This post is the second in a three-part series of posts about choosing books for young children at various stages of development. All three posts will be permanently housed here: Introducing Children to Books.
When my third child was eighteen months old, he was not saying a word — not one. When I mentioned my youngest’s lack of words to friends and acquaintances, they would often dismiss my concern saying, “It’s ok. A typical third child. Your older kids are talking for him.” While my talkative older kids did seem to be talking enough for the entire family, I remained concerned…and for good reason.
My son was tested, found to have a significant language delay and qualified for free speech therapy. I was relieved to have the help of a speech therapist.
The most valuable tip I received from my son’s speech therapist was that I should be reading very simple books with familiar subjects to my son. While she did not use the term, my 2-year-old son was at the first word user developmental stage, and I had been trying to skip ahead and read the same more advanced books to him that I had read to my other children when they were two years old.
When my son’s speech therapist introduced him to Roger Priddy’s First 100 Words, my son was engrossed. Roger Priddy’s First 100 Words seemed like such a dull book to me. It consists simply of photographs of familiar objects (food, clothing items, etc.). However, to my son — who was just learning his first, amazing words — this book was fascinating! My son would point to objects in the book and have me name them, one after another, and an hour would pass.
Most children hit the first word user developmental stage at 12 to 18 months, but your child may reach this stage at 8 months or 5 years. Whenever your child is ready to learn their first words, it is good to surround them with books with pictures of familiar objects. You will naturally point to familiar objects as you read and name them for your child — not because you are trying to turn your child into a baby Einstein, but because your child is a first word user. Your child is wired to learn his or her first words. If you offer books that help introduce new vocabulary, these books will captivate your child and help get your child hooked on books.
Books for First Word Users — Typically Ages 12-18 Months
First word users are beginning to understand what words mean and are saying their first words. At this stage, children are often interested in learning the names of objects and will point to and ask adults to name objects. Look for:
- Interactive books (e.g. flaps, cut-outs, touch-and-feel books)
- Illustrated songs
- Books to help teach children their first words
Beautiful Babies: A Touch-and-Feel Book by Karma Wilson. A touch-and-feel b00k about springtime animals. Beautiful Babies is one of the best touch-and-feel books that I have found, with images of familiar animals that your child will recognize. Ages 0+
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (large, board book edition). A classic story about a caterpillar with an insatiable appetite. There are a few editions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to choose from. If you can get your hands on it, the large board book edition is the best edition for toddlers who will play with this book and stick their fingers through the holes that the caterpillar chews through the pages. Ages 1+
Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz. A book with flaps that readers lift to search for baby’s belly button, hands, toes and other body parts. The interactive flaps are very entertaining to kids ages 12 to 18 months. Ages 0+
Quentin Blake’s Ten Frogs by Quentin Blake. A counting book featuring fantastic illustrations of animals by Quentin Blake: 1 crow, 2 goats, 3 dogs…etc. Blake’s illustrations are both fun and sufficiently realistic that kids will be able to identify the common animals depicted. Ages 0+
If You’re Happy and You Know It by Annie Kubler. Another great illustrated song that introduces kids to body parts. Child’s Play has published several other great board books featuring illustrated songs as well. Ages 0+
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang. A countdown to bedtime from ten to one. I love the quiet affection between father and daughter depicted in the illustrations. The illustrations of the girl’s bedroom offer lots of opportunities to introduce the names of new objects to your child. Ages 0+
Neighborhood Animals by Marilyn Singer and Nadeem Zaidi. A simple book that features nice photos of familiar animals: a dog, a cat, a bird, etc. Neighborhood Animals will appeal to children who are excited about learning the names of animals they have seen. Ages 0+
Eight Silly Monkeys by Steve Haskamp. An exuberent rhyme, that you are likely already familiar with, about monkeys misbehaving and tumbling one after another off a bed. If you were to gather together a group of toddlers to select books for this booklist, Five Silly Monkeys would undoubtedly make the list. Kids seem to enjoy the playful rhyme, the cutouts they can feel, the repetition “no more monkeys jumping on the bed”…and the mental stimulation of learning to count to eight. Ages 1+
More Books for First Word Users:
- Dear Zoo by Rod Cambell
- First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
- Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora
- Dance by Bill Jones
- Where Is My Baby? by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback
- Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin
- Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
- Feed Matisse’s Fish by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo
- Sleepy Time by Gyo Fujikawa
- All of Baby Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler and Hiroe Nakata