I'm a firm believer that kids learn best by experiencing the world, which is why Little One and I treat every outing (from museums to gardens to shopping at Sam's Club) like an adventure worth great excitement and discussion. And while I certainly don't read to my LO every day because I hope that she will read by age 3 and graduate from medical school when she's 15 (trust me, there's some genius out there who has done that!)..... I do value the future academic skills that a love for reading will hopefully foster in LO!
Here are a couple of particularly well-done books that LO adores for their humor and fun readability, and that I adore for the clever way that they teach important early-learning skills.
This book is amazing. It teaches early quantitative skills by introducing the concepts of comparisons (for those grammatical purists out there, it is the concept of the adjective/comparative/superlative...). We go through "Big...," "Small....," "Fast...," etc (including LO's favorite, "Slimy...."). Each concept has an accompanying animal, helping the child to conceptualize the relationships being described. This alone is great. Some of the comparisons can be played out using toys (Big/Small in particular). This is a concept that we all work to teach our toddlers/preschoolers, and the book does a great job.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! For every page, there is also three synonyms, making this book Baby's First Thesaurus. No kidding, my LO loves this book so much that she may be one of the only toddlers on the planet that knows the word "Lackadaisical." She knows how to say it, and she knows that it means "slowest" (OK, not exactly a GRE-worthy definition, but it'll do for a two year old!). Of course, not all the presented synonyms are quite as impressive....."pooped" is offered for "sleepiest," which is especially hilarious to a toddler in the throes of potty training. But overall, this book has really been a great springboard for both language and quantitative learning. And LO asks for it every day!
This book is really three silly stories in one. The book is fun to read, with silly birds in silly scenarios, and several lift-the-flap surprises along the way. It also does a good job of illustrating the differences between concepts that young children often get confused. The birds go through a variety of scenarios in which they show that they may be up, but they aren't tall....they may not be tall but that doesn't mean they are small.... and what does it mean to be up or down? Since we started reading this book, I have noticed that LO asks about whether we are up or down, and if things are tall or small. The framework of the story has clearly taught her to ponder these concepts....all in a silly story!