I believe the following picture books for babies will set a foundational love of reading in the heart of your small child. I consider every book on this list to be a must-have. Time spent together with a book you both enjoy is where the love of reading begins.
My recommendation is to buy the largest board book style you can find. Board books will stand up to many rereads, and the bigger the book, the more immersive for the child.
“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.”
“Brown bear, brown bear
What do you see?
I see a yellow duck
Looking at me.”
I have never found a book that young children love more than Brown Bear Brown Bear. What a classic! The words are rhythmic and sing-songy and Eric Carle’s illustrations are so colourful. It’s my opinion that Brown Bear, Brown Bear belongs on every child’s bookshelf!
“Soup is yummy. Soap is yucky.
Sandwiches are yummy. Sand is yucky.
Mommy’s cookies are yummy. Mommy’s coffee is yucky.”
Ok, here’s the thing. I don’t make the rules. I would never personally have picked this off the bookstore shelves for my children because the illustrations don’t speak to me but you can’t argue with the fact that kids LOVE this book. When I send my toddlers to the bookshelf on their own to pick a book they most often reach for Leslie Patricelli’s book so I couldn’t leave it off this list!
My husband, Geoff, is a serious coffee lover so we have changed the words a bit in our house to say “Mommy’s cookies are yummy. Mommy’s coffee is HOT”.
“Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear
Apple, Pear, Orange Bear”
This book is simple with very few words. As I read the words slowly, my sons love pointing at the corresponding pictures on the page. When the bear starts eating the fruit, my kids love yelling “CHOMP!” even though those words don’t technically appear on the page. I find nearly wordless books with beautiful illustrations so great for very young children.
This is in my top three must-haves for babies for sure! Goodnight Gorilla is an almost wordless book. The illustrations are adorable and they show a zookeeper going around his zoo saying goodnight to the animals. He doesn’t know that the baby gorilla has stolen his keys, snuck out of his cage and is secretly unlocking all the animals’ cages as the zookeeper makes his rounds.
The lion, the giraffe, the armadillo and others follow the zookeeper home to his house and into his bedroom to go to sleep until the zoo keeper’s wife wakes up! She leads all the animals back to the zoo for a final goodnight. Well, almost all the animals!
‘“Hey, Mr. Fish,
With your crosstown frown,
Don’t you think it’s time to
Turn it upside down?”
Says the fish to his friend,
“Nice thought, Ms. Clam.
I hear what you’re saying,
But it’s just the way I am.
I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face,
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.
Blub, Bluuuub, Bluuuuub”’
Our copy of this story has been well-loved. The spine of our copy is hanging on by a thread and when we bought it it was in perfect condition. We have read this one numerous times.
I love this story so much. A grumpy little fish is encouraged by his friends to try to perk up. But he insists he has no choice but to be grumpy because he’s a pout pout fish! This book is so fun because you get to sing the pout pout part and give your best grumpy fish impression with the “blub blub blubs”!
“Rice is on the boil
Bubbling in the pot
White and sticky-lickety
Steaming good and hot!
Hurry, flurry rice
Gotta pop pop pop!
Hungry hungry hungry
For some Bee-bim-bop!”
Bee-Bim Bop has become a family classic! I heard about this book years ago on a podcast and I was so excited to check it out from the library. When I was growing up, we had a Korean student live with us for 6 months so I was very familiar with Kimchi and other foods from Korean culture. I didn’t anticipate how much my children would love this book.
We checked it out from the library over and over again until I decided we couldn’t have a day without it so we ordered our own. Our copy is so battered now you’d think we’ve had it for 10 years. I think it’s been read more than any other picture book in our house.
“We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
Uh-uh! A river!
A deep cold river.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
The best part about this book is all the sound effects you and your children get to do. The mud goes “squelch squerch!” the grass goes “swishy swashy!” A family travels along on an adventure on a search for a bear but when they actually find one they get more of a fright than they were bargaining for!
They run home as fast as they can, being chased by the bear all the way back until they’re safe back home hiding under the covers! They declare “We are never going on a bear hunt again!”
“There were ten in the bed and the little one said, “Roll over, roll over!”
So they all rolled over and Hedgehog fell out… BUMP!”
I hope you’re ready to sing this one! My children love this one because every time a stuffed animal falls out of bed with a “BUMP” or a THUD! Or a “SLAM!” we slap the pages and have a laugh. The illustrations are adorable and perfectly represent what I imagine goes on in a little one’s room as they play with their stuffed animals. Every child loves to imagine that their animals come alive when they turn their backs!
“Every day, everywhere, babies are carried
in backpacks, in front packs, in slings and in strollers,
in car seats, and bike seats, and on Daddy’s shoulders.”
Marla Frazee is one of my favourite illustrators. She knows exactly what to include in an illustration that will make a baby point at the little pictures and gladly share what words they know. She includes balls, balloons, animals, bottles, messy spills, bikes and more in her pictures.
My children, when they were small, would excitedly point at several things on every page and show to me that they knew the word for the item. Also, babies love books with other babies in them and this book has lots of babies.
“Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.
He has an old trumpet
That goes rooty-toot–
And two lovely sisters
Who play on the flute–
But Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.”
This is a little nonsense story with lots of words that rhyme with boot. Quentin Blake’s illustrations steal the show. He is one of my all-time favourite illustrators and if you read Roald Dahl’s books Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory growing up then you may have the same heartwarming nostalgia for his illustration style that I do.