Did you know that the more books in a home, the greater the chance of a child’s academic success? Books in the home make a positive difference, whether or not the parents are highly educated and whether or not they’re rich or poor. There’s no doubt about it: books are important, even for newborns. But how will you find books a baby will like?
I thought I’d share W’s favorite type of books from his newborn years until early age three. This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it based on anything other than what was popular in this house. Although…I guess you could say it’s literally kid tested and mother approved! (I’ve been waiting to say that.)
Rule 1: Keep it Simple
Let’s be honest, newborns can barely see and their attention spans are nil. The best books for babies (I’m talking weeks on up through the first six months) are extremely simple. Think one or two words per page with one large illustration. Like: DADA by Jimmy Fallon or My First [College] Words by Connie McNamara.
Reading to your infant is not being a helicopter parent. You’re just getting your child used to the process. As in, “in this house, we read every single day.” I found W watched me turn pages (almost certainly his favorite part) even in the first month of life. It sounds strange to read to babies, but they like it. Keep it simple and flip through it quickly.
As your child grows, you can introduce stories with more complex ideas and move onto sentences. Stay away from long paragraphs for a while though. However, I find W enjoys going back to the simple stories because as he matures and his vocabulary grows, he gets more out of them. (See, you won’t be wasting your money!)
Rule 2: Buy Them Built to Last
Buy board books (the stiff, thick pages) because once baby is a little bit bigger, he’ll start to grab for them, and your poor books will end up torn and broken. From love. Love and the power they don’t realize they have.
I didn’t read regular-paged books to W until he was a good 18 months old. Your child might be less physical. As soon as he could turn the pages himself (about five months), he did so with gusto. Maybe girls are easier on stories? I wouldn’t chance it.
Rule 3: Interactive Books Engage
The Finger Puppet Book series is amazing. There are more than a dozen to choose from.
They are thick, simple, and interactive. Depending on your pointer finger’s acting skills, your child might think the puppet has come to life. I’m not sure W totally understands how it works. Then again, sleight of hand is pretty easy at this age.
There are more interactive elements than just the finger puppet books. Try ones with textures, ribbons, moveable parts, etc. Some we like have been Usborne Touchy-Feely Books, Jellycat Board Books, Magic Ribbon Books. Look for anything with texture, scratch and sniff, or inserts to lift.
Dr. Seuss Nursery Collection makes interactive books as well.
Rule 4: Holiday Themes Explain
As your baby becomes a toddler, a fun way to talk about holidays is with books. I try to buy holiday-themed stories, so W understands what we do during that special time of year. It really pumps up his party. We just made a pumpkin pie together because that’s what Spot the dog did in Spot’s Thanksgiving.
Rule 5: Toddler Issues Books Teach
Before I started potty training W, we read about it. Much in the way holiday-themed books prepared him for the seasons, so did these potty books let him know about this change.
One word of caution is to make sure you want to use the method depicted in the book. Kids are impressionable and can be rigid about the way things are done (mine is, anyway). For instance, W watched a Daniel Tiger episode about food allergies. Then he thought he couldn’t eat peaches because Daniel couldn’t.
Another element to keep in mind, especially with potty-training, is gender. Boys and girls “go” differently, so I bought some boy-centric potty books. Some are more gender-neutral, like this favorite: A Potty for Me!
Rule 6: Travel Books Inspire
As an anthropologist and (sigh…former) avid traveler, I want to make W excited to learn about the world. Therefore, if I go anywhere—with or without him—I get him a story about the area. Good options are a series called Good Night Books and the Larry and Pete books. Both are about adventures in famous destinations. These help him understand where we live and what else is in the world.
My parents went to coastal Oregon and bought him a book about lighthouses. He loved that thing, even at age one, and then he learned what a lighthouse was, even though he’d never seen one.
And that, folks, is the gift of reading. Imagining things and places that exist beyond one’s own narrow world.
Rule 7: Don’t Deny the Classics
Peter Rabbit looks like this:
That should tell you how relevant it still is. My First Winnie-the-Pooh, is a must. It’s my favorite children’s story. The poems perfectly capture a child’s (at least a boy’s) life.
Rule 8: You Can’t Go Wrong with the Honorable Mentions
Q: What’s your child’s favorite book? How has it changed from infant to toddler?