At my baby shower, I received half a dozen books – three copies of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” two copies of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and “Goodnight Moon,” a childhood classic. Obviously, we had some work to do.
Research has shown that there are numerous benefits to reading to your child from an early age, so there was no question that books were going to be a part of our daily routine. I grew up as a voracious reader and a lover of books. My husband’s father wrote more than 100 books. We have shelves filled with all kinds of books – fiction, non-fiction, reference, cookbooks, and many more in storage – but our children’s book selection was lacking.
When I first started wandering through the children’s section at the bookstore, I noticed a common denominator in the board books. A lot of them are really cheesy. As much as I love my kids, books like “Guess How Much I Love You” and “Love You Forever” didn’t really appeal to me.
I came up with my own criteria for books. For my baby, it had to be available as a board book with pages that were easy to turn and could stand up to little fingers and mouths. Anything that I couldn’t read without rolling my eyes was out. Sorry, “On the Night You Were Born.”
Books had to be visually stimulating, either with high contrast imagery, beautiful artwork, or both, and pictures to point out and talk about.There needed to be some words, but not too many words. Books like “Good Night, Gorilla” and “Hug“ are cute, but it can be challenging to fill in the blanks with just one word on each page. Lastly, the text had to be fun to read.
Here are eight books that won’t make you dread storytime.
The House in the Night
by Susan Swanson (author), Beth Krommes (illustrator)
This book hits it on every count. The artwork, black and white scratchboard with gold highlights throughout, are visually stunning with interesting details that are perfect for pointing out to babies. The story is simple, taking a little girl on a soaring journey to the origin of light as she settles down for bed. You won’t mind reading this Caldecott Award winner every night.
A Book of Sleep
by Il Sung Na
Follow the nighttime adventures of the watchful owl as he explores how various animals like to sleep. The artwork is so gorgeous that you may, like I did, look to see if you can get prints for the wall. As you read, see if you can find the owl on every page.
by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (author), Emily Bolam (illustrator)
This book doesn’t quite fit the criteria, because there’s no story to tell, but it’s fun to read to babies. The black and white pictures with colorful foil accents are sure to catch your little one’s eye. The playful greetings and sound words are perfect to practice waving and share a tickle.
by Bruce Degen
My kids are wild about berries and have been since they first started eating solid foods, so this book is a winner with us. With colorful pictures and playful language, you’ll love this celebration of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Is Your Mama a Llama?
by Deborah Guarino
Lloyd the llama asks his friends about their mamas and learns all about the differences between himself and his animal friends. One of the most fun books to read, you’ll love the delightful rhymes and lovely artwork, even as you wonder where all these animals could possibly be living to all be friends.
by Alice Schertle (author), Jill McElmurry (illustrator)
Another fun book to learn about animals, you’ll entertain your baby with moos, baas, neighs, and more as the Little Blue Truck shows that kindness matters. Your baby will love all the sounds from the animals and trucks and will eagerly point out the friends who come to help.
by Giles Andreae (author), Guy Parker-Rees (Illustrator)
Poor Gerald wants to dance, but his skinny legs and long neck make it hard to be graceful. With easy-to-read rhymes and beautiful, brightly colored artwork, you’ll love teaching your baby that it’s okay to be different.
by Margaret Wise Brown (author), Clement Hurd (illustrator)
This classic book isn’t my favorite, but it’s worth having in your library. It meets all of my standards. It’s not cheesy. It’s visually stimulating, with lots of things to point out, though you might wonder why there’s a telephone in a child’s bedroom. The text has some odd moments, but ends on a lovely note. Is there any better way to say goodnight than to noises everywhere?