Reading to your child from a young age is so important. Reading helps children develop listening and language skills and helps stimulate their imaginations. It also helps expand your child’s understanding of the world around them.
If the world around you and your children is Chicago, you’re in luck. A number of great children’s books use the Windy City as a setting and help explain the landmarks, the culture, and the history of this great American city.
These books aren’t just Chicago explainers either. They use the city in unique and creative ways to help children develop counting skills, learn the alphabet, and get a feel for what makes their hometown so special. Here are nine great children’s books about Chicago.
Good Night Chicago – Adam Gamble
The original Goodnight Moon is a classic, quintessential children’s bedtime book that many of us remember fondly from our own childhood. In this Chicago-centric update, author Adam Gamble helps make bedtime more personalized for youngsters by taking them on a journey from morning to night in the Second City.
The book starts with “Good morning, Lake Michigan. Good morning, Chicago Harbor Lighthouse,” and continues on a tour of Chicago from there. It is a book you can read over and over again to your child to send them off to dreamland with visions of their city in their heads.
1-2-3 Chicago: A Cool Counting Book – Puck
Some of the best children’s books about Chicago also help teach other skills along the way. This counting book allows children to learn the symbols for the numbers 1 through 10 all while counting things that the city is known for. You and your child will love counting Chicago staples like El train cars and deep-dish pizzas.
If you travel or have family in other parts of the country, author Puck has other counting books you and your child will enjoy as well. Your child can learn to count to 10 while learning about New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and more.
Larry Gets Lost in Chicago – Michael Mullin
Another Chicago children’s book that is part of a series exploring cities around the country is Larry Gets Lost in Chicago. The Larry Gets Lost Series follows the adventures of Larry the dog who explores a city while trying to get back to his family. In the Chicago version, he encounters many iconic landmarks before being reunited with his loved ones.
The illustrations and colors in this book are big and bold and will capture the attention and the imagination of young kids at any age. If this becomes a household favorite, you can check out the sequel featuring Larry, called Larry Loves Chicago!
C Is for Chicago – Maria Kernahan
Learning the alphabet with the help of your hometown is another great genre of Chicago children’s books. C Is for Chicago is a perfect book for younger children. The book goes through the alphabet, A to Z, and features on each page an interesting, colorful, Chicago-themed picture and two short, rhyming sentences about that place or object.
This book is great for very young kids who will be enthralled by the pictures. The rhyming couplets associated with the letters will also help develop language skills while your kids learn the symbols for each letter.
W is for Windy City – Deborah Dover Layne
As your child gets a little older, they’ll be ready for an alphabet book that is a little more in-depth. W is for Windy City is a great book for kids ready to take the next step from the simpler C Is for Chicago.
This book has vivid but more realistic pictures of Chicago iconography and a slightly longer poem about each. It also features a more in-depth write up about each person and place that they describe. The B page delves into Chicago’s own Barack Obama and F describes the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is great for kids who are ready to really learn the alphabet and can comprehend history.
My First Alphabet Books – Chicago Sports Teams
As a parent raising a child in Chicago, you want to make sure your child develops a love and knowledge for the landscape and history of the city while also doing things like learning the alphabet. Let’s be honest though; for some parents, the most important goal is to instill a love and a knowledge of your favorite Chi-Town sports team!
These My First Alphabet Books are shaped like the jerseys of the Cubs, White Sox, or Bears and teach your children about the history of your favorite team one letter at a time. Make sure your kids know early that F is for Friendly Confines, G is for Go-Go Sox, or S is for Super Bowl Shuffle.
The House That Jane Built – Tanya Lee Stone
For older kids who are learning about people who changed the world, The House That Jane Built is an incredible book. The illustrated book tells the story of the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Jane Addams.
After buying a house in the poorest section of Chicago in 1889, Jane opened it to the poor and to immigrants–anyone, really, who needed help–creating the Hull House Community Center, which endured for more than a century, providing services to those in and outside the neighborhood. She is a truly inspiring hero who you will be proud to have your kids look up to.
Once Upon a Balloon – Bree Galbraith
This is a heartwarming tale of a young child whose balloon floats away. His older brother tells him how all lost balloons end up in the Windy City of Chicago and are cared for by a man named Frank. The young child is touched by this story and sets off to deliver Frank a hopeful message. You and your child will be touched as well and the book will encourage their imagination to roam free.
Max Explores Chicago – Reji Laberje
Another fun trip around Chicago with a lovable pooch, in Max Explores Chicago, the title character investigates some of the city’s most famous places. The book is short, to the point, and covers the Chicago basics with great illustration. It was created in cooperation with the Chicago Children’s Museum and is written specifically to help develop a child’s language, vocabulary, and numeracy skills.
There are plenty more children’s books about Chicago but these nine are a great start to both build a love of your city in your child while also helping develop critical skills. These books will be something your young Chicagoan will cherish throughout their life.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.