Introducing my children to books was trickier than I expected. Babies and toddlers have short attention spans. Babies often have more pressing concerns on their minds than the book you are lovingly offering to read to them. It is tough to break into their eat-poop-sleep cycles. Toddlers often seem more excited about chewing and throwing books than reading them. It can also be frustrating when toddlers get excited about books only to discard them after a couple of pages.
Meeting kids where they are developmentally can substantially increase the chance that your child will become interested in and enjoy books. I offer these developmentally appropriate booklists to help you find books that your child will enjoy.
I hope that you do not get too hung up on making sure that you always read developmentally appropriate books to your child. If you read a book that is beyond your child’s developmental level, no harm done. On the other hand, I do not believe that children ever get too old for books. My seven-year-old still on occasion listens to and enjoys Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Snowy Day, Make Way for Ducklings and others.
Best wishes in reaching the stage where you and your child both look forward to snuggling up and reading books together. May all parents and caregivers get there.
Books for Discoverers & Communicators – Typically Ages 0-13 Months
Discoverers and communicators do not yet understand words or are just beginning to understand what words mean. Look for:
- Board books and cloth books (i.e. books that babies can manipulate)
- Clear, bold illustrations
- Simple rhymes
Fuzzy Bee and Friends by Roger Priddy. A cloth book that kids can enthusiastically touch and chew, with simple, two-sentence rhymes that sound appealing to babies. My kids loved the crinkly front cover!
Whoozit Photo Album by Manhattan Toys. With crinkly pages, a textured handle, and rings, this five-picture photo album is great for babies to play with. Fill with high contrast photos of family members.
Babies by Julie Aigner-Clark. Babies enjoy looking at images of babies. This book delivers. Babies is a good book to read with your baby and his or her new older sibling because it describes the basics of a young baby: “sometimes babies cry,” “babies sleep a lot,” “babies need lots of love.” Another book with wonderful images of babies is Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children.
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. While the book’s message is aimed at older kids, your baby will enjoy the rhyming text, colorful illustrations, and front page cutouts. An excellent book to read to baby and an older sibling.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. The bold illustrations and simple rhyme will engage babies. This book is also fantastic for older children who are learning the names of colors and animals.
Time for Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer. This is a long book, so do not expect to read the entire book to your baby during your first sitting. However, the simple two-sentence rhymes and simple illustrations make this an excellent choice for babies. Feel free to skip to the final page before or when your baby gets restless.
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka. Playing with sounds is a valuable precursor to forming words. While I am certain that Chris Raschka did not create Charlie Parker Played Be Bop for babies, the sounds and rhythm of this book make it fun for parents and babies to read together. Parents and babies will also enjoy Raschka’s fantastic illustrations!
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
- Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz
- Beautiful Babies: A Touch-and-Feel Book by Karma Wilson
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (large, board book edition)
- Five Silly Monkeys by Steve Haskamp
- Baby Beluga by Raffi and Ashley Wolf
- If You’re Happy and You Know It by Annie Kubler
- Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
- Neighborhood Animals by Marilyn Singer and Nadeem Zaidi
- Quentin Blake’s Ten Frogs by Quentin Blake
- Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Books for Combiners – Typically Ages 18-24 Months
Combiners are beginning to combine words into two or more word sentences. This is an exciting time to be reading books to children! At this stage, children’s vocabularies are expanding rapidly, and many children are ready to listen to their first, very simple stories. Look for:
- Books with repetition
- Participatory books
- Books with more advanced vocabulary
- Short stories
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
- One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root and Jane Chapman
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and Lois Ehlert
- Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
- Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade
- Bird, Fly High by Petr Horacek
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson
- To Be a Kid by Maya Ajmera and John Ivanko
- The Daddy Book by Todd Parr
“Reading to children is important in laying the foundation for them to become readers, but it’s not enough to turn them into enthusiastic readers. Books that enchant, amuse, move, and delight children will inspire them to become readers. Therefore, choose books carefully, keeping in mind children’s interests and stages of language development.”
- Learning and Language Development