Reading gives children access to thoughts and ideas and people and places different from (and similar to) their own. When parents or teachers read with young children, they connect together emotionally and socially while also supporting literacy and language development. So if you are wondering when is the right age to start reading to babies, the answer is now. It’s never too early to begin creating a literal (and literary!) library of experiences and ideas for young children.
When picking out books for babies, look for books full of simple illustrations and stories. Durability ranks up there, too! Board books or books made from cloth are built to withstand babies and toddlers who might prefer to mouth a book and haven’t quite mastered the fine art of gently turning a page. Here are 10 baby books to get you started.
10 Must-Have Books for Babies
Let me start with a confession. It was difficult to pick just one Leslie Patricelli board book for this list because I love them all. This book on opposites is a favorite of young children and parents. Babies love the bright colors and simple words and they will adore listening to their parents speak softly and loudly.
Reading Tip: Go ahead and make all the sounds in the book from the loud monkeys and firetrucks to the quiet sighs of bedtime or the gloop-gloop-gloop of a goldfish. This will help your baby begin to understand the concepts of soft and loud, which will come in handy during the “use-your-inside-voice” years.
If you’ve ever watched a hummingbird move, you know how quickly they fly around from one spot to another. This baby board book zooms in on one little hummingbird as it explores a backyard under the watchful eye of a child.
Reading Tip: As you read, move your finger around the page following the hummingbird. This encourages your child to practice visual tracking skills or the ability to follow a moving object with the eyes. This skill will come in handy when your child is ready to read or catch a ball!
Books for babies don’t need a lot of words to tell an engaging story. This delightful book uses a little more than 10 words along with compelling illustrations to share the antics of a baby gorilla and a distracted zookeeper as the zoo settles down for the night. Each time you read this book you’ll discover details you missed, including two popular children’s characters hiding in plain sight.
Reading Tip: As you read this book, talk about what you see. Where’s the balloon? Where is the mouse with the banana on this page? Which animal sleeps with a pacifier? Which animal would you want to snuggle with? How many neighbors caught sight of the zoo animals sneaking out?
Children learn through their senses. Multi-sensory reading activities increase the learning as children engage more areas of their brain and this book offers various “touchy-feely” objects throughout. Babies will meet many cute kittens in this book until they find their very own! If kittens aren’t your thing, this series offers something for almost everyone: trucks, dinosaurs, unicorns, puppies, and more!
Reading Tip: As you read this book, encourage your baby to touch the different textures and experience the various sounds each one makes, too. You can also label the colors you see.
This children’s book of colorful photography and simple words gives parents and teachers the ultimate conversation starter with babies. Of course, it will initially be a one-sided conversation until your baby can look, point, and touch! Word books are also great to use if you use baby sign language. Use the sign and the word when you point to the picture.
Reading Tip: Ask (and answer) these questions as your read: What sound does a dog make? There’s that baby’s nose. Where is your nose? Can you point to the red apple? Where’s the milk?
In this book, Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nut Brown Hare talk about just how much they love each other. This baby board book offers a sweet story to read together at bedtime and can become part of your nightly routine for years to come.
Reading Tip: Children don’t need to be sitting still to gain the benefits of reading. In fact, tying the movement to the words helps a child understand the concept better by pairing the word with the action. This book offers several opportunities to move with your baby. For example, you can lift your child up in the air or spread your infant’s arms wide to imitate Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nut Brown Hare.
Sweet, sweet George the dog. He tries so hard to be good, but there are so many temptations in his life. George, like young children, needs to learn a little bit (or a lot of!) self-control. The illustrations make it nearly impossible for you NOT to use a silly voice for George!
Reading Tip: When the author asks the question, What will George do? pause before turning the page. You can also guess what he is going to do. Point out context clues as to why you think he might be making that choice.
Reading to young children can be an interactive experience. However, if you’re new to reading with babies and toddlers, consider this book a primer for YOU! This board book comes with built-in actions that will have you and your child shaking or tilting the book or pressing and tapping dots. As your baby grows, this book will likely become a family favorite that also supports learning colors and counting and a budding imagination….and you will become a master interactive reader!
Reading Tip: Follow the instructions. Children and children’s books re-open our imagination and sense of wonder that can sometimes get a little dusty when we enter adulthood.
The end of the book offers a sweet little ritual to close out your storytime with your baby. Nope. No spoiler alerts here. You will just need to read the book to find out what happens. Along the way, you and your baby will love the watercolor illustrations featuring babies from around the world.
Reading Tip: The rhyming and repetition support early phonological and phonemic awareness and makes the perfect book to sing with your child. Yes, sing. Go ahead. Your baby loves your voice and singing is a great stress reliever for parents, too!
Babies love looking at faces. In fact, early childhood research shows that as early as four months old babies’ brains already process faces, as well as adults, do. So, it is no wonder that babies also love reading books with faces! In this board book full of colorful photography, your little one will be introduced to babies from places around the world, including Guatemala, Bhutan, Spain, and Rwanda.
Reading Tip: Tuck this little book in your diaper bag or backpack. The pictures of faces make it an ideal book for a baby to “read” in the car or on a walk.
Now It’s Your Turn
Wait. No Goodnight Moon or I Love You to the Moon and Back? What about Mama Do You Love Me or Giraffes Can’t Dance? Where’s Dr. Suess? Did I leave YOUR favorite off the list? Share it in the comments. You can never have enough books to read to young children!
Lisa Camino Rowell has spent more than 20 years in early childhood education. She’s written for well-known brands, such as Kindermusik International, Reading Rainbow, Babies R Us, Crayola, KinderCare, and Pampers. Lisa loves writing for the Teaching Is a Royal Adventure blog because she considers it her life’s best work whenever she creates content that supports the role of parents as a child’s first and best teacher or provides tools that help early childhood educators excel in the classroom.