Cows take the main stage as characters in many children’s stories, but not all books accurately depict life on a modern dairy farm. Whether the audience is a fourth-grade classroom or your own children, check out these recommended reads that deliver educational messages and even a few laughs.

Books that are recommended

1. The Milk Makers
by Gail Gibbons

As stated in the overview, “Fresh and cold, foaming from a carton or bottle, milk is one of nature’s most nutritious foods. For this, we must thank the milk makers.” The Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons is a fantastic explanation and illustration of where our milk comes from. It discusses how cows produce milk and how milk is packaged and delivered to our stores and ultimately ends on our tables in our glasses or our cereal bowls.

Beginning with a description of traditional dairy breeds and following into the life cycle of a cow, The Milk Makers provides a realistic step-by-step description of the chain of events, including standardization, pasteurization and homogenization, that lead to the culmination of a delicious glass of milk.

Included in the story are different feed ingredients and housing methods as well as a simple and easily understood description of a cow’s digestive system, the rumination process and how a cow’s digested food becomes milk. The story explains cows must be milked at least twice a day to remain healthy and comfortable, and may be milked by hand, but today most farmers use milking machines because they are cleaner, more comfortable for the cow and more efficient.


The men and women of the dairy community are represented in the story as farmers, milk testers, milk truck drivers, processors, delivery drivers, grocers and consumers. Emphasis is placed on the wholesome goodness of milk as well as dedication to cleanliness and a fresh product.

The Milk Makers concludes with the message, “Milk is a nutritious drink that makes our bodies strong and healthy.” The final page illustrates milk and other dairy products made from milk, along with the simple processing required to make the product. It is a fantastic book young and old can learn from and a great book to take along on a class visit or when talking to any group, regardless of age.

—Submitted by Somula Schwoeppe

2. The Best Ice Cream That Ever Was Licked
by Rebecca Lyons

Written by Iowa dairy girl and college student Rebecca Lyons, The Best Ice Cream That Ever Was Licked is about Becca, who receives two cows for Christmas as a child and grows up to open an ice cream shop. It combines dairy and entrepreneurship and has beautiful illustrations. It’s a must-read for any dairy kid or anyone who is interested in the industry.

—Submitted by Heather Moore

3. The Usborne Big Book of Big Tractors
by Lisa Jane Gillespie

I love sharing this book with kids because it shares modern, accurate agriculture. It explains what each piece of equipment does and how technology is used. The book was written with the guidance of David Cousins from Farmers Weekly.

—Submitted by Ashley Kennedy

4. Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More
by Cris Peterson

Written by dairy farmer Cris Peterson, the story of Clarabelle the cow gives an accurate and interesting glimpse of modern dairy farming told through words and beautiful photographs. It touches aspects of cow life, ranging from calving to milking, and it goes beyond that to explain technologies like methane digestion and dried manure solids. It helps children understand where milk comes from and the high level of care that goes into dairying.

—Submitted by Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen

5. Going to Sleep on the Farm
by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
and Moo, Baa, La-la-la
by Sandra Boynton

The best memories I have with my boys were the nights we read together before bedtime. It was our time to laugh, make animal sounds, use animated voices and just be creative with our interpretation of the story. Too often, though, as I look back, those times got cut short on the farm. Now that they are older, sometimes I wish we could go back to enjoy just a few more evening bedtimes stories.

Two of my favorite farm-related storybooks were Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Moo, Baa, La-la-la! by Sandra Boynton. Although neither one of them really depicted what happens on today’s farms, the words in both stories were just really fun to read together.

In Going to Sleep on the Farm, a little boy who lives on a farm is fighting off sleep, which most little boys do. He has just finished playing with his farm toys when his father tries to tuck him in. As expected, the boy asks a question to prolong the inevitable: “How does a cow go to sleep – tell me how? How does a cow go to sleep?” The father answers with a rollicking story about how the cow goes to sleep.

The boy follows by asking about the horse, pig, hen and duck until finally the father says, “How do you go to sleep – tell me how?” The boy falls fast asleep, with the father answering his own question, closing with, “And that’s how you go to sleep – Shh-h-h. That’s how you go to sleep.” The book ends with a picture of all the animals outside the boy’s window, now fast asleep.

In Moo, Baa, La-la-laa, the book has a much more upbeat, almost sing-song rhythm. It’s very silly and something that got my boys cackling even when they were only one year old. If you want to hear your children laugh, it’s a book that will do it. The book starts off, “The cow says moo, the sheep says baa, three pigs say la-la-la.” And it gets sillier from there.

No matter what book you choose, don’t miss out on the opportunity to read to your children. The farm is a very busy place, and sometimes bedtime rituals aren’t always upheld. Those are the memories that stay with you always. Just thinking about these two books still makes me smile.  end mark

—Submitted by Jayne Sebright