One of the things I looked forward to most when I was anticipating the arrival of my son was being able to share some of my favorite books with him, explore more together, and build a library filled with memories of us cozied up and immersing ourselves in countless stories.
While so many aspects of parenthood and life with a baby were not quite in alignment with what I was expecting (the understatement of the century!), reading together did not disappoint.
Plus, there are so many benefits to reading with baby, and it’s never too early to start! Even when children don’t seem to be paying attention to you or the book, they’re still absorbing the benefits. For kids who learn best when they’re active and moving, sitting still isn’t the most valuable lesson. Even very early in life, reading aloud to your baby promotes memory, attention, and listening skills, increases exposure to new words, and builds the foundation for a love of books and learning. Story time is also a great chance for parents and children to calm down while strengthening the parent-child bond.
So, here they are — my top 10 books for babies! They were staples in our home when my kids were younger and some of them have been read so many times they’re falling apart. Now, I’m looking forward to gifting new copies to them when they have their own babies, so the tradition can continue. I think any of these would make a fantastic addition to your family library, too! And, of course, you can always see if they’ve available at your neighborhood library.
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The important message here is that change can be scary, but we need to let go in order to grow. I tear up every time we get to the page where the tree lets go of his leaves. Though the story is moving, it’s also very simple. Little Tree can communicate the concept of courage pretty clearly to even the littlest kids (like my G, who has loved this book since she was 1). The illustrations are simple, colorful, and just beautiful.
The Runaway Bunny
Everyone knows Goodnight Moon, which was created by the same author/illustrator duo of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. The Runaway Bunny is a heartwarming story about a mother’s unconditional love for her baby. It teaches kids that wherever they are, there you’ll be.
Giraffes Can’t Dance
This one will be a strong contender for your family’s favorite jungle book. Giraffes Can’t Dance will acquaint your kids with all sorts of exotic animals. The brightly colored illustrations are exuberant, and the story is “rollicking and rhyming.” It’s really about marching to the beat of your own drummer, being confident, and owning who you are — quirks and all.
This classic concept book is a Caldecott Award recipient. The simple but beautiful illustrations in Fright Train show the big, bold train up close, making you feel like you’re moving right along with it, seeing everything it’s seeing. My D learned his colors with this book, and it reinforced his love for trains.
Little Blue Truck
This very cute book about the importance of friendship and helping others is super fun to read. I love the cadence and rhymes throughout Little Blue Truck — and I suspect those aspects of the story contributed to making it one of the first books that D could “read” all by himself. Plus, what little one doesn’t get excited about a book that has both truck sounds and animal noises?
Beastly Babies is perfect for slightly older kids, especially those who are getting ready to become a big brother or sister. Through downright gorgeous illustrations, it shows how all kids and families are different, and how much (cute and lovable) mischief babies can get into. It makes D laugh about himself, have more patience for his little sister when she’s messy or loud, and think about the future when he’ll have “beastly babies of his own.”
So many books focus on the bond between mom and baby — Mister Seahorse is one that focuses on how daddies care for and love up their littles! You’ll recognize the artwork of Eric Carle immediately, and (depending on which edition you get) the peek-a-boo pages will excite your young readers. The illustrations are playful and captivating, and the message is an important one.
Pat the Bunny
This Golden Book was a favorite from my own childhood, and it’s been a joy to share with our kids. Its magic is the interactivity; smell the flowers, read the book, try on mommy’s ring, feel daddy’s scruffy beard. With a short and easy-to-follow story, Pat the Bunny is ultra engaging and encourages children to explore with their senses.
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You
Nancy Tillman’s illustrations are magical and otherworldly in this spectacular book. A parent’s love knows no bounds, and that message is reinforced in language that’s comforting to even the littlest hearts and minds. The idea of being loved and cherished even when we’re not together was especially comforting when my babies were experiencing separation anxiety. Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You makes it easy to tell kids how special and important they are.
They All Saw a Cat
Brendan Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat is an exploration of perspective, perfect for young minds. As a cat wanders through the world, each creature it encounters sees it differently. This simple yet profound concept is brought to life with vibrant, varied illustrations, showing the cat through the eyes of a child, a dog, a bee, and more. It’s a journey that encourages curiosity and understanding of how everyone sees the world uniquely. A truly fantastic read for little ones beginning to discover the diversity and wonder of their surroundings.
What incredible books am I missing?
It’s impossible to read all the great children’s books out there in a lifetime – let alone a childhood! What beautiful, meaningful, or just plain amazing kids’ books should other parents not be missing out on? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know!