Babies have so much to learn, and books are a great place to begin. When you hold your baby on your lap and read a book, he will learn that book-reading is a special, loving time. Soon you will both look forward to the wonderful experiences that you will have together when you read books. Beyond the quality time you share, your baby will learn many important concepts.

Babies can learn a lot from books. When you read a book to your baby, she will listen to the sound of your voice and will begin to respond to your words. Babies particularly enjoy the rhythmic sounds of songs, chants, and nursery rhymes. They love to be bounced or rocked to the rhythm of a song or rhyme. Within a few months, your baby will be able to smile and make cooing noises in response to your words, and you'll be able to tell that she is having fun!

Booklist: Books for Babies (0–1)
  • Play, Baby, Play by Ann Blakeslee (Scholastic)
  • Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino (Scholastic)
  • Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz (Little Simon)
  • Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead by Ruth Krauss (Harper Collins)
  • If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan (Scholastic)
  • Blankie by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick Press)
  • David Smells by David Shannon (Scholastic)
  • Little Quack's Bath Book by Lauren Thompson (Little Simon)
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Rosemary Wells (Scholastic)
  • Sweet Dreams: My First Taggies Book by Kaori Watanabe (Scholastic)


Reading books is a wonderful way to support your young toddler as she learns words. When you name a picture in a book, you are teaching your toddler new vocabulary. At first, your child will learn to understand that the word you say aloud is connected to the picture in the book, but later she will learn to say the word by herself.

Young toddlers are able to recognize favorite books by their cover, and they'll often ask you to read favorites over and over again. Although you may be tired of reading the same book repeatedly, remember that asking for this repetition is your child's way of learning! Every time you read a book, your young toddler learns something new. He wants to learn to understand and to speak, and books are an engaging way for him to gain this new knowledge.

Booklist: Books for Young Toddlers (1–2)
  • Roar of a Snore by Marsha Diane Arnold (Dial)
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Harper & Row)
  • Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow (Clarion)
  • My First Real Mother Goose Board Book by Blanche Fisher Wright (Scholastic)
  • Fast Food by Saxton Freymann (Scholastic)
  • Joshua by the Sea by Angela Johnson (Scholastic)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr. (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston)
  • San Diego Zoo: Baby Tiger by Patricia Pingry (Candy Cane Press)
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (Putnam)
  • Everyone's Sleepy by Ed Vere (Scholastic)
  • Read to Your Bunny by Rosemary Wells (Scholastic)
  • Five Little Ducks by Dan Yaccarino (Harper Festival)


Book-reading will provide you with the opportunity to extend both your child's vocabulary and her ability to construct longer sentences. Older toddlers speak in two- or three-word phrases. Books provide examples of more complete sentences. Additionally, your child's language will develop as she listens to you speak, and your conversations around books will give you lots of opportunities to respond to your child and demonstrate language, especially since she is now able to move beyond labeling books and can enjoy simple stories.

Older toddlers love to mimic adults. They will repeat your actions and your language, and they will repeat the words and phrases they hear in books. Rhyming books help children develop their language skills because their pleasing rhythm and fun sounds encourage children to participate in the reading and to learn the words. Children of this age adore Dr. Seuss books, and they also like to sing songs and recite nursery rhymes. Also try rhyming books that encourage participation and movement. Clap Your Hands is a rhythmic chant that you can read while your child follows the instructions in the text and performs the actions.

Booklist: Books for Older Toddlers (2–3)
  • When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang (Scholastic)
  • Big and Little by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko (Scholastic)
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer (Atheneum)
  • Food for Thought by Saxton Freymann (Scholastic)
  • Red Train by Will Grace (Scholastic)
  • Little Miss Spider by David Kirk (Scholastic)
  • My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann (Scholastic)
  • Eli's Night Light by Liz Rosenberg (Scholastic)
  • Oh, David! by David Shannon (Scholastic)
  • Goodnight, My Duckling by Nancy Tafuri (Scholastic)


For almost any question, interest, or struggle that your preschooler poses, you can explore it together in a children's book. Just say, "Let's see if we can find a book to read about this . . ." and it is very likely that after a quick Internet search and a trip to a library or bookstore, you will be reading together on almost any topic of interest. With your help and explanations, your child will be able to apply what he learns in books to his own life.

Young preschoolers who were read to when they were infants and toddlers know a lot about books. They have favorite books. They chant the words along with you as your read a book with repetitive or rhyming text. They know that the words in books never change, and if you do not read a favorite book exactly correctly, they will notice and ask you to read it "the real way." Young preschoolers like to look at books by themselves. At times they will look at the pictures, and at other times they will talk to themselves as they look at the pages because they understand that you say words when you read a book.

Young preschoolers are like sponges. They soak up and store the language and experiences that you provide, and they eagerly ask for more information. They also love to share their newfound knowledge with anyone who is willing to listen. "Guess what . . ." they say before sharing a story or fact. Reading with your young preschooler is the perfect way to respond to his constant quest for new knowledge.

Booklist: Books for Young Preschoolers (3–4)
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (Scholastic)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Philomel)
  • Where's My Sock? by Joyce Dunbar (Scholastic)
  • The Night Pirates by Peter Harris (Scholastic)
  • Pancakes for Supper! by Anne Isaacs (Scholastic)
  • Dinosaur, Dinosaur by Kevin Lewis (Scholastic)
  • The Most Thankful Thing by Lisa McCourt (Scholastic)
  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (Scholastic)
  • Alice the Fairy by David Shannon (Scholastic)
  • How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen (Scholastic)


Children of this age often ask "why?" "Why" questions range from those about daily life: "Why do I have to take a bath now?" to more serious subjects: "Why did the hamster die?"

Although it's impossible to read a book for each question, books are a great resource for answering them. You can share a book about a character that has a similar experience to one your child is having or find an information book that provides basic information on a topic. Books continue to be one of the best sources for introducing your child to new and interesting language and vocabulary. In particular, books can help your child to learn words that she may not encounter in everyday conversation. Books may introduce language that is conceptual rather than concrete by addressing topics such as feelings, imagination, or fairness.

Booklist: Books for Older Preschoolers (4–5)
  • Don't Let the Peas Touch by Deborah Blumenthal (Scholastic)
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Coombs (Simon & Schuster)
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (Viking)
  • I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt (Scholastic)
  • If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty (Scholastic)
  • Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch (Scholastic)
  • Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth (Scholastic)
  • The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic)
  • Nacho and Lolita by Pam Munoz Ryan (Scholastic)
  • Frida by Jonah Winter (Scholastic)