Even though my children are now six and 10, our family bookshelves are still home to many books from their earliest years. Squeezed alongside our eclectic mix of chapter books, graphic novels, atlases and more, these so-called 'baby books' hold a special place in my heart, because it's from these books that our daily read-aloud ritual was born.
Books with textures, flaps, and invitations to push, pull, shake, or turn that entertained my wriggly little ones in those earliest read-aloud days. Books filled with the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition of our daily language — so important to a firm foundation for future independent reading. Books that reinforced important early learning concepts, grew vocabulary, and shared gentle social lessons in kindness, sharing, and taking turns. Books we read over and over and over again.
Why Baby Books Are So Enduring
While there are no babies or toddlers in our house now, these first books still have value well beyond the sentimental. Board books, along with those simple babyish picture books are a wonderful resource for supporting your child on the journey towards independent reading.
The books of babyhood and toddlerhood introduce our pre-readers to important reading concepts — that books have common features, such as a cover, pages, a title, an author, and more. That illustrations are different from the text and that the text is what we read aloud. That text is made up of lots of different letters that make sounds.
How Baby Books Build Confidence
And then, as they begin to read themselves, revisiting these already familiar books helps to develop a child’s reading confidence, which is also paramount. The simple text of baby books reinforces recognition of high frequency or 'sight words' within a meaningful context. Rereading these titles encourages children to read with greater fluency, and fluency aids reading comprehension — the familiarity of the text allowing the child to focus more closely on creating meaning as she reads.
My 6-year-old is reading well for her age, but I regularly see her pull a title from our beloved baby books collection. She'll bring it to me with a smile on her face, saying, “Oh, mom, remember when we used to read this?” and then she will open the cover and read it aloud to herself, or to me, and though she often knows the words by heart every word read is important because the more kids read, the better reader they will become. Every word read — in each and every book — is valuable to their beginning literacy skills.
For those with babies and toddlers, here are five baby books that deserve a place on your bookshelf — both now and down the line!
Baby Books That Keep for Years
1. Bill Martin Jr’s classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? features wonderful bright illustrations representing a varied collection of animals and a brilliant, rhyming, question-and-response text that toddlers, pre-schoolers and early readers will love!
2. A simple alphabet book that introduces a range of food vocabulary words, Now I Eat My ABC's by Pam Abrams is perfect for reinforcing early sight word learning with beginning readers.
3. Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia is a riotous celebration of color, noise, and things that go! With lots of vocabulary offerings to name the vehicles, the ways they move, their colors, and the sounds they make, this book is super entertaining for kids of all ages.
4. Where Did All the Dinos Go? by Jim Benton offers a fun, rhyming look-and-find challenge for pre-readers and simple to decode, highly engaging text for newer readers.
5. Revisiting the merry preschool song, Five Green and Speckled Frogs by Priscilla Burris will delight toddlers and preschoolers as they learn to count back to five. The familiarity of the song supports early readers as they have a go at reading a "real" book independently.