As a book lover who has been obsessed with books since I was little, it was really important for me to try and cultivate a love for books in Riley. Books have meant so much in my life and I hope one day they will mean a lot to her as well.
It was so important to me to read to her from as early as I could manage for many reasons aside from just wanting to cultivate that love for reading early.
From the developmental benefits to the fact they entertained her visually to the wonderful bonding and snuggling time reading gave us — it’s just an all around good idea to read with your baby!
All that being said, I’d love to share some of our favorite books that I think are great books to read with baby if you are looking to make it a part of your daily routine and life as well and are in need of some good books for babies!
It’s a good thing I am meticulous about keeping track of everything we read (with little notes sometimes!) so that I can reference them when I inevitable wait forever to share about what books we love in each stages.
If I tried to rely on my memory this post of our best books for babies under 1 would be incredibly difficult to write. So let’s get to it!
I often get asked, “What kind of books are the best kind to read to your baby?“
At the basic level, whenever people ask me what are good books to read to babies, I’m Team honestly just read anything to them to start with. I think it’s just excellent for them to hear language and be read to in general — so read whatever picture books you have on hand. Don’t be worried about if it’s the “right” one.
But did I absolutely look for and read developmentally or age appropriate books for a baby? Yes. I absolutely did. But don’t let being unsure of that prevent you from just reading — even if it’s too long or over their head.
Just read to your baby — from as early an age as you can manage it.
(Sidenote: I always had people asking me when I started reading to Riley and I remember just pulling out some short board books we had maybe at 2 weeks while she was in my arms — more so for myself to ground me during this time of postpartum anxiety and transition. But obviously also to start our lifelong habit of reading haha).
Anyways, I had two types of books basically to read to her when she was an infant under 1 years old:
1) things that were supposed to be developmentally appropriate or like “first concept” type books or anything that reinforced that early language especially in the 6-12 month range as she started to associate things in books with the world around her.
2) any short-ish board book that would hold her attention because of the pictures/rhythm (or whatever seemed to captivate her about it) even if the story went over her head at the time. I loved books like this because most of the time they would really grow with her. What interested her about the book at 6 months would be different 6 months or a year later.
There were definitely things that I looked for when trying to specifically choose books to get from the library or to buy to hope they’d be on par with her age and development. Things like:
- books that weren’t TOO busy illustration wise
- bold & colorful illustrations
- nothing too wordy
- repetition, repetition, repetition (seriously books that have repetition are great fun for this age)
- good rhythms or like anything that felt “bouncy” or fun when I was reading it (I can’t explain that one — I just knew it when I found it haha)
- anything tactile
- anything interactive
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If you want to take the guesswork out of it, after taking the recommendations below, I highly recommend a book subscription box for kids like Bookroo or Reading Bug Box as they are so adept at picking great age-appropriate books for babies (and beyond).
Don’t forget to check out these other great books for babies:
- Best lift the flap books
- Best black & white high contrast books for babies
- best Christmas books for babies
- best Fall books for babies & toddlers
- Best Books For 1 Year Olds
- best bedtime books for babies
Tips For Reading To Babies
While Riley is my only kid, I read a lot to the kids I nannied as well as my many nieces and nephews and I feel like those experience really shaped these tips experiencing different kids with different attention spans and different enjoyment of books.
- keeping it short and being okay with calling it early if she seemed squirmy
- be okay with reading the same books over and over and over again. There were some books that made me want to chuck them in the trash if I had to read them one more time but they really get so much out of reading them over again. Once I tried to remember she was learning from the experience, it helped not bug me as much.
- reminding myself that books that I think are boring AF might captivate her attention or be really good for her learning things even if I’m bored of these spread with one or two words on them.
- let them explore the book — sometimes Riley would just want to take it out of my hand or she’d want to linger on a page or go back to something and, at first, I’m like come on let’s just finish the book but that would only lead to frustration. And plus, I don’t want to hinder whatever is going on in that brain when she is having a moment with a book haha.
- when they start being on the move be okay with a bit of “on-and-off” reading. Sometimes I’d sit on the floor and read and the child would be engaged but then go crawl off and grab a toy or look at something and then come back. I’d always keep reading because I’d notice that if i stopped reading, more often they would notice and be annoyed. Sometimes I know Riley was listening to me reading but she just didn’t want to sit.
- don’t give up on a book if they don’t like it initially — sometimes Riley would consistently not be interested in a book so I’d put it away for a month (or get it back out in a couple months from the library) and try again and what a difference time can make with certain books! Sometimes they just won’t vibe with a book ever but so many of her favorites were ones that seemed like duds at first.
Alright let’s get to these great books for babies 0-12 months, now shall we?
Best Books For Babies Under 1
As you read above about how I approach picking books to read for the baby age, I just want to say that that approach is reflected in these picks. I think there is value in having a mix of more books that are more story-oriented as well as books that are conceptional/educational and experience based (touch and feel).
While books that just had an object and a word on them were boring for me (give me the substance!), I saw the value of these type of simple books in connecting things to the larger world as well as just sometimes they really called to her in a way that my grownup brain couldn’t understand.
So, yes, some of these books will be great books for babies not in the award-winning, great literature sense but more so in the “babies really dig this/are entertained by it” or “this is good for development/learning/concepts” sense.
This was a thing I had to remind myself often as someone who often felt bored by some of the books Riley would love. I wanted great books and stories but sometimes those were not the books she was drawn to initially. I found having a mix of everything to be a well-rounded approach to building her early love for reading! Plus as she got older we could really dive into those story-based books I was so eager to introduce to her.
Baby Goes Beep
I got this as a baby shower gift from a friend who was a children’s librarian and it ended up being one of Riley’s favorite books as a baby. I think she loved the boldness and the brightness earlier on but when she was like 9-12 months she really loved the repetition and the anticipating us doing all the sounds or moves.
I Kissed The Baby
It’s not just hype about these black and white high-contrast books — they are the real deal and this is one of my favorites. Perfect for newborns and young babies and this one is so adorable as it combines the high contrast concept with the sweetness of all the animals being excited about a new baby! It’s an easy one to turn interactive for a fun & cuddly story time together!
Baby’s First Words series
If you are looking for some “first words” type books, I love these. I like to, when I can, pull out any of the words that they feature (like socks) to show her it in real life. I’m shocked these aren’t more popular when I was looking them up to go in this post because, while boring for us as adults, these are perfect for babies — bright and bold illustrations that stand out and are simple/not busy for baby to focus on. Each spread had the accompanying word and sometimes I’d elaborate and talk about whatever was on the page. She loved looking at these on her own, too, which is always a win in my book!
Baby Animals Black and White
This one is wordless but it was easy to talk about each page and animal — talk about the sounds and where they live (as she got older). As a younger baby as a newborn & around 3 months old she really dug the black and white images with the realistic pictures of animals — even without any narration from me. We’d just look at it a lot of the times after the first initial “reading” and narrating from me.
Looking for great books for your baby ?
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Helen Oxenbury’s books
There are two main little “series” she has that are great books for babies (especially if you like realistic/Montessori aligned books for babies). These ones are perfect books to read to newborns as they are short and simple!
ALL FALL DOWN / CLAP HANDS /TICKLE TICKLE / SAY GOODNIGHT –The charm about these books are that they feel truly meant for young babies despite how let down I was initially after I ordered them and was like “that’s it??”. They are short (literally like 4 big spreads) but they are truly perfect for that age — they aren’t busy, simple text and are great for short attention spans while also letting baby linger on the oversized spreads that feature simple yet captivating scenes with babies. Riley didn’t get on with these much after 12 months but they were great lapbooks when she was a newborn/young infant but she really loved this book on her own from 6-12 months. Plus I found as she got older we made them into “action books” to make them more fun and engaging. They also came out with a set of these that are tiny and perfect for baby hands (and throwing in your diaper bag!) — different from the oversized board book version I’m talking about.
I SEE / I CAN / I HEAR / I TOUCH — Again, very simple but in the best way for babies. The “I Can” book was really fun because when she got older she’d do the movements. Don’t expect anything flashy here but they have withstood the test of time as baby favorite books for a reason! Simple and not busy so that baby can focus and they are fun because they reflect baby & toddler’s world back at them in an easy way.
The first time I heard about these I was like “yeah right” — sounded like a big claim that wouldn’t hold true. But, they really did hold up to be quite indestructible — not one rip, didn’t fall apart considering she mouthed the crap out of them. (I won’t lie — I even tried to rip one). I also really loved being able to throw a bunch of these in the diaper bag or whatever and they weren’t heavy/didn’t take up a lot of room. There are SO many of them but here are a couple of our favorites. Such good books for babies under 1 especially with how they hold up! Some of the books are definitely, concept-wise, more geared towards toddlers but they got a lot of mileage regardless when she was an infant.
A sweet & affirming book about how all babies, all over the world, are loved and special. The cute little faces of other babies are what kept Riley mesmerized by this one as a baby but the beautiful diversity and message was the keeper for me. For me, it was important from early on for Riley to see the world as diverse as it really is and to know the world is bigger than just our little corner of it. This book is just wonderful as is the other one in this series Global Baby Bedtimes. Also gets a place on our shelf for the fact she loved it as a toddler too. Makes a great gift idea for a new baby!
Black Bird Yellow Sun
Simple, colorful book with bold color use that captivates babies and then later on is a GREAT book to talk about colors especially because the color on each page is isolated with the contrast of the black bird (plus the illustrations are very textured and beautiful).
The story itself of the black bird going through it’s day, told mostly by the photos, was nice to expand on and talk about as she got older. It’s also a nice book if you are looking for something animal themed that’s not anthropomorphic as the black bird is doing what it naturally does as opposed to human-like things.
Who Says I Love You
Highlights came out with these fantastic board books for babies that are full of crisp and engaging photos of babies/animals with bright colors. AND THIS ONE HAS A MIRROR AT THE END! There’s several of them in the series — this was just one we loved!
All things Sandra Boynton
Truly. These were among the first books I read to her at 3 weeks old and they got read often even until she was a toddler. There’s so many of them but the first ones were: Moo Baa La La La and The Going To Bed book. I don’t know what it is but Sandra Boynton books were like baby crack and are well-loved in this house more than any other books. They are short and bouncy and fun! She loved them just as much during toddlerhood and then we grew our collection with even more Sandra Boynton books — like my favorite Happy Hippo, Angry Duck (great one for mood/emotions!) or the one that caused so many giggles at bedtime when she was 1 years old — Are You A Cow?
Brown Bear Brown Bear (slider board book version)
A classic that I loved as a kid! The version of this book that I have is a new one to me format-wise (same story)…it has a slide out feature that when you slide it you can see the animals that each animal sees. It’s really cute and I like that when she gets older she can work on those motor skills while trying to slide out the pictures.
Cleo The Cat
Conceptually this book hit its stride when Riley was a toddler (understanding Cleo is lonely/is a stray cat in search of a home) but this was a hit around 9 months old in terms of engagement and enjoyment. Simple text & rhymes, bright illustrations chronicling Cleo the Cat’s day — a day in which Cleo the stray wanders and finds a home. Another one of those books that will grow with your child (could even be a great early reader book!). It’s the first in the Cleo series and I highly recommend Cleo’s Adventures too!
Baby Dance By Ann Taylor
Such a cute and playful book that is great for interacting with baby. It’s about a daddy doing all sorts of things to soothe baby while mommy rests. It’s rhythmic and full of movement so we’d always do some movements while reading it — especially by the point I new it by heart.
All things Karen Katz
If I could only have books by one author during the baby/early toddler stage, Karen Katz would be high in the running. Her books were among Riley’s FAVES. She has some wonderful lift-the-flap books that were perfect for the under 1 year old infant crowd (as well as early toddlers) and she has some just really sweet books that are perfect to cuddle up and read together featuring sweet babies and lots of affection between baby/parents.
Counting Kisses — This book is just the sweetest book and a great bedtime book to read with baby along with Daddy Kisses and Mommy Hugs. The covers of these books are falling off because they were in our rotation so often.
Ten Tiny Babies — This was an all time favorite as a baby AND a toddler. Riley loved these cute, silly babies plus it was a good one for counting as she got older.
The Babies on the Bus — takes the Wheels on a Bus to a much cuter level. I have so many good memories of reading this with her and she’d do the actions but my favorite is how often she’d “read” this to herself and be silly with the actions on her own.
Zoom, Zoom, Baby and all the other lift the flap books — Karen Katz lift the flaps are the BEST! We had so many of them. This one is great among others like “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” “Where is Baby’s Puppy” and countless others (including some fun seasonal ones!)
Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora
This was one that grew with her as an older baby (in the 6-12 month range) and as a young toddler in which she’d really get into anticipating what was next! A simple peekaboo game between a young toddler and various members of their family.
That’s Not My Puppy
The “That’s Not My” series of books was a big hit for Riley as a baby! Babies love a tactile reading experience and these were among our favorite touch and feel books. A great variety of touch & feel elements plus the illustrations are bold and the text is repetitive in a way babies love.
Riley got into this book when i got it from the library around 9 months and it reminded a beloved read for her well to 18 months. Lots of cute babies parading around the pages! What I loved is that it was only about a sentence for each spread and it kept her attention so much plus it was really cute when she’d wave to baby as the text prompts. The illustrations are absolutely darling too! Baby Party, a companion to this book, was also really cute too!
Who? A Celebration of Babies
This one is a great call-and-answer type book with repetition that babies will quickly catch on to! Each page, using the same pattern, we are asked who we are seeing on the page — mama, daddy, puppy, etc. Lots of diverse babies, too. I’ve gifted this one and it’s always been a hit.
Babies Can Sleep Anywhere
This was a great book that Riley enjoyed as a baby and it grew with her as a toddler. A simple little book that shows where a variety of animals sleep and then repeats the refrain “but babies can sleep anywhere” and shows babies sleeping in a variety of places. It’s a catchy, rhyming book and aesthetically I just loved the illustrations and colors.
As Riley got older it was fun to talk about the different animals and how they sleep. I always wanted to laugh/cry reading this sometimes because I had a baby that seemed not to sleep ANYWHERE. (nah, not me feeling salty at a picture book HA!)
Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld
A baby favorite turned toddler favorite for Riley — she couldn’t get enough of the wild baby orangutan running amok with the mommy chasing after (teeny bit helicopter mom but hey we all know what it’s like trying to take care of a baby/toddler who seems intent on dare-deviling themselves right into trouble so there’s no judgment from me hah). Good length for baby and is engaging in the flow/pictures and grows along with them as toddlers.
Peekaboo game in cute book form with farm animals! We actually discovered this one at baby storytime and it was a hit with all the babies. Big bright colors and lift the flaps that reveal different farm animals and the sound they make. I loved listening to Riley practice all the animal sounds by herself when she’d “read” it alone — I really do think books like this encourage language even though to adults these type of books can seem bland. Riley practiced those sounds SO often before she really could talk. There’s a whole series of these if you like this!
Hooray For Fish
I found this one on a whim when Riley and I were browsing the library and she immediately was drawn to the bright colors and the fish. It’s a simple book that goes throughout the ocean to say hi to the fish friends — nothing crazy exciting for us adults but this was a winner around here under 12 months old — it didn’t hold much attention for long after that but we would talk about colors and counting the fish. In general though, we love Lucy Cousins around here!
Won’t You Be My Kissaroo
A sweet little book all about the affection of a different momma/baby animals throughout the day! Riley loved giving and getting little smooches during part of the book. Very adorable and heartwarming little book with great illustrations and lyrical text. There’s a companion book called Won’t You Be My Huggaroo but I liked this one better even though I’m much more of a hugger than a kisser haha
Wiggle, Walk, Wash!
A cheerful novelty board book full of adorable baby animals and a mirror at the end! This one is really cute — it’s nothing that is over-the-top different or amazing but it nails just being so inviting for babies and I found it easy to add more to the story (sounds, different interactive invitations) when I wanted to. It’s one of those books you just won’t understand why your baby is constantly reach for but they just are — probably the illustrations if I’m being honest. Really cute!
Ten Tiny Toes by Caroline Jayne Church
An adorable little book with large images that grab baby’s attention but we loved this one for how much FUN it was to read. Definitely a fun interactive experience with the text as we pointed to the body parts mentioned and I would ham it up with some of the actions mentioned. REALLY great rhymes and definitely a great way to learn body parts for a little one.
Little Truck by Taro Gomi
Did NOT expect Riley to love this one as much as she did but loved it she did! I think the illustrations, while very sparse and simple (some would argue too simple), are perfect for babies in my opinion.
The text was also very simple making it great for the under 12 months babies and gives plenty of space to expand upon as she got to be a toddler — especially because the story really is about a little truck exploring with a mom/dad truck following enough distance behind.
I did try to make it fun when she was on my lap and do sounds and move my legs like she was a little truck bumping fast or slow on the road.
This whole series of books was great especially if you are a bit bored of baby or animal books which, let’s face it, ends up being the bulk of books for babies.
Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes
A classic for a reason! We ended up buying three copies of this padded board book because this was 100% one of our most read books and it got destroyed often. I think it was a combination of excessive reading but, if I’m being honest, I think the spine is a bit weak on this book. Sweet sweet book if you aren’t familiar with it — the rhythm is pitch perfect and the babies are adorable. A must for your shelves!
Baby Touch & Feel series
This series is great — there is like 20 books in it. I love love love books with different textures for her to feel — gets some of that sensory input in there plus it also has real photographs in it which I love too. Riley loves looking at the pictures and touching the variety of textures. This one was a favorite as well as the trucks, animals, bedtime and bathtime ones! It features the word with the corresponding image.
P.S. My favorite DK touch and feel series I cannot find ANYWHERE but we have this great book called Splish Splash Baby’s World that is fantastic and I thought the textures were some of the best (and so did Riley!). If you can find it, snag it!
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes
This book really is geared towards an older crowd but now with a board book version it is a great pick for babies! It still is simple/short enough for this age with the ability to grow with them especially with interacting to count the elephants and talk about opposites. A cute little one to have on your shelves!age.
Priddy Bright Baby Touch and Feel
The Bright Baby Touch and Feel collection is another fantastic book for a baby — maybe even my favorite of the touch and feel books for the generous textures (some I feel like are stingy and only do small patches of texture)! But the best part of this one is that it actually has some decent text to accompany the bright pages and images (as opposed to just a simple corresponding word that matches the images).
We got so much mileage out of this one in particular but all of them were great. Furry lions and scaly lizards in this one seemed to captivate Riley! So many good ones in this series — not all animal based by any means. They even have a small box set that have four of their most popular which makes a great gift idea.
So, that’s what we read so far out of all the books we own! I’ve been sticking to mostly her board books or ones that are really interactive. I plan to go to the library to pick out some more books to figure out which ones we want to add to our collection…so let me know what books you think are good book picks for young babies or must read pictures books for when she’s older that NEED to be in our library.
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