Best Books for Kids: Babies and Toddlers
Why Reading to Your Kids is so Important
I have been reading stories to my daughters since they were in my womb (they're 8.5 and 10 now - where doe sthe time go?!). I believe that reading aloud to your kids is not only fun and educational, but it's soothing and can become a really enjoyable ritual for you (even caregivers) and your kids.
More importantly, studies show that reading to children helps them acquire skills and information they will need in life, such as word meanings, learning about their world, and gaining an appreciation and love for reading in general.
Reading also helps children improve their language skills. The child learns to recognize written words (sight words.) Studies say that reading before going to bed helps the child feel secure and comfortable while sleeping. Emotions can be best understood through the characters in stories. Experts recommend reading to your child/children 20 minutes a day - preferable one-on-one reading. This 20 minutes can even be broken up into shorter time frames, like twice a day for 10 minutes.
"You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me"
Things to Remember
Create a comfortable place where you often sit and read aloud to your child. Help them learn as you read - ask questions about the story or the pictures as you read to them. Read all kinds of books - fiction AND non-fiction. Kids will develop favorite books and will want to read them over and over again - don't get frustrated, just go with it and enjoy the fact that your child has a love of stories! Encourage your older toddler (3+) to help complete sentences once they become familiar with stories. Ask them to predict what will happen by looking at the illustrations.
All young children love to ask questions when they are read to because they all have curious little minds. Reading one-on-one provides children with the best opportunity to ask all the questions they want about the pictures, the story, or whatever may be burning in their minds.
(My) Favorite Books for Babies and Toddlers
Dr. Seuss: The Foot Book, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and There's a Wocket in My Pocket! These books were favorites of my girls for a long time - years, in fact (especially The Foot Book.) The picture up above is of my oldest daughter reading The Foot Book aloud to herself (before she could even speak!) These books are simply classics and I think they always will be.
The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton- we read this to both my girls pretty much every single night from birth until they were around 2! I was even able to recite the entire book word for word without even cracking the cover! Kids love this book.
Goodnight Gorilla is a picture book with no words - the great thing about this book is that you make up the words as you go which come easy because the pictures tell the story for you. As your child gets older, they will enjoy "reading" this one to themselves and it's so fun to hear them make up the story themselves and all the different variations!
Katie Cat is a simple pop-up book that comes with a tiny, flat stuffed cat that "interacts" with the story. At 4, my oldest STILL loved for me to read this to her while she held Katie Cat and acted out the story with the it. I also have to say that my youngest, Kate, has been called Katie Cat by us since she was a baby thanks to this book; at 8.5 we still call her Katie Cat!
My Melody's New Bike is a a cute story that the kids just seem to enjoy over and over again.
Good Night, Good Night Sleepyhead is a great bedtime story!
My Little Animal Book is not a story book, as it's mainly pictures of all kinds of animals that are grouped into categories. It is interactive, like asking you to find the baby animal that goes with the mommy animal and such. My youngest had to "read" this book every single night at bedtime for months and months; she even liked to sleep with it in her crib!
More Great Board Books
From Head to Toe, Polar Bear Polar Bear, Baby Bear Baby Bear- all by Eric Carle. There's something about the repetitiveness of the text in these books that make kids just love them! To the right is a great collection of Eric Carle stories in one book. You can also easily find the individual books as well. Amazon has 'em all!
Planes by Barton - this book is simple but it's fun to read; my daughter loved to point out the airplanes and what they are doing, including adorable sound effects. Kids are always fascinated by airplanes.
Karen Katz books: Excuse Me, No Hitting, I Can Share, Where is Baby's Bellybutton - these are all flap books, which are so fun for the kids. Anything interactive always keeps their attention and they have fun with it. These are good because the actual flaps are large - almost the whole page size, so easy for tiny hands. Some other books with small flaps end up getting torn too easily.
The Carrot Seed by Krauss - this is another simple story about a boy who was determined to grow a carrot. There's a great lesson here about perseverance. This book has a great classic, retro look to it, and there's a 60th anniversary edition!
Hands Are Not For Hitting- my little one loved this book. I got it for her because she started developing a hitting habit and I thought it might help. Okay, so I have to admit that it didn't really help even as much as she loved this book, but there was still a lesson to be learned! We still repeat "hands are not for hitting" on occasion, though. So even though it didn't stop the hitting (time did, however) it is still a great book about teaching a lesson and kids enjoy reading along and lifting the flaps.
We're Going on a Bear Hunt - This book is a wonderful book to act out while reading aloud. It has a lot of repetition, which kids enjoy and it makes it easy for the kids to memorize and that makes it fun to read together - we had a lot of fun with this one for a long time! The Anniversary Edition was released in September 2009. This book has won awards, and should be in every child's library - there's even a board book version!
Favorite Books for Older Toddlers & Preschoolers
I Dreamt I was a Dinosaur - what kid doesn't like dinosaurs and leaning about their strange names? It's fun to read dinosaur stories and hear th ereactions and hear the kids try and pronounce the names, too!
Secret Seahorse - this is a nice rhyming story and kids can interact with it and find where on the pages the seahorse(s) is hiding. Interaction keeps their interest!
Go Away, Big Green Monster - My 8.5 and 10 year olds STILL love this GREAT book! At first the cover picture scared my kids when they were little, but I convinced them to listen to and look at the book and they loved it immediately - it puts the control of the monsters into their hands! Very interactive and fun read.
But I Waaannt It! - Dr. Laura Schlessinger writes very well. This story is cute and it teaches patience and charity. Because of this book, my daughter is always wanting to give some of her toys to kids who don't have toys. Kids tend to be selfish (a natural tendency) but this book helps teach a great lesson - that helping others is good and it makes you feel good to be unselfish and help those in need.
Blueberries for Sal - This book has cool, retro-ish illustrations and is a good story to boot - the kids seem to just love it. They like repeating the "kaplink, kaplunk" and other sounds that the berries make when dropped into the bucket. This is a very cute story.
Oliver Who Would Not Sleep - This is a great bedtime book. The boy has a healthy imagination and must exhaust himself before he's ready to sleep. We all know how exhausted we as parents can sometimes get trying to get the kids to sleep!
Where Are You?- The kids enjoy this sweet tale about a cute little dog that gets lost in the grocery store, finds his grandpa, then accuses his grandpa of getting lost! It's a fun story to read.
Five Little Monkeys - Fun and funny rhyming story that makes you laugh - and can be acted out by the kids. Some of the books even come with a furry glove and each finger is topped with a monkey head and it can be used interactively along with the story - my kids loved repeating the fun rhyme in this book over and over again!
Midnight Fairies- a few cute stories in one book and each one has a built-in jigsaw puzzle. My daughter loves to have me read the book to her, then she plays with the puzzles in bed after story time. The hard part is locating and replacing all the puzzle pieces in the morning - haha!
The Girl In The Castle Inside The Museum - This is one of my personal favorites. It's a lovely story and contains some of the prettiest illustrations I have seen in a children's book.
Fun Rhyming Books
Llama, Llama Collection - My daughter couldn't get enough of these rhyming adventures of a funny looking Llama. Some of the favorites in the series includes Llama, Llama Mad at Mama (funny!); Llama, Llama Red Pajama (this book is great as a bedtime read!); Llama, Llama Misses Mama- good for kids about to start school or preschool; Llama, Llama Time to Share; Llama, Llama and the Bully Goat....and lots more!
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly - The storyline is a bit odd when you really think about it, but it's funny, rhymes well, is fun to sing and the kids find it to be hilarious!
Miss Mary Mack - Have a blast trying to teach your child to do pat-a-cake with this one (been there, done that!) Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack all dressed in black, black, black ... now I'll be singing this all night! Really, it's fun AND addicting!
The Wheels On The School Bus - Fun to sing this one, too. Every kid loves singing this one over and over and over again. I've heard a few different versions that have some different verses, but I believe this book contains the classic version. A must, in my humble opinion.
The Lady With The Alligator Purse - Yet another funny rhyme that's a lot of fun to read with kids and sing along with too!
Classic Kid Books We All Know and Love
Dare I assume that no explanation is necessary for these few:
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Where The Wild Things Are