Babies! Little sponges soaking in everything from the moment they are born. When I was expecting my first child, we didn’t find out her gender, which meant my baby shower turned into a build-a-library sort of party with a wide range of brand new board books. A dream come true, right?!
While parenting classes and well-meaning relatives may try to prepare you for the magnitude of caring for a new person, few will praise reading aloud as one of the single most important things you can do for your child(ren). It’s true! And not just because we say so. The Read-Aloud Handbook (the 8th edition comes out this fall!) offers countless research and anecdotal evidence to support any new parent in their quest to build a read-aloud foundation from day one.
But back to the babies. You may already know that young babies (0-6 months) prefer high contrast books. While older children (6 months – 2 years) appreciate bold colors and interactive books that include mirrors, pull tabs, lift-the-flaps, and a mix of touchable textures. Nearly all children enjoy the lilting sounds of repetition and rhyme, and although you may tire of reading the same few books every single night, your baby does not. Whether you’re reading an early concept book or a favorite bedtime book, all books play a pivotal role in helping children develop.
Reading also provides such an easy built-in bonding experience, while you are simultaneously helping them with language acquisition, speech pattern recognition, inflection development, and a host of other vital life skills. Books that give babies hands-on interaction are one of the surest ways to ensure a child comes to loves books.
These 12 books, intended for children ages 0-3, are all excellent resources to build your home library and encourage your growing reader from the start.
1 | DEAR ZOO BY ROD CAMPBELL
A classic for more than 30 years, this lift-the-flap book is all about a young child that wants a pet but keeps getting animals that aren’t the right fit. After numerous returns, the zoo finally gets it right with the gift of a puppy. You’ll be amazed how early your child can lift up those little flaps on his/her own.
2 | FARM ANIMALS BY XAVIER DENEUX
If you ever need an ingenious design-centric board book in your home or for a baby shower look no further than this author/illustrator. Compact in size, with a pleasing black/white and orange palate, Farm Animals has interactive slide tabs to manipulate, ideal for moving while making the accompanying animal sound.
3 | GIVE & TAKE BY LUCIE FELIX
A break-apart and put-back-together board book that takes shapes to a new level. Little fingers love removing and replacing the sturdy pieces found throughout this uniquely designed gem.
4 | GUESS WHAT? FRUIT BY YUSUKE YONEZU
Is it a peach or a pig? Did that orange just unfold to reveal a horse underneath? This title is clever at every turn, and I’ve never met a Yonezu book that babies didn’t goggle up (sometimes literally!).
5 | HUG ME LITTLE BEAR BY CHRONICLE BOOKS
A finger puppet book that encourages extra hugs and tickles with your little one. What’s not to love about it? Bonus: It also comes in a bunny version.
6 | MON PETIT BUSY DAY BY ANNETTE TAMARKIN
This oversize board book includes a matching game, a counting hand, a moveable clock, and an entire palette of colors to explore. With vibrant images and dozens of lift-the-flaps throughout, this book is a hit with the 2-4 year-olds.
7 | OPPOSITE SURPRISE BY AGNESE BARUZZI
One sheep or many sheep? An empty or full fish tank? A clean or dirty shirt? Both coexist in this pull-out page book. My favorite spread involves a slow turtle turning into a fast airplane. Make this your new diaper bag staple.
8 | POLAR BEAR, POLAR BEAR WHAT DO YOU HEAR? BY BILL MARTIN, ILLUSTRATED BY ERIC CARLE
When it comes to books/toys that make noise I’m definitely in the less-is-more camp. Similar to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, this book features a repeat structure that allows children to push 10 different animal buttons at the appropriate page turn. A classic on many levels!
9 | SCRATCHIE: A TOUCH-AND-FEEL CAT-VENTURE BY MARIA PUTRI
Scratchie is an adventurous cat that likes to, well, scratch things. Follow Scratchie on a tactile escapade to keep her claws sharp by scratching a variety of different surfaces.
10 | TAP THE MAGIC TREE BY CHRISTIE MATHESON
A book that asks a lot of its readers ensures that the reader is paying attention, which is exactly what you’ll find in this shake, jostle, and tap-the-page book. This is the first in a three series set, and all are worth seeking out.
11 | THE HUMAN BODY BY STEPHANIE BABIN, ILLUSTRATED BY ILARIA FALORSI
A thoroughly engaging nonfiction board book that is paper engineered to tour young kids through the functions and needs of their body. Even a one-year-old can manipulate the sturdy tabs without breaking the book. We also like the Baby Animals book by the same author.
12 | WHERE IS BABY’S BELLY BUTTON BY KAREN KATZ
When it comes to lift-the-flap books, Karen Katz is prolific. She’s written dozens of these Where Is…? books. With simple language and bright colors, they are always a winner with young readers.