Reading with your child is important at every age, including before your baby turns one. Studies show that reading to babies as young as 4 months is essential to developing their early literacy skills and will give them a head start when they eventually start school. While your little one’s attention span probably won’t last through Harry Potter yet, short stories with bright illustrations and repetitive language will serve as a perfect introduction to reading. Here are the 11 best baby books to get you going on your little one’s literary journey.
Best Baby Books
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
(Best illustrations — $)
Why it’s great: This classic story by Eric Carle tells the tale of a caterpillar as he eats his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly. A lesson on nature, this book also provides practice with counting. The staggered pages are easy for the baby to touch and feel and the bright illustrations will have your little one requesting to read this book again and again.
Keep in mind: This board book is smaller than the hardcover version.
Good for: Babies who are just beginning their reading journey as this book has bright illustrations and simple language.
2. Besos for Baby by Jen Arena
(Best bilingual book — $$)
Why it’s great: This book is a fun and charming read to share with your little one and features both English and Spanish words throughout. Cute characters with happy smiles will delight the baby’s eyes while a bouncing reading rhythm will keep them engaged. A sweet story about love and language, this book includes a picture glossary at the end with a translation for all the Spanish words included in the story.
Keep in mind: This book uses basic, simple language as it’s intended for reading with young babies.
Good for: Babies (and parents) who want to practice their Spanish.
3. Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
(Most tactile — $)
Why it’s great: This book is a perfect way to visit the zoo without leaving the house. Featuring bold, graphic illustrations and repeating phrases, this story will capture the baby’s imagination as well as his intrigue thanks to the lift-the-flap format. Baby will love opening up each box and cage to reveal fun animal friends in this delightfully interactive book, which has sold over two million copies worldwide.
Keep in mind: Baby will have to be gentle when opening the flaps as the tabs can tear easily.
Good for: Babies older than six months who can better understand the lift-the-flap concept.
4. Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn
(Best characters — $$$)
Why it’s great: This happy story features little Leo, a baby heading to Baby Time at his local library. Babies will love learning about the fun activities Leo gets to do at Baby Time and watching him play with his friends. Featuring a cast of diverse characters, this book is cheerful and vibrant with a simple story that will appeal to younger children.
Keep in mind: This book is not available as a board book, but customers report the pages are nice and thick to prevent tearing.
Good for: Babies who like stories about other babies as this book not only features relatable characters but also showcases fun activities that the baby will be familiar with.
5. Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
(Best message — $$)
Why it’s great: This touching tale tells the story of a young child on a mission to give hugs to everyone and everything. Heartwarming and goofy, this book underscores the importance of love and kindness and features illustrations with a sweet, rosy color scheme. Perfect to read while snuggling up during storytime, babies will love following the Hug Machine on his mission to spread joy to the world.
Keep in mind: Some customers report that this book’s artwork is fairly rudimentary.
Good for: Babies who want to practice hugging and parents looking to teach their little one about the importance of love and kindness.
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6. First 100 Board Book Box Set by Roger Priddy
(Most educational — $$$)
Why it’s great: This box set is a must-have for any baby’s bookshelf. Three board books, including First 100 Word, First 100 Animals, and Numbers Colors Shapes, teach babies important words and concepts they’ll need to develop their language skills. Featuring bright colors and photo illustrations, these books are praised by parents for being packed with fun and meaningful content.
Keep in mind: These books don’t tell a story, they only have images matched with words.
Good for: All babies as these books help little ones practice their early literacy skills.
7. Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
(Best story — $$)
Why it’s great: This National Bestseller by Kevin Henkes has won countless awards, including the Caldecott Medal and the New York Times Best Illustrated Book. Available as a paperback, hardcover, or board book, this story follows an adventurous kitten as she searches for the big bowl of milk she sees in the sky. The graphic black and white illustrations and concise language are perfect for early readers, which is why this book has also been chosen as a Teacher’s Pick on Amazon.
Keep in mind: While black and white illustrations may seem boring, the tonal contrast helps newborns learn to develop their focus and sight skills.
Good for: Reading with the whole family as this book will be enjoyed by parents, newborns, and toddlers alike.
8. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
(Best for learning sounds — $$)
Why it’s great: Little Blue Truck is the first in a multi-book series that follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a beloved blue pick-up truck. This story introduces readers to Little Blue Truck and all his animal friends, all of whom come to his rescue when he gets stuck in the mud. Chock full of noises and sounds, this book also includes engaging illustrations and lovable characters.
Keep in mind: This book’s story is a bit more complex and might be better suited for babies older than six months.
Good for: Practicing truck and animal noises as this book includes all the language you need to identify different sounds.
9. Little Green Box of Bright and Early Board Books by Dr. Seuss
(Most popular — $$$)
Why it’s great: This set of Dr. Seuss books is a great introduction to this beloved author and includes condensed classics like Fox in Socks, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, There’s a Wocket in My Pocket! and Dr. Seuss’s ABC. Featuring delightful illustrations and rhyming language, these books are sure to inspire a love of reading in your child from the very start. Parents praise this set of board books for being durable and the perfect size for little hands.
Keep in mind: This set includes abridged versions of the Dr. Seuss classics, which means they don’t contain the full stories.
Good for: Growing with your baby as children of all ages love the ridiculous rhyming world of Dr. Seuss!
10. Baby Signs by Joy Allen
(Most interactive — $)
Why it’s great: Baby sign language is a fast-growing trend and helps parents teach their children how to communicate before they can speak. This book introduces babies, and their parents, to 13 essential signs with adorable illustrations and short, easy-to-follow instructions. Simple and unique, this book will change the way you understand and interact with your baby.
Keep in mind: This book doesn’t have a story and is more of an instructional guide to sign language.
Good for: Parents who want to teach their child a few simple commands in sign language.
11. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
(Best classic — $$$)
Why it’s great: First published in 1947, Goodnight Moon has been a beloved picture book for generations. This soothing story walks readers through a little rabbit’s bedtime routine. The poetic language and gentle rhythm of this story are sure to lull your little one right to sleep, just as it probably did for you when you were a tiny tot too!
Keep in mind: This book is more expensive when purchased as a hardcover, but it’s also available as a more affordable board book.
Good for: Everyone! This book is a time-honored reading tradition and should be enjoyed by all families everywhere.
FAQs about Baby Books
1. Why should I read to my baby?
This may seem like a silly question since reading is an activity constantly recommended by doctors and educators alike. However, when your baby won’t sit still or focus on the story in front of them, it can be tough to tell if it’s worth the trouble. The truth is, the earlier you start reading with your baby, the better. Even if the baby doesn’t seem like she’s absorbing what’s going on, her brain is still processing all the new words she’s hearing. The more words she’s exposed to, the more she will learn. Reading together is also a great way to establish a steady routine of together time, which is also a crucial necessity for a baby’s development.
2. What are the best reading practices for babies younger than 6 months?
Babies younger than six months can be a tough crowd, so don’t set your expectations too high. Instead, focus on creating a reading routine that lasts only a few minutes each day. Your little one will probably want to grab and chew on the books you read together, so go with a chunky board book or soft fabric book to encourage the baby’s exploration.
3. What are the best reading practices for babies 6-12 months?
As the baby gets older, he’ll be excited to hear certain words and sounds and will be able to absorb the colors and images in the books you read together. At this stage, choosing books with short stories, repetitive language, and fun illustrations will engage the baby’s attention span and storytime will become more enjoyable for you both!
4. Is it okay to read the same book over and over to my baby?
Yes! Repetition is a great way for babies to learn new words, sounds, and concepts. In fact, as your little one gets older, they may start requesting that you read their favorite book again and again during storytime. Even if you’re bored silly by listening to the same story on repeat, this is a wonderful way for children to improve their language skills and cognitive development.
5. Are board books or hardcover books better for babies?
Both options are suitable for reading to babies. Board books are useful for younger babies because they are more tactile and don’t have pages that will tear easily. They are also often more affordable.