This post is the first 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.
Introducing my children to books was trickier than I expected. When my first child was a baby, it seemed like he was constantly eating, pooping, or sleeping. It was challenging to break into this unending, exhausting cycle. When I first sat down to read to him, he squirmed and showed absolutely no interest in books.
Introducing babies to books requires patience, persistance, and careful book seletion. It is also helpful to hold tight to the knowledge that the effort required to get your kids hooked on books is totally worth it — both for your kids and for you. Now that my kids are hooked on books, book time has become the most relaxing part of my day.
A few ideas for reading to babies…
Exaggerate intonation. While young babies cannot yet understand words, they can understand intonation.
Follow your child’s lead. If your child is excited about one part of a picture, talk about it. Feel free to reword books, make up your own words to books, and read pages in whatever order holds your baby’s interest.
Let your child see your face. Letting your child observe your facial expressions as you read can help your child stay engaged and understand the book you are reading.
Books for Discoverers & Communicators – Typically Ages 0-13 Months
“Discoverers” and “communicators” are children — typically babies ages zero to thirteen months — who do not yet understand words or are just beginning to understand what words mean. When choosing books, look for:
- Board books and cloth books (i.e. books that babies can manipulate),
- Clear, bold illustrations, and
- 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!
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.