As soon as my son was born, I started reading to him. I don’t know why I did that. Maybe because I love books? Maybe that was my way of interacting and creating a bond with him? Fast forward, he is almost 18 months old today and he loves books. Apparently, without knowing it, I nurtured the love of books in him by reading to him from an early age.
It’s never too early for you to start reading to your baby. There are countless benefits of introducing and reading books to babies at an early age, from quality time spent cuddling and exploring colorful pages to building a baby’s vocabulary and language skills.
There are numerous children’s books on the market. Are you wondering where to start and what to choose? I’ve put together a list of the best children’s books for you to start building your baby’s collection and promote a lifelong passion for reading.
But, before we go through the best baby books, let’s rethink why, when, and how to read to your baby and toddler.
Why read to your baby and toddler?
“Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading. In addition, parents who spend time reading to their children create nurturing relationships, which is important for a child’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Read the full article here.
In a nutshell, reading to your baby is a wonderful shared activity, but it also has an important role in your baby’s development. Reading aloud:
- Encourages baby to communicate. The more words they hear, the better they will be able to talk.
- Introduces new concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way.
- Gives baby information about the world around them.
- Promotes listening skills and memory.
- Supports socio-emotional development by hearing you using different emotions and expressive sounds.
- Promotes thinking skills by looking, pointing, touching, and answering questions.
When to read to your baby and toddler?
Try to read to your baby every day, but if you can’t, it’s OK. Don’t put more pressure on yourself as a parent. Parenthood is stressful by itself. Perhaps, you can make it part of bedtime routine. Reading before bed gives you and your baby a chance to cuddle, connect, and wind down from your day.
If you can, try also to read at other points in the day. But again, treat story time as a fun and optional way to break up the day, not a must. If you do read during the day, choose times when your baby is dry, fed, and alert. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for failure.
Books also come in handy when you’re stuck waiting, so have some in the diaper bag to fill time sitting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at a store.
How to read to your baby and toddler?
Make reading a magical experience by following the below tips:
Create a comforting environment
If you have the mean, set up a special reading space at home, for example, a lounge or a beanbag that’s big and comfortable enough for you and baby, with a basket of books or bookshelf nearby. What’s more important though is to cuddle while you read to help your baby feel safe, warm, and connected to you. Another option is to sit in front of your baby while you read, so she can see your face too. Whatever you choose, make sure to hold the book fairly close to your baby so she can see.
Give reading your undivided attention
Active babies can lose interest in a book after only a couple of minutes. That’s why it is so important to make whatever limited time you can dedicate to reading as focused as possible. That means turning off the TV or radio and silencing your cell phone.
Read at your baby’s pace
Don’t rush through a book. Read slowly and spend time on each page after you read the words. This lets your baby focus on the shape of words and pictures. Don’t worry about finishing the entire book. Focus on pages that you and your baby enjoy.
Make reading come to life
To keep things interesting, read with over-the-top expression, make your voice higher or lower where it’s appropriate, make funny animal sounds, or use different voices for different characters. Play and have fun!
Ask questions to bring the story into the real world
Don’t worry about following the text exactly. Stop once in a while and ask questions or make comments on the pictures or text. “Where’s the kitty? There he is! What a cute black kitty!” or “What does the cow say?”. Give her time to respond and if she doesn’t, gently tell her. This is a great way to increase her vocabulary. As your baby gets older, use characters in books to discuss emotions, or to motivate her to think about imaginative situations.
Make associations between a book and your baby’s experience
This builds vocabulary and helps your baby move between books and the broader world in ways that have direct meaning to them.
Focus on familiarity over novelty
Babies love and learn from repetition, so don’t be afraid of reading the same books over and over. If your baby shows disinterest in a book, put it away for a while. You don’t need to get a ton of new books. Just rotate the books you read every couple of weeks.
Focus on motor skills
Help your baby’s attempt at turning pages by separating pages when you are finished reading each page. This will give her a cue that it is time to move to the next page and will help to develop fine motor skills.
Let your baby touch the book if she’s interested
As your baby gets older, encourage her to touch the book or hold cloth or board books. If your baby puts the book in her mouth, it’s OK. It’s her way of learning about books, finding out how books feel and taste, and discovering that you can’t eat them!
The 10 best children’s books for ages 0 – 18 months
Here is my list for the 10 best baby books for ages 0-18 months. I hope you find some titles you and your baby will love. Whenever possible, I put a link to the book so you can find it easily online.
1. High-contrast books for babies
High-contrast books like black and white are great for stimulating your baby’s senses. They are perfect for a newborn (0-3 months). We love Hello Baby: Faces.
From a happy face to a sad face, all of the pictures in this high-contrast board book are designed simply so that they are easy for your baby to focus on and are illustrated in strongly contrasting black and white with splashes of color to stimulate your baby’s developing sight. My son seemed to enjoy it. Not only that, recently at 18 months, he seemed to develop a new interest in it. This book has certainly a surprising lasting power.
2. Soft cloth or vinyl books for babies
Between 4-6 months, your baby will start to show more interest in books. She will grab, shake, and hold books. But also, she will mouth, chew, and drop them as well. Lean towards sturdy books made of vinyl or cloth that will stand up to a few chews. I chose: Infantino Link & Crinkle Animal Counting Book.
What I like about it other than the crinkly pages and the bright colors is that it easily attaches to diaper bags, car seats, or strollers and it has a Bpa-free textured teether.
3. Touch and feel books for babies
Touch and feel books are ideal from 6 months onwards. Babies first learn to explore the world around them through the sensation of touching. Touch and feel books are perfect for sparking your baby’s curiosity and encouraging her to use her senses. Also, because they are engaging, they make reading fun.
We love Baby Touch and Feel range from DK Books. What I like most about them is that they feature one real image per page with simple words. However, I thought that some of the touch and feel spots were tiny or uninteresting. However, I’m not the judge here. My son is, and the verdict is YEY for these books.
If you will order these books online, just beware that they are small in size, which is perfect for teeny tiny hands to hold, but comes as a surprise to parents.
4. Diversity books for babies
I came across this book when I was researching Montessori books: Global babies. It’s suitable for all ages.
I didn’t hesitate to buy it as I thought it was the perfect way to introduce our diversity to my son at an early age, something very important since we live in Dubai, a global city. It was indeed a total hit. Babies love to look at babies, and my son enjoys seeing all the babies from different countries. But here is my honest review.
The book has a lovely message behind it “Everywhere on earth, babies are special and loved”. Part of the proceeds from the book’s sales is donated to the Global Fund for Children to support the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. What I did not like about it though is that the book material is not of the best quality and some images are blurry and out of focus. But I guess your baby won’t care about this detail. So, all in all, the book is a great buy.
5. Flap books for babies
Babies love lift-the-flap books from around one year of age. They especially love that they can control the reveal by lifting the flap for themselves: they can share the reading experience with you, showing you what’s under the flap and naming it for you.
My son loves the “Can you say it, too?” series by Nosy Crow. The big flaps on each page are nice and easy for small fingers to find and lift. They are more or less sturdy. My son has managed though to rip two in one of the earlier books we got. I love also how the last page has a special “extra flap”. I’m definitely planning on buying more!
6. Flap books for babies – 2
I think you know by now that flap books are a hit in our family. That’s why I’m bringing you another type of flap book this time: First 101 words.
This large-format board book is straightforward. Nothing overdone. It contains pages of labeled photographs arranged by category. The photographs themselves are clear and brightly colored against solid backgrounds. It condenses what could have been eight books into one. My son loves looking at and naming the photos in this book and I think it’s my favorite too. I highly recommend this book.
7. Pop up books for babies
Pop up books are another type of interactive books that babies love. They are suitable from around one year of age. Babies can join in the reading experience by pushing, pulling, and turning the tabs to bring the pages to life.
My son loves the “Busy book” series by Campbell. The books from this series have gentle rhyming text and beautiful illustrations.
8. Arabic books for babies
We are a trilingual family. Arabic is one of the languages we speak at home. My son had lots of English books but not a single Arabic book. I was lucky to come across Dardasha’s books on a Facebook page. The pages are limited to a single word and a realistic image to focus on. Very simple and eye-catching.
What I like most about this series is that it offers an English transliteration of the Arabic words, which means that our nanny who doesn’t speak any Arabic can still read the book to my son while I’m at work.
9. Sound books for babies
We received this big board book as a gift and it was surprisingly very pleasant. I usually hate anything that makes sound but the animal sounds in this book are quite realistic. Well, most of them. My son loves pressing the buttons to make the noises of all the animals on the farm. The book is beautifully illustrated, fun, and interactive. What I love about it is that the pages as easy to turn and the animals look very much realistic. I highly recommend it.
10. Big brother book
I was looking for a book to prepare my son “Daniel” for becoming a big brother when we received this book as a gift. We don’t watch the animated series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, but it doesn’t matter. The book stands alone even if you aren’t familiar with the characters.
I think the book does a great job explaining the idea of a new sibling as it teaches a big brother the ways he can help with the new baby. It gives the big brother a sense of being involved in the process instead of feeling left out because there is a new little one around. I recommend this book to any new big brothers!
In a Nutshell
Did you find some great books for your baby?
What are some of your favorite books? Is there a book you would recommend on potty training? Let me know in the comments below.