After I brought my oldest son, Owen, home from the hospital and the initial excitement wore off, I started wondering what I was supposed to do with him all day (besides change his outfits and take pictures). The #1 answer? Reading books!
Though it may seem strange to read to young babies, it’s actually a wonderful and important bonding experience. Parents and children both benefit from cuddling together and babies are soothed and stimulated by the comforting sound of their parents’ voices. Also, as babies grow, they’ll understand and learn more and more from books. Daily reading right from the start will strengthen your relationship and help your baby’s brain grow and thrive!
While you can read many different kinds of books to babies (especially when they’re young and have little comprehension), the books on this list mostly target babies from 0-18 months.
Get ready–this list is a big one, but it’s intended to be a resource for parents and caregivers as they discover their own favorite books for babies. If I’m missing a book you love, please share in the comments!
For my master list of book lists, click/tap here.
Books for Babies
Pride & Prejudice (BabyLit series) by Jennifer Adams, art by Alison Oliver. The BabyLit series bills itself as “a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.” Each book adapts a classic novel into baby book format. For instance, Pride & Prejudice is a “counting primer” that begins with “1 English village,” “2 rich gentlemen,” and concludes with 10…actually, I’m not going to give away the end! If you’re a fan of Pride & Prejudice, it’s too fun not to experience it yourself.
All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, pictures by Hiroe Nakata. Fun and bouncy rhymes (“Gotta gotta dance legs/Caper and prance legs/Kick me in the pants legs”) celebrate an adorable baby’s various body parts and the love her family members have for each one of them. Besides teaching body parts, this book captures the delight a baby brings to a family.
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang. Ten, Nine, Eight counts down to a sweet girl’s bedtime, from “10 small toes all washed and warm” to “1 big girl all ready for bed.” The colorful illustrations won a Caldecott Honor award in 1984; I also love that it features a black child and a loving father-daughter relationship.
Toes, Ears & Nose! by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Karen Katz. Lift-the-flap books are reliable hits with babies, whether they can lift the flaps themselves or they simply enjoy the peek-a-boo lifting of caregivers. In Toes, Ears, & Nose! the flaps reveal various body parts beneath multicultural kids’ clothing and accessories. The cheerful, colorful illustrations are provided by Karen Katz, who also wrote and illustrated a similar lift-the-flap book, Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?
Moo, Baa, La, La, La! by Sandra Boynton. Sandra Boynton is a big name in the baby book world, with numerous hits for babies and toddlers. Moo, Baa, La, La, La!, which features the antics (and noises) of various animals, is one of our favorites. For babies, two other favorites are Blue Hat, Green Hat and Doggies.
Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Just in case you aren’t familiar with this extremely popular, long-time classic (which seems to have a magic ingredient that lulls kids to sleepiness), Goodnight Moon features a little rabbit who says good-night to items in his room and beyond, from kitten and mittens to stars, air, and noises everywhere.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. When a child asks the zoo for a pet, the zoo sends animals that aren’t quite right (the camel is too grumpy, for instance). Finally, the child receives–and keeps–a perfect pet. This classic lift-the-flap book is a long-time favorite in our family–I think we all have it memorized.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. While the text in this classic story is a little more complicated than many of the books on this list, I included it because babies love turning the smaller pages in the book and poking their fingers through the holes in the food that the caterpillar has “eaten.” Babies also love Eric Carle’s bright, cheerful illustrations–especially the beautiful butterfly at the end.
Baby Touch and Feel series by DK Publishing. We’ve enjoyed a number of books in this series, including Animals (our favorite), Wild Animals, and Things That Go. Each page has a single picture with a textured area for babies to touch (sometimes things like fur, sometimes just a shiny, slightly lifted section). When my babies are little, I rub their fingers on the textured part; eventually they can reach out and explore for themselves.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Caroline Jayne Church. Simple, cheerful illustrations of young children accompany the words to the classic song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It’s especially stimulating for the baby to hear you sing the song instead of just reading the words (if you’re willing!). If you enjoy this book, you can also try Church’s You Are My Sunshine (just one more of her many books for babies).
Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA by Jimmy Fallon, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez. Jimmy Fallon (of The Tonight Show fame) is on a tongue-in-cheek mission to help babies everywhere say, “Dada”–preferably as their first word. Each page reveals an animal dad training his baby to say, “Dada” (the babies respond with their respective animal noises) before all the baby animals gather together and, on command, shout, “Dada!” Fans of this book won’t want to miss Fallon’s Everything Is Mama, coming in October 2017.
Hello, Baby! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. I loved reading this book to Owen when he was a baby. After saying, “Hello, baby! Who are you?” the narrator asks if the baby is various animals, including “a monkey with clever toes” and “an eagle exploring the skies,” before ultimately concluding that the baby is the narrator’s “treasure.” I love the simple but evocative animal descriptions and the fantastic illustrations by Steve Jenkins.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Babies around the world, born in villages and cities, in deserts and on the ice, are celebrated in this rhyming story from Mex Fox. Helen Oxenbury (who has written a number of baby books herself) provides charming illustrations of multicultural babies to further emphasize the theme that no matter how different babies are, some things–like ten fingers, ten toes, and a caregiver’s love–are universal.
Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia. This book has been such a hit in our home that we’re on our second copy! Construction vehicles do their various jobs (“With the digger we can Dig Dig Dig”) in a group effort to create an adventure playground. We love the colorful illustrations, simple but effective descriptions, and the final project revealed at the conclusion. Similar books from Emma Garcia include Tap Tap Bang Bang (tools) and Toot Toot Beep Beep (cars).
Counting Kisses by Karen Katz. Karen Katz is another rock star in the baby book world. One of my favorites from Katz is Counting Kisses, a counting-and-kissing book that celebrates the loving, affectionate relationship between a baby and her family. For more from Karen Katz, try Daddy Hugs, Mommy Hugs, and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes… by Annie Kubler. Cute, multicultural children touch their heads, shoulders, knees, and toes in time with the words of the popular song. To make the book more interactive, you can encourage your baby to recognize and touch his own body parts (and do the same yourself).
Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden. Readers “peek” through die-cut holes in the pages to see what pictures are coming next in this popular book. The rhyming text (“Peek a / Moo!” “Peek a / Zoo!”) concludes with “Peek a / You!” and a mirror for readers to see themselves. The mirror is such a hit with babies that it’s no surprise it’s used at the end of all Laden’s “Peek-a” books (including the recently published Peek-a-Moo).
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. It’s always a pleasure (and a pleasant surprise) to find a celebrity children’s book that’s actually good. Parents plead with their mischievous toddler (“Don’t eat the sand, baby baby baby, please.”) throughout the day until, finally, the baby says please as she asks for a good-night kiss. The fabulous illustrations by Kadir Nelson are an added bonus. We also love Lee’s companion book Please, Puppy, Please.
Trucks Go by Steve Light. Forget “Beep!” and “Honk!”–the eight trucks featured in this fun book make awesome noises like “Burbaba burbaba burbaba screech beep-beep-beep crunch crunch crunch” (garbage truck). I guarantee that the more pizzazz you give the truck noises, the more your baby will love it.
Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal. This striking book employs high-contrast illustrations (easily discerned by young children) and simple text to catch the interest of even the youngest babies–though older babies and toddlers will still appreciate pages where “a car races” and “a cat stretches.” For a similar book, try Tana Hoban’s Black & White.
Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr, illustrated by Teagan White. A baby’s kicks, howls, yawns, and more inspire a caring, comforting mother to wonder if her baby is actually various animals (a kicking kangaroo, a howling wolf, a yawning piggy)–but when the baby smiles the mother knows it is not a “bunny-roo-lizard-wolf-kitten-piggy,” but her own wonderful baby. This imaginative book, complete with vintage-feeling illustrations, is a great choice for mothers to share with their babies.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. Books become classics for good reason, and this perennial favorite is no different. Bill Martin’s simple, repetitive text and Eric Carle’s large, colorful illustrations introduce little ones to a variety of animals. Once you’ve read this one, you can move on to companion books like Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Someday by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds. A mother remembers early moments with her child (“One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.”) and imagines what the future holds for her (“Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you.”) in this dreamy, emotional book reminiscent of Robert Munsch’s classic Love You Forever.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Like Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, this book emphasizes that despite their differences in appearance and family make-up, babies are “every day, everywhere” doing many of the same things–from playing games and growing to being rocked, fed, carried, and loved. Marla Frazee’s detailed, often whimsical, illustrations of babies and their families make this book shine.
I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy. “I tickled the baby! Did you tickle the baby? / Yes! I tickled the baby, the wriggly giggly thing!” Various animals discuss how they interacted with a baby duck, culminating with the mama duck, who says, “Of course I kissed the baby, my own amazing baby”–and then she does it again! I’ve always enjoyed how this book captures the excitement and fascination that comes with a new baby.
I Like It When… by Mary Murphy. A penguin child tells its caregiver all the things it likes them to do together, from holding hands and helping to dancing, tickling, and, finally, kissing good-night. A great thing about this book is that the older penguin’s identity is not mentioned–it could be a parent, grandparent, sibling, or any loving person in a child’s life.
Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Emily Bolam. Each page in this charming book greets a different bug and features a brief animal noise or action (“scurry scurry,” “munch munch,” “buzz buzz”). The high contrast, black-and-white illustrations with a shiny splash of color on each page are sure to catch babies’ attention.
First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. Baby’s gotta learn vocabulary! Page spreads such as “Things That Go,” “Bathtime,” “Mealtime,” “Clothes,” “Toys,” and “Pets” introduce colorful, appealing pictures and their corresponding words. Once your baby has mastered these words (or before!) you can move on to companion books such as First 100 Animals, First 100 Trucks, and Colors Numbers Shapes.
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks from A to Z by Richard Scarry. From beloved author/illustrator Richard Scarry, famous for his detailed drawings of anthropomorphic animals (and their busy lives), comes this alphabetic introduction to cars and trucks–from A (ambulance) to Z (a zippermobile!). Babies might not be ready for the alphabet, but they’ll love exploring this small, apple-shaped book.
I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. This sweet and comforting story reinforces the unconditional love a narrator has for everything about a young child, from his silly side and mad side to whether the child is giggling or crying, silent or talking, and more.
Open the Barn Door… by Christopher Santoro. Down on the farm, animals are hiding behind barn doors, fences, and more. Babies (or caregivers) can lift the flaps to find them and learn what sounds they make.
The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel. In my experience, if there’s anything a baby loves looking at more than other babies, it’s doggies. Readers of all ages will giggle and be charmed as they peruse pictures of babies and doggies doing similar things–from sitting and cuddling to running, splashing, and hiding.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, pictures by Beth Krommes. “Here is the key to the house. / In the house burns a light. / In that light rests a bed. / On that bed waits a book.” While this 2017 Caldecott Medal-winning book isn’t necessarily for babies, its simple (but poetic) cumulative text and beautiful, black-and-white illustrations (with added pops of gold) make it a lovely choice for baby-sharing.
Little Yellow Bee: A Garden Lift-a-Flap by Ginger Swift, illustrated by Katya Longhi. Babies can never read too many lift-the-flap books, right? In Little Yellow Bee, babies can lift the flaps to discover what’s hiding behind garden flowers, a cabbage, and a gate. I love the cute and colorful illustrations as well as the thick flaps (not so easily ripped as many lift-the-flap books). Author Ginger Swift has written a number of other lift-the-flap books, including Little Green Frog.
Do Cows Meow? by Salina Yoon. “Do ducks cluck? Do ducks clack? All I know is ducks go…quack!” Large lift-the-flaps open different farm animals’ mouths to reveal the noises they make. This simple, rhyming story is a fun way for little ones to learn animal noises. For a similar farm animal-themed lift-the-flap book, try Peek-a-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti.
Copyright 2017, Jennifer Hatch (Read, Learn, Explore).
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