Being a literacy coach in an elementary school, I am thrilled when I see young children engaged with a book and loving reading. But nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming love, pride, and attachment I felt the first time my little man and I snuggled together to read a book. There is joy in sharing in a book together, knowing your little one is absorbing everything you say, examining the pictures, and watching how you interact with a book. That’s why I meticulously curated a list of the first books for baby that you definitely need to add to your baby’s library.

In this post you will read about:

  • The importance of reading to your child every day
  • What to look for when choosing books for baby
  • How to build baby’s first library
  • The list of the best first books for baby
  • How to make the most of your reading time together
The Best books for baby:
baby laying on blanket holding a book

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Why You Need to Read to Baby Every Day

Research has shown that reading to young babies strengthens vocabulary acquisition and early literacy skills (source). It is never too early to start reading to baby! Even as infants, your little one is absorbing the language that you use and is making meaningful connections to the language and world around them. In the womb, your baby is hearing your voice and learning all about you, mama.

Language Building

Let’s start with one of the most crucial reasons for reading to your child every day. The more you read to your baby, the more language they are hearing. Just as you are encouraged by baby experts now to narrate your day and talk to baby as much as you can, reading books is another way to build an expansive vocabulary.

Why?

There is a significant difference in the vocabularies and early literacy skills of children who are often spoken to at home and those that aren’t (source). This word gap is the reason why experts encourage language to be used consistently directed toward babies…even from when they are born.

What’s great about reading however, is that books contain language that wouldn’t be used in your normal everyday conversations. Therefore, you are exposing your little one to a higher tier of vocabulary, just by reading to them.

Bonding

Reading to young babies also allows for bonding opportunities. There’s nothing better than snuggling up with your newest family member and sharing in a beloved story.

Bonding with baby is a key component in ensuring strong emotional development in your little one. These experiences where baby can bond with you or another caregiver, encourages them to feel safe and loved. When babies feel safe, nurtured, and loved through these experiences, they can free their minds to learn and absorb more from the world around them (source).

Future Reading Success

Just like baby is learning from the language in books, they are also learning so many other important components of reading as well.

Baby is learning about fluency when you read. Your fluency includes the expression you use for different characters, the tone of your voice when you attend to different punctuation in the text, and the phrasing you use.

Baby is also learning about the concepts of print. These concepts include how to hold a book, turn a page, and reading from left to right.

These are just some examples of all that you do automatically when reading, but baby is noticing and learning from you. These skills are important early literacy skills that will set your child up for future reading success.

Learn more about infant literacy skills.

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    What to Look For When Choosing Books for Baby

    Not all books need to have all of these components, but these are very appealing to young children and are great way to start building a diverse library of beloved texts.

    Woman holding baby and reading a book together.

    1. Bright, Colorful Pictures

    It can be hard to hold an infant’s attention. Therefore, bright, colorful pictures can help draw baby’s eyes to the pages you are reading and engage them more in the story.

    2. Interactive

    Another way to hold baby’s attention is through interactive books that include flaps, pop-ups, and other ways for baby to get involved with the story. They make reading a fun experience that they will look forward to.

    3. Rhythm/Rhyme

    Having books that include rhyme/rhythm is not only a great way to model fluency as mentioned above, but it also help babies start to understand the idea of rhyming…an important prerequisite skill to reading.

    baby sitting next to a stack of books and holding a book in his hands.

    4. Tactile Pages

    Having tactile, or touch and feel, pages are another way to engage babies in a story and build upon the sensory development skills that are so important.

    5. Vocabulary Building

    Some of your baby’s books should have a wider vocabulary bank that includes words you wouldn’t normally include in your everyday conversation. This will allow you to expose your baby to new words so that they can begin to apply meaning to them.

    6. Durable

    We all know how babies love to put anything and everything right in their mouths…and this is a good thing! Your baby is learning the world by exploring through their senses. Durable books like cloth books, bath books, and board books are options to ensure that the books in your baby’s library can be loved and enjoyed for years to come.

    Building Baby’s Library

    library shelves showing many books for baby

    There are many ways to start building your baby’s library that won’t break your bank. Goodwill and other second-hand shops should have a great variety of previously loved titles that will be a great start to your library.

    Registering for some books or asking your baby shower hostess to have guests bring a book is another way to build your library. What’s sweet about this option is that a lot of times guests will write notes to your baby inside the books, which makes a more personal gift for baby to love as they grow up.

    The 35 Best Books for Baby

    Below you will find a specially curated list of books for baby that are perfect for a first library. These are tried and true favorites with my little one and I know you and your mini me will love them too.

    Bedtime Stories

    The first category is bedtime stories. These are beautiful stories to snuggle up with during your bedtime routine.

    1. Goodnight Moon

    The classic Goodnight Moon is a beloved bedtime story that is perfect for your nighttime routine. It also has many opportunities to label and point to pictures to build vocabulary.

    2. IF Animals Kissed Good Night

    My little one and I love this beautiful rhyming story. It is a wonderful bedtime story that describes all of the ways different animals would say goodnight. Another great way to build vocabulary of different animals and their actions.

    3. Good Night, Gorilla

    Learn all about the not-so-sleepy zoo animals as you follow the zookeeper around as he tries to put them to bed. This fun loving story will having your little one smiling at all of the animal antics.

    4. The Going to Bed Book

    In The Going to Bed Book, follow along with the silly animals as they go through their own bedtime routine. Your baby will love to see how the animals do the same thing they do to get ready for bed!

    5. Good Night, Little One

    Good Night, Little One recounts all of the ways that animal families say, “Good night”. You will love to share in the rhyme of this sweet story night after night.

    Rhyming Books

    Rhyming stories are a must have for any baby’s new library. They are essential to start working on those early literacy skills and hearing that different words can sound the same. As your baby gets older, they will be able to share in the rhymes with you.

    6. Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

    A classic by Bill Martin Jr., this story follows Baby Bear as it approaches all different animals to find its mama. The rhymes and rhythm of this story are engaging and predictable, helping baby practice predictions and language building.

    7. Tumble Bumble

    I love this silly rhyming story about animal friends going on an adventure. This is my go-to power-packed quick read that I use when I’m short on time and need the most bang for my buck in a read aloud. Why? The engaging illustrations, easy to predict rhymes, and the clear storyline make it a perfect early literacy book.

    8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?

    Another classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear introduces a lot of animal vocabulary, simple rhymes, and has a predictable structure that baby can participate in when reading with you.

    9. Bear Snores On

    Bear Snores On is a cute rhyming story about a bear who continues to sleep through a party that animals are having in his hibernating cave. You’ll have to read to find out what happens when he wakes up!

    10. Giraffes Can’t dance

    This inspiring story not only supports early literacy skills and is a sweet rhyming book, but it also has a beautiful message to share with your baby.

    11. Sheep in a Jeep

    This classic rhyming tale tells of the adventures and mishaps that the sheep find themselves in when they go out for a ride in their red jeep. Baby will love the silly storyline and it will become a fast favorite!

    12. Llama, Llama, Red Pajama

    A personal favorite from my teaching days, this adorable bedtime story about a llama who causes all sorts of drama for mama when it’s time to go to bed.

    13. Ten Tiny Toes

    Supporting language development of body parts, Ten Tiny Toes is a twist on the classic song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. This cute story will have your baby pointing to their body parts and saying the story along with you.

    14. Five Little Ducks

    Written after Raffi’s song, Five Little Ducks, the music comes to life in this story book. Sing along as you read the text, and although the song will be stuck in your head all day, at least you’ll know your little one enjoyed reading/singing with you.

    15. Five Little Monkeys

    Written after a well known rhyme, Five Little Monkeys recounts what happens when monkeys decide to jump on the bed. This is a wonderfully predictable book where your child can chant along with you and even add in some hand motions.

    Vocabulary Builders

    Your baby’s first vocabulary building books should be simple pictures and not a lot of words. This will help them to focus on the words your are trying to teach with extraneous information and pictures. You should still read traditional texts to baby consistently, but these simple vocabulary boosters are just a way to help support first words and receptive language (or the language that baby understands). As baby grows older, traditional texts are perfect for vocabulary acquisition as they teach new words in context.

    16. DK Baby Touch and Feel Series

    The DK Baby Touch and Feel series are perfect for teaching new words in a variety of contexts. The tactile feature is also an engaging bonus.

    17. First 100 Series

    The First 100 Series is another great vocabulary book set. They have bright, colorful pictures that grab baby’s attention and support learning.

    18. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a mixture between the single word books and an actual story. The vivid pictures and labeling through text help baby to learn simple vocabulary.

    19. Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?

    This adorable, interactive book helps baby label and learn body parts. What I love about it is when baby lifts up the flaps to reveal the body parts, the illustration has the characters pointing to the body parts as well. This models and encourages baby to point to their matching body part.

    20. Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada

    A recent favorite, this silly book has baby not only learning the word “dada”, but also will have them learning all of the different sounds animals make.

    Interactive Books

    Interactive books are perfect for on-the-go babies who can’t sit still long enough to listen to a story. Whether it’s flaps, pop-ups, or touch and feel books, these favorites will have your baby sitting down to enjoy reading with you…at least until something else catches their eye!

    21. Peek-a-Who?

    This rhyming peek-a-boo text is a perfect book for baby. They will love guessing who is hiding and will be slapping the pages in anticipation.

    22. Pop-up Peek-a-Boo Series

    The Pop-up-peekaboo series has it all! Rhyming text, pop-up pages, and flaps; these books are sure to delight your little one as you read them over and over again.

    23. That’s Not My… Series

    The “That’s Not My…” series is a tactile series that provides examples of descriptive adjectives on each page. This is an amazing way to build vocabulary through the senses.

    24. Who Said Moo?

    This cute story about a rooster who is trying to find out who said “moo” when he called out “cock-a-doodle-doo” one morning. Rooster brings us on a tour of the farm, through interactive flaps, interviewing all of the animals until we find out who said “moo”.

    25. Dear Zoo

    Dear Zoo is a classic lift-the-flap book that shows all the animals that the zoo sends to a child who wants a new pet. Your baby will love playing peek-a-boo with all of the zoo animals in the book.

    Predictable Books and Books with Clear Storylines

    Predictable books are perfect for emergent language. While baby’s receptive language is growing, they are able to perceive the pattern of a predictable book. The repetitive nature of a predictable book helps baby to practice “reading” a book as they are starting to develop their expressive language.

    26. I Went Walking

    This rhyming, predictable book takes you on a little boy’s walking adventure. The question-answer format prompts participation from your little one and will help them identify all different types of animals on the boy’s journey.

    27. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

    This classic tale takes us on a family’s bear hunt through forests, over rivers, and many other places. The repetitive, predictable nature of this book, will have your little one moving along to the story as you read.

    28. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

    Although not repetitive, this adorable story has a clear problem and solution that allows your baby to be a part of the mouse’s strawberry dilemma. This quick read is a personal favorite of ours.

    29. But First, We Nap

    In But First, We Nap, Rabbit is trying to play with Sloth, but he just wants to sleep. With some repetition and a clear problem and solution, this is a great book to have your little one chime in with you to read.

    30. But No Elephants

    An older favorite, But No Elephants, tells the story of a door-to-door salesman trying to sell Grandma Tildy a pet. Your little one will love chiming in on the repetitive storyline: “But no elephants!”

    High Contrast Books for Infants

    The final five books on this list are perfect for baby’s first books from birth to about 4-6 months. Since baby is born with some not-so-great vision, these high contrast books have vivid pictures that will capture your baby’s attention. There isn’t really a storyline, but the books provide the opportunity to hold your infant’s attention to a book as you flip through pages and point and label the pictures.

    31. Look, Look!

    32. Baby Animals Black and White

    33. Art Baby: Spots and Dots

    34. Hello OCean Friends (and other books in this series)

    35. Hello, Bugs!

    Make the Most of Your Reading Time

    All these books are great, but if you aren’t setting aside the time to read with your little one, then baby won’t be reaping all of the benefits of these beautiful stories. We already covered why it is so important to make sure that you read to your child every single day. Here are some ways to make sure that you are fostering those early literacy skills as best you can.

    The Must-Have 35 Books for baby's library:
Woman reading a book with child

    Snuggle with baby on your lap. Not only is this great for bonding, but baby will be able to see how you hold the book in front of you, turn the pages and point to words from left-to-right. Eventually, you will notice baby will try to turn the pages and want to touch the book with you.

    Another quick tip is to over-exaggerate your tone of voice. Use different voices for characters, enunciate your words clearly, and vary your expression. This makes a story more engaging and will hold your little one’s attention longer than a monotonous tone.

    What books are favorites for your baby’s first library? Share them in the comments below!

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