture book creators I know. I have been inspired, entertained, and in awe of his work since I was a graphic design student in Germany more than 50 years ago. And Zoo has been one of my favorites. I am delighted that it is available once again for a new generation of picture book readers of all ages." Eric Carle less...
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I Love Animals by Flora McDonnell
Amazon Says: Large, brilliant portraits introduce young children to the animals found on a farm, from two friendly ducks to an adoring ewe and her rowdy lamb. more...
Amazon Says: Large, brilliant portraits introduce young children to the animals found on a farm, from two friendly ducks to an adoring ewe and her rowdy lamb. less...
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Polar Bear Morning by Lauren Thompson
Amazon Says: A polar bear cub explores her artic world and finds something new--a friend. Companion to New York Times Best Illustratedbook /New York Times bestselling book. On a chill, b more...
Amazon Says: A polar bear cub explores her artic world and finds something new--a friend. Companion to New York Times Best Illustratedbook /New York Times bestselling book. On a chill, bright morning, a polar bear cub awakes inside her cozy den. She hears the seagulls' far-away calls and clambers out into the day. Suddenly a snowy something tumbles down a little snow hill. She sees a snowy face, snowy paws, and snowy fur. What can it be? Thrilling words and glowing pictures make this morning-time tale of first friendship as satisfying as a warm hug. less...
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Amazon Says: A true classic with a timeless message, The Story of Ferdinand has enchanted readers since it was first published in 1936. All the other bulls would run and jump more...
Amazon Says: A true classic with a timeless message, The Story of Ferdinand has enchanted readers since it was first published in 1936. All the other bulls would run and jump and butt their heads together. But Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. So what will happen when our pacifist hero is picked for the bullfights in Madrid? This new edition contains the complete original text of the story and the original illustrations with watercolor tones added. less...
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Freight Train by Donald Crews
Amazon Says: Red caboose at the back, orange tank car, green cattle car, purple box car, black tender and a black steam engine . . . freight train.The powerful words evoke the essence of i more...
Amazon Says: Red caboose at the back, orange tank car, green cattle car, purple box car, black tender and a black steam engine . . . freight train.The powerful words evoke the essence of inexorably rolling wheels, so that even a child not lucky enough to have counted freight cars will feel he has watched a freight train passing. A book truly for the youngest child—and for every one of us who has been that child. less...
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Hello Baby! by Mem Fox
Amazon Says: After meeting a bevy of baby animals— including a clever monkey, a sleepy leopard, and a dusty lion cub—the baby in this story discovers the most precious creature of all more...
Amazon Says: After meeting a bevy of baby animals— including a clever monkey, a sleepy leopard, and a dusty lion cub—the baby in this story discovers the most precious creature of all . . . itself, of course! With an exuberant rhyming text by bestselling author Mem Fox and adorable cut-paper illustrations by Caldecott Honor recipient Steve Jenkins, this book is an irresistible celebration of the joyful connection between parent and child. less...
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